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Jesus is the Journey

When we come to the New Testament, we learn that every symbol of the sanctuary pointed to Jesus, depicting the various aspects of His saving ministry to sinners. First of all, as we open the Gospel of John, we see that Jesus is described with sanctuary language. Notice John 1:14: ?The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.? The word translated here as ?dwelt? literally means tabernacle or sanctuary. So Young?s Literal Translation reads, ?The Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us.? Getting even more personal, another Bible version says, ?The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood? (The Message).

And John tells why Jesus came: so that we might behold the ?glory? of God. This is an obvious reference to the Shekinah glory that resided in the Most Holy Place of the Old Testament sanctuary. The translators of The Complete Jewish Bible got this. Notice how they translated the text: ?The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh?khinah, the Sh?khinah of the Father?s only Son, full of grace and truth.? John?s intent in clear. Jesus is the reality to which the symbolic sanctuary pointed. As we?ve already seen, God said to Moses in the Old Testament, ?Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them? (Exodus 25:8). Now this same God has shown up in the world dwelling among us in a tabernacle made of flesh and blood. Through Him, human beings are now being led into the Holy of Holies, into the immediate presence of the Shekinah glory.

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Defining Faith

Faith is difficult to define. The lexical definition is as flat as root beer without bubbles: ?persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction . . . assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.? Metaphors of faith vary widely, comparing it to a fight, a race, eating, drinking, a door, a shield, a seed, a hand, and a ship. Notice that some of these metaphors indicate receiving (eating, drinking, opening) and some acting (fighting, racing, grasping, shielding). Faith apparently morphs into whatever mode the situation demands. It can receive, it can give, it can rest, and it can take action. It?s bigger and more basic than its manifestations.

So apparently faith is more about what it does than what it is.

God showed us faith for an entire Testament before He labeled it. The Hebrew word for faith, aman, appears only twice in noun form (in the Old Testament). In contrast, the Greek noun pistis appears 244 times in the New Testament. In other words, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab show us faith; Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Jesus, and Paul name it.

I studied dance in college. A famous New York City dance troop performer named Beverly Schmidt Blossom came to our school to perform. I saw her sitting and eating an orange before the performance. She looked unimpressive?even homely. Then, under the spotlight, she blossomed into a work of art. Beauty exuded from every twirl and bend, sculpted by what seemed like a million muscles flexed throughout her body. Beverly looked fantastic when she moved. So does faith. It?s small and unimpressive, like a mustard seed, until it?s put into action, at which point it shimmers with powerful, mountain-moving beauty.

It?s my hope that this chapter will help you to learn how to put the seed of faith, buried in your heart, in motion. Once you do, mountains of entrenched, troublesome hang-ups, headaches, habits, and even character flaws will move out of your way.

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Treated as We Deserve

Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death that was ours, that we might receive the life that was His. ?By His stripes we are healed.? Isaiah 53:5.

Satan determined to bring eternal separation between God and man; but in taking our nature, the Savior united Himself to humanity by a tie that will never be broken. ?God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.? John 3:16. He gave Him, not only to die as our Sacrifice; He gave Him to become one of the human family, to keep His human nature forever.

?Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.? God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son and has carried it to the highest heaven. The ?Son of man? shall be called, ?Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.? Isaiah 9:6, italics added. He who is ?holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,? is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. Hebrews 7:26; 2:11. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enclosed in the embrace of Infinite Love.

God?s lifting up of His redeemed people will be an eternal testimony to His mercy. ?In the ages to come,? He will ?show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus? in order that ?the manifold wisdom of God? may be made known to ?the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places.? Ephesians 2:7; 3:10.

Through Christ?s work, the government of God stands justified. The All-powerful One is revealed as the God of love. Christ has refuted Satan?s charges and unmasked his character. Sin can never again enter the universe. Through eternal ages all are secure from apostasy. By love?s selfsacrifice, Jesus has linked earth and heaven to the Creator in an unbreakable union.

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Don't Go Home

I have a mental picture when I read about Paul?s farewell to a group from Ephesus, ?They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship? (Acts 20:37, 38). Won?t heaven be wonderful? No more goodbyes!

This experience taught me that when I am called by God, I need to go, and ?the one who calls you is faithful? (1 Thessalonians 5:24). And it will all be worth it!

Here are two more verses of encouragement for our journeys whether we stay near home or go farther abroad. Paul wrote, ?But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ?s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere? (2 Corinthians 2:14). And Jesus shared, ?He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern? (Luke 12:31, TLB). 

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Talents for Ministry

When Mordecai learned that the Jews were in danger, ?he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly? (Esther 4:1). Eventually Esther heard about it, sought a conversation with Mordecai, and learned that she needed to be personally involved. He implored, ?For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place . . . and who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?? (verse 14).

It?s a choice. Esther didn?t have to be involved, but she chose to. And her people were saved. It is one thing to read stories in the Bible and think, Oh sure, we would be that heroic also, and another thing to encounter choices in real life. I didn?t have to place a call to someone I didn?t know. However, because I did the cooking school, many people were overjoyed to learn new health and food principles.

Living day by day knowing God has a purpose for our situations is assuring. All praise to the Lord for what He does! 

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Managing in Tough Times

When trials arise that seem unexplainable, we should not allow our peace to be spoiled. However unjustly we may be treated, let not passion arise. By indulging a spirit of retaliation we injure ourselves. We destroy our own confidence in God, and grieve the Holy Spirit. There is by our side a witness, a heavenly messenger, who will lift up for us a standard against the enemy. He will shut us in with the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Beyond this Satan cannot penetrate. He cannot pass this shield of holy light.

While the world is progressing in wickedness, none of us need flatter ourselves that we shall have no difficulties. But it is these very difficulties that bring us into the audience chamber of the Most High. We may seek counsel of One who is infinite in wisdom.

The Lord says, ?Call upon Me in the day of trouble.? Psalm 50:15. He invites us to present to Him our perplexities and necessities, and our need of divine help. He bids us be instant in prayer. As soon as difficulties arise, we are to offer to Him our sincere, earnest petitions. By our importunate prayers we give evidence of our strong confidence in God. The sense of our need leads us to pray earnestly, and our heavenly Father is moved by our supplications.?Christ?s Object Lessons, pp. 171, 172.

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Where's Your Focus?

What do genuine Christians do in response to a financial crisis? Do they hunker down in survival mode? No, in fact, just the opposite is true. ?In the last extremity, before this work shall close, thousands will be cheerfully laid upon the altar. Men and women will feel it a blessed privilege to share in the work of preparing souls to stand in the great day of God, and they will give hundreds as readily as dollars are given now.?9 Bible-believing Christians know that everything on this earth will be burned up someday soon?at the second coming of Jesus (2 Peter 3:10). They wisely invest their money in God?s cause so it will do some good and escape the conflagration. ?The work of God is to become more extensive, and if His people follow His counsel, there will not be much means in their possession to be consumed in the final conflagration. All will have laid up their treasure where moth and rust cannot corrupt; and the heart will not have a cord to bind it to earth.?

The financial stresses of our economy could be greatly reduced or eliminated by learning and practicing the Bible?s principles. God?s counsel has been given to us for our best good. In a reflective moment, David looked back on his life and gladly testified, ?I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread? (Psalm 37:25). Surely, each of us can likewise see God?s hand of blessing in our own lives. 

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My Prayer for You

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was that little girl just discovering a God who loved me and praying simple prayers of faith. It?s amazing how much He has done in my life since then. The places He?s taken me. The opportunities He?s given me. My mom was just saying yesterday that if anyone had told her back then what I?d be doing now, she would never have believed it.

But, that?s what God does? He transforms our lives.

I tell my sons, ?God loves you more than I do, and it?s hard to believe that anyone can love you more than I do. He has an adventure planned for you, and you are not going to want to miss it.?

I think they know it?s true. They?ve seen the adventures God has taken me on? from that shy little girl in the back row to a woman who travels the country speaking to groups about God, His love, and His longing for them. They see how He uses me, allowing my words? written and spoken? to impact others. I know it?s not me. I know it?s all Him. And I am amazed.

But yes, there are days when I struggle. Battle. Feel like giving up. I worry way too much about my weight. I want so very much to make a difference in the world, but many days I feel like I?m not accomplishing anything. And I?m often tempted to feel like I?m such a mess there?s no way God can ever use me. Of course, He loves proving that?s not true. Reminding me that it?s not about me and who I am or what I do. It?s all about Him and who He is and what He?s done.

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Twenty-Six to One

Hesed came to have such enormous meaning and conceptual content for the prophets that translators have struggled to limit themselves to any single English equivalent. In various Bible translations we find hesed rendered as:

Mercy, Unfailing love, Steadfast love, Faithful love, Lovingkindness

All of these translations are helpful and all of them leave yet more to be understood. One scholar suggested to me that hesed is so large with meaning that it would require 26 different English words to adequately encompass its richness in Hebrew thought. He didn?t name the 26 words he had in mind, and it may have been an arbitrarily chosen number to make a point. But I have come up with my own list after surveying hesed?s usage throughout the Hebrew Bible. Hesed means God is characterized by:

Faithfulness, Mercy, Compassion, Changelessness, Determination, Constancy, Reliability, Commitment, Dependability, Predictability, Trustworthiness, Integrity, Patience, Hope, Devotion, Passion, Longsuffering, Justice, Truthfulness, Goodness, Kindness, Grace, Loyalty, Generosity, Faith

It?s all there as you read the breathtaking story from Genesis to Revelation. Who could possibly not long for and worship a God like that? If such a God does rule the universe, can you imagine any more desirable prospect than to know this God?

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Prayer: The Channel of Blessing

Through prayer we, too, open our hearts to everything Jesus has for us. We lay our souls bare to receive the fullness of His power. ?Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him? (Steps to Christ, p. 93). In all healthy relationships there is the desire to communicate with the person we care about. Prayer opens our hearts to speak with God just like we would a close friend or companion. The Upper Room was a place of communion with God, a place where the disciples prayed individually and united in corporate prayer. They ?met together to present their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus. They knew that they had a Representative in heaven, an Advocate at the throne of God. In solemn awe they bowed in prayer, repeating the assurance, ?Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.? John 16:23, 24. Higher and still higher they extended the hand of faith, with the mighty argument, ?It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.? Romans 8:24? (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 35, 36)

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Stand and See His Salvation

 When sin entered this world, we became powerless over its consequences. Sin ruled in our minds and bodies. It seemed that we would forever be separated from God and were doomed to perish eternally. A great multitude of sins buried us and rendered us powerless. Yet Jesus came to live a perfect life in our place and, at the cross, gave up His perfect life, taking our place in death. He fought our battle and won. He died for our sins and purchased eternal life for us, even though we didn?t deserve it. And, as Jehoshaphat and his people returned with a rich spoil?which they had not earned?we will live forever in the new earth without sin, death, or suffering (see Revelation 21:4), which we did not earn. Jesus earned it for us. And there is more: the same One who purchased our salvation also fights our daily battles. So be encouraged, and remember: Frequently, we face situations in which our strength and wisdom are not enough. Yet we have this assurance to rely on: though we are ?power-less,? our God is ?power-full.? 

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Put Your Glasses On

The battle of perception rages on in our minds. Are we going to trust what we see or what God has promised? The question applies to both our daily battles and our salvation?salvation by grace through faith. We will never see ourselves worthy of being saved, yet, we are invited to believe. Salvation is the reality that God promised to us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross. When we put those ?faith glasses? on, we receive the assurance that we are saved, not because of our entitlement, perfection, or merit but because we accept what He did for us.

The name of Jesus is very similar to the name Elisha. Elisha means ?God saves,? and Jesus means ?Yahweh saves.? Both remind us that salvation comes from God and not from us. And our daily struggles work the same way as our salvation?God fights our battles. May you come to see with the eyes of faith ?the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen? (Hebrews 11:1; emphasis added). 

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