August 10 – His story: Man’s rescue – The song God wrote

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-47

So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites. (31:22)

God had written a song.  And He chose Moses to perform it.  It would be among his final public proclamations before following God up the mountain to die. (v48ff)  Had Moses himself written the song, perhaps it would have been a bit more upbeat.  But God Himself wrote the lyrics and hand-delivered them to Moses.  A song written by none other than God Himself.

When I think about “songs of praise,” my thoughts don’t go to God’s judgment or His chastening.  Rather, I think of the more likable characteristics of God.  Remembering the great things He has done in the past.  Admiring His beauty and almighty strength.  The greatness and faithfulness of God my Rock are what I like to sing about when I lift my voice in praise to Him.  Perhaps Moses felt the same way.  In fact, maybe that’s why God wrote the song rather than giving Moses a blank slate with some musical notations and a general direction.

The song was to be a testimony against the people of God for when they would rebel and oppose His ways.  A way for them to remember that God called it right, even as they would forget all that He had done on their behalf.

Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. . . And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. (Dt. 31:19,21)

The lyrics read like a story.  One that begins and ends with the mighty and perfect name of the LORD.  The Rock Who always acts perfectly and justly and “who does no wrong.” (Dt. 32:4)  Even in their chastening, the LORD God is just.  Even in the difficulty that the Israelites would eventually bring on themselves, faithful God would remain true to His Word.  And the Israelites needed to know.  They needed the lyrics inscribed on the pages of their minds so that they would not forget Yahweh, the LORD.

The song rings true for us as well.  It begins with the mighty name of God.  And it ends on the same note.  Always just and faithful and true, God the Rock has always been and will always be the One True God.  When we choose our own way and go against His, He remains true.  When He works on our behalf to show us the emptiness of an idol we have let take His place, still His faithfulness never wavers.

Oh, that we would learn to trust His song and sing it too.

Bria Wasson

August 9 – His story: Man’s rescue – How can we not praise Him?

Read Exodus 14:1-15:21

To picture it proves difficult.  As if molding solid clay, God used His breath to form walls with sea water, making way for His people to escape their pursuers.  A million people walking straight through the middle of the ocean’s floor, surrounded on either side by solid water walls constructed by the very breath of God.  It reads like a science-fiction movie script.

So when it was all said and done, and God had powerfully replaced the sea water over the enemy of His people, the Israelites responded accordingly.

They celebrated.

Four hundred thirty years, they had served as slaves in Egypt.  At least a few lifetimes.  Four hundred thirty years they had awaited deliverance from slavery and the only life they had known.  And now the only One Who could save them rearranged an ocean to do it.

When God moves His hand, something mighty always happens.  And the Israelites had seen not just the work of His hand, but the blast of His very breath as they walked between those water walls.  They had been awaiting their deliverance with baited breath of their own, realizing the truth of God’s absolute control over His people and their situation.  Whether carrying out a plague on Pharaoh and his people or changing Pharaoh’s mind about letting them go, the Israelites had been learning that God’s power prevailed over all, and His plan always rules.

How could they not celebrate?  God, the I AM, had personally led them to freedom and delivered them to new life.  When God’s people, the Israelites, experienced the effects of His mighty hand, they could not help but sing His praise.  And He expected no less.

But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.  (Ex. 14:4)

He left no room for wondering Whose hand it was.  No room to doubt Who He is.  He brought glory to Himself by acting on behalf of His people.  And He has done no less for us.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  (Rom. 6:22)

The very same God who made walls from an ocean to rescue His people, conquered death itself for us.

So, how can we not praise Him?  How can we not celebrate His might?

Bria Wasson

August 8 – His story: Man’s rescue – The story ends…or does it?

Read Revelation 21:1-22:21

HIS story of man’s rescue ends with eternity.

How do you envision eternity?  If you are a follower of Jesus, you will spend forever with God.  But what will that be like?  Do you ever fear that it might become boring?  I mean, if people are singing and playing harps 24/7 and if you aren’t particularly musical, it could get old pretty fast.

Fortunately, that stereotype of our future is not one that the Bible supports.  Hopefully, you were encouraged to read that eternity will include some very familiar but much improved elements.

  • There will be a heaven and earth (21:1). If your vision was one of halos, wings, and cloud walking, guess again.  You will dwell on a new earth surrounded by a new heaven.
  • There will be a city with walls, gates, and streets (21:9-21).  Whether you prefer green acres or city life, all of us have to “go to town” once in a while.  This city will be a spectacle of beauty.
  • There will be springs, rivers, and trees (21:6; 22:1, 2).  Eternity is not a cement jungle.  The beauty extends to nature itself.
  • We will eat and drink (21:6; 22:2).  Although I have known a few people in life who see food as a necessary evil, most of us enjoy eating.  Thankfully, food and drink will be part of our “forever experience” as well.
  • We will continue to serve God (22:3).  Eternity is more than music.  There will be endless opportunity for us to serve God.  Some even understand verses like 21:24-26 to indicate that we will continue to uncover the wonders of God and worship Him for them.

But eternity is more than a ramped up version of your present experience!  It will be much different in that the curse of tears, mourning, crying, and pain will be lifted and that God will be with us!  It is something for which we should yearn.  It is the culmination of the story that God has been writing since the beginning of time.  No wonder the apostle John cried out, “Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!”  (Rev. 22:20b)

Steve Kern

August 7 – His story: Man’s rescue – 1000 years…a long time but not an eternity!

Read Revelation 20:1-15

If you are more than about 19 years old, you were around for the celebration of a significant turn of the calendar…from 1999 to the year 2000.  People sure made that New Year seem significant…Y2K scare and all.  It represented the start of a new thousand year period…a new millennium.  One thousand years is a long time…but it is not yet eternity!

One thousand years represents the timeframe during which Jesus will reign here on earth after His return at the revelation.  Though that is a long time, it represents another important part of HIS story and man’s rescue.  Consider what happens during that time.

At the beginning of that time, Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss.  After years and years of wielding his influence, he will be powerless, unable to deceive the nations!  This will be unlike any other time period since the fall of man with unprecedented peace and visible righteousness on the earth as Christ rules with an iron scepter (Rev. 19:15).  But, this is not yet eternity.

At the beginning of that thousand-year period, judgments will take place.  Those living at the end of the Tribulation (Matt. 25) and those martyred for Christ during the Tribulation will be judged.  The unredeemed will be cast from His presence, while others (especially martyrs) will have opportunity to reign with Jesus.

This millennium experience will also be unparalleled in nature as wolf, lamb, leopard, goat, calf, and bear will live together in harmony instead of predator/prey relationships.  Even children will be able to play with cobras and vipers.  That certainly doesn’t happen today!

At the end of that thousand year period, Satan will be released.  It is amazing to read how his deception will find a quick following of multitudes.  But this uprising will be easily squelched by God.  And Satan himself will be eternally eliminated from the picture.

If you know Christ, you will have returned with Him and will be part of the glory of those thousand years.  But though a thousand years is a long time, it is not yet eternity.  The best is yet to come!

Steve Kern

August 6 – His story: Man’s rescue – A Wedding and a White House

Read Revelation 19:1-21

Over the years, I have had the blessing of attending some pretty elaborate wedding receptions.  One of the most memorable included a several hour cruise and an elaborate candlelit dinner on Lake Constance.  Lake Constance is a beautiful lake situated at the intersection of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.  Wow!  What a wonderful experience.

But as glorious as that event was, it pales in comparison to the wedding reception depicted in the first half of today’s reading.  At some point during the 7-year turmoil of the Tribulation on earth, the now raptured church of Jesus, His bride, will celebrate her union with Him at the “wedding supper of the Lamb.”  All who have placed and will place genuine, saving faith in Christ will gather together for this great event!  We anticipate this great celebration as we participate in Communion.  I trust that you will be there next Wednesday as we look forward to this heavenly wedding reception.

Meanwhile, back on earth, conditions spiral downward as turmoil continues and the Antichrist complicates life.

But those 7 years, the turmoil, and the work of the Antichrist are halted as Jesus returns to the earth.  With fiery eyes, wearing a blood stained robe, donning crowns on His head, and riding a magnificent white horse, the Christ rides in triumphantly.

“King of Kings” by Ron DiCianni

Accompanying Him are those who have been part of the wedding reception.  That’s right…We will be there to witness this powerful overthrow of a kingdom that Satan sought to establish.

Just as important as the appearance of the Savior are the words that describe Him in verse 11.  He is faithful, true, and just.  He keeps His promises.  He never lies or deceives.  And He is obligated to punish evil.  And He will punish evil at His return.  But there is one more word that fits into this scene.  Though not found expressly in the text, I am sure that you know that He is also gracious!  It is only His grace that distinguishes between those painfully receiving His judgment and those gloriously riding with Him.  As you consider applauding because one day evil will be punished, remember that you too would be punished…save for the grace extended to and embraced by you.

Steve Kern

August 5 – His story: Man’s rescue – The Revelation of Jesus

Read Matthew 24:1-31

The story of man’s rescue includes two different dimensions of the second coming of Jesus to this earth.  If you miss that point, many Bible passages…including the one you read today…will seem confusing.

I am not sure that the disciples, understood that reality.  They asked Jesus questions that launched Him into two chapters of teaching often referred to as the “Olivet Discourse.”  On the heels of Jesus predicting the destruction of the temple, they asked:

    •          When will this happen?
    •          What will be the sign of Your coming?
    •          [What will signal] the end of the age?

They were interested in the prophetic timing and indicators of Christ’s return and events associated with it.

But, as we have already indicated, His second coming is two-fold.

  1.       He returns in the air for His saints at the “rapture.” (We saw that two days ago in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.)
  2.       He returns to the earth with His saints at the “revelation.”

While I am not sure that the disciples yet understood the difference between the two, Christ’s response gives us details about the second of those, His revelation.

Between those two events, there will be roughly 7 years that we often refer to as the “tribulation.”  In Matthew 24, Jesus is giving us insight to some signs to expect during that tribulation period.  There are the…

    •         “Don’t be deceived” signs– Perhaps even more so than now, the beginning of the tribulation will be marked by wars, national conflict, famines, and earthquakes.  But that is just the beginning.
    •          “Get out of Dodge” sign– When the Antichrist sits in the temple and demands worship, things are getting serious.  It is time for believers to hit the road!
    •          “You can’t miss it” revelation– When Christ returns to the earth, it will not be an event that happens in a dark corner that travels slowly by word of mouth.  It will not require Internet service, CNN coverage, or Twitter broadcasting.  It will be visible and audible to all…and you will be with Him.  There is no reason to fear!

Steve Kern

August 4 – His story: Man’s rescue – The Judgment Seat of Christ

Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-21

The One who spoke creation into existence with a word spoke the sin in my heart into righteousness with the Word, Jesus Christ.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (v21).

And now I am new.  Clothed for heaven with the righteousness of God.  Spirit-endowed and enabled to do the good works that God has called me to.  You are too, if you have put your trust in Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life and the only rescue from your sin.  This is how HIS story goes.

And it doesn’t end there.  One day we will enter heaven and answer for every work we have done.  The Spirit-empowered as well as the worthless deeds, each and every one will be accounted for on that day when we approach His throne and face the judgment seat of Christ (v10).  An evaluation of the kind of things we did while here on earth.

If any man builds on (the foundation of Jesus Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  (1 Cor. 3:12-15)

Not a sentencing or a punishment of any kind, only rewards for the good we have done in the name of Jesus Christ. For God has already declared those righteous who have trusted Jesus. (See Ephesians 1:4.)

I wonder what kinds of things the fire will reveal when it’s my turn to stand in front of that throne.  What kinds of things have I done in faith and by the power of the Spirit He gave me?  The “good” things I may have done will burn up like dry grass if not done by faith.

What about you?  What are you doing even now that will last through the fire and not burn up?  Good deeds done by faith and through the Spirit of God alive in you, or merely “good deeds”?

Oh God, may we seek to serve You by faith and do the good works You have for us.  Amen.

Bria Wasson

August 3 – His story: Man’s rescue – Today?

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Almost eight years ago I wrote:

“The fact that I am actually writing these thoughts on October 22, 2011 is significant…and, for some, shocking.  Maybe you are aware of it, but a radio preacher had predicted that the rapture would happen yesterday.  (The rapture is the return of Jesus in the air to gather together His followers and take them to heaven.)  But I am still here on earth and able to write.  The rapture did not take place.  We can chalk this recent date prediction up with scores of others that didn’t come true.”

I guess I am a bit cynical when it comes to such predictions.  I don’t believe that God intended for us to be able to pinpoint the rapture.  But, in my cynicism, there is a reality that I need to embrace more wholeheartedly:

God wants Christians from every generation to anticipate the imminent return of His Son.

I am not sure that many of us live with that anticipation.  Today, generations after the first coming of Christ, we are put to shame by the mindset of those in the first generation after His ascension.  Thessalonian believers so embraced the imminence of the rapture that they thought believers who had died would miss out!  They considered this event to be so near that they had not even calculated in the possibility that someone could die before it happened.  To them, it was clear that it would happen in their lifetime.

At the other end of the spectrum, are we marked by a mindset that suggests that the rapture, though certain, will not happen in our lifetime?  If so, we are missing out on a key biblical truth that motivates us today towards personal purity and evangelistic passion.

But, this passage outlines events that could happen TODAY:

    •          Christ will descend with a shout, an angelic voice, and a trumpet sound.
    •          The dead in Christ will be bodily resurrected.
    •          Living believers will be caught up with them.
    •          We will be with Christ forever.

Man’s rescue includes an evacuation plan.  It could be today!

Steve Kern

August 2 – His story: Man’s rescue – Love lived out

Read Philemon 1-25

Two very different men imprisoned for two very different reasons found themselves next to each other in the same prison.  One, Onesimus the slave, was there for a crime committed against his master, Philemon.  The other, Paul the Apostle, was there for a “crime” committed for his Master, Jesus Christ.

Onesimus needed rescuing.  He thought that stealing and running away from his master Philemon would be the deliverance he’d wanted.  Instead, it landed him in jail where we find his story right smack in the middle of HIS story.  The one about man’s rescue.

In prison, Onesimus found the Apostle Paul who shared with him God’s rescue plans for freedom.  Ironically, Paul’s sharing of those rescue plans is exactly what had gotten him into trouble.  You see, Paul knew the One who had drawn up the plans for their rescue and, on behalf of Jesus Christ, he offered them to any and all who would trust those plans.  Onesimus trusted, and HIS story continued.

But it was nowhere near the end.  The book of Philemon shows us a picture of undeserved love and grace through the relationship between Onesimus and Philemon.  Their relationship had changed because Jesus stepped in, and now they were now brothers through Him (v16).

When Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, he implored Onesimus’ pardon.  Paul appealed to the love and the grace with which Almighty God had rescued each of them.  As in all of the letters that Paul and Peter and John had written to the churches, Paul challenged Philemon to live what he claimed he believed.  And all of these letters, these epistles, fit perfectly into HIS story as the word of man’s rescue spread and the Church began to grow.

I wonder how each of us might respond if we were sent a letter from one of the apostles.  What if God, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, implored each of us to live out our faith in such a drastic way?  I mean, it couldn’t have been easy for Philemon to just let his slave off the hook for a crime committed directly against him.  What might that say to his other slaves?  What might the other slave owners think?

Here’s the thing, though: we do have those letters.  They do apply to us.  By the all-knowing Holy Spirit’s infallible inspiration, Paul and the other epistle writers challenge us to do the same.  We might not be slave owners who need to show love to a runaway slave, but the truth applies no less to us.

Bria Wasson

August 1 – His story: Man’s rescue – The body…everybody needs one

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

A body.

   “Vitruvian Man” by Leonardo da Vinci

That is one of several different biblical illustrations used to help readers understand the nature of the church.  As we saw yesterday, this “body” is intimately tied to a mission that causes it to reach out its hands beyond itself.  But that mission is more than external.  This body, where Christ is the “head,” is comprised of individual parts…and the individual parts compose a single body.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you dare not operate independent of other Christ followers.  In fact, here are just a few thoughts from today’s reading that remind all of us how much we must work together.

Dependent.  I need you…and you need me.  You have abilities and resources and insights from which I can benefit…and vice versa.  When you speak truth into my life, I grow.  When every supporting ligament does its part, the body is strengthened.  We need each other!

United.  We are headed in the same direction, right?  We are pulling in the same direction.  Together, we want to ensure that we are collectively accomplishing God’s purpose to develop people into fully devoted followers of Christ.  We have the same goal and attempt to take the same paths to get there!

Prepared.  God has given our church gifted individuals who equip us to carry out ministry.  Did you catch that thought from verses 11 and 12?  Your experience in a worship service or group at Grace is not to be a compilation of lectures designed only to prepare you for a theological exam.  No, the body becomes ready to serve as a result of the leadership’s ministry.

Mature.  That’s the final result.  Individually and collectively, the local church is no longer an infant looking to others for care.  It is no longer a limb on a turbulent sea that is driven along by the wind and waves.  It becomes stable and clear thinking.

If you are to engage in HIS story and participate in man’s rescue, you cannot do it alone.  You need to be closely tied to the local church.  Do you need to strengthen that tie?  Everybody needs a body.

Steve Kern