THE RIVER THAT RESTORES AND REVIVES

Ps.23:1-3 – The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss. That’s where he restores and revives my life.

What a beautiful picture of God’s waters of rest. Jesus is our Good Shepherd Who leads us to the river of the Holy Spirit, our place of rest and restoration. I see in my mind’s eye sheep laying near the edge of the river, drinking in the life giving waters of renewal. Maybe we were exhausted from the journey but our exhaustion has been swallowed up by His supernatural rest. Here are some comments from the Passion notes that describe this beautiful passage.

“The Greek word for “love” is agape, which is a merging of two words and two concepts. Ago means “to lead like a shepherd,” and pao is a verb that means “to rest.” Love is our Shepherd leading us to the place of true rest in his heart.”

“The Hebrew word menuhâ means “the waters of a resting place.”

When our journey leads us through the valley of the shadow of death only the living water of the Spirit can restore our wounded soul. Over these last several months all of us have gone through some uncharted minefields. Sometimes it feels like the endless “Groundhog Day”, and other times it seems wildly unpredictable. This Psalm reminds us of the nearness of the Shepherd and the power of His waters of rest. Here is how Spurgeon describes this renewal.

“When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. “He” does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. “He restoreth my soul.” Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing—“Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!”

The waters of the Holy Spirit are essential. Without His healing qualities our hearts stay hard and callous, without His love our hearts stay wounded, without His rivers of peace we stay in turmoil. It’s time to lay down by the waters of rest, my only place of restoration and revival.

THE WORD THAT SUSTAINS – MOVES EVERYTHING ALONG IN PERFECT ORDER

Heb. 1:3 -He holds the universe together and expands it by the mighty power of his spoken word.

I thought about this passage recently when I was reading about the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. I was struck by the simple command, “Lazarus, come out of your tomb”. That’s when I began to ponder today’s scripture text. In the Passion Translation it brings out the shades of meaning in the original text, Jesus holds the universe together and expands it by the power of His spoken word. In other words He is carrying everything along, even the stuff that appears chaotic, in order to complete His amazing plan. Lazarus’ family were upset, probably angry, and confused about the death of Lazarus. With all the miracles they had witnessed surely He would have performed this one; after all, Lazarus was His friend. They thought it was over but the Lord had bigger plans in mind. Here is how WUEST describes this verse.

“This act has to do, not only with sustaining the weight of the universe, but also with maintaining its coherence and carrying on its development….The Lord Jesus holds all things together and in their proper relationship to each other by His own power. The oceans are held in their beds. The rivers run down into the sea. The heavenly bodies are held in their orbits…..This act of maintaining this coherence, implies the guidance and propulsion of all the parts of the universe to a definite end. An illustration of this use of phero is found in the Septuagint, where Moses says, “I am not able to bear (phero) all this people alone,” where phero has in it the idea of the responsibility of the government and guidance of Israel. This sustaining of the universe, this maintaining its coherence in all its parts, the Son accomplishes “by the word of his power.” The universe was called into being by the Word of God, and is sustained by that same Word.”

Now its time to think about how this effects us. If He is holding the universe together and is moving along every part of creation to fulfill His plans, He has a specific plan for how you fit into the master scheme, and is just moving things along. Draw near to the Lord, He loves you and has a marked out plan for you to work in.

I AM JOSEPH!

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-“ Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” Gen.45:3

One cannot read this passage of Joseph and move on. Octavius Winslow says; “the whole scene is inimitably beautiful and richly instructive, such as neither the pen of the poet, the pencil of the painter, or the orator can adequately depict.”

Joseph’s life speaks of injustice and I would even say horror. He spent his entire life suffering and in a land that wasn’t his home. Joseph forgave and kept forgiving. Spurgeon said, “Masters of divinity are not to be made by shallow experience. We make not sailors on dry land, nor veterans in times of peace. Christ’s rugged warriors who shall do great exploits for him, must be like the Spartan youths, they must be brought up by a Spartan training, and flogged, and made to bear the yoke in their youth, that afterwards they may be good soldiers of Christ, able to endure hardness and to achieve great victories.”

When he exclaimed ‘I am Joseph” it must have brought fresh terror upon the brothers. The memories of yesterday buried deep within them were quickly brought up to be weighed in the balance. Jesus takes each of us to our own hell to bring us back up to life. We must come to this scene over and over again so as to never forget his love for us!

“I am Joseph” speaks to us of letting go all the pain of the past. “I am Joseph” speaks of forgiving all who took away our homes, our families and our livelihood. “I am Joseph” speaks of a better day when you can look at the future and say “God has made me forget”. “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt says to draw near to him! “I am Joseph” says, “do not be angry with yourself” and “weep no more” over the things that you have done.

Do you remember the moment when “your Joseph the Christ” took off his disguise, closed the doors behind you where no eye could see nor ear hear what Christ discussed with you concerning the condition that you found yourself in?

Winslow says again, “the Church of God is hidden and invisible. Her divine life, her spiritual conflicts, her joys, and sorrows, are, for the most part concealed from the rude gaze of an ungodly world. And what transpires between the child of God and his Father in heaven, is cognizant only to Him who have experienced the most confiding and gracious interviews.”

“I am Joseph”……

THE KINDNESS OF CHRIST

Mk.7:32,33 – TPT – Some people brought to him a deaf man with a severe speech impediment. They pleaded with Jesus to place his hands on him and heal him.

So Jesus led him away from the crowd to a private spot. Then he stuck his fingers into the man’s ears and placed some of his saliva on the man’s tongue.

The ministry of Jesus was the restoration of beauty to His fallen creation. All of creation was tragically effected by the fall of man. In His humanity, the Creator entered creation to restore what had been devastated. That’s what His miracles were all about. When this deaf man with a severe speech impediment was brought to Jesus we get a glimpse into the beautiful kindness seen in the life of Christ. He could have easily healed this man with His word or His touch. Instead, He took this man by the hand and led Him to a private place. Jesus was not only concerned with this man’s body, He was also concerned with his feelings. In that place of privacy this poor deaf man regained his hearing as well as his life. No more embarrassment about being deaf and speaking so no one could understand. This deaf man had a new life. Here is how William Barclay describes this miracle.

“He took the man aside from the crowd, all by himself. Here is the most tender considerateness. Deaf folk are always a little embarrassed. In some ways it is more embarrassing to be deaf than it is to be blind. A deaf person knows he cannot hear; and when someone in a crowd shouts at him and tries to make him hear, in his excitement he becomes all the more helpless. Jesus showed the most tender consideration for the feelings of a man for whom life was very difficult….The whole story shows us most vividly that Jesus did not consider the man merely a case; he considered him as an individual the man had a special need and a special problem, and with the most tender considerateness Jesus dealt with him in a way that spared his feelings and in a way that he could understand.”

I love this story. Jesus loves me personally. He loves you personally. He has a plan of restoration in our lives. No matter what has been stolen from you He has come to make all things beautiful in your life again.

THE TOUCH THAT HEALS

Lk.8:43,44 – A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

Lots of people were in the meetings that day, it even says in one account that Jesus was being thronged by the crowds. Sounds like pushing and shoving and touching but who was really touching Jesus? Suddenly Jesus was stopped in His tracks, “Who touched Me”, He exclaimed. Someone had touched Him with the touch of faith and was immediately healed. What does this story say to us today? Is it possible that many who attend church never really “touch Christ”? They sing the songs, pray their prayers, listen to the preaching, and take communion but really never touch Jesus. There was something different about the lady with the hemorrhage that day. It wasn’t that she was sick that made her different, she was ready to receive her touch. Here is how J.C. Ryle describes this scene.

“We are told in these verses that “many people followed” our Lord, “and thronged him.” But we are only told of one person who “came in the press behind,” and touched Him with faith and was healed. Many followed Jesus from curiosity, and derived no benefit from Him. One, and only one, followed under a deep sense of her need, and of our Savior’s power to relieve her, and that one received a mighty blessing. We see the same thing going on continually in the Church of Christ at the present day. Multitudes go to our places of worship, and fill our pews. Hundreds come up to the Lord’s table, and receive the bread and wine. But of all these worshipers and communicants, how few really obtain anything from Christ! Fashion, custom, ritual, habit, the love of excitement, or an itching ear, are the true motives of the vast majority. There are but few here and there who touch Christ by faith, and go home ‘in peace’.”

What brought you to church this Sunday? Did you come out of routine or duty or did you come expecting a touch from the Lord? How will your touch come? It could be from reading a scripture, His presence in a song, a word spoken from the minister, or even through the laying on of hands in the prayer line. There are many ways you can touch the hem of His garment, one touch can change your world.

FINALLY DONE

Mk.5:25,26 – A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.

Are you done yet? Not sure what I mean? What I am saying is have you finally figured out that our human limitations can only go so far. Many times, like the poor woman with the twelve year hemorrhage, our problems are beyond our ability to fix. This is a great picture of humans trying to fix their basic sin problem. There is nothing we can do to fix ourselves, we are spiritually bankrupt until that moment of divine intervention. We may have struggled for years, maybe even twelve years. We may have depleted all our resources trying to fix what is broken. Only when we are finally done and begin to look to Christ are we on our way to recovery. Here is how J. C. Ryle describes this woman’s plight.

“Many a man has spent sorrowful years in search of peace with God, and failed to find it. He has gone to earthly remedies and obtained no relief. He has wearied himself in going from place to place, and church to church, and has felt after all “nothing bettered, but rather worse.” But at last he has found rest. And where has he found it? He has found it, where this woman found hers, in Jesus Christ. He has ceased from his own works. He has stopped looking to his own endeavors and doings for relief. He has come to Christ Himself, as a humble sinner, and committed himself to His mercy. At once the burden has fallen from off his shoulders. Heaviness is turned to joy, and anxiety to peace. One touch of real faith can do more for the soul than a hundred self-imposed austerities. One look at Jesus is more efficacious than years of sack-cloth and ashes. May we never forget this to our dying day!”

It’s funny, the moment we come to that conclusion of our utter helplessness, then and then only are we ready for a miracle. In that moment we look away from ourselves and other human remedies and look to the Lord. That’s when we are ready for the touch that changes everything.

LETS GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Lk.15:22-24 – But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What an amazing description of God’s love for fallen man. We went out and wasted our Father’s gifts on sinful living. Rather than judging us and banishing us from His home, He embraces us, kisses us and showers us with gifts, and throws us a party. Here are some thoughts from the People’s New Testament Commentary on the Father’s response in this parable of the prodigal son.

“Bring forth the best robe. He had returned in rags. The best robe is the white robe of the righteousness of Christ. A ring on his hand. A ring with a seal was a symbol of authority, of sonship. Shoes on his feet. Servants went barefoot, but the shoes were a symbol of freedom. Bring the fatted calf. For a feast of welcome. To make such preparations was common in the simple life of the East. For my son was dead, and is alive. It was a spiritual resurrection. They began to be merry. Gladness should be manifested by all saints at the repentance of sinners.”

What an amazing welcome, He took off our filthy rags marked with the stains of our sins, He put on us a beautiful robe welcoming us back home. The Lord clothes each of His returning prodigals with a beautiful robe, we are clothed in the righteous garments of Christ, justified by grace through faith. Next, He places the family ring on our finger. We are not outcast, we are welcomed into the very privileges and authority of Sonship. We are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ. Then there were the shoes. Our previous shoes were long gone from the hard road we had chosen to walk. Now, our feet are covered with the shoes of the promises of God. We are freed from our life of slavery, God’s promises are now ours. He also killed the fatted calf reserved for the greatest of occasions. This calf also reminds us of the sin offering that made all of this possible, the blood of Jesus has washed away our sin. The joy finally began to break out into singing and dancing, “My son who was lost has now returned home”. Let’s get this party started.

“OH THE PLACES WE WILL GO!”

MERRY THURSDAY-

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” 1 Cor. 2:19
Years ago when our first child was graduating high school and on the way to college; Frank’s sister gave our son the Dr. Seuss book entitled “OH THE PLACES YOU WILL GO!” I believe he still has that book because his aunt passed away not many years later. One of the quotes is;
“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Dr. Seuss
The Christian journey is the best journey one could ever embark on which will have no regrets. Gills commentary says, “that no one had ever fully perceived and understood the value and beauty of those things which God has prepared for his people. All the world had been strangers to this until God made a revelation to his people by his Spirit. To say that the eye had not seen, nor the ear heard, was, therefore, the same as saying that it was not known at all. All people had been ignorant of it. Neither have entered into the heart of man – No man has conceived it; or understood it. It is new; and is above all that man has seen, and felt, and known.”

The Christian journey of redemption is such a mystery that man simply cannot comprehend it. Gill again says, “God has held in reserve” the wisdom that is revealed in the gospel. He gives us eyes to see and hears to hear but we have to remain open to his love of redemption and the plan of God. I mean, every part of you, your life, will change. The way you look at yourself, the way you look at other people, the way you look at the church, the way you look at life, the way you look at the lost, the way you look at everything will change because you’ll have a new sense of the greatness of our God.

Oh the places we will go! God has so much in store right now! This voice of the Lord opens the hearts of the hungry and calls them to a place of restoration and healing in God’s glorious dance. You are not forgotten. You too are a part of His plan. It’s not accidental! Nothing about your life is an accident.

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains” Dr.Seuss

GLORIFIED

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Herein is my Father glorified —John 15:8

Once you begin to see the glory of the Lord for yourself your view of everything changes. You begin to come to the greatest of all conclusions, everything that exists exists to display the glory of God. The galaxies and solar systems, the sub-atomic and microscopic world, the creatures in the sea, the birds of the air, and the innumerable land creatures and insects. All of these things display the wisdom, creativity, and power of God. But there is even a greater display of God’s glory than all of these wonderful things. What could it possibly be? His greatest glory is reserved for the sinners, the ungodly of this world. God’s greatest glory is seen in redemption, the forgiveness and transformation of the dregs of fallen man. Jesus’s glory was clearly seen in the forgiveness of the harlot called Mary, the restoration of the betrayer called Peter, and the salvation of the self proclaimed chief of sinners, the persecutor also known as the Apostle Paul. Here is how A. B. Simpson describes the glory of God.

“There is nothing that glorifies God so much as for a weak and helpless man or woman to be able to triumph through His strength in places where the highest human qualities will fail us and to carry on in divine power through every form of toll and suffering. A spirit naturally weak, irresolute, selfish, and sinful, transformed into sweetness, purity and power and standing victorious amid circumstances from which its natural qualities must utterly unfit it brings glory to God. A mind not naturally wise or strong, yet directed by a divine wisdom and carried along the path of a great and mighty plan, being used to accomplish stupendous results for God and man-this glorifies God. Father, let me glorify Thee this day and adorn Thy doctrine in all things I do.”
So that brings us to you. Could it be that all the bad stuff that has happened in your life is just an opportunity for glory at the end of the day? If that’s the case we have to glory in our problems and even in the afflictions in our lives. God is serious about His glory, He is serious about redemption and restoration in your life. Draw near and lean on His mercy, I think the Lord is about to show His glory in your life.

RESTING BY THE RIVER

Psa. 23:1,2 ¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

This is a beautiful picture of the spiritual rest the Lord gives His sons and daughters. The Amplified Bible says it like this, “He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters”. That is one of the beautiful functions of the wonderful Holy Spirit, He gives us rest for our souls. This is one of the greatest of all needs in today’s crazy world. Stress seems to be the order of the day; seasons of earthquakes and national disasters, political chaos, racial contention, economic tsunamis, and incurable pandemics. Without this place of rest to run to we can easily be overwhelmed by the troubles of this life. Have you learned the importance of following the Shepherd daily to the waters of rest. I think I would have shipwrecked long ago without learning the blessing of resting in the Spirit. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry of the waters of rest.

“The still waters by which he leads them yield them, not only a pleasant prospect, but many a cooling draught, many a reviving cordial, when they are thirsty and weary. God provides for his people not only food and rest, but refreshment also and pleasure. The consolations of God, the joys of the Holy Ghost, are these still waters, by which the saints are led, streams which flow from the fountain of living waters and make glad the city of our God. God leads his people, not to the standing waters which corrupt and gather filth, not to the troubled sea, nor to the rapid rolling floods, but to the silent purling waters; for the still but running waters agree best with those spirits that flow out towards God and yet do it silently.”
I can remember very clearly the first time I found myself in this semi-conscious state resting in the Holy Ghost. I was prayed for and fell under the power of the Spirit for the first time. I found myself totally caught by surprise as I was overtaken by the restful, waters of joy. Resting, laughing, and overcome by love; that’s the very place the Shepherd wants to takes us. This is the beautiful place of restoration, cleansing, and empowering. Go ahead and take a break in the River, this is the place you have been looking for all of your life.