Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Biblical Friendship - Our Communal Walk with Christ

There is a strong biblical theme that appears to me to be often missing or at least muted from the hyper-individualistic west.  That is community.  There is communal joy and communal sorrow, groups praised and groups condemned in the Bible.  Even the Israelites recognized this when the people came to Moses and said, "We sinned," (Num 21:7 after another time of complaining against God in favor of Egyptian gods).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Kingdom of God and the Already - Not-Yet Tension

In thinking about the Kingdom of God, there is an apparent and necessary tension between the Kingdom having come with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom to come when He returns.  Below is a series of verses that show the tension.  Afterwards is a very brief discussion of why this tension must be maintained.

The Kingdom has already come:
Luke 17:20-21: “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”
So, when Jesus came to the earth, it was right for Him to tell others wherever He is, the Kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom is yet to come:
Luke 21:25-31: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.  On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity...Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
However, until Jesus returns a second time, the kingdom of God has not yet come in its fullness.  Thus, it is right for Jesus to say that even as the signs of the end times begin to unfold, the Kingdom of God has not yet come,  but is near.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Born in Zion

One of the Sons of Korah sang a song now recorded for its powerful and shocking refrain, "Glorious things are said of you, city of God: 'I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me - Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush - and will say, "This one was born in Zion,"'" (Ps 87:3-4).

Here is a beautiful and remarkable prophecy of God's future adoption of children from all nations, including those historically opposed to God and God's people like Babylon, Philistia and Cush (Egypt). Imagine the shock of an Israelite hearing God say He would rewrite the birth certificate of a Babylonian as if he were "born in Zion," the city of God. The redone birth certificate symbolizes the new life in Jesus Christ through faith for the forgiveness of sins. Paul explained it this way, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor 5:17). The shock of "anyone" in Paul's day was that the previously accepted barriers of foreign pagans had been broken down and torn in two by the shed blood of Christ. Anyone - Jewish, Samaritan, Greek, Roman, or Barbarian - could receive forgiveness for their sin through faith in Christ Jesus, and have their eternal birth certificates signed that they were born again in the City of God. Knowing that at the time my ancestors were on a far away island to the west, among the "barbarians", I praise God that His grace extended over mountains and across cultures. It is by His Sovereign Grace that I know my heavenly birth certificate says by my name, "This one was born in Zion."

Give Me an Undivided Heart

In Psalm 86:11, David prayed, "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."

God made all things and owns all things. As owner, He has full rights to rule over everything and everyone and to evaluate the actions of all of the creatures He owns (including me). His rule and evaluation extend both deep and wide. In width over all existence. In depth over my actions, my words, my thoughts, and even my nature. David, rather than rebelling against God's control of his own heart, relished the thought and asked that the Sovereign Lord gracious grant him an undivided heart so that he might fear God alone and not men. Naturally, no man from his sinful heart chooses God. It takes God's mighty and tender hand to soften our naturally stony hearts, so that we will want to trust and follow him. That is why Jesus said to Nicodemus "No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again," (John 3:3). Instead of objecting against God's rightful role as King and Judge, we ought to come humbly to our good and gracious King, asking to be granted a heart to know and love Him fully. God through your indwelling Holy Spirit illuminate in my mind your words, reveal my false thinking, and convict me to repent. In my heart make your words precious to me, reveal my sinful desires, and convict me to repent. Take hold of my will until I submit to you wholly and joyfully. I love you Lord.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The King's Banquet

During this week around 2,000 years ago in Palestine, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and began teaching quite openly about the kingdom of God or heaven.  More particularly, Jesus taught on who and how to enter the kingdom of heaven, and his teaching encouraged the poor and downcast and unnerved the religious leaders.  One of his public speeches included a parable about a king giving a wedding feast for his servant.  In Matthew 22:1-14, his audience included both followers and opponents, as well as a general crowd made up of curious Jews.  In the parable the kingdom of heaven is compared to a feast that is ready to be attended and enjoyed.  However, the guests not only rejected the invitation summons, they beat and killed the king's messengers.  Thus, the king sent the messengers to all the commoners that could be found to fill his hall with guests. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Becoming an Israelite Secret Agent

Read: Joshua 2
Background: When the Israelites first prepared to enter the land of Canaan, promised to them by the LORD God, Moses sent 12 spies into the land to map it out, determine the best routes for invasion, and bring back some of the fruit of the land to encourage the people (Num 13).  The men chosen to spy out the land were leaders, men of courage and cunning, some of the best in Israel, including Caleb from Judah and Joshua from Ephraim.  After forty successful days of spying out the land, the expedition of secret agents returned. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Be Strong and Courageous

When the Israelites were about to say goodbye to Moses before he died, and about to have a second opportunity to enter the promised land of Canaan, God and Moses spoke to them and particularly to Joshua to tell him to face the difficult road ahead with strength and courage.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weakness, Temptation, and Sin

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin," (Heb 4:15).

Have you ever taken the time when reading a familiar verse like this to slow down long enough to marvel and to learn?  I am convicted that many times I read so fast I am not opening my heart and mind to the Spirit's work.  From a passage like this, He pricked my mind to wonder, "what is the relationship between weakness, temptation, and sin?".  What follows is a bit raw, but I hope both candid and helpful.  Men, this one is aimed at us.  Women, if you read it, please pray about how to help your husbands and/or Christian men fight temptation.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Leaving Egypt

Does life ever feel like a tough journey through a desert?  Biblically, the Israelites' 40-year journey through the wilderness provides a rich analogy for the kind of life to which a Christian is called.  John Bunyan employed the image vividly in Pilgrim's Progress, a book he wrote while in jail making an allegory of the Christian life's journey from salvation to the gates of Heaven.  What if the Christian life is like a journey leaving Egypt, the Country of Sin, walking through the Desert of Life, and coming home to the Promised Land of Heaven with Jesus?  The link below is a brief sketch of what the allegory played out might be like: Click Here.

Thank you to Dr. Peter Gentry for teaching me that it is easier to get the Israelites out of Egypt than it is to get the Egypt out of the Israelites.  Thank you, too, to Pastor Bill Winton for teaching me that far too many times Christians try to return to Sin Town.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Become Human?

God the Father sent God the Son to be born as a human child.  The Son left the beauty and splendor of heaven for the harshness and danger of earth.  Why would God the Father subject Jesus, His Son to pain and suffering?  How does the humanity of Christ affect my daily life and my eternity?  These questions led to the attached article "Becoming Human to Kill Death by Death."

It is based on Hebrews 2:14, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Accountability Partners for True Friendship

What does having a true friendship look like?  Or, to ask it another way, how do you know when you have a really solid friendship?  Also, what picture does the Bible paint of true friendship?  These questions led me to some self-analysis and personal Bible study.  The product is a conviction that God intends to bless men and women with true friendships that are based on wanting God's best for each other.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Meditation on Psalm 5

"In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly...I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple," (Ps 5:3,7).

First thing in the morning, getting up early even, is a wonderful time to delight in God.  I enjoy getting somewhere quiet so that I can relish the words of His Scriptures and meditate on Him and His character as His stories unfold.  Abram believed God's promise for an heir and then numerous descendants, and despite Abram's many flaws, God credited that belief to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6).  To think on God's goodness is to mentally explore the perfections of the Almighty played out in Scripture.  God credited righteousness to Abram based on his faith.  He believed God so he acted accordingly, eventually impregnating his aged wife and bearing the promised son, Isaac.  This is but one passage, and the passage on which I meditated this morning.  My whole day is greatly affected by being with God, reading about Him, listening to Him, and talking to Him.