Monday, December 20, 2010

Know Jesus, Know Peace

It seems ironic that in the season where we celebrate the first advent of the Prince of Peace we may get very little of it. "Holiday" parties at school and work, shopping to be done, cooking and baking, guests and travel, all of these things can be a recipe for stress, even when we are enjoying them. It is precisely during these moments that we must be most clearly focused on the Lord whose incarnation we celebrate during this time. The word has many alternatives to offer, but only the Lord offers true peace. Peace with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (While we were still enemies, he died for us. ~Romans 5:3, 8), Peace with eachother through the grace and patence of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:32), and peace and freedom from our own accusing flesh, that is, our decietful sin nature (Romns 6:11; Galatians 2:20).
The One we celebrate this time of year is the one who said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27. Will you choose to rest in the comfort of His Peace this holiday season? Will you look to Him who loved you and gave Himself up for you and there find the courageous full and brimming life that was won for you at the Cross and there after? Will this be the year where you commemorate our Saviors birth by trusting in Him in a whole new way? I hope for all of us, that it is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy to the World

"Joy" is a word we hear quite frequently in the holiday season. It is a word that is often written in large glittery letters across shiny Christmas cards and in lights over windows. It becomes so familiar that we often fail to think about the importance of this word. What is joy? How did it come to the world in the person of Jesus Christ? If "joy" is simply a synonym for "happiness" then we find that there was plenty of joy in the world already, however Biblical joy is much more than just happiness.

Like all of the fruit of the Spirit joy is something that is the product of the believer in Christ in spite of any circumstance. Joy is a deeper gladness of heart that cannot be affected by any outward circumstances. The growth of joy in the life of the believer is the mark of maturity that enables the Christian to step into every day with love and good cheer, knowing that the Lord will complete His good work in each of us. And while we can sustain many painful losses in this life, not one force on earth can touch our eternal position in the Heavenlies in Christ. Here is the striking reality: The only way that this world could ever see true joy isn't on a card, or written in lights. It is the burning flame that emanates from the heart and life of every person who is living in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, each and every day. The Christmas card that really matters is you! are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:3

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Way

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
John 14:6

Last week's devotion was about longing. Not for a thing, or for a possession, but for a Person. Longing for the Messiah. Longing for Jesus. In looking at this week's verse we see why. This monumental statement shows more than we may think. Very often this verse is referenced in the context of salvation. Truly, there is no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12), there is no access to the Father, except through the person of Jesus Christ. He bought that privilege for all who receive it by faith in the Him, by His sacrifice on the cross. This verse perfectly identifies our need for Jesus in order to be saved. However, there is more to this verse.

The earliest title given to followers of Christ was "those of the Way."* This way was Jesus Christ. This is one of Jesus' amazing "I am" statements wherein He claims deity with his very grammar and word choice. However, this does lead us to a question: How can a person be a way? It is amazing that Jesus takes many titles for Himself which we may not expect. He tells us that He is the Door in John 10:9. Jesus is the Door by which we enter into a relationship with God. Jesus is the path we walk (the way). We walk this path because He has given us His history, because He empowers and guides us through His Holy Spirit, He leads us by His word, He has given us the fellowship of His body (the Church), and has placed us in an eternal relationship with God the Father. Jesus is the The Way.

In John 14:3 we find that, not only is Jesus the Door and the Way, He is also preparing a place for us. Jesus is the Door. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the destination. He redeemed you for a love relationship that will last for all of eternity.

*(FYI - In modern times this title has been hijacked by a cult)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking for Someone

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 1 Peter 1:10

As a young child walks carelessly behind his mother though a department store he is almost overwhelmed by the endless rows of tinsel and lights. Dazzled by the blink and blush of lights and advertisements titillating commercialism of the Christmas season it is hard to imagine that there is a better time than Christmas. The thought of toys, candies and cookies weighs heavily on the child's expectations. Suddenly the child wakes from his reverie and finds himself separated from his mother. The panic sets in and the child goes racing through rack after rack of pants, shirts and jeans. Where could his mother have gone? Finally, he gives himself up for lost, falls on the floor and starts sobbing loudly. Not a moment later his mother pokes around the corner, sweeps him up in her arms and chides him for not staying closer to her.

We can identify with the moment of terror and longing. As much as this sensation has befallen all of us, it only gives us a glimpse of the Jewish anticipation for the Messiah. Jewish girls treasured their baby boys because this child may be the promised one; the anointed savior that was yet to come. They comforted each other with the promises that God had given of this great prophet, priest and king that was yet to come: God's anointed, the Messiah.

As we approach this holiday season don't forget to take some time to appreciate how great the Old Testament saint longed to see the Messiah as clearly as we now see Him. That God took on flesh and tabernacled among us. That all of this was promised from the very beginning and God is always faithful to His promises. His promises to humanity to provide a Savior. His promises to Israel of land, seed and blessing which still await their total fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. His promises to each of us individually who have placed our faith in His Son and have been given eternal life which Paul described by saying: "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) This week lets focus on our God who is THE promise keeper.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holding Things Together

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:17

We sometimes hear this phrase, "I'm holding things together." By it, of course, we mean that our lives are not falling apart. We are doing alright, if only just. The illusion that this suspends in the air before us is our own importance. We may make this statement, or some variant of it, with the best of intentions. We think of our family, our friends, our work, our commitments, our mortgage, our responsibilities, our church, and we reflect on it all and think we are doing a fine job of keeping it all together. The trouble? We are not keeping it together. This illusion makes us the center of the center of everything. It reduces God to: "a good help to call in if things look shaky", but basically it is all about us.

We often think of self-centered people as the ones who act in their own interests all of the time. We think that the selfish person is the one who takes the last of the turkey before everyone has eaten, however there is another, more insidious self-centeredness that may look far more attractive to others. The busy-body, the workaholic, the people pleaser, the super-mover, the temptation to be self-centered in this way may be just as great or greater than all other temptations combined.

How would life change if, when we were most tempted to see ourselves as the center of the world, we were able to turn our eyes upon the One who actually does hold all things together? Remembering that gravity exists at His behest, and the planets swim through space in their orbit by His will, should readjust our skewed view of reality. Realizing afresh that it is not all about us, but that it is all about Him, is the medicine our weary soul needs when we think we are "just holding together" or when it all seems to be falling apart. Taking responsibility for things that are not ours to control is a sure fire path to frustration and pain, resting in Him is our hope.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Proverbs 16:32

How often is a difficult situation made worse by a knee-jerk reaction? How many times is a relationship hurt or destroyed on the basis of a misunderstanding that quickly explodes? Sadly the stories of influential, famous or powerful people whose quick tempers destroyed their personal lives are known to each of us. The world system doesn't help us as we seek to understand this phenomenon. Some may use their angry, fearful, patterns of their flesh as an excuse to commit great atrocities. Saying, "I couldn't help it, I was just so mad." While our culture may at times accept this excuse it is not in keeping with the Biblical view of is not what God is making us into as He conforms us to the image of Christ.

The Proverbs warn us that the person who is controlled by his emotions alone is in danger. This is not to say that anger is bad, but it is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and left unchecked can be incredibly destructive. In Ephesians 4:26-27 we are told: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." So we know that to feel the sensations and feelings surrounding the emotion of anger is by no means sin, but it easily leads to sin. By what means can we hope to control it? Counting to 10 never seemed to work for Donald Duck. Deep breathing and excusing yourself when you feel you are getting to hot? These types of methods may have some value, but the Bible offers us a more lasting solution:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Notice all of these wonderful characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit! How does fruit grow on a branch? Why by remaining connected to the Vine (see John 15). Self-control is the character of someone who is resting in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not controlled by anger, or the passing winds of any emotion. The one who is walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) is able to experience anger, not be controlled by it, yet act appropriately to resolve it. On rare occasion it may exhibit itself as it did when Christ turned over tables, but most commonly the appropriate and Christlike response will be lead to a more peaceful conclusion.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sovereignty and Shipwrecks

"'My good children,' I replied, 'we must not despair, although we seem deserted. See how those on whose skill and good faith we depended have left us cruelly to our fate in the hour of danger. God will never do so. He has not forsaken us, and we will trust Him still.'" Johann Wyss in The Swiss Family Robinson

I grew up watching the Disney production of The Swiss Family Robinson. I loved the adventure and the resourcefulness of this family. However, it wasn't until recently that I picked up the book and found something thrilling! The film version glossed over the most powerful and important part of the story*. How was this family able to overcome these great obstacles and difficulties? In the book we see that this family is carried through every trial and triumph by entrusting themselves fully to the amazing sovereignty of God! Thanking God each morning and evening they entrust themselves to His care and go about the business of dealing with the day. Because they trust in the sovereignty of God they are able to live without bitterness towards the sailors who abandoned them, and think upon them in charity. Amazing!

We see this same fortitude and faith in the person of Joseph. How could a man be dealt so many ill turns and still move forward without bitterness, hatred and despair? Even to the point of assuring the very brothers who sold him into slavery that he bears them no ill will. Truly amazing! Yet Joseph was fully convinced of the sovereignty of God, and trusted in that. Assuring his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore do not be afraid, I will provide for you and your little ones." (Genesis 50:20-21a)

So the question for you and I is: "How big is our God?" Is our God big enough to work good through every tragedy, difficulty and heartache? Is our God big enough to redress every wrong, and free us from the need for retribution? Is our God big enough to give us assurance in times of political turmoil and financial difficulty? The God of the Bible decidedly is greater than even these meager worries necessitate. So the only question left is whether or not we are willing to trust Him.

*It should be noted that there is some disagreement as to which edition is closest to the "original" and whether certain themes were added in later editions

Monday, November 1, 2010

Of First Importance...

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received..." 1 Corinthians 15:3a

How many times have you gotten all the way out to your car before you realized that you left your keys in the house? It is frustrating to realize that even though you are in the right place, missing the main point (the fact that you need the keys to run the car) means that you have to go back inside. Modern Christian pop culture has clearly missed the point, and thus Christianity at large is becoming worthless (even if it is moving towards greater "relevancy"). One recent Christian topseller tells us how we should be doing more nice things for people, because THAT'S what the gospel is about (said author neglects to mention what the Bible says the gospel is about in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Another trend in pop Christianity is to attempt to come up with a "green Christianity". Based on the error that the Church has replaced Israel, and the assumption that Jesus is not coming back the gospel is warped to involve how we take care of our planet. A popular Christian periodical will do everything to attach the importance to some "experience" that one must have. Other Christian books get believers wrapped up in evaluating God and the Church in terms of self-centered therapeutic methods, rather than remaining focused on the Lord.

The math hasn't changed: Jesus plus anything equals nothing.

The gospel is under attack from every direction, and each of these attacks attempt to take the focus away from Jesus and put it on ourselves. We must be aware that just because something is called "Christian" or is sold in a "Christian Bookstore" doesn't mean that it has anything to do with the faith of the Bible and the Savior revealed therein. It is because of what Jesus did on the Cross that we are forgiven, and created anew. It is because of Him that we have fellowship with our loving Father God, reject anything that takes your eyes off of Him and puts them on the world, the institutional church, the flesh or yourself. Look at Jesus.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Lamp Unto My Feet

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. - Psalm 119:105

If you are like me (and I know I am) this verse brings to mind the great song that both Amy Grant and Rich Mullins performed (written by Grant and Michael W. Smith). Catchy melody + great word = a song that I won't forget! What a fantastic revelation that the Scriptures are to be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path. This may cast our thoughts to the nature of ancient lamps. You may find some pictures of such oil lamps here: It is interesting when we consider our "light-polluted" world how dark the night can be without all of the street lamps and neon lights that are currently in place.

Yet imagine the small flame that these little lamps could provide. Could it be much more than a candle flame? When the Psalmist revealed to us that the Lord's word is a lamp unto his feet, the image was of a circle of light that would have only illumined the few feet immediately in front of the one holding the lamp. Compared to our modern flashlights, spotlights and headlights we may not find much comfort in this image. However, the Psalmist did pen it in comfort and trust.

When plagued with big decisions, or a crisis we so often look to the Lord for an immediate solution, cure or answer. We scour His word to find out why this is happening, or what is going to happen if I make this decision. Yet the Bible doesn't always give us the assurance of knowing what the next half mile will hold, it only tells us how we should take our next few steps: in faith. The Bible gives us the wisdom to make the right decision, however the right decision may not be the most comfortable. We must then act out in faith realizing that we only need to concern ourselves with the next few steps - our Comforter with us, our Savior before us, our Father above us

Monday, October 18, 2010

Do You Have a Nose for Jesus?

The great play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand tells the story of a man names Cyrano who loves a girl. However, he feels he is unable to approach her because of his incredibly large nose (Remember the movie Roxanne with Steve Martin - same story). Another young man comes into the story who is handsome, though not as good with words, and who does not bear the same authentic love for the female lead. Not realizing that Cyrano loves the girl the handsome captain enlists Cyrano's help to write (and in a particularly comical scene - speak) on his behalf. I won't spoil the drama for you, but the point is plain, neither man counts himself fully qualified for the task of courting this woman on his own.

Is there someone in your life you have trouble loving? Some task that you are certain you are simply not up to? Perhaps there is a person (or more likely a number of people) whom you are simply unable to treat as you know Christ would have them treated. Perhaps their words, mannerisms and actions all make them difficult to love. Often we find ourselves able to be only civil with these people (if even that!). I imagine for many of us the person is already in your mind. Like Cyrano we find ourselves with a desire to love this person, but an inability of some defect within us that makes it impossible. I have some good, sound, Christian advice for you: Stop trying.

Your realization that you can't love them is quite true. Did you come to expect more from your flesh and your "best efforts"? Furthermore, does that person really need YOUR love if they are ever to grow, heal or draw nearer to Jesus? No, they have needed HIS love all along. And now for the great news!

Jesus Christ, who dwells within you, loves them immensely! When you remember that the One who gave Himself up to save you also saved them it will become more clear: you are to rest in Christ and let He who loves you so very much, love them through you. The very hardest part is getting out of the way.
Perhaps something to this effect would be appropriate:

"Lord, I can't love this person, but You DO. To me they are an annoyance, a hindrance, a difficulty. To You they are someone that they loved so very dearly that you sent your Son to die on a cross to bring them into a relationship with You. To me they are unlovable, as I am unlovable, but You are the One who loves us both. Use me as Your instrument, Your letter, Your pen, to show them Your amazing love for us in your Son Jesus Christ."

Perhaps it wouldn't be bad to have this goal for those whom we think we love very easily!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How much Perfection can a day hold?

I may have to group all of these "perfect day" posts together and hide them under something heavy for another day when I will need them. This has been another one of those days/moments that I simply want to freeze in time.

After a somewhat turbulent night's sleep I awoke, had a great time of prayer. Enjoyed eating eggs with my kids (watching kids peel/eat boiled eggs is a great pleasure that is often overlooked). Then bustled off to church to get some things done there. Praying over the congregation here is such a pleasure and an honor I cannot describe it fully.

I did my morning reading and prepared for my days studies. Providence forced a change of locale and off I went to the local coffee shop. This coffee shop is a nice sized house to which a friend had given us a gift certificate. For just over $2 an "all day cup" is given and since 10:00 I have been sitting listening to my bluegrass music, slowly sipping coffee and building studies for our Sunday evening service, and our Thursday pm. Romans group.

The weather is getting cooler and I am in a comfortable sweater and my favorite hat. I am blessed with a wonderful, loving and supportive wife; and supported by the Body of Christ. But of course I haven't even mentioned my 3 happy, healthy children and the endless love and care with which Christ has filled me for them. How much perfect can you fit in one day? There is only one word to describe such perfection that I have no way of taking any credit for: Grace.

Monday, October 4, 2010

To the Praise of His Glory

to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. Eph. 1:12

This is a segment from our Sunday Night Service wherein we are studying Ephesians. Ephesians 1:3-14 uses this phrase "to the praise of His glory" repeatedly. These are some thoughts on that phrase.

There are two things here that should be very clear to the modern reader:

1) God is the one doing all of this.

2) It is for HIS glory that it is all done.

Again and again we see that this is all to his glory, not to ours, not for us. We are living in praise and glory of Him. It is our major purpose: To bring HIM glory forever! The amazing reality being that, by trusting in Jesus for salvation by His grace we become living, walking examples of how wonderful and amazing God is. The believer is a billboard simply on the basis of his totally unmerited salvation of God’s amazing character. In the saved believer God is shown to be gracious and loving (for saving an undeserving sinner), just and righteous (as the failures and unrighteousness of the believer were justly dealt with at the cross), holy and set apart (by making us perfect He does not have to compromise his own perfection to have communion with Him), sovereign and powerful (as His salvation cannot be overcome by our own demerit). What a magnificent reality that just by putting our faith in Jesus Christ we already exist as a resounding witness to the full and complete character of Almighty God!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Know Fear

The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Media sells to us based, in large part, on fear. Commercials sell us things by trying to convince us that we will not be able to keep up without this, or we will fall behind our neighbors without that, even something you may want or need will be sold with the threat that "this price won't last!" Fear and anxiety have effects traversing the spiritual, psychological and physical realms of life. The negative effects of fear had been seen by medical science. The world can come up with solution after solution about this, but we find the Psalmist has found a solution outside of himself.

The Psalmist fears no one and no thing because he trusts in the character and nature of God. For light, salvation and protection, David chose to look to the Lord and trust in Him. Notice that there is a resolve throughout this psalm. While David's faith is based on the facts of God's Word and built by God's faithfulness to him in the past each instance is a new opportunity to trust the Lord, and be without fear. When David was again surrounded by His enemies the choice to trust the Lord and not fear had to be made again. That trust is a forceful act of will, choosing faith over fear. Trusting that God really is who He says He is, and loves as the Bible tells us He does. There is a dogged determination to this courage that is rooted in the character of God, making the last verse of this psalm poignant and appropriate:

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Identification and Train T's

Finn is just plain crazy for cars and trains. Nobody told him to be crazy for them, he just loves them. Most every outfit he wears has either a car or a train on it, including pajamas. One of the most difficult things I have to do in a week is to convince him to take off one train outfit for another. He just loves being identified with trains. It is so strange! He is too young to think about advertising for Thomas the Tank engine, and isn't really old enough to think about any desire to be professionally involved with them. He just loves trains. He can't even communicate why he loves them (as he is only 2 years old!).

So aside from cuteness why do I mention it? As humans we do long to be associated with what we truly love. Band T-shirts, bumper-stickers, hobby clubs and interest meetings, sports jerseys regularly turn big profits, and even posters for rooms and fences. We like people to know what interests we define ourselves by. As I write this I am wearing a t-shirt with my kids screened onto the front! (Thank you, April!) So what is the point?

I am not suggesting we all get more magnets, bumper-stickers and t-shirts with Christian messages on them (I'll let you make your own decision about those). I AM suggesting that we remember our close identification with Jesus every day. Finn can't wait to put on a new train shirt, what a great example for us. How thrilling that each day we are found in Christ! This wonderful garment of love, peace, hope and joy. We are to abide in Him, rest in His care, and believe that we are loved beyond our wildest imagination. Are you excited to wake every morning because you are identified, by His grace, with Jesus Christ, the source of love, joy and life? I hope you is wonderful!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wonderful Words of Life

There is power in the written word. Certain documents have influenced history, and continue to do so long after they were penned. The Iliad and The Odyssey continue to inspire even the modern imagination. The Republic, The Prince, Les Miserables, Hamlet, and the list goes on and on. These amazing works have a sense of universality. They portray something deeply human, their characters, struggles and themes. However, all of these great books can only go so deep.

Only the Word of God is: " and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, ad able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12). There is no other book that has that property. The Holy Spirit carried men along as they wrote it, leading them to choose the exact words He wanted. God sovereignly protected the Bible through generations of persecution and difficulty. The Holy Spirit then illumines the believer so that the word may be understood. From start to finish the Bible is miraculous.

Psalm 19:7-10 tells us that God's word is perfect, that it is God's tool for restoring our souls. It is something we can count on and it will make us wise in our foolishness. It causes our hearts to rejoice and enlightens our eyes, the word of God is more valuable than gold, and sweeter than honey to us. The Bible is all of this and more, what an amazing privilege to have this miracle of the Lord at our fingertips each day!

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life;
let me more of their beauty see,
wonderful words of life;
words of life and beauty
teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Philip P. Bliss

Saturday, September 18, 2010


"...and all the children thought - and I agree with them - that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and it has come out of the pan half a minute ago." C.S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

I've had a day so nice I must share it. After a productive morning I raced my way up the River to put a line in the water. I don't usually catch many fish and it is mostly and exercise in patience and the enjoyment of nature. This time, however, five beautiful trout chose to grace the end of my line. I will spare you all of the gory details of the fight, and which were caught on dry flies and which on subsurface flies. However, I did decide to keep two of the five. One because it was a nice fish and greedily grabbed at my fly as it floated on the surface. It was a planned attack, and a great moment of victory. The other I kept because he didn't allow me to get the hook from his mouth in time for him to have a chance at survival. That's okay...more fish for me. There are no pictures of the glory moments. However, the memories are strong. There are some pictures, however:

The catching was a riot. It was a bit overcast and gloomy with a mist in the air that almost seems to stand still as you walk through it. The river provides the most fantastic listening experience, it is amazing how you can hear so much and still feel like the words "peace" and "silence" some how apply perfectly. Then came the cooking.
I fished until 7:00 which means I didn't get home until 10 till 8, I really didn't each much today (besides a few donuts in the morning ). So I was ready to eat. Not long after I arrived April got home with the kids who had been spending the day with their grandparents who love them very much. The kids ooh'ed and ahh'ed at my catch (loved every second of that), and then let me put them to sleep without a fight. After they went down the cooking began! Salt, garlic powder, lemon juice and pepper all went into the tin foil pack and the pack went on the grill for 15 min. while the taters simmered. The results were delicious!
My mother was a bit concerned that I didn't "clean" the fish before cooking them. Well they aren't very big, and I don't mind eating around the fish innards nearly so much as I mind blemishing my fresh caught fishes with knife strokes. The fish was perfect. Soft, flaky, moist, and delicious. I am so thankful that our creator gave us fish to catch and eat. They really are a wonder. The taters were boiled and tasted remarkably like boiled potatoes. They were special in that they were grown by a brother in the Lord at our church body. That made them taste even better!

Of course a cup of decaf English breakfast tea had to be drunk with careful appreciation.

And all moves from better to best as my beautiful wife and I chatted about the events of the day over my late supper. She tolerated the fish smells without complaint and worked on the Sunday school lesson for tomorrow. Truly an amazing woman who I am so blessed to have and to hold, to love and to cherish.

Sometimes a day contains so much good that you may just think it will burst and leave even the other days overflowing. This was a day like that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pooh-line Theology

If I had to choose a favorite literary character it would undoubtedly be Winnie-the-Pooh. I have loved A.A. Milne's children's tales my whole life and have continually enjoyed them. And I think there is a very good reason why. Remember the time that Pooh and Piglet were tracking a woozle? As they walked around the spinney in the snow they continued to rediscover their own tracks thinking that they were chasing a whole pack of "woozles" and "wizzles". Finally, Piglet runs home and Christopher Robin comes down out of the tree, having watched the whole thing. After Christopher Robin explains things to Pooh we read:

He sat down and though, in the most thoughtful way he could think. Then he fitted his paw into one of the Tracks...and then he scratched his nose twice, and stood up.
"Yes," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he, "and I am a Bear of No Brain at All."
"You're the Best Bear in All the World," Said Christopher Robin soothingly.
"Am I?" said Pooh hopefully. And then he brightened up suddenly.
"Anyhow," he said, "it is nearly Luncheon Time." So he went home for it.

This is one instance of what happens in nearly every chapter of Milne's masterpiece. Pooh finds his entire identity, value and importance in Christopher Robin. Though he has been proven "Foolish and Deluded" he wastes no time with his own embarrassment. All self-centered thoughts are wiped away Christopher Robin's evaluation of him. Isn't that grand?

Brothers and Sisters, have you been back to find how your caring Lord sees you? Read John 10; Ephesians 1:3-14; Romans 8; and 1 John 4:9-19. Then answer the tough question. Do I believe it? Do I trust in His power, His ability, His character, to love me like the Bible says?

Jesus Loves Me this I know...For the Bible tells me so.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jesus is your...

I have a Bible promise book that I treasure. Of course there are countless little volumes like this that aspire to give the reader a quick "at a glance" view of some applicable verses in any given situation. I have several volumes like this that I have received or collected over the years, but this one especially I appreciate. Most of the promise books I have seen jump right into the situations, verse prescriptions for every problem presented in a: "take two of these and call me in the morning" fashion. This promise book (God's Promises for Your Every Need, Word Publishing) starts with 16 chapters entitled "Jesus is your..." These are the 16 chapters that contain only Bible verses filled with Christ's character and care for us, along with a few of the verses referenced in each section:

Titus 3:5-6; 1 John 4:14; Ephesians 2:4-5

Philippians 2:9-11; Romans 12:1-2; Romans 14:8

Romans 5:8; John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-12

Isaiah 26:3; Ephesians 2:13-14; Romans 5:1; John 14:27

Ephesians 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Psalm 103:12; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1

2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9

Isaiah 61:1; John 8:32, 36; Romans 8:2; Romans 6:22

1 John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Revelation 3:20

1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:6; Ephesians 5:1-2

John 15:15-16; 1 John 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9

Matthew 12:50; Hebrews 2:11; Romans 8:29

Psalm 3:3; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Peter 3:12-13

1 Peter 1:3-5; John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39

2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:5

John 6:35; John 4:13-14; Romans 8:32

Romans 8:37; Ephesians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 1:21

This is only a small sampling of the verses. After reading these chapters (the first 50 or so pages of this little volume) I wondered what the need for the rest of the book could possibly be? Jesus Christ IS the answer. If I am struggling in life it is because I have taken my eyes off of Him. If I remain Christ centered there is nothing that I cannot endure. If I can be convinced to become self centered I am destined for a tumble. I would encourage you this week to roll these terms around in your mind. Look up the verses. Notice these statements are sure, not contingent. "Jesus IS your..." not "could be", "might be" or "will be". This is His grace gift to you as part and parcel to the Saving relationship that you entered into with Him when you placed faith in Christ for Salvation. Roll over these qualities and trust Christ to be all of these things to you, as you are in Him.

I never was terribly handy. In our first home I had to adhere one piece of wood to another. Having no drill I had to drive the screws in by hand. It took a great deal of time and sweat to get the screws in place. The saddest part of the story is that very soon after the job had to be redone...with a powerdrill. How often do we sweat, work, and exert ourselves to get some thing done while Jesus stands over us saying, "You know I am going to have to undo all that you are doing before I can fix it." Even our best intentions result only in loss. We need Jesus.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lingering Legalism and Forgiveness

So much difficulty in Bible study comes from knowing who is being addressed. It is a vital principle of Biblical interpretation to understand that all of the Bible is written FOR us, but not all of it is written TO us. That is to say, we grow from studying the whole council of God, but we must understand when something is written to us and when it is not. Obvious examples of this are Paul's request that Timothy bring his cloak and books (2 Timothy4:13). Or perhaps the reader of Haggai may think it is his specific command to rebuild the temple, if he doesn't realize that that direct application is meant for Israel alone. While these examples may seem comical to us, this is the way that much legalism, and error has slipped into many peoples faiths.

A keen example of this is the principle can be found in Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." This is a favorite verse in legalistic sermons the world over. It is so tempting to pull this verse out and say, "If YOU don't forgive, then brother, GOD WON'T FORGIVE YOU!" How the human machine loves guilt and law. Some interpreters have tried to relieve the tension by claiming that this is a different type of forgiveness than other places, but it doesn't ultimately matter. Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to Jews living under the law, clearing up the centuries of tradition and man made rules that had built up on the Law Moses gave. This sermon was given under the law, to people who lived under the Law, directly applying this to ourselves is reading someone else's mail.

So, if that verse is not written to us, do we not need to forgive one another? Who would forgive someone without the threat of eternal damnation hanging over their head? The answer? People who have found their salvation and hope in the grace of God. Ephesians 4:31 was written to church age believers who were living under Grace: "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Why do we forgive one another? Because we are so grateful and overflowing from the forgiveness that we have already received from God. Notice the enormous change from "do so you can be" to "be so you can do"? And that makes all of the difference.