Hidden Mysteries

Have you ever found the perfect gift that you just had to buy for someone? Did you then hide the gift because it was not the right time to give it?  I think God does this with us.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2
It is interesting that God hides things. Although God interacted with the people of the Old Testament, He also chose to keep some things concealed. He revealed messages through pictures and prophecies but the people did not completely understand all He was saying and doing. I sometimes wonder if God hides things from us just so we will look for them. Today, I am searching for what He has hidden.

. . . filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3
Paul is talking about Christ being the mystery that was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. He also emphasizes that there are more treasures hidden in Christ.

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35
Jesus taught through parables. He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 78:2. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” Sometimes His parables hid meaning and other times they gave insight. Although I have read Jesus’ parables many times, the Holy Spirit continues to give me fresh perspectives. I can discover things that had previously been hidden.

there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
Matthew 10:26

Jesus spoke these words as He sent His disciples out to “the lost sheep of Israel”. They were to reveal the Gospel’s hidden message.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth
John 16:12-13
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. People were not ready or able to comprehend all that God still wanted to reveal. Now we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper so we can gain new understanding about God and His plans and purposes.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
Although God has concealed things, He also desires to reveal things. He promises to tell us things we have not even thought about! When we need to hear something fresh and are able to understand more deeply, God will reveal it to us. I find this verse very encouraging.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Although Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, they still apply today. When God entrusts us with His revelations, it is our responsibility to share His insights with those who have not yet heard the gospel or do not understand it.

You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
John 13:7

Jesus spoke these words to Peter while washing the disciples feet. However, I also hear Jesus saying them to us
today. The greater eternal purposes of God are beyond our comprehension. Our knowledge is limited while God’s wisdom is beyond measure.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

“What we cannot see” can refer to our lack of ability to see intellectually as well as impaired vision of the eye. Faith does not require us to know everything perfectly. All of us have questions for God. However, we need to be content knowing that what may now be concealed will be revealed in the future.
If I knew everything about God, I would have facts not faith. Faith allows us to accept the mysteries that God keeps concealed. It allows us to accept the limits of our revelation and honor God’s secrets. Although what our eyes see is easier to understand, faith is always more challenging and exciting.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12 NLT
It is still God’s glory to conceal some matters. As long as we seek deeper insight, God will give us
clearer understanding. The mysteries of God encourage us to grow in our faith. Personally, His mysteries keep me from becoming bored. I am not content. I always want to learn more.

God has purchased the perfect gift for each of us. He still hides the fullness of this gift. However, He gives partial revelations at the appropriate times. God is too big for us to fully understand with our finite minds. But, the day will come when we will completely know Him. What a wonderful promise! Meanwhile, what an awesome journey!

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Turn on the Light

You are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:14

Last week I shared about being salt. This week, I am thinking about being light. Through both images, Jesus is speaking about being a witness.

The very first verse of the Bible states that there was darkness over the face of the deep before God created the heavens and the earth. God’s first words recorded in Genesis 1:2 are, “Let there be light and there was light.” This verse describes physical light replacing physical darkness. However, as a witness, I am thinking about spiritual light overcoming spiritual darkness.

Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” Then Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. How can I connect these verses of Matthew and John? I am reminded of Genesis 1:27, “God created mankind in His own image.So, if Jesus is light and I am made in His image, then, I guess I can also be light. However, I like to make a distinction by thinking of Jesus as the light of the world while I am a light of the world. I am like the moon that reflects the light of the sun. The moon has no light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. I shine forth light, but my light is a reflection of the light of God’s Son.

When Jesus says that He is the light of the world in John 8:12, He goes on to say,Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.Jesus is explaining that He is the source of spiritual light that overcomes spiritual darkness. He declares in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should remain in darkness.

Ephesians 5:8 NLT says, For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light.’” I was not always light. I once knew what it was like to be in darkness without the light of understanding. I became light when I accepted Jesus, the Light, as my savior. Now it is my responsibility to be a light to those who are still in darkness.

Matthew 5:15 says I must not hide my light but let it shine. Matthew 5:16 emphasizes, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” My light is not to shine on me. My responsibility is to light the way for others to come to see Christ. I desire for God to be glorified – not me.

How can I be the light I am called to be? The natural realm helps me understand the supernatural realm. A lamp setting on a table will not emit light in a dark room if its cord is not plugged into a source of electricity. If I am to be a light to the darkened world, I must be connected to Jesus, the light of the world. The Holy Spirit is my spiritual cord. He is my connection. He is my helper. John 14:26 NASB says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

John 1:4-5 says of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Light overcomes darkness rather than darkness extinguishing light. Light is more powerful. It exposes the deceptions of darkness and illuminates the brilliance of truth. Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. As a witness, I am a light sharing God’s Word of truth with those who have not yet been enlightened by Jesus. Sharing scripture is one way of witnessing. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your (God’s) word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Paul warns in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.(my emphasis) Choices I make affect how effectively and brightly my light shines to those in darkness. My actions are as much a part of my witness as are my words. I must be careful or my light will be very dim.

I Peter 2:9 NKJV declares, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. His own special people, that you proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. The Lord has called me into the light and now I am to go back into the darkness to proclaim the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony to share. God says in Isaiah 43:10, “You are My witnesses.” It is a privilege to be light for Him!

My Reader, are you a light?  Think about it every time you turn on a light.

Shake the Salt from the Salt Shaker

You are the salt of the earth.
Matthew 5:13

If I am salt, I picture myself being composed of little seasoning granules. My body is the salt shaker holding the granules of Christ in me.

As a believer, it is my responsibility to shake and share Christ-crystals upon those around me. In other words, I am to be a witness. In Isaiah 43:10, the Lord declares, “You are My witnesses.” Before Jesus’ ascension, He told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He still says this to me today.

I want to think about how some of the characteristics of salt teach me to be a witness for Christ.

Before refrigeration became available, the chemical compound known as salt was often used as a preservative. If people had eaten improperly stored meat, they could have died from food poisoning. As a believer, God allows me to shake the salt of salvation upon those around me. My salt comes from God’s Word. My saltiness proclaims John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives.

Salt is often added to food to enhance flavor. Some people’s taste buds are tantalized by a saltier flavor than others. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.Reading God’s Word is never bland. However, sometimes one needs a little extra flavor sprinkled upon the written Word. Maybe I can add a little extra saltiness to scripture by sharing how I have applied a specific verse to a personal problem.

I can strive to add flavor by sharing God’s favor. God’s favor is His grace. According to
I Corinthians 15:10, I know that the grace of God is with me. And, I Corinthians 12:9 assures me that God’s grace is sufficient. The presence of God’s favor is part of my tasty testimony. I can assure others that they too can have God’s flavorful favor according to Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

After eating something extremely salty, like potato chips or peanuts, I want a drink of water. God’s purpose for me as salt is to create a thirst in others for spiritual water. In John 7:37 Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” I desire to shake enough salty Christ-crystals upon others to create a spiritual thirst.

I like the fact that I am salt according to Matthew 5:13. However, I do not want to be a salt shaker that never distributes the salt within me. Colossians 4:6 encourages me to be a witness by saying, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” David says in Psalm 1914,May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” May my words be palatable granules of glory to God and the flavor of favor to those around me.

My Reader, are you salt?  Think about it each time you use a salt shaker.

Comfort of the Comforter

On a cold January morning, I cuddled under a warm comforter. The covers were cozy. The comfort of the comforter reminded me of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

In John 14:16 KJV, Jesus gives us the promise, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” He goes on to say in John 14:26 KJV, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

I have quoted the King James Version of these scriptures. Other translations use Advocate, Helper and Counselor. All are interpretations of the Greek word paraclete referring to the Holy Spirit. According to Wikipedia, “Paracleteos” signifies one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; . . . one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court.”

The term Comforter comes from the Latin word confortare. “Com” expresses intensive force and “fortis” means strong. As our Comforter, the Holy Spirit helps us by coming along side us helping us live for the Lord. Zechariah 4:6, Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

The promise of a Comforter was prophesied in Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Acts 2:17.

Sarah Young shares about comfort in Jesus Always. Psalm 119:76 NLT says, Now let Your unfailing love comfort me.Sarah points out that the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, has a better grasp of what is happening for us than we can comprehend. So, I encourage you to grasp hold of the Comforter just as I grasped hold of my blanket or comforter.

Bill Johnson says in When Heaven Invades Earth that God gave us the Comforter because He knew His ways would occasionally make us uncomfortable. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8,For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.Johnson says we may not initially recognize the Holy Spirit when He manifests His presence in ways we are not accustomed to or in a manner we do not expect. These situations may cause us to feel uncomfortable. However, the Holy Spirit desires to be our Comforter in all ways as all times.

My comforter allowed me to be comfortable on a cold morning. There are times when the Holy Spirit will make me comfortable. However, there are other times when He will make me uncomfortable. God may push me out of my comfort zone challenging to me to grow spiritually through new experiences. I had to push myself to get out of bed and leave the comfort of my comforter. Otherwise, I would not have accomplished anything the Comforter was preparing for me that day.

When I was enveloped in my quilt comforter, I felt warm. I have also experienced the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as a feeling of warmth radiating through my body. Scripture describes the Holy Spirit as fire. After Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. Acts 2:3 records,They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Hebrews 12:29 says,for our God is a consuming fire.”

I was aware of the weight of my comforter when I huddled under the patchwork fabric. Similarly, I have felt a powerful weight on me when the Holy Spirit has descended. There can definitely be a weightiness to the Comforter. The Shekhinah glory is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word denoting the settling of the divine presence of God. The Comforter can settle upon us just as the comforter settled upon me, or covered me, while I was in bed. The Holy Spirit’s presence is often correlated with the glory of God. The Hebrew word for glory is kabod. And, the basic meaning of kabod is heavy or rich. II Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (my emphasis)

My comforter was an object. The Comforter is the third person of the Trinity. Jesus promises us the Comforter. He says in John 14:18 KJV, I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Jesus also explains in John 14:26 KJV, But when the Comforter is come,… He shall testify of Me.”

Such comfort I enjoyed from a comforter. So much comfort available to us through the Comforter.

 

Fear Not, Joseph

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:20

 

We are now in our third week of Advent – preparing our hearts and homes for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Joseph is the next Christmas character we will consider who faced fear.

Mary had broken the news to Joseph that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He had to decide what he was going to do. Being a righteous man, he considered quietly divorcing Mary as his way of getting out of this predicament. God had other plans and He needed to get Joseph’s attention.

God spoke to Joseph a dream.

Let’s think a little more about dreams. The Lord says in Joel 2:28-29, I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.Chronologically, Joseph was a young man. However, I believe his spiritual maturity qualified him as an older man. Joseph’s dream was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. This prophecy was also fulfilled at Pentecost. (See Acts 2:17.) The Holy Spirit still speaks through dreams. Be alert. The Lord may choose to help you overcome fear through a dream.

God gave Joseph instructions through a dream – and he obeyed. Joseph’s obedience is a good example for us. Jesus says in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Since God could trust Joseph to hear and obey, He spoke to him three more times through dreams. Each time the Lord gave Joseph further guidance. There accounts are found in Matthew 2:1-12, Matthew 2:16-18 and Matthew 2:22. Joseph’s encounter with the Spirit of God was not a one time experience. The Holy Spirit also came upon the disciples more than once. Acts 13:62 NASB says, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit wants to speak to us as well. And, He will speak to us numerous times!

Last week we emphasized that Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. This week we find Joseph was guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit. Both of them listened to the Spirit. Joseph was not fearful because he was not afraid of what God was doing.

Joseph entrusted Mary’s life as well as his own into the hands of God. Joseph felt no reason to fear the Spirit’s work – neither should we. Hebrews 13:5 NLT declares, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”

Jesus tells us in John 14:16, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.Different translations use different words to describe the Holy Spirit – Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, Helper. All these terms help us understand the role of the Holy Spirit.

God had a plan for Joseph. Joseph was an integral part of the birth of Jesus. God also has a plan for each of us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” With this promise, we need not be afraid. We are simply to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Georgio A. Dano has said, “Fear ends where faith begins.”

Fear Not, Mary

 

Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her,
“for you have found favor with God!
Luke 1:30

Today we continue our Advent study of Christmas characters who were told not to be afraid. May we also be encouraged to discard fear from our lives. We must remember that these are real people who had genuine encounters with God. We are not just reading fictional stories.

Let us look closely at Mary.

One of the first things I notice about the scripture of Luke 1:30 is that the angel addressed Mary by name. God knew her name! He spoke personally to her.

The Lord says in Isaiah 43:1, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” God addressed Isaiah with these words. He spoke similar words to Mary approximately 700 years later. Now over 2000 years later, He still speaks these words. Place your name in the blanks and hear the Lord say, “________, don’t be afraid; I have called you by name. You are mine. ________, do not be afraid.”

What was happening for Mary before she heard God calling her name?

Mary lived in Galilee and was planning her marriage to Joseph. Suddenly there was a change in plans when an angel appeared. The first thing the angel told Mary was to not be afraid. However, being told not to fear, did not mean she would not encounter fear.

The angel gave Mary a revelation as well as a warning. She was told she would conceive a baby by the Holy Spirit. It would be scary for any unwed young woman to find out she was pregnant. But there was more for Mary to learn. Things got even scarier when she found out the conception would take place by the Holy Spirit. She could not comprehend how this could happen.

Mary needed to grasp that although she was in a scary situation, God was with her. She did not need to be afraid. Something good was coming – the birth of the Son of God and Son of man. Emmanuel, God with us, would be born through her body.

Mary did not have the scripture of II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” These would have been comforting Mary. The are reassuring words for us today.

Although we may be told not to fear, it is not always easy to avoid fear. Fear often leads to worry. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The angel informed Mary that she had found favor with God. This meant He was pleased with her. He loved her. According to gotquestions.org, those who are favored of God know that God is with them and that nothing can happen to them apart from His good purpose. Romans 8:28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Those who receive God’s favor also have the assurance that the Lord is attentive when they walk through difficult times. According to Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” When we have the favor of the Lord, we rest in quiet confidence. Isaiah 30:15 NLT tells us, “In quietness and confidence is your strength.”

When Mary followed the Lord’s plan, His plans were fulfilled. Mary had been preparing for her marriage celebration to Joseph. It didn’t go exactly as she planned. However, she did not walk in fear. Mary set an example for us. We must not become fearful when everything does not go as we have planned. Let us be impregnated with Jesus and His ways. God’s plans may be different from ours. Matthew 6:34 says, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Fear Not, Zechariah

Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.
Luke 1:13

Do not fear” is a command given by God. Numerous people heard these words throughout scripture. God speaks similarly to us today. We must remember that these words are a command. They are not just a suggestion. It is interesting that God often follows this directive with a further revelation or interaction. When He requires us to do something, He helps us do it.

According to the Christian calendar, Advent will begin Sunday. This is a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. May we also use this period as a time of preparing our hearts to gain insight of how not to fear.

Between now and Christmas, we are going to look at four Christmas characters who were told to not be afraid. Today we begin with Zechariah.

While Zechariah was in the temple burning incense, an angel appeared to him. Luke 1:12 says, “Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear.” I can’t blame him! An angel would startle anyone. There were two reasons for him not to be afraid. First, he was not to be fearful of this heavenly being’s appearance. Secondly, he was not to be afraid that God had not heard his prayers.

The angelic messenger told Zechariah that Elizabeth would finally have a child. According to verse 14, Zech and Liz would experience joy instead of fear.

We can be assured that God will also answer our prayers. Psalm 91:15, “He will call on Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.Calling is praying.

The Lord says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Zechariah heard things he did not understand. He was not confident about what he was hearing. In Luke 1:18, Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this?” After questioning God, Zechariah was not able to speak until his son John was born.

During this time of silence, I assume that Zechariah’s fear was replaced with faith. He had a lot of time for quiet meditation. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This verse applies to us as well as Zechariah. When we become anxious and fearful, let us be quiet and listen for the Lord. We must allow faith to overpower our fear.

Hebrews 11:1 NLT states, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” I also like the New King James translation which says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A note in the Spirit Filled Life Bible points out that this is not a definition of faith. This is a description of how faith works. Faith is the assurance of what God promises. Faith is being confident that God is constantly working behind the scenes in our lives even when we do not see any tangible evidence.

An anonymous quote says, “Faith allows things to happen. It is the power that comes from a fearless heart. And when a fearless heart believes, miracles happen.This was true for Zechariah. When he replaced the fear in his heart with faith, the miraculous birth of John the Baptist transpired with Zechariah and Elizabeth being the parents. God’s faithfulness was stronger than Zechariah’s fear.

Fear and faith cannot coexist. My Reader, may you not only hear God say to you, “Do not fear.” – also hear Him say, “Have faith.”