Jesus Christ is Lord of All

Monday, May 7, 2012

Prisoners of Hope Restored in the Love of the Glorious One

Dear Father,
     Your glorious Throne is exalted for all eternity. You never allow Your Name to be defamed and You are able to maintain the glory of Your Name. Thank You that because You "do not change" we "are not destroyed" (Mal 3:6). You promised that "No one will be condemned who takes refuge in You" (Ps 34:22). Please help us to understand that You restore us by the power of Your love so that Your Name will be honored in all the earth. And please restore us with Your power and might.
In Jesus Christ's Name,

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. I Peter 5

     God's purpose in this letter is to point our hearts to His restoration. God's restoration (καταρτίζω) is always delivered to His chosen people with the purpose to make them perfect, complete, equipped, prepared, and strong. His restoration is an act of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and follows a period of suffering, Spiritual dryness, Spiritual stumbling, or discipline. The essence of His restoration is the power of His love revealed in the Gospel. He willingly and joyfully restores us with all of His heart and soul. The reason He restores us is so that His Name will be glorified. Thus, He will restore us in spite of our fleshly resistance granted that we continue to believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Lost Joy of Salvation Indicates the Need for Restoration in PRISONERS OF HOPE


Do not cast me from Your Presence 

    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation 
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, 

    and sinners will turn back to You. Ps 51
     Restoration becomes necessary when God's people have lost some or all of their joy of salvation in Jesus Christ. Christ came so that "our joy would be complete" (John 15:11), "to give us life to the full" (John 10:10), "to make us free indeed" (John 8:36), and so that "we would no longer live in darkness but have the Light of Life" (John 8:12). He came to give us Eternal Life in knowing Him so that we would always "live by the Spirit" and not "gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Gal 5:16). What captured our first love for Him was the love that He had revealed to us in His salvation. We had come to Him with guilt and shame and His grace and mercy had conquered our hearts. We had come to Him with broken hearts and helpless estates and He had mended our wounds, healed us, and delivered us from death and the shadows of gloom. All of us who have been saved have seen His glory in these ways. If we are truly His, we have known the joy of His salvation.

     In the midst of the joy of His salvation, our awe of Him grows. Our view of God becomes increasingly great as we understand the depth of our salvation. God's intent is to give His children an increasing joy and comprehension of His love. His Face is to be clearer and brighter to them. His splendor and majesty are to be felt dearer. Our conviction of His Gospel and Resurrection are to become stronger. Our resurrection with Christ is to become more and more certain. The Seeds of the Word of God are to result in the bearing of more and more fruit as He maintains the good soil of our hearts. The act of God in the life of the believer is to increase their faith, hope, zeal, and AGAPE. He will be seen as glorious and exalted and "they will keep His Name holy" (Is 29:23).

     But God speaks in His Word of times when His people undergo a loss of the joy of His salvation. The worries, pleasures, and persecutions of the world lay hard on their spirits and cause them to be discouraged. For a short time, His people stumble into sin and stray from the narrow path. Pride may creep into their hearts as the devil delivers his attacks. The wickedness of the world and the guilt and shame from momentary sin clouds their view and they no longer feel as the pure and clean priests who carry the vessels of the Lord. They forget His great love for them and the effect is that their love for those around them turns dry. But they cannot deny Him nor can they continue in their sin and loss of sight of Him. The reason they cannot continue in their joylessness is because the Word of God lives in them and the Spirit is never taken from them. He had never allowed them to be cast from His Presence.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s Seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. I John 3

      Jeremiah inquires of God "18 Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will You be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? Jer 15. Though His people lose sight of the glories of heaven that they had seen, they never lose their hope and they never deny Jesus as Lord. They continue to praise Him and trust Him. Even in their distress they commit their spirits to the Lord and proclaim to the devil:

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise. 
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light. 
Because I have sinned against Him,
    I will bear the Lord’s wrath, 
until He pleads my case 
    and establishes my right.
He will bring me out into the light; 
    I will see his righteousness. Micah 7

      God's people who are in need of restoration may feel rejected, despised, afflicted, and wounded. They are in the midst of Spiritual or physical famine and they do not feel peace during these times. They acknowledge their wickedness and the Spirit confirms to their hearts that they are in need of His cleansing from sin. Though they may stumble in their idolatry, they know that these idols are worthless and can bring them no salvation. Therefore, their hope is in God's restoration. 
13 Lord, the hope of Israel,
    all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
    because they have forsaken the Lord,
    the Spring of living Water.
14 Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; 
    save me and I will be saved,
    for You are the one I praise. Jer 17
      Those who are capable of restoration are the people of God who acknowledge their sin and turn their eyes with hope to the One in whom they are trusting for their restoration. God's children desire His restoration for they realize in the depth of their souls how desperately they need to see Him again. God's children put their hope completely in Him even when they lose the joy of their salvation because they know the character of their God. They know that He will maintain the honor of His glorious throne. They know that He has made an Everlasting Covenant with them by the blood of Christ. They know that He keeps His promises. They know that He alone is to be adored and exalted and that the idols of the nations cannot bring peace to fruition in their hearts though they may be temporarily deceived. 

Have You rejected Judah completely? 
    Do You despise Zion?
Why have You afflicted us
    so that we cannot be healed? 
We hoped for peace
    but no good has come,
for a time of healing
    but there is only terror. 
20 Lord, we acknowledge our wickedness
    and the guilt of our fathers; 
    we have indeed sinned against you.
21 For the sake of Your name do not despise us;
    do not dishonor Your glorious Throne. 
Remember Your covenant with us
    and do not break it.
22 Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? 
    Do the skies themselves send down showers?
No, it is You, O Lord our God.
    Therefore our hope is in You,

    for you are the one who does all this.Jer 14

     These children of God are "PRISONERS OF HOPE" (Zech 9); they can do nothing but maintain their hope in their Savior even when they go astray, even when they do not feel His Presence, even when they are persecuted and disciplined...

11 As for you, because of the blood of My covenant with you,
    I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. 
12 Return to Your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zech 9:11-12

     Often the children of God have persevered in their acts of righteousness, but are tempted by the roaring lion who prowls around looking for someone to devour. They resist him and stand firm in their faith in spite of great suffering. During this suffering they may not feel His joy and the delights of His glory, but they trust in His promise to "Restore them and make them strong, firm, and steadfast" (I Peter 5). Their cry to their God is:

Restore us, O God Almighty;

    make Your face shine upon us,

    that we may be saved. Ps 80: 7

Restoration for His Glory

      One of the strongest anchors that we have for our hope in His restoration is our belief that God will maintain the glory of His Name. We know that we have borne His Name and that His Name has been our Banner and our "Strong Tower" (Prov 18:10). We know that we are "called by His Name, created for His glory, formed and made by Him" (Is 43:7) to praise Him and to speak of His acts of goodness and salvation to the nations. We believe that our standing in Christ is dependent on His Covenant with us by the Blood of Christ. We remember our Advocate and Intercessor who lives to plead our case before the Father.

For My own Name’s sake I delay My wrath; 
    for the sake of My praise I hold it back from you,
    so as not to cut you off. 
10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
    I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this.
    How can I let Myself be defamed? 
    I will not yield My glory to another. Is 48:9-11

     If only we could comprehend the splendor of His promise to His people to blot out their iniquity and to remember their sins no more, to purify and refine them so that they are presented holy and blameless on the Day of Judgement, to keep them until the end, to never let anyone snatch them from His Hand, to never sever us from His love...

37 This is what the Lord says:

“Only if the heavens above can be measured 

    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out

will I reject all the descendants of Israel

    because of all they have done,”
declares the Lord. Jer 31
     Our sin has been very great even during the times after believing unto salvation when we have gone astray, but because of His Covenant, we are not rejected. Our backsliding has been great and our loss of reverence has shown our unworthiness, blindness, and arrogance, and yet BECAUSE OF HIS COVENANT WE ARE NOT CONDEMNED. We are not even temporarily forsaken and left. His promise is that He will "never leave us or forsake us"  (Heb 13:5).

     Because He maintains His Covenant and the glory of His Name, there is only one resort for our restoration: He must discipline us. But God's children understand their need to continue in Him so that they will appear unashamed before Him at His coming. Their fear of God allows them to understand that if their Father does not discipline them as legitimate children, they would be given over entirely to the tiniest belief in the lies of wickedness and the sweet promises of the deceiver. They are convicted that the "wages of sin", small or large, is death and eternal separation (Rom 6:23). When they acknowledge that their Father is disciplining and refining them, though they feel the pain of the refining furnace, their souls inwardly praise Him for they know that He had never rejected them as His children but had marked them out for His own. They cry out in the midst of the refining furnace "My Father, You have never left me, and I know that You are bringing me to perfection so that I may share in Your holiness and be found in Christ on the Day of Judgement!


“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:

    ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, 

    and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
    because you are the Lord my God.
After I strayed, 
    I repented;
after I came to understand,
    I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
    because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ 
Is not Ephraim my dear son,
    the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
    I still remember him.
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
    I have great compassion for him,”
declares the Lord. Jer 31


The Act of Divine Restoration

37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. Jer 32 

     The act of Divine restoration is exalted and distinct. This act is unlike any other offer of restoration that the world and the forces of darkness have to offer. The strongest inner strength of a man, the wisest counsel of the world, and the most abundant granting of earthly prosperity cannot bring about the act of Divine restoration. Furthermore, we cannot bring about our Spiritual restoration. Even our own attempts to fast and wail, to repair the damage we had done in our hearts and likely in the hearts of those around us, to correct ourselves, to resolve not to backslide, and to seek the counsel of others could do us no good. But the act of Divine restoration is a sweeping movement of the Hand of God brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer through the Word of God.

“‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring Me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’
10 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without men or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offeringsto the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,

    for the Lord is good; 

    His love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before, ’ says the Lord.Jer 33 

     This act is always accompanied by a deep acknowledgement of sin and a magnificent display of the eternal Gospel. This act always results in a deep-rooted circumcision of the heart that removes the passions and desires that had grown out of the prostitution of the heart. This proceeds from the Word of God which had been acting [likely for a period of time] on the heart of the believer to convict them of the wickedness that had dwelt in them. At the time of restoration the inner turmoil and displeasure at the evil root of idolatry had become so great in the believer that the removal of the root, though painful, is delightfully freeing. The delight of the freedom from bondage results in an overwhelming joy and thankfulness to the Father of Light. 

“‘So do not fear, O Jacob my servant; 

    do not be dismayed, O Israel,’

declares the Lord.

‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,
    your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security, 
    and no one will make him afraid. 
I am with you and will save you,’
    declares the Lord.
‘Though I completely destroy all the nations
    among which I scatter you,
    I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only with justice;
    I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’Jer 30

     The result of His restoration is that our hearts become undivided and every action is derived from this singleness of heart. He inspires us to fear Him as He "puts His Law in our minds, writes It on our hearts" and causes us to "all know Him from the least of us to the greatest" (Jer 31:33-34). No longer is our obedience derived from a constraining of the inward passions or an excruciating denial of self. Rather, the path of obedience become the path of least resistance for our souls. For this reason, we are planted in the Land of His righteousness because our heart's desires are aligned with the One who fills us with Resurrection power and Love.  Furthermore, HE REJOICES IN DOING US GOOD AND ASSUREDLY PLANTS US IN THE LAND OF HIS SPIRITUAL KINGDOM WITH ALL HIS HEART AND SOUL. 

     39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear Me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting Covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear Me, so that they will never turn away from Me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all My Heart and Soul.Jer 32

     Our King, our good Shepherd delights in us. His desire had never been that we live in Spiritual dryness and inward poverty. His desire had never been that we feel or be incapable of living righteously. His desire was not for us to live in prolonged grief and misery. But He rejoices in filling our hunger and thirst for His righteousness so that we may be "filled to all the measure of the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19). His promise to NEVER STOP in revealing His goodness indicates that He will do whatever it takes for as long as we live to cause us to know His goodness. How great is the love of our King!

1“At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people.”
This is what the Lord says:
“The people who survive the sword

    will find favor in the desert;

    I will come to give rest to Israel.”
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

    I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

I will build you up again

    and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.
Again you will take up your tambourines 
    and go out to dance with the joyful. 
Again you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria; 
the farmers will plant them
    and enjoy their fruit. 
There will be a day when watchmen cry out
    on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”Jer 31

Restored to Be His Servants

     The result of His Divine Restoration is that we become "strong, firm, and steadfast" (I Peter 5:10). We are restored in order that we may serve Him. The service of His people that results from His restoration results in a humility that becomes a shelter for them.  And our service become a delightful one. Our service will be characterized by our words which are as pure as the restored hearts that He has granted us. He allows us to be His spokespeople. We will hold out the Words of Eternal Life, not reluctantly or timidly, but boldly and with confidence because we we have seen the power of the Gospel yet again in His restoration. The chosen people will hear the Word of God.

19 Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“If you repent, I will restore you

    that you may serve Me;

if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,

    you will be My spokesman. 
Let this people turn to you,
    but you must not turn to them.
I will make you a wall to this people,
    a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
    but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
    to rescue and save you,” 
declares the Lord.
“I will save you from the hands of the wicked 
    and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”Jer 15
     But God commands us not to turn to the people who turn to us who have known God and His Word. Yes, we are to love sacrificially and be thankful for the many ways in which we are blessed by the fellowship and union with believers. But every piece of human favor, love, admiration, or neediness for us that was not completely derived from the source of the Father's unfailing AGAPE was a temptation for us to establish our souls yet again onto a unstable foundation, or a cistern that could hold no water. This is why after James tells us that if we submit to God and resist the devil he will flee, he immediately tells us to "draw near to God" (James 4:6-8). When we were broken and contrite we knew that there was nothing lovely in ourselves either physically or Spiritually. And if the favor of mankind were dependent on something other than the unfailing AGAPE of our Father, it would be sure to disappear with their perceiving of our humanity. And if we had trusted in this favor or allowed our souls to delight in such unstable favor, we would have almost denied our contrition and sought to establish a glory of our own all over again. 

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9

    But when we make His love our anchor, our love for one another is incredibly free because it is founded on His ocean of love and grace, the firm Foundation of His Covenant. There is an infinite amount of room for all of us to abide here. In the very process of abiding in His love, we are loving the people of God. Knowing His love and loving the people of God are inseparable. The love between believers is not soul-draining (as if there was a shortage of love among us) and there are no dependencies of one person on another because they are all dependent on the Father's eternal Covenant of love in Christ. As each of them abides in His love, their love for one another increases. And all of this heavenly love is separated from the earthly glories and dependent on the the New Covenant in His Blood poured out for us. He is the only eternal Leader and Ruler of Love. 

Their Leader will be one of their own;

    their Ruler will arise from among them. 

I will bring Him near and He will come close to me,
    for who is he who will devote himself
    to be close to me?’
declares the Lord.
“‘So you will be my people, 
    and I will be your God. ’”

See, the storm of the Lord

    will burst out in wrath,

a driving wind swirling down

    on the heads of the wicked.
The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back 
    until He fully accomplishes
    the purposes of His heart.
In days to come
    you will understand this. Jer 30
Woodbury Prayer Breakfast 5/1/12     
(Mom:"We got three tickets so you are coming with us")

Theme Song: Bless the Lord
Highlights: Many Christians gathered in the Name of Jesus Christ at the Woodbury Prom Center to pray, worship, fellowship, and hear the testimony of Todd and Kellie Stocker who lost their 18 year old daughter in a car accident. The Stockers' testimony brought glory to God as the One who is Sovereign over all events in our lives. They explained that the night after the funeral when their family was weeping they could sense the Father's Arm around them all. Todd Stocker also mentioned that before his daughter's death, as a pastor, he would preach on verses which later on "came to life" as they went through this trial. After the trial he could teach the Word of God having seen the comforting power of the Spirit with regard to the familiar Words. Their daughter who passed away had been telling a friend about Christ for a while before her death and this friend had rejected Christ until the day of the funeral. As she stood over the casket, she gave her life to Christ. Those present were greatly touched by the testimony and the whole event. I sensed that many, perhaps most, of the people present were the chosen people of God and was amazed that there were so many of them right here in Woodbury (and this was certainly only a subset of total believers in Woodbury). I pray that He lays bare His Holy Arm in the sight of all His people so that our view of Him will be very great. We are starting to acknowledge Him and have so much more of His promised glory to see. I was very blessed to see that Mark Porter had the "Mark of the King" when he came to meet us and told me to keep praying.

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