The Shadow of the Almighty

The Shadow of the AlmightyEvery Christmas, choirs of angels call us to kneel once again in worship at the manger in Bethlehem and behold His glory.  It is a journey we should never grow tired of making.  For the birth of Jesus is a story so simple children love to hear it, yet one so profound wise men cannot fathom it.  Such is the miracle of the incarnation of Christ.

In foretelling this glorious event 700 years in advance, Isaiah proclaims both Jesus’ divinity and humanity: “For unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given.”  Notice the child is “born” at a moment in time (His humanity), but the son is “given” because He has existed for all eternity with the Father (His divinity).  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

And Dr. Luke gives us a glimpse of this wonder of all wonders as Gabriel addresses Mary’s bewilderment (“How can this be since I am a virgin?”), “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 ESV).  Incredible.

The Spirit will “overshadow” her (this is the same Greek word used as the bright cloud covers those with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration).  Yet this metaphor is deeply rooted in the Old Testament as we are often invited to find rest, to abide, to dwell, and to take refuge in the “shadow of the Almighty” as we are hidden beneath His “wings” (Psa 91:1-6).

It is the same picture found in creation as we witness the Spirit of God “hovering” over the darkness of the earth (Gen 1:2).  That Hebrew word is also used to describe an eagle “hovering” over the young in her nest (Deut 32:11).  How beautiful is the work of the Trinity in creation as God speaks everything into existence through His Word (the Son – John 1:1-3) in divine partnership with the gentle moving of the Holy Spirit!

Now this God of all creation, sends His Spirit to move over the womb of a virgin to divinely implant the holy Child – His only begotten Son – Immanuel – Jesus.  Fully God.  Fully man.  Great is the mystery of godliness!  And to encourage Mary (as well as us) before he departs, Gabriel reminds her that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1: 37).

This Christmas, as we celebrate the Christ-child, may our worship and wonder at the manager compel us to arise and abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  And if we listen carefully as we go, we will hear a voice reassuring us that with God, all things are possible.  Cling to Jesus – our Blessed Hope – and fear not.

By common confession,
great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
was vindicated in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16 NASB

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Home

HomeAs you look forward to opening yours or maybe heading back that way for Thanksgiving, I know “home” is a place that stirs up a variety of emotions and expectations.  More than a location, a collection of possessions or a structure, it is a unique place of safety, identity and belonging – it’s family.  Sitting at the crossroads of cozy familiarity and sweet memory, it tugs on our heart to always draw us back to that intersection.  It has an uncanny ability to overcome time and distance and bend all roads so that they gently slope toward its front door.  It is both the launching pad for incredible possibility and a welcome sanctuary for renewal.

However powerful the attraction in this life, we who are in Christ, know that this world is not our home.  What began in the heart of God will, one day, see the safe return of His sons and daughters to their eternal home in heaven.  If we are honest, this present reality and our future hope creates a holy tension between our deep sense of belonging here and the knowledge that “here” is only the starting point, not our final destination.  The beauty is found when we see the divine purpose and eternal significance God bestows on our earthly homes and families which heaven makes possible.

Perhaps we can all benefit from the apostle Paul wrestling in the Spirit with this same tension and writing down his convictions for us:

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith” (Philippians 1:21-25 NLT).

Shouldn’t this be both our heartbeat and that of our homes?  Shouldn’t we choose to live for Jesus for all the days He gives us here in our earthly home and yet be driven by a holy homesickness to see Jesus face to face?  Shouldn’t we no longer live for ourselves, but for Jesus, and by His design, help others flourish in faith and joy?!

Yes, one glorious day, we will open our eyes to a sight we’ve never seen and yet one that will be more familiar than any place we’ve ever known.  Listen to the voice of hope growing clearer day by day and you’ll hear Jesus saying, “Welcome home!  Come and see the place I’ve prepared for you!”  But for now, as we open the door of our home, may all those who enter be welcomed by Jesus in us and feel the embrace of a love with endless possibility.

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Just pray

Just Pray

Regardless of the place or your posture
whether kneeling or standing
walking or sinking
in a church or a cell
in a car or on a cross
in public or in secret
in the quiet of the morning
or the midst of a storm

PRAY

With just a few words
or a whole chapter
with groans and tears
or praise and thanksgiving

PRAY

With a whole heart
and a pure heart
and never lose heart
at all times
and in every place
keeping alert in it
with all perseverance

PRAY

Fervently
earnestly
confidently
in faith believing
without doubting
and without ceasing
according to His will
and abiding in His Word

PRAY

In the Spirit
for the glory of God
in Name of Jesus
knowing He alone is able.

“Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.”

Romans 12:12 NIV

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Let’s save the world

Let's save the worldOne of today’s most prevailing mantras has to be the cry to “save the world.”  Impassioned campaigns are urgently championed across the globe to basically save the planet from ourselves.  People are frequently viewed as invasive parasites feeding off and injuring the host – a pandemic that must be neutralized.  Battle lines are drawn and aggressive agendas often consume more vital resources than the actual target of their alarmism.

But while it’s easy to point out examples of overreaching environmental extremism and faulty science, there are also many initiatives which clearly do help protect and preserve our home.  After all, it is God’s garden.  He did give mankind authority over it and charged us with a stewardship to cultivate it and keep it.  We definitely should be wise about such an amazing gift from God.

But God’s love for the planet He created cannot be compared to His passion for people.  In fact, His love could not be expressed through edicts or legislation.  The only way to fully implement His plan was to send Jesus on a personal mission to save the world.  There truly is a global pandemic to be eradicated, but it’s a pandemic of sin – waging war not on the environment, but on our very souls.

Jesus came as the Light of the World to show us the way out.  He spoke powerful words of truth to shine on our path, but words alone would never save us.  The magnitude of this kind of love bound Him to the agony of the cross to willingly bear our sins, but it also pierced the darkness of death and the grave with a victorious resurrection glory.

Like the bird we found in our garage that remained confused and trapped even when we fully opened the main door to let it escape.  It was as though it could not see how to get out when there was no distinct path.  However, after closing the main door and opening a smaller side door, we created a bold light shining into a dark place that clearly showed it the way to freedom.

Jesus boldly opened the door of eternal salvation into the darkness of our world.  As His light-bearers, we have both the power and the privilege to point the way to those trapped in sin.  No matter how dark, there is a path to freedom, and Jesus is The Door.  The best way to help save the world is to shine!

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matthew 4:16 NIV).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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the intolerance of tolerance

truthTruth is never afraid of a challenge because it withstands the test, but today’s brand of tolerance has retreated into blatant censure and, paradoxically, intolerance.

For centuries, tolerance meant respect for other people who disagreed with you or vice-versa.  It was an attitude allowing freedom of expression and healthy, truth-seeking discussion.  However, the number of those who prefer to suppress conversation about truth in the name of tolerance is increasing exponentially.  Driven by fear, modern tolerance seeks to destroy disagreement by aggressively mischaracterizing any opposing view as “offensive” and then marginalizing those who hold to it – particularly God’s truth.

Even though our nation was founded on biblical principles and religious tolerance, increasingly and ironically, Christians are being targeted and mislabeled as intolerant bigots by a society intent on systematically silencing anyone and eliminating anything that questions its lifestyle or moral choices.  It grieves me deeply to witness this widespread mistreatment and aggression.

God’s truth is, by nature, offensive as it holds error up to the light and pierces deeply into the heart to convict and reveal.  But if we will allow it to work within us, God’s truth is also powerfully transformative as it rescues, corrects, changes and restores.  In spite of all the craziness we see around us, the firm foundation of the Lord stands.  God’s throne is set in heaven.  His Kingdom is unshakable.  His Word is alive.  His-story is not yet finished.

So what are we to do?  We stand firm on the eternal truth of God’s Word – even when ridiculed or persecuted.  We speak the truth in love – even in the face of hate.  We continue to be salt and light in a world becoming increasingly dark and distasteful.  We show grace and mercy.  We remember what it was like to be trapped in darkness.  We proclaim the Good News.  We love our enemies.  We go the second mile.  We pray for our leaders.  We seek to live in peace with everyone.  We fear God rather than man or the punishment of man.  We never ever forget that Jesus is the answer and, if we remain silent, the Enemy will gladly fill in the blanks.

“Violating God’s Word only ends up proving it, not destroying it; and those who have tried to bury it, find that the Bible always rises up to outlive her pallbearers” (Ravi Zacharias).

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Stones of Remembrance

StonesThere are some moments in life you can plan and others just take you by surprise.

While my wife was away on a mission trip with Family Legacy in Zambia earlier this month, two of our grandchildren, Noah and McKenzie, spent Saturday night with Poppa.  Noah, who is 5 years old and very observant, is also fascinated with rocks (among many other things).  He wants to search for them or show me some he’s found just about every time we get together.

After they woke up on Sunday morning, Noah asked, “What’s that rock for?”  I thought, “What rock?” as I turned to see what he was talking about.  And there, sitting on the dresser, was a rock my dad, their great grandfather, had given our family almost 20 years ago.  It was to be a stone of remembrance of a time when God had delivered us from great distress.  Now, I was hearing my grandson ask me about something God had obviously planned long before this day.

As I connected the dots, I was deeply moved in my spirit and practically speechless.  It was truly one of those moments that seemed timeless – one in which God gives us a glimpse of what He sees.

As he held the rock in his hand, I silently read the verses my father had written on it: “When your children ask, ’What do these stones mean?’ then you shall tell them…the Lord has helped us” (Joshua 4:6-7; 1 Samuel 7:12).  So I choked back the tears and said, “Your Papa gave us that rock a long time ago to remind us of how good God is and how He is always there to help us.”  They both smiled, nodded their heads in agreement, and said, “Poppa, let’s go get some donuts!”

However small, God planted a seed a faith that morning into the hearts of a 3 and 5-year-old.  That day, our loving heavenly Father called forth a testimony of praise from one generation to the next by taking an old rock and making it a living stone.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts (Psalm 145:4 NASB).

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Generations

GenerationsAs my wife and I watch our children have children, we are even more aware of the impact we have on our family – the ripple that moves across one generation to the next. We look upstream and see great faithfulness to one another and to the Lord – in my parents, who celebrate their 60th anniversary this year, and in my wife’s parents had been married 55 years when the Lord called her mother home. I look around and see my godly wife, and wonderful mother of three, who has been faithfully by my side throughout many blessings and trials for 35 years (as of June 6th). We glance downstream and see God’s plan unfolding in the lives of our three children, the blessing of an amazing son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and the incredible potential and promise in the eyes of our three grandchildren (with hopefully more on the way).

But as a father and grandfather, this verse forces me to look again at the ripple of my life with even a greater sense of accountability and urgency:

All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel (Judges 2:10 NASB).

How could that be?!  This was Joshua’s generation. This generation was borne out of the exodus whom God resurrected from the ashes of unbelief to enter the Land of Promise. This generation watched their parents die in the wilderness even as they ate miraculous manna from heaven. This generation walked through the waters of the Jordan River as God parted them at flood stage, saw the walls of Jericho fall, and rejoiced in the Lord giving them the land of milk and honey by the power of His hand. This was the generation that Joshua challenged to “choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 ESV). How could this generation fail to speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord to their own sons and daughters and fail to proclaim His incredible love for His people?

Here is another sobering quote: “To our forefathers, their Christianity was an experience; to our fathers, it was an inheritance; if to us, it is a convenience; then to our children, it will be a nuisance.”

We must not remain silent! Though complacency begets contempt, it is not too late. As parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, we must boldly turn directly into the fierce headwind of a hostile culture that seeks to destroy the very definition of family as well as obliterate any remnant of godly legacy. We must, by the power of the Spirit, reject the love of self, the love of money and the love of pleasure and be lovers of God.

Oh yes, thankfully, God can redeem even those borne out of faithless generations, but that is not His calling on our lives. We are called to faithfulness. We are called to obedience. We are called to truth. We are called to embrace this promise, “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children (Psalm 103:17 NIV).

Each of us has passed through some form of the Red Sea and been rescued by His mighty hand of deliverance. We have been supernaturally fed with His manna from heaven and seen walls fall. We have experienced wandering, unbelief, heartache and despair, but we also have seen the power of forgiveness, the splendor of hope, and given thanks as joy came in the morning. We have rejoiced in God’s faithfulness, seen His promises fulfilled, and been sustained day after day by His amazing grace in Jesus. We have been hidden in the cleft of the rock and seen His glory revealed so many times in our lives. Why would we – how could we remain silent?

Generations are in our hands. Go and tell.

But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come (Psalm 71:14-18 NASB).

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Poiema

Poiema“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139:13-16 NASB).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB).

I cannot think about one of these passages without being drawn to the other. The first speaks of creation – the first birth; the second, re-creation – the new birth. The first begins the Potter’s work; the second completes it in Christ Jesus. The days are inscribed in the first, but unfold in the second. But both proclaim the amazing truth that we are His masterpiece.

How beautifully this psalm of David describes the precious mystery of life as our Creator gently knits us together like a fine, colorful tapestry. Our souls should sing, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17 NASB).

All our translations fall incredibly short of describing the indescribable – of attempting to put such vast wonders to words. Perhaps the Greek word used here for “workmanship” captures it best: we are His “poiema” – in English, His “poem.”

We are all unique creations of God – handcrafted works of art – individual masterpieces. Like a beautifully written poem, we are not just casually thrown together, but something arising from deep within the heart of God – intimate and intricate; overflowing with purpose and brimming with promise.

We know that God’s Word always accomplishes its purposes. And since God never wastes words, then surely He has something significant to say in and through our lives. As living letters penned by God’s own hand, we are strategically composed to convey a message – His message. And when people read us, they should read a great poetic work to God’s glory and long to know more about our Author.

But what if you’re questioning your purpose, struggling with identity, living in regret or wondering if you are truly loved? Read over the letter of your life – start from the very beginning – remember what it says about you and about your Savior – refocus on why He created you and what He re-created you for — and rejoice.

You should find it to be a beautifully authentic work of how the threads of God’s amazing grace are tenderly woven into the fabric of a life that’s far from perfect, yet perfectly being perfected in Jesus. You are His Poiema. Now walk in the Spirit as He writes the next verse.

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Dare to hope

Dare to hopeAs the stone rolled over the tomb of Jesus, a deafening silence also rolled over Scripture. We are left to retreat into hiding with the disciples to only imagine the horror, grief and anguish they were experiencing. They had literally walked away from everything and followed this amazing man for the past three years. Although Jesus told them many times, the disciples did not understand that He would rise again (Luke 18:34; John 20:9).  Now, He was truly dead and so was their seemingly misplaced hope. Sunday was coming, but they did not see it. The fullness of life with Jesus suddenly collapsed around them into a dark, empty cavern. What now?

Most of us are familiar with this cavern, and some of us are in one right now. That in which you had placed your full weight has caved into despair. Your hopes have been crushed and you cannot see beyond the walls of disappointment surrounding you. It’s pretty dark down there and your earthly vision is incredibly restricted. What now?

The interesting thing about caverns is that while you are in them, there’s only one way out – there’s only one exit strategy – upward toward the light. The tricky part is to remember to look up.

Jeremiah knows something about these caverns. He was called by God to preach an urgent message of impending judgment to a nation immersed in sin, and yet a simultaneous word of hope of future restoration by God’s grace. He spoke over 40 years to a nation that ultimately would not listen and was greatly persecuted by those he came to save. He is known as the “weeping prophet” because of the tears he shed as he sought to remain true to his calling.

But like lowering a strong rope down to us, listen to the voice of experience and cling to these words, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this…” (Lam 3:20-21 NLT). Clearly, he is in a desolate cavern and yet his eye is somehow attracted upward toward the light. On one hand he feels as though he will never forget his pain and loss while on the other hand, he is strangely moved to “dare to hope.” Don’t you love that phrase?  In the Hebrew, it literally reads “make to return my heart to hope.”

Trust me, I realize how difficult it can be to “make your heart return to hope.” It’s way easier to allow your heart to be swiftly carried downstream by the prevailing current of disappointment and despair. It’s a struggle to resist the flow and turn back upstream toward hope. But it can be done – it must be done. Otherwise, where will your current course carry you? That journey does not end well. So what’s the secret? Surely, this is not an arbitrary “come on, you can do it” kind of hope?

Let’s read on: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lam 3:22-23 NLT).

Perhaps we are being asked to see just where our hope really lies – in what we want or in God? You and I can and should hope again by trusting in God’s heart for us and the faithfulness of His Word. In fact, Jeremiah likens His unending love, His compassion, and His mercies to the morning dew which falls anew every day. Yes, “weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

If you believe that Life itself sprang forth from a sealed tomb as the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone to show us what was not there, then surely you can believe that God can resurrect your hope in Him? Search the Scriptures for fresh dew, recall what He has promised, and dare to hope. Then believe in His Word and cling to it. For it is strong and He is faithful. Everyday with Jesus is Sunday.

After Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken (John 2:22 NIV).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Scars

When you cut yourself, you bleed.  But in that same blood, there are antibodies and rebuilding materials already on location.  Sticky blood cells called platelets begin to clump together to form a clot and later a scab – the body’s built-in Band-Aid.  Bleeding is controlled and a fibrous framework of collagen is laid down in the wound.  Then, repair and rebuilding can begin around this miraculous scaffolding.  Once the wound is sealed by a scab, the actual healing occurs from the inside out.  That’s why a scab eventually falls off to reveal a new layer of skin beneath it.  Sometimes if a wound is deep enough or if the site keeps getting disturbed or reinjured, then a scar will form.

We all have scars.  Some are visible and some are not, but they all tell a story. The visible ones – particularly for men – are more like glorious medals of honor about the time when I….  You can look at any scar on your body right now and instantly talk about when whatever happened happened.  It’s the not so visible ones that seem to convey a different story.

Think about the scars you have in your spirit.  Perhaps some deep wounds of the past.  Painful memories that somehow can still seem so fresh.  If the body can quiet our cries, soothe our pain, close ours wounds, and rebuild the broken, why not the spirit?

“Heal me, Jesus!” is the physical cry He hears so often, but the Great Physician also sees the deeper wounds in us – the wounds of sin – both your sin and the sin of others inflicted on you.  Jesus bore your griefs and He carried your sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).  He was wounded so that our wounds might be healed (1 Peter 2:24).  He came to bind up the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 34:18).

Like the skin, spiritual wounds are healed from the inside out.  Your spiritual scars should not be sorrowful tales of self-woe, but powerful reminders about the time when God….  Not everlasting memorials to our pain, but declarations of His amazing grace.  Not tombstones for our failures, but stones of remembrance of His forgiveness.  Not the dirge of casualties, but the song of conquerors.

Since the Word assures us “by His wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24), we must not allow the Enemy to repeatedly reopen our wounds.  Jesus died to bring complete healing – mind, body, and spirit – so we can get our eyes off ourselves and our bodies and our wounds and onto Him and His Body and His wounds – off our scars and onto His.  Otherwise, we remain spiritually bedridden when we should be on the battlefield.

Should there not be more of us who testify to the wholeness Jesus brought to our lives and less of us who are content just to talk about our wounds?  Jesus raises up victors, not victims.  And since God created your blood to be so inherently powerful, imagine the power of the blood of Jesus!

We need a holy transfusion – the power of His blood at work in our innermost being.  The joy of healing is truly far greater than the pain of the injury.  Bring your wounds to Jesus and let Him restore you from the inside out.

The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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