"The Lord's portion is his people."
How are they his? By his own sovereign choice. He chose them, and set his love upon them. This he did altogether apart from any goodness in them at the time, or any goodness which he foresaw in them. He had mercy on whom he would have mercy, and ordained a chosen company unto eternal life; thus, therefore, are they his by his unconstrained election.
They are not only his by choice, but by purchase. He has bought and paid for them to the utmost farthing, hence about his title there can be no dispute. Not with corruptible things, as with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord's portion has been fully redeemed. There is no mortgage on his estate; no suits can be raised by opposing claimants, the price was paid in open court, and the Church is the Lord's freehold forever. See the blood-mark upon all the chosen, invisible to human eye, but known to Christ, for "the Lord knoweth them that are his"; he forgetteth none of those whom he has redeemed from among men; he counts the sheep for whom he laid down his life, and remembers well the Church for which he gave himself.
They are also his by conquest. What a battle he had in us before we would be won! How long he laid siege to our hearts! How often he sent us terms of capitulation! but we barred our gates, and fenced our walls against him. Do we not remember that glorious hour when he carried our hearts by storm? When he placed his cross against the wall, and scaled our ramparts, planting on our strongholds the blood-red flag of his omnipotent mercy? Yes, we are, indeed, the conquered captives of his omnipotent love. Thus chosen, purchased, and subdued, the rights of our divine possessor are inalienable: we rejoice that we never can be our own; and we desire, day by day, to do his will, and to show forth his glory.
"Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us."
It is our wisdom, as well as our necessity, to beseech God continually to strengthen that which he has wrought in us. It is because of their neglect in this, that many Christians may blame themselves for those trials and afflictions of spirit which arise from unbelief. It is true that Satan seeks to flood the fair garden of the heart and make it a scene of desolation, but it is also true that many Christians leave open the sluice-gates themselves, and let in the dreadful deluge through carelessness and want of prayer to their strong Helper. We often forget that the Author of our faith must be the Preserver of it also. The lamp which was burning in the temple was never allowed to go out, but it had to be daily replenished with fresh oil; in like manner, our faith can only live by being sustained with the oil of grace, and we can only obtain this from God himself. Foolish virgins we shall prove, if we do not secure the needed sustenance for our lamps. He who built the world upholds it, or it would fall in one tremendous crash; he who made us Christians must maintain us by his Spirit, or our ruin will be speedy and final. Let us, then, evening by evening, go to our Lord for the grace and strength we need. We have a strong argument to plead, for it is his own work of grace which we ask him to strengthen--"that which thou hast wrought for us." Think you he will fail to protect and sustain that? Only let your faith take hold of his strength, and all the powers of darkness, led on by the master fiend of hell, cannot cast a cloud or shadow over your joy and peace. Why faint when you may be strong? Why suffer defeat when you may conquer? Oh! take your wavering faith and drooping graces to him who can revive and replenish them, and earnestly pray, "Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us."
Today's reading: Ezekiel 1-2, Hebrews 11:1-19 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 1-2
Ezekiel’s Inaugural Vision
1 In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin— 3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was on him.
4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, 5and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved....
Today's New Testament reading: Hebrews 11:1-19
Faith in Action
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith....
[Cā'iaphăs] - a searcher or he that seeks with diligence. Joseph Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, was high priest of the Jews for eighteen years (Matt. 26:3, 57).
The Man with Sadducaean Insolence
Dr. David Smith refers to this wicked man whom the Spirit of God used to declare divine purposes as, "a man of masterful temper, with his full share of the insolence which was a Sadducaean characteristic." The Sadducees were a sect among the Jews, so called from their founder Sadoc who lived about 260 years before Christ. Their principal tenets were:
I. There is no angel, spirit or resurrection; the soul finishes with the body (Matt. 22:23; Acts 23:8).
II. There is no fate or providence - all men enjoy the most ample freedom of action - absolute power to do good or evil.
III. There is no need to follow tradition. Scripture, particularly the first five books of the Bible, must be strictly adhered to. Caiaphas, as an ardent Sadducee, figures three times in the New Testament.
A. At the raising of Lazarus. After the miracle at Bethany, the rulers were alarmed at the popularity of Jesus which the resurrection of Lazarus brought Him, and convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin to decide what should be done with Jesus. Caiaphas presided and with a high hand forced a resolution that Jesus should be put to death (John 11:49, 53).
B. At the trial of Jesus. At a further meeting of the Sanhedrin when Jesus appeared before its members and was tried and condemned, Caiaphas again displayed his character by his open determination to find Jesus guilty. Since he was the high priest, his announcements were clothed with authority, but his shameless disregard of the forms of law to bring about the death of Jesus, revealed his warped conscience (Matt. 26:57; 58; John 18:24 ). Yet Caiaphas used language somewhat prophetic when he said that it was expedient for one man to die for the people, and Christ did die for Jew and Gentile alike. By His death He broke down the middle wall (Eph. 2:14-18).
C. At the trial of Peter and John. Caiaphas also took part in the examination of Peter and John when called in question over the marvels of the healing of the lame man. The manifestation of God's power was so evident that Annas and Caiaphas could do nothing about the apostles (Acts 4).
GOD’S ATTRIBUTES- HE IS CHANGELESS
Imagine our confusion if we thought that God is glorious (sometimes) or is Spirit (once in a while) or knows us (at least 75% of us, plus or minus 5%). No, whatever God is, he is consistently. God "does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). Everything else in life changes. God will one day roll up the universe like a robe, "But you [God] remain the same, and your years will never end" (Hebrews 1:12).
What a parent hopes to be-consistent, even-handed, fair, reliable, steady-God is. He always is. He is the only father who is never arbitrary, never capricious, never moody. What was true about God 4,000 years ago when he called Abram is still true of him today. And so what is true about him today will be true for your great-grandchildren and for all eternity.
God is great. This is the song sung by the universe. It is the proper interpretation of every heartbeat, every breath, and every step of our lives.
This is what Mary, the mother of Jesus, meant when she said "My soul magnifies the Lord" (Luke 1:46). The news of God's act of supreme greatness, bringing a rescuer into the world, inspired her to praise and adoration. But Mary "magnified" the Lord, not in the sense that she made him bigger, but because her soul was enlarged by the greatness she was just beginning to comprehend.
No telescope ever made a celestial body larger, but by gaining a larger vision, a magnified vision, the beholder is changed by the greatness beheld.
Greatness is our best hope, when we feel like our lives are just so many pieces, to know that there is a way to pull it all together. We are pulled together and held together by the greater purpose of a greater being. So when we wonder where we fit in, or how we can go on after losing somebody important, or whether we can do any good in our lives, the answer comes from the throne of the God of greatness. His invisible hand moves us more powerfully and carefully than any other influence in our lives. He is not puzzled by the puzzling pieces of life.
God, enlarge me. I don't ask you to make me bigger or more important, but I know that if I get a fuller experience of your greatness, that my heart and my mind will be greater for it. But most of all, help me to be exuberant in setting a course of life to know your greatness, and to speak of your greatness whenever I have the opportunity.
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Click for more.