It’s Friday! I’m very happy about that. December 9, 2011. Only 16 more days until Christmas, and 22 days left in 2011. It’s 37 degrees outside this morning, with a projected high of 53. No precipitation predicted, but, to be safe, it says there is a 20% chance. There is, however, rain in the forecast for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of next week. Temperatures are supposed to remain above freezing.
Stephanie had a good visit with her teacher yesterday, in spite of feeling nauseated when I left for work. I think she got her work done again, and was feeling pretty good last night when we went to bed. She is supposed to meet again today at around 1pm. Then they have three days scheduled next week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There may be a Thursday or Friday meeting, but that is contingent on how she does with next week’s work. The actual school has early release on Thursday and Friday of next week, and Friday is the last day before Christmas break.
We had a nice lifehouse meeting last night; however, there were only four of us there, so we just chatted the whole time. It was good, though, as we are getting better about opening up. We had a lengthy discussion on the meaning of Christmas and how that meaning gets lost sometimes, especially if family members don’t get it.
Today’s Bible readings:
Jude; Zechariah 3-4; Isaiah 9:6-7
Jude is one of those one chapter epistles. It is assumed that he is another one of the half brothers of Jesus, evidenced by his statement that he is the brother of James. But it is only because that particular James is the only one known well enough to be referred to in this way that his assumption is made. In truth, we really aren’t sure who Jude is.
Based on verse 4, Jude is combating a false teaching known as antinomianism, or the belief that one does not have to follow the law at all. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Those who are promoting this type of belief have, apparently, come into the group to which Jude is writing, from the outside. Jude then proceeds to compare these people to the unbelievers who were destroyed as Israel was delivered from Egypt, angels who fell from heaven, and Sodom and Gomorrah. They blaspheme things that they do not understand, he says in verse 10. These are blemishes at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (vv. 12-13) Finally, he calls them grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (v. 16)
Jude begins the next paragraph with “But you…” This immediately indicates a comparison. “You’re different!” He encourages his readers to remember that it was predicted that people like this would come along. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (vv. 18-19) This is a quote of 2 Peter 3:3. Then, he proposes the remedy for combating these false teachers. But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (vv. 20-21)
Jude closes with a most beautiful doxology. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (vv. 24-25)
That doxology inspired Don Francisco to write this song:
In Zechariah 3, the prophet has an interesting vision. It concerns the problem of an impure priesthood. The person in the vision is Joshua, the high priest, mentioned in Ezra 3. He is clothed in filthy garments and Satan is accusing him. But the Lord rebukes Satan and gives his remedy for cleansing the priesthood. Joshua’s clothes are changed from filthy to clean. Then these words are spoken: Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. (vv. 8-9) “The Branch,” is Jesus Christ. And the iniquity of the world was, indeed, removed in a single day, as this “Branch” gave his life on the cross for a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
In chapter 4, Zechariah sees another vision in which it is stated that Zerubbabel will have the strength he needs to complete the building of the temple. Again, this refers to events that are occurring in the book of Ezra. In this chapter, those famous words are stated, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. (v. 6) The Lord declares that Zerubbabel will finish the temple. At the end of the vision, Zechariah sees Zerubbabel and Joshua, the Lord’s “two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (v. 14)
A great message for us here, is that, when we face a “mountain,” if we rely on the strength of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, “it shall become a plain.” (v. 7)
Isaiah 9:6-7 is a beautiful passage speaking of the coming Messiah.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
You should know that I have to include this:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11
After quoting this verse in today’s reading from Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado asks this question: “What if God’s only gift to you were his grace to save you?” I have to tell you, that really made me think. I’ve been praying day after day that my daughter would get it together and finish high school; that she would get over her anxiety and successfully meet with her homebound teacher. I have been praying for other things. What if those things never happen? What if God never gave me another thing I asked for?? Is his grace enough? He has saved me from hell. Dare I complain if he never gives me another thing? Paul has learned to be content in all things. Paul was told, when he asked for that “thorn” to be removed from his flesh, “My grace is sufficient.” I am certainly not better than Paul! I am not even Paul’s equal…far from it! When I pray for something, if God sees fit to grant it, then hallelujah! If he does not…HALLELUJAH!! His grace is enough. THAT is what I need to learn today! Max finished this reading: “If you have eyes to read these words, hands to hold this book, the means to own this volume, he has already given you grace upon grace.” Amen.
Father, as I read the words of Scripture this morning, and your Spirit speaks to me, I am grateful for the grace that you have given me. I confess that I have been disappointed in this past week, that things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. How selfish of me, Father! How dare I complain to you when you don’t do what I think you should! You are the creator of our universe; you hold my very life in your hands. You grant me every breath that I take; every beat of my heart. But most importantly, before the foundations of the earth you chose me to be one of your children! And you provided the grace to save me from eternal punishment, which I and everyone in the human race deserve! On this day, Lord, I fall on my face in humility and thank you with a passion that I have not had, recently. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for choosing me. Your grace is enough. That doesn’t mean that I won’t ask for anything else. I will continue to pray for struggles in my life, in the life of my family, in the life of our church. The difference is, I will stop being disappointed (or even angry, as I was earlier this week) when the answer is not what I want. Your grace is enough. Let me learn to be content.
Let me also learn the truth from Zechariah 4:6 that things are not accomplished by might or by power (at least not by mine), but by your Spirit. Let me have the confidence in your Holy Spirit to carry me through. Let me see those “mountains” as potential plains. Your grace is enough. That, apparently, is my theme for today.
I pray for this day, Father. I pray that Stephanie will have a good meeting with her homebound teacher today. I pray that Christi and I will have a good day at work. If not, however, your grace is enough. Let us live by this for the rest of our lives, Father.
I have no more words. Your grace is enough.
Grace and peace, friends.