Surrender All

surrender

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. –Matthew 9:36

Men, As Jesus goes from town to village preaching of the Kingdom and healing the sick, a multitude amassed. Jesus looks on this multitude and finds them weary and scattered, like a sheep with no master. Jesus is moved with compassion for them.

This multitude is an interesting group. There is no word of how long these people have followed along. There is no word of what provisions these people carried with them. We know that Jesus was often nomadic, without a nest or den to take shelter in. So these people have been sleeping on the ground with Him. This is a time with no drive through services for food or medicine, and there is no welfare program. These people have surrendered everything to follow alongside Jesus and listen to His teaching.

Today, we are a people of many masters. Our jobs, our mortgage holders, our financiers, our spouses, peers, personal expectations, our own bellies, appetites and more. We bend and sway to the call of dozens of voices crying out for our attention. This multitude has stepped away from many of these masters and Jesus considers them scattered. Scattered is better than being owned by many masters. Jesus, the shepherd, is moved with compassion for them. These people had forfeited their regular diets, their occupations, reputations, their personal responsibilities, their family and peers to be near Jesus. Mathew says Jesus acknowledged their weariness. This group has sacrificed.

Would Jesus be moved with compassion for us? Have we forfeited anything to be near His presence, His teaching? Have we ever been found “weary” from seeking out Jesus and following Him wherever He led us? Many of this multitude have followed Jesus from town to town to town. Where would you go? Move forward men, abandoning our many masters to press into the wisdom and understanding of the teachings of Jesus and His Kingdom come. May we “surrender ALL”, for in Him all good things are found.

Vance Durrance

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We Ride

Victory

Graham slumped off the field, his body worn from the first and most discouraging defeat all season. He plopped on the bench with a weary sigh next to his gathering teammates. Coach Blake began to pace furiously in front of them, his face bright red. Aside from some groans, every kid was silent. When words finally came to the coach’s mouth, they were sharp and jagged, and so loud they pierced Graham’s ears so that he instinctively covered them with his hands.

Coach Blake’s voice continued to angrily blare, undeterred by the frightened expressions on every face before him, most of them bowed to stare at their red socks and cleats. Graham stole a glance across the field at the other team as his coach started walking towards the other end of the bench. A gaggle of kids encircled their smiling coach, every white jersey bouncing up and down in victory, his friend Caleb among them.

He instantly thought back to tryouts, when he had pleaded with his mom, dad, and even God himself to put him on the six-time champion team—the Dragons. Coach Blake was known for fierce competition, forceful drafting, and shrewd strategies to make sure the final trophy made its return to him every season.

“I made it!” Graham exclaimed when he saw his name on the posted roster. So excited, he nearly ran past Caleb, before making an about turn to ask, “Hey, what team are you on?”

“The Rams,” Caleb replied with a blank expression. Graham was unsure if this was a positive or negative outcome. Perhaps Caleb didn’t know either since their coach, Joshua King, was an unknown at the start of the season.

But half-way through, with the Dragons going undefeated and Caleb’s team struggling to a single tie, Caleb couldn’t say enough great things about his team, and especially his coach. “He’s the best coach ever!” He kept saying with excitement!

His joy perplexed Caleb. And so did Coach King’s constant smile and his calm and kind words to his kids throughout the season, despite constant defeat. Graham hated losing, and was absolutely relishing every dominant win that his team added.

But everything seemed to change this last game of the season, when the Rams absolutely crushed the reigning champs 7-0. “I guess I joined the wrong team,” Graham thought with bitter regret on his dry tongue.
—–

“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army.” –Revelation 19:19

There are two armies that clash on this final battle, often referred to as The Battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16). The first army is a gathering of humanity upon the earth (Rev 20:8), united in hatred (Rev 16:11) under a single purpose, willfully surrendering their power to the beast (Rev 17:13) because they are deceived (Rev 16:14) into thinking he will bring them victory (Rev 13:4).

Yet there is another people who gather for battle. Throughout the book of Revelation, we see different glimpses of another people who are set apart with a protective seal (Rev 7:3; 9:4). They have spiritual eyes (Rev 3:18) that are aware and alert (Rev 3:3; 16:15), and are dressed (Rev 3:18) in white clothes (Rev 3:4; 6:11; 7:9), clean (Rev 19:14), unstained (Rev 3:4), and washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). They are pillars in the temple of God (Rev 3:12; 22:3 see Joh 2:21 & 1Co 12:27), who eat from the tree of life (Rev 2:7; 22:14), and rule (Rev 2:26; 5:10; 20:4) with crowns on their heads (Rev 2:10; 3:11). They have their names written in the book of life (Rev 3:5; 21:27) which saves them (Rev 20:15) from being harmed by the “second death” (Rev 2:11; 20:6). They are the bride of Christ (Rev 21:9; 2Co 11:2), the holy city of God (Rev 21:2,10; 22:19), the ones that stand with the Lamb (Rev 14:1), the redeemed who sing the new song (Rev 14:3) of the Lamb (Rev 15:3), and follow Him wherever He goes (Rev 14:4).

Suspend your presuppositions on eschatology for a moment and see the clear divide of the two teams that come out to do battle against one another. It is the same clear divide we read throughout the first letter of John (ex: 1Jo 1:6-7; 2:3-4; 3:2-4, 14-15). Then consider the “season” we see before us in the physical—one where the beasts of this world conquer the people of God (Rev 11:7; 13:7), where the wicked prosper (Psa 73:3-12; Jer 12:1-2), and great injustice permeates the landscape (Ecc 4:1-3) as the devil asserts his rule over this world (1Jo 5:19; Rev 13:4) and has the upper hand. It appears the Dragon is the dominant team.

And consider that we are guaranteed suffering if we follow Jesus—great persecution and hatred, perhaps unto death (Rev 2:10; Mat 24:9). Might we not face imprisonments, beatings, hunger and thirst, many dangers and even desperate circumstances like being shipwrecked and adrift in open seas (2Co 11:23-28)? It is not just a possibility, but we are assured that the sufferings of Christ will overflow to us (2Co 1:5), because we have been sent into the world just as He was (Joh 17:18; 20:21)—to suffer (Luk 24:26). Thus, the need to count the cost of discipleship (Luk 14:28)—which is everything (Luk 14:26-27,33).

So for the moment, it appears we are on the losing team. Even when we do the right thing, it seems the world is against us, because it is. All those who are a part of this world hate us (Luk 21:17; Joh 15:19). They scoff at our holding to God’s Word and ostracize us for not lapping up the common lies accepted by the majority (2Pe 3:3-4). They suffer us slander, and revile us if we hold not just to a moral lifestyle but a radical profession of the only way to eternal life (Joh 14:6). They belittle and berate us, for they see us as weak for clinging to what the world sees as foolish (1Co 1:26-29).

“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body.” –2 Corinthians 4:7-10

But our leader has promised us victory (Rev 19:20-21; Rom 8:37), and His word is as good as done (Heb 10:23; Job 42:2). When we see this end, when we understand what it really means to conquer (Rev 2:11) and reign with Him (2Ti 2:12; 20:6), we are able to fully surrender to His mission (Mat 28:19-20) and put on the same attitude of Christ (1Pe 4:1). Then, we will start to see suffering as a gift (Phi 1:29), and rejoice when it comes (1Pe 4:13; Jam 1:2-3), recognizing it does so by the hand of Jesus (Rev 6:1,3,5,7,9,6) and the will of our good Father in Heaven (1Pe 4:19). And through these “momentary afflictions,” (2Co 4:17) we receive a heavenly reward (Mat 5:11-12; 6:19-21; Heb 11:26; 1Pe 3:14) that does not burn up in judgment, but proves to be precious gems (1Co 3:12-15) and a crown of life (1Pe 5:4; Jam 1:12; 1Co 9:25).

They like, “I hear you talkin’ wins, but I see your losses”
You celebratin’ crowns, but I see your crosses
That’s the paradox that don’t fit in your merit box
You might not understand if you walk in this pair of socks
The victor ain’t the one that’s winnin’ seventh inning
Trophies don’t go to ones that got a good beginning
When I say I win, I don’t mean the state I’m in
I mean that day when the gray skies fade out then
I’m winning ’cause I reign with Him
–Tripp Lee, Sweet Victory

“Cause He’s promised us in the short-term a cross on our backs. And He’s promised us in the long-term a Crown of Life,” (Russell Moore).

So choose this day whom you will serve (Jos 24:15). The worthless gods of this world (Psa 96:5; Jer 10:8; 51:16-18) that deceive us with promises of greatness, yet are powerless to stand on their own (1Sa 5:3-4; Isa 46:7; Jer 10:5)? Or will you serve the one who is called “Faithful” and “True” and has all authority and power (Mat 28:18), and comes with fire in his eyes, dressed in clothing dipped in the blood of His enemies, glorious crowns on his head, and a sharp sword extending from His mouth that effortlessly annihilates His enemies (Rev 19:11-16).

But as for me and my house, we ride with the one on the white horse (Rev 19:14)!

Billy Neal

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Thoughts on Psalm 91

Open Bible

Like many others I have been praying Psalm 91 this week. No, I don’t believe it is some magic good luck charm nor do I believe in “name it and claim it”. I have chosen (along with my wife) to pray this psalm and to listen to what God is telling us in the midst of the current state of affairs. I spent yesterday fasting and praying during work breaks, asking God what I needed to hear NOW. This is just a few things that have jumped out at me – and I’m still processing it all.

Verse 1 – “the secret place of the Most High”. There is a sense of what we call a “safe house” here. And it is the Almighty who stands guard and whose shadow falls upon this dwelling. Where do you dwell?

Verse 4 – “cover you with his feathers” – in the Old Testament the word for feathers is used for eagles and sparrows and as in this case, poetically, for God. Eagles are regal birds and Scripture says we will rise on wings like eagles and Jesus tells that not a sparrow falls but that our Father know about it. We are in not just good hands but the best!

Verse 4 – “His truth should be your shield and buckler” – There is a sense of being fully surrounded by protection, clothed in full armor. This ties in to one of my favorite passages, Ephesians 6:10-20, and the armor of God. I pray that the Truth will open our eyes to see the angel host that works on our behalf, but we are also given tools to stand and withstand.

Verse 5 – “terror by night” – Our enemy loves the darkness. Even before COVID-10 was known, I had spoken to several people who were being spiritually attacked at night, in their dreams. Habakkuk and Zephaniah mention the “evening wolves” – wolves that have not fed during the day and are looking for a meal. The Light of Truth will cause them to flee.

Verse 5 – “arrow” – The shield and armor keep the arrows (darts) from hitting their mark. Again, look at Ephesians 6:10-20.

Verse 8 – This is no cause for believers to say COVID-19 is a plague on the wicked – it is a wake-up call of what can befall any of us if we turn from God. It is a wake-up call for believers to repent of their sins and disobedience and be bolder in their witness, that none should perish.

Verse 13 – “lion and cobra… young lion and the serpent” – Our enemy Is shown as a lion and a snake. As a sign of power over a defeated foe, one would put their foot on the head of defeated one. God said that the snake’s head would be crushed. I like what The Message says here, “You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path”. How?

“Because he has known My name” – verse 14. To know something in the Bible is more than just “head knowledge”, it is what we call “heart knowledge”. There is a sense of intimacy, of love. Some translations say “acknowledge” but I don’t believe that is the intent here. There are many names (attributes) of God in our Bible and I believe that is because it has to do with how He was known by the one who “named” Him. I choose to address my prayers to Abba, because that is how I know Him. How do you know him? Do you know Him?

Steve Pierce

 

 

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Risky Business

risky business

So, we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. – Acts 15:25-27

Like many of us in this age, I rely on my cellphone for communication and I want to protect my data. I had AVG on my phone and it would warn me when I connected to networks I had not verified. I found it amusing when I was at church and AVG told me, “Living Hope may be risky.” This started a train of thought that I have been meditating on for a bit now.

Risk – something we don’t always like but we often take (mamas don’t tell their children, “Have a good day – take risks today”, no, they tell them to “be careful”). We take risks with our investments, with our relationships, and for adventure. We do this for the hope of something better – more money, someone to love (and to love us), or fame and glory, or just to alleviate boredom.

Few of us willingly risk our lives, especially for our faith. I think we hear our mother’s voice saying, “Be careful” and we live it out in our spiritual walk. We don’t want trouble – we believe the Christian life should be full of ease – and since we can easily offend someone by talking “religion”, we keep silent.

But Acts tells us of Paul and Barnabas who “risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. That statement alone speaks volumes! Read the book of Acts and you how they walked out their faith and risked their lives. For what? For something better – something eternally and infinitely better than life itself: The Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We too often give lip service to the power of Jesus’ Name. We sing of the beauty and power of His Name, but our actions (and our prayers) show that we treat it more like a good luck charm. I don’t believe we have fully grasped what Paul and Barnabas (and others throughout the ages) knew – the Name of Jesus is worth risking our lives. What do we have to lose? Our pain, our guilt, our brokenness, and our fear are just a few things that come to mind. Sounds like something better to me. I want to be part of the Church that risks all for Jesus and tells others (in word and deed) of His Name without fear. How about you?

Steve Pierce

 

 

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Eye Salve

eyesalve

“He was dressed in a robe extending down to His feet and He wore a wide golden belt around His chest. His head and hair were as white as wool, even as white as snow, and His eyes were like a fiery flame. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp double-edged sword extended out of His mouth. His face shone like the sun shining at full strength. When I saw Him, I fell down at His feet as though I were dead,” – Revelation 1:13b-17a

In chapters 2 and 3 of revelation, there is a pattern to the letters to the seven churches. Jesus corrects the misconceptions they have about themselves—like thinking they are “rich” and in need of “nothing,” but in truth the are “pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,” (Rev 3:17). Then He goes on to exhort them to live outside the intoxicated system of the world (Rev 17:12; ex: Rev 3:2-3), and to be freed to live (John 10:10) a lifestyle of satisfying worship (Ps 63:3; see Rev 2:4), pursing the life (John 11:25) even “unto death” (Rev 2:10; Phi 1:21).

“For no one can eat and drink or experience joy apart from Him,” (Ecc 2:25).

But prefacing each letter is a revelation of Jesus Christ, a reminder of attributes shown earlier (Rev 1:13-16). If we are to correct misconceptions about ourselves, we must first correct our misconceptions about our Creator (Joh 1:3). If we are to more accurately see the world around us, then we must open our eyes to the fullness of the One who reigns over it (Rev 19:16).

So, purchase eye salve from the Lord (Rev 3:18) this morning. Walk by the light of His Word (Psa 119:105) so that you will not stumble (2Pe 1:10; Prov 4:11-13) and see more clearly the goal for which you strive (Phi 3:10-14).

Billy Neal

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