The Lord of Hosts

You and I seek stability.  Stable foundations.  Stable relationships.  Stable employment.  Stable finances.  Stable health.  Most of us work very hard to establish and maintain a reasonable level of predictable outcomes and a future that unfolds according to our plan.  We like calm seas, sure footing and world peace.

But in spite our best efforts, we live and learn that life is inherently unstable and this is unsettling.  For those who like control, there is simply so much beyond our control.  The earth gives way.  Things crumble.  Mountains quake.  Oceans roar.  Enemies rise up.  Fear grips us.

Yet amid all of life’s uncertainty and turmoil, we are invited to find refuge – a stronghold – a place of safety – in God.  Not in some distant, impersonal heavenly being, but the One who is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  Near.  Aware.  Available.  Able.

For He is “The Lord of Hosts” – “Jehovah Sabaoth” – “The God of Heaven’s Armies.”  Able to change the face of the earth or subdue raging enemies by His Word alone, He is also Supreme Commander-in-Chief over multitudes of angels ready to execute His command.  Everything in all creation bows the knee to His divine authority.  And from His unshakable and immovable throne in heaven, this Sovereign of the Universe tenderly speaks to our hearts: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

There’s only one problem with accepting this amazing invitation, we must “be still” – literally “cease striving.”  Ha!  You know very well that we excel at striving.  And striving means we trust in our plan and our ways rather than His.  Admit it.  We’d rather act than wait.  We’d rather worry than rest.  We’d rather fear than trust.  The crazy thing is that as we seek refuge in Him, a peace that passes all understanding comes even though nothing else may yet have changed.

For the kind of ceasing commanded here is not passive, but calls forth a faith that actively clings to God and His Word just as you would cling to a rock in a storm.  It’s the kind of faith that rests in both His Power and His Presence.  In the God who is able to deliver and able to protect.  In the God who rules nations and melts mountains, but also knows the ever-diminishing number of hairs on my head.  The God of unlimited power and unfathomable, intimate love.

Who is this King of Glory?  The Lord of Hosts is His Name.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of Hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.  Psalm 46:10-11

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

 

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Crossroads

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” – Jeremiah 6:16

As we travel the road of life, we pass through many intersections.  The most significant one is located at Broad Way and Narrow Way –  the way of life and the way of death – the way of joy everlasting and the way of eternal separation.  Since these roads lead in opposite directions, an intentional decision must be made – we must choose which way to turn.

You and I flew by this intersection time after time like it wasn’t even there (Proverbs 14:12).  We continued cruising down the many, spacious lanes of the Broad Way not even noticing that narrow, one-lane road. Then Jesus opened our eyes and we saw the street sign for the first time.  Now we see – it’s not a man-made road, but a divine one – one bought and paid for by Jesus Himself and paved with His precious blood.  This is no mere intersection, but a Crossroad.

Having seen His sign and made that turn, we head down a new road – His Road – and that road ultimately leads to heaven in the Presence of our Savior.  Until that day, our journey is filled with both great opportunities and great challenges – divine purpose and earthly temptation – the upward call of heaven and the alluring sound of the Broad Way.

Although we have a heavenly destination in our eternal GPS, we still come to various intersections and we still have choices to make.  Some intersections are clearly marked by Scripture that we must not turn down that road, but others reveal the gracious choices God sovereignly allows us to make while on the journey.  But how and when do we turn?  How do we know which way is best?  What if we make the “wrong” choice and have a head-on collision with failure or hardship?     

Here are few key points to remember from the Owner’s Manual:

  1. Stay on God’s path – sin is a dead-end street; confess it and turn around quickly – 1 John 1:9
  2. Ask for directions – God is listening and ready to answer our prayers for wisdom – James 1:5
  3. Look for signs – God’s will is often marked by visible signs both to guide and to warn – Matt 7:7
  4. Fasten your seatbelt – it’s a cross country trip so expect ups and downs – John 16:33
  5. Keep your eyes on the road – comparing yourself to others leads to envy or pride – Gal 1:10
  6. God knows the way – He is not only with you, but goes before you – Psalm 139:5
  7. Drive friendly – watch for those with car trouble, flat tires or who are out of gas – John 13:34
  8. Fill up with premium – you can’t be both full of yourself and the Holy Spirit – Gal 5:16
  9. Don’t speed – God numbers our days and has plenty for us to do along the way – Psalm 90:12
  10. Enjoy the drive – God makes known to us the path of life and it’s full of joy! – Psalm 16:11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you”  – Psalm 32:8

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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The Lion King

While I’ve never been in the wild and heard a lion roar, I know I couldn’t sleep through it – unmistakable and terrifying, I would be wide-eyed with my heart pounding.  The scriptures warn us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8.

A lion usually does not roar when stalking because that would warn the unsuspecting prey of its whereabouts.  (“Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?” Amos 3:4).  Lions roar to communicate a message – especially at night – to intimidate and lay claim over their territory and their victims.

Satan is no different.  He seeks to drive us into the darkness of doubt by fear and intimidation – fear of missing out, fear of not getting what we want or think we deserve, fear that God is holding out on us, fear of loss or pain or unhappiness, fear of the future, fear of rejection, fear of ________.   These fears exploit “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life” 1 John 2:16.  And like a lion, “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you” Genesis 4:7.

I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t want to be eaten by a lion – especially if he ate me one bite at a time.  But that’s how I think the devil feeds on most of us.  It’s usually not one big bite and it’s over – it’s more like one bite at a time as he comes to devour our hearts and minds.  Slowly, but surely, we are consumed.  So, when we retreat into these fears, we lose life, joy and relationship one bite at a time as we are pulled into the grip of our adversary.

But there is another Lion in the jungle who has “overcome.”  He is the Lamb who bore our sin on the cross, triumphed over Satan, conquered death, and rose in victory as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).  And this Lion is greater than the one who is prowling around seeking to devour you (1 John 4:4).

The question is not which lion is greater; the question is whose roar do you hear?

The devil roars to drive you into sin –  to steal, kill and destroy.  The Lion of the tribe of Judah roars to proclaim His victory over sin and call you to walk with Him by faith in strength, security and fullness of joy.  And as the Lover of our soul, His mighty roar drives the enemy of our soul back into the darkness of defeat empty-handed.

Straying from Jesus’ side, we are vulnerable, but staying near Him, we are invincible – for He is both the Lamb of God and the Lion King.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:10

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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Stepping on the scale

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is, as the song says, the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also fraught with peril.  Having been buried alive by a blizzard of endless food and tasty treats, many of us begin to dig out with a New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds.  Although we tried our best to ignore the tighter-fitting clothes and the last notch we’d moved to on our belts, our worst fears were confirmed when we finally stepped on the scale.  Sadly, the numbers don’t lie.

After swearing to never do that again, we stepped off the scales promising to do better.  Establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is certainly a worthy pursuit.  After all, carrying around too much extra baggage is not only frustrating, but can also put unnecessary stress on your body.  So, if you’ve taken a 2017 “do better” oath, please don’t overdo it, but stick with it.

However, there’s another weight that cannot be measured by our waistline, seen in a mirror or captured as a number on a scale, but is far more deadly.  It is the weight of sin – a burden we were never designed to bear.  When we do, we ultimately cry out like David, “my guilt overwhelms me — it is a burden too heavy to bear.  I am exhausted and completely crushed” (Psalm 38:4 NLT).  All of us can identify with David’s diagnosis.  And right now, some of us may also be enduring the heavy burden of sin.  We’ve been avoiding the spiritual scales, but we know it’s true.

But I have good news – there is a cure!  Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV).  “He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5 NASB).  “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24 NASB).

If you are tired of carrying around this oppressive weight, listen to Jesus calling, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).  That’s the voice of the sin-bearer – the Lamb of God who takes away all our sins (John 1:29) – past, present and future – those sins that once eternally separated us from Him and those which ensnare us each day.

All we must do is come to Him.  And because of His great love for us, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).  Then your cry will not be one of weariness or despair, but a testimony of glory and praise, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation!” (Psalm 68:19 NASB).  This is the joyful shout of renewed fellowship with Jesus.

And when our hearts are lighter, we are free to fulfill the law of Christ and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2 NASB).  You see, when we are weighted down with sins, we lose our Holy Spirit-given capacity to help others – to lighten their load – to share their burdens – to not allow them to be crushed by a hostile world – to put our arms around them and bring them to the healing arms of Jesus.  Jesus stretched out on a cross and laid down His life to show us that loving means bearing.  After all, “love bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).  Now go lose some weight.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Jesus
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

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The Challenge Flag

“Yep, he just threw out the red flag so he’s definitely challenging the call” is a familiar soundbite heard during NFL games when the head coach wants to question the ruling made on the field by the officiating crew.  In the crew’s defense, these full-speed, split-second decisions can be very difficult and they do seem to get it right most of the time.

But once the red flag is deployed, the game screeches to a halt while the lead official watches various replays from many different angles in super slow motion to determine if the original call was accurate (“stands” or “is confirmed”) or needs to be completely reversed.  The moment of truth arrives as the official emerges from the hood, faces the camera, and declares the verdict, “Upon further review…”

We know our culture is refusing to accept more and more of God’s calls, but have you ever thrown out the challenge flag on the Lord?  Guilty.  “God, you really missed that one.”  “That’s not what I expected.”  “I don’t believe that’s true.”  “That’s not fair and I won’t accept it.”  And so out comes the red flag.

Statistics show, on average, coaches win their challenges just about 50% of the time.  How often have you won your challenges against God? Thought so.  Oh, God’s calls are frequently disputed by us on the playing field, but they cannot be reversed because they need not be reversed. We can view them from any angle we wish, argue until we have no more words left to say and replay them over and over in our minds, but God’s rulings are always perfect.

Job didn’t like several of God’s calls and threw out the red flag, “I wish there was an umpire between us, who could lay his hand upon us both!” (Job 9:33).  Been there.  But like each one of us who has questioned the Lord’s accuracy or fairness, He asks, “Will you discredit My justice and condemn Me just to prove you are right?” (Job 40:8 NLT).

Even when we don’t fully understand, we must believe and accept God’s calls as the infallible, indisputable, perfect, good and wise Word and Will for our lives. “I [now] know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 42:1-3; 40:4). Like brother Job, perhaps we aren’t nearly as brilliant as we think we are.

Some of us expend far too much energy challenging God’s calls when we’d be way better off simply obeying His call.  Perhaps a worthy 2017 resolution might be to keep the red flag in our pockets because, upon further review, God’s Word and Will are confirmed.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  Psalm 19:7-11 NIV

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

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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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