The holiday season of Christmas is upon us once again. I want to share a little different scriptural view of our Lord Jesus’ birth. There are actually several vantage points I want to share although we rarely give them the scriptural reflection they deserve.
COMING AS GOD’S SON
The writer to the Hebrew Christians starts with the bringing forth of Jesus from His eternal existence with the Father. “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe…And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him”(Hebrews 1:2, 6 NIV).
Before Jesus came as the virgin Mary’s son He was declared “My Son” by Father God. “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will his Father, and he will be my Son”?(Hebrews 1:5 NIV). What was decreed in the eternal realm between the Father and the Son was brought forth in the realm of time by the Holy Spirit.
THE DAWN OF CREATION
Many scholars agree that the personification of “Wisdom” in Proverbs 8 is an allusion of Jesus Christ, Who “has been made to us Wisdom”(See 1 Co. 1:30). ““The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind”(Proverbs 8:22-24, 27, 28, 30, 31 NIV). We recall that Job was asked by God, ” ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”(Job 38:4-7 NIV). Before there was the Song of Redemption for the Son there was the Song of Creation for the Son.
The apostle John outlived his other fellow apostles by about sixty years. He wrote his gospel starting with a poem of Jesus, the Living Word. He wrote,”In the beginning WAS the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He WAS in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”[Caps. Mine](John 1:1-3 NASB). Jesus’ BEGINNING was before there was “In the beginning”(Genesis 1:1).
THE SEASON WE CELEBRATE
Worship is due Jesus our King , at this Season we celebrate. It is His by right, predicated on the fact that in Jesus the Messiah, our God became our Savior. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6 NIV).
Let us join with the myriad of angels in their song to our Creator. Let us also invite all the Nations to “Come worship and bow down before the Lord,our Maker.”
We,as believers, have learned to sing of the mystery of the virgin birth of our Savior. As the great Hymn writer, Isaac Watts put it : ”Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see…Hail Incarnate Deity!”
(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied and shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com.
“He said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen. (Isaiah 28:12 NIV)
A friend shared with me the story of a man Whom God rescued from spiritual and ministry burnout. Someone recognized the signs of defeat and discouragement. Giving them the care and encouragement needed, they went on to become quite a useful vessel in the LORD.
In Isaiah 28, God diagnosed Israel’s spiritual declension as a condition brought about by ignoring His rhythm of rest. Later on, they would be sent into 70 years of captivity due to ignoring God’s Sabbath rest for themselves and the Land (Selah). Pushing past the season the Lord provides for intended rest can lead to spiritual depression and even destroy our usefulness in the kingdom of God. ELIJAH The scripture tells the story of Elijah following the great duel with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19). He haven been hidden for three years after daring to come before wicked king Ahab & confronting him with his wickedness. After this he meets 450 prophets of Baal to settle the issue for Israel as to whom they would serve, the idol Baal? Or the LORD God of Israel? We know that Elijah won the battle, God answered by fire from heaven. Seizing the spiritual momentum he dispatched the 450 prophets of Baal. The wicked queen Jezebel hears of what he has done and threatens to kill Elijah!
HIDDEN IN THE ROCK
Feeling all alone in the battle; physically and emotionally depleted, he heads for the hills (Actually the hill of God). Wise man. Like David, he finds his rest refuge in God. “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2 NIV) On his way to meet with the LORD God, he being exhausted and depressed leaves his servant behind. Perhaps, this was not the best decision in his spiritual crisis. Even our Lord Jesus desired spiritual companionship in the garden of Gethsemane. He also understood the strength and encouragement a spiritual partner can be in ministry. “If one can chase a thousand, two can put ten thousand to flight”(Deuteronomy?). Elijah goes on alone, feeling friendless and dejected.
The LORD is near to the broken hearted and to those who are discouraged. He sent His angels on the way to meet Elijah, while he rested; feeding Him with angel food cake. In time of physical and spiritual depletion, let us not neglect the promises of God. They are the words and food of heaven, which sustains the weary spirit and will lift the soul. Elijah was allowed to rest and be physically replenished on his journey to God. There he would gain his equilibrium and be prepared to pass his mantle to the next generation.
A SEASON OF REST
Our Lord Jesus knows our frame and understands the load we carry for Him. Mark records: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:30-32 NIV)
We have entered into a time of many great battles. Pay attention to the rhythm and season of rest needed in your life and ministry calling. As someone once observed, “A bow always strung will lose its elasticity”.
(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied and shared provided it is not altered in any way from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com.
Sometimes finding a place of rest can be quite challenging. If we are honest about the fast paced lifestyles that the culture helps us buy into, the notion of rest can seem paradoxical. We fight to find the time to rest! In the natural things of life this is certainly true. But it is equally true in the spiritual side of things as well. It requires the effort of faith to enter into a place of rest. But where do we start?
THE LORD OUR SHEPHERD
Let’s start where David started. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:1,2 NIV). Finding our rest in the Lord as our Shepherd means that we recognize, like sheep, how vulnerable we are without Him. He is our peace and our place of rest in the stress and chaos of life. As we learn to stay close to our Shepherd, the nearness of His presence brings the calm we need in the midst of our enemies. He will guide and He will provide a place of repose for us. How tragic it can be if we do not turn to the LORD to take advantage of His provision, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it”(Isaiah 30:15 NIV).
MISSING OUR REST
We can miss our rest in God by misunderstanding His ways in our life. Recall how Israel after having been delivered from Pharaoh & Egyptian under Moses’ leadership failed to enter their Land. This was due to 3 events in their wilderness history. (1st)Marah(Exodus 14). Israel encountered “bitter waters”, which reflected their own heart condition. They no doubt carried the bitter effects of the harsh treatment while slaves in Egypt. God brought them to the waters of Marah to deal with all that was inside of them in order that they could move forward. Bitterness and unforgiveness will keep you from your promised rest. (2nd) Meribah (Psalm 95:8a). Israel quarreled with Moses because they did not like the way God was leading them. Ultimately, they were to discover that the shortest route was the longest way round! Never pick a fight with the Lord…Especially, when it seems that your way of doing things seems better! It will only make the journey to your rest a longer journey. (3rdly) Massah(Psalm 95b). This was the place of unbelief (See Hebrews 3:12,18-19). They failed to “mix God’s promises with faith”. They put their limitations onto a limitless God. The Lord is not limited by our limitations.
Faith is the only currency used in heaven. When we let doubt, fear, worry and unbelief control our movements we get stuck in the past. And we discover that we neither are able to move in the present nor enter into God’s land of rest for our future.
THE REST OF CONQUEST
Joshua (In type) brought the children of Israel into the land of rest. With the help of the LORD God, 31 kings were defeated along the way to their inheritance. The good news is that our Joshua(Yeshua) wants to give us victory over all that opposes our entering into our inherited land of rest. He waits to do so IN us, THROUGH us and WITH us (See Philippians 1:6). Like Joshua, He leads us into battle. “The LORD gave them rest on every side…Not one of all the promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled”(Joshua 21:43-45).
May we stand in faith, hope and persistence until we find our rest in Him. “Since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it”(Hebrews 4:1 NIV).
© Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied and shared provided that it is not sold or altered in anyway from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com.
“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it’”(Genesis 28:16 NIV).
Jacob tricked his bother Esau out of his birthright and the blessing of his father, Isaac. As a result, his brother swore he’d kill him for his treachery. So Jacob, who valued and obtained what Esau had despised, runs for his life! Finding himself, as it were, in “No man’s land” and weary from his journey, he takes a stone for a pillow and lays down to rest. He slept and had a dream that would change his destiny. He encounters God.
THE IN BETWEEN PLACE
Like, Jacob’s journey, we discover our true purpose while in the “in between place” of life. Determined to leave where we’ve been (with all the risks), not having arrived at our desired destiny, we need to take a break and rest. The key to where we want to be and where we are at in the circumstances of life begins when we “Cease striving and know that He is God”(Psalm 46:10). Or as Corrie Ten Boon wrote, “Don’t wrestle…nestle!”
THE VALUE OF REST
Whether the need in our life is for physical rest or spiritual rest there is great benefit. Jacob discovers the God of His father, Isaac, and makes certain commitments he would not otherwise have made. “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. And he was afraid and said, How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel…Then Jacob made a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my fathers house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be Gods house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You” (Genesis 28:16-22 NKJV). He thought was all-alone. He realized he was not alone. God was with him on the journey. He also discovered that he had “open heavens”. He understood that the angels of God were doing heaven’s bidding in the unseen realm in the earth. In other words, the business of heaven was being carried out even while he slept.
REST IN FAITH
We too must rest in faith with the knowledge that God is on His throne and never sleeps nor slumbers. He watches over His own. We must stop being “the great pretenders” as if God’s universe will fall apart with out help. We can roll over and sleep in His faithful, loving arms.
One more thing Jacob discovered was “Bethel”. Bethel means “House of God”. His grandfather, Abraham, had met God at Bethel and returned there when he had lost his way (See Genesis 13:3-4). Bethel is the meeting place with God. Like Abraham, we need to return to the house of God. And like Jacob, we must encounter “El-Bethel”, the God of the House. Ultimately, when we have found our resting place in God, then He can find His dwelling place in us. “For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, And her saints shall shout aloud for joy” (Psalm 132:13-16 NKJV).
(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied free of charge provided that it is not altered from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com.
“There remains a rest for the people of God”(Hebrews 4:9 NJKV).
Adam was created on the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:26-28,31) in order to enjoy God’s seventh day of creation. The number six in the Bible is indicative of that which is incomplete. Seven is a number which indicates that which is complete or finished. Seven was God’s day of rest. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:2, 3 NKJV).
GOD’S CREATION ORDER
God’s created mankind so that they would fully enter into a joyful labor with their LORD. One of the consequences of their disobedience (The fall) was that the rhythm of His rest was broken in their lives. As a result, they would not merely labor but “toil” in their labor. In other words, what was intended to cause them to receive the produce from the ground would be achieved by “the sweat” of their brow. It would be gained with difficulty and human struggle(See Genesis 3:17,19).
There has never been a day like the day in which we live. We are witnesses to the reality of Adam’s choice to rebel against his Creator. The more determined we are to run our own lives our own way, apart from God, the more frustrated and restless we have become. Good enough is just “not good enough”. We are conditioned by media hype that has convinced us in to believing that yesterday’s purchase cannot possibly make us content when “a newer, faster” gadget is available. So the faster we run after “things” and “labor saving devices” the further behind we get! Solomon in his wisdom expressed it well, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.(Ecclesiastes 2:11 NKJV). Labor apart from God may for the moment seem pleasant but in the end we come up empty,weary and spent.
God has a solution for life’s “chronic fatigue” syndrome. ”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”(Hebrews 4:9, 10 NKJV).
God calls us from our fallen “self-effort”;our daily carnal struggle to make life(Or ministry) work. God sent Yeshua (Jesus) into a fallen world to complete God’s righteous requirements. He cancelled our human effort to achieve (succeed in life) or win God’s approval. We simply need to STOP! …Get off the never ending religious “treadmill” to lose one more pound for Jesus. Our human effort does not impress God.
The Good News is “the work” was completed by Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. He declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) His invitation to enter His rest remains an act of turning from our self effort and put our trust completely in Yeshua (Jesus): ”All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”(Matthew 11:27-29 NKJV).
Cease striving and know that He alone is God. He alone gives true rest. In his rest is the restoration and peace we long for.
(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher,Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied free of charge provided that is not sold or altered in any way from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com.
“But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? …Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened”(Exodus 32:11, 14 NIV).
The prayer of Moses is truly one of the great examples of prevailing prayer recorded in scriptures. Recall at that time the children of Israel had so continually turned from God by their rebellious actions that the LORD God said, in essence, “Enough is enough!” He offered Moses a deal of a lifetime! “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Exodus 32:9, 10 NIV).
Moses in meekness passed the ultimate test as a leader…he did not seek for more power or to leave a great name for himself in the earth. He rather moved further into the heart of God, willing to suffer with and on behalf of his people rather than leave them to their certain doom. “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” (Exodus 34:9 NIV)
God changed His mind. This does not sit well with our rigid theology of a God Who takes neither council or advice from man. And yet…the scripture records that “Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God”(Exodus 32:11). Moses was acquainted with God like no other at the time and could speak to God face to face as friends.
Moses had learned that through persistency and obedience to God’s commands even the might of pharaoh and his empire must bring glory to God. Moses, although the LAW-giver, was moved with the compassionate self-giving of the LORD God. His sun shines on the evil and the good alike. He rains on the just and the unjust alike. Moses understood the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love”(Lamentations 3:31, 32 NIV).
What was the secret of Moses having power with God? It was the SECRET OF ABIDING fellowship with God. Our Lord Jesus would later say to his disciples, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you”(John 15:7 NKJV).
Moses prevailing prayer was based on the revelation of the heart of God, “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” (Exodus 34:5-7 NIV).
Moses identified with His Lord, having prayed “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.(Exodus 32:32 NIV). He understood that redemption is costly. He was willing to make the supreme sacrifice. What an example of one who prevailed with God!
God’s way is to use human beings, created in His image, to alter the course of history and the destiny of nations. His desire is that we become co-laborers with Him. God is looking for those who will prevail in prayer and intercede that He may bring deliverance not destruction. Perhaps this is why Moses is honored in heaven with his Lord, “They sang the song of Moses and of the Lamb”(Revelation 15:3).
(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher,Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be copied and shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com
”The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there? …He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” (Genesis 18:22, 23, 27, 32 NIV)
Abraham, who is called “The father of the faithful” and “The friend of God”(3x’s), positioned himself before the LORD to intercede. God knew he would intercede regarding Sodom’s imminent judgment. After all Lot, his nephew, along with his family was living in Sodom! Furthermore, as a friend of God Abraham is given an inside track on what God’s intentions are regarding this defiant city. The angelic visitation he had received was for more than a social visit. They were sent on assignment. Heaven’s interest in the earth required their visit. They were sent from God to see firsthand if things were as bad as reported. Had people become so spiritually indifferent that they forsook the ways of God and replaced His internal image written upon their conscience? Had they really turned from what they knew in their heart & mind and chose rather to pledge their allegiance to the creation rather than the Creator? Apparently it was true. When that happened (the rejecting of God-Factor), they apparently thought they could write the script for their lives and future any way they pleased. But there was one problem. When they sought to forsake God they were not aware, by their choice…they were forsaken by Him (Romans 1:18-26).
Abraham as God’s friend understood that by the consequences of the people of Sodom’s own choices and behavior they were under God’s judgment. But he also understood what was deep in the heart of God. He knew that even in times of great darkness, God never leaves Himself without a witness and a prayer warrior! When the angels had left heading toward Sodom, he remained in God’s presence. He humbly but with the confidence and persistency of a true friend petitioned the LORD God not to carry out this final solution to mankind’s rebellion.
As the story continues, Abraham is allowed to argue his case before the highest court in the universe! In the presence of God he gained the assurance that the city of Sodom would be spared for the sake of a handful of the righteous. God promised to show His mercy “if only ten righteous could be found”.
The persistency of Abraham, our father of faith, shows us that the LORD God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. The apostle Peter, who had seen, walked and talked with his Lord, Yeshua, wrote, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8, 9 NKJV)
A TRUE NEIGHBOR
Abraham prevailed through his persistency in prayer. How much more should we who have tasted of the goodness and grace of God? We must have compassion on those who “do not know their right hand from their left”. But we are not to leave them in their bondage. Jude admonishes us to prove our true neighborliness. He wrote, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh”(Jude 1:20-23 NKJV).
Let us prove, like Abraham, who although a pilgrim and stranger in the land, that through persistent prayer he was a true neighbor.
(c) Copyright 8/2013, Walter Fletcher,Jr. All rights reserved. This article may be copied and shared free of charge provided it is not altered in anyway from its original contents. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com.