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Monday, December 28, 2009

Simeon's Song

Then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart In peace, according to Thy word; For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32 (NASB)

Forty days after Mary’s purification from giving birth was complete Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer a purification and sin offering as required by the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:1-8). In the course of completing this obligation to the Law the parents of Jesus met a remarkable man there in the Temple. His name was Simeon. He was a devout Jew and a man on whom the Holy Spirit continually rested. The Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die before he saw God’s promised redeemer and the consolation of Israel. On this particular day the Spirit led Simeon to be at the Temple at the exact moment Mary and Joseph arrived to fulfill their duty to the Law.

I’m sure there was more than one couple in the Temple that day to present their male child to the Lord. Specifically, the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon the Promised One as Mary and Joseph entered with their precious bundle. Simeon’s delight must have been obvious for Mary willingly let him take the Christ Child in his arms. God’s word was once again proved faithful and true. Simeon gave beautiful words of praise and rejoiced in the goodness of the baby’s Heavenly Father. Israel and the entire world had received the comfort it so deeply needed and desired.

Simeon never lost hope the Holy Spirit would let him see the promised Messiah. That promise was fulfilled that day in the Temple. It thrills me how the Person of Jesus Christ continues to bring hope and joy to millions even to this day. It is so easily understood that a Kindergartner can grasp it, yet so complex biblical scholars scratch their heads at the concept. While we cannot hold the Child in our arms we can hold the Man Christ Jesus in our hearts. Simeon’s song of praise is sung among the believing peoples of the earth every second of every day and I know our Heavenly Father is pleased. He is the comfort and glory of Israel and a Light of revelation to the Gentiles. I can sit down with a child and sing Jesus loves me this I know without shame and in my alone time be brought to tears, speechless with glorious awe as I consider what He means to me. Jesus loves me this I know. Now it is possible to be lifted into His arms and blessed and called His child. He sings over us with joy.


Monday, December 21, 2009

First Light

A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel (Luke 2:32). (New American Standard Bible)

As I grow older I am finding I love lots of light. It is such a relief to turn on a light in a dark place when I don’t know what is in front of me. Light overcomes darkness and where there is light darkness cannot smother it. Sailors say that on a calm night at sea a simple lighted match can be seen up to a distance of five miles away. The Gospel story is a story blazing with the light of hope and revelation.

All people on our planet are included in the light of God’s redemption. The good news is that God decided a long time ago to redeem a fallen race. He sent His only Begotten Son to us as one of us, to restore a broken relationship with Him. This is the story on our minds this week as we approach Christmas. The Mighty God, the All Powerful God who did not need to veiled His glory and became one of us because He loved us so deeply. That little innocent child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger was the first tiny light on the darkened sea of humanity. It drew the shepherds to it. That light would ignite the entire world becoming a witness to all and a beacon to those looking for a safe harbor. There are no favorites in God’s home, only beloved children, Jew and Gentile believers, who are esteemed and honored as heirs to the family name. It is the greatest story ever to be told and the star that led those wise men to that child is just the first page and the Christ Child is its first light.


Monday, December 14, 2009

By a Nose

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9 (New American Standard Bible)

Have you ever really listened to how dysfunctional the words of the song “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” are? Rudolf didn’t do what the other reindeer did plus he had a shiney red nose. The other reindeer made fun of him and ostracized him from their group. Their affection and care were not based on the natural and living worth of the red nosed reindeer but was withheld because it was based solely on performance. We all know the story. Suddenly one foggy night Rudolf’s lighted nose helped Santa and the reindeer deliver Christmas. Then how the reindeer loved him. Based only on Rudolf’s performance was he accepted by the other reindeer. He was only as good as he could perform. If the fog hadn’t socked the North Pole in ol’ Rudolf would still be sleeping in the corner of the barn.

I cringed the first time I realized the strong message of conditional acceptance that song conveyed. It sounded a lot like how I can be. Those who know me best know I certainly can be particular in how I give my total acceptance. I wish I could say I don’t struggle with this tendency. But I do-constantly. Jesus was always grinding the Pharisees for that attitude. A “sinner” was someone who didn’t act in the spirituality of one of the religious elite. In the eyes of a Pharisee someone of a lower spiritual class did nor even merit touch. Look at how Simon the Pharisee judged Jesus when a woman considered a “sinner” anointed The Lord’s feet with her tears and costly perfume (Luke 7:39). I can be magnanimous with some people’s sin. In fact in my high-mindedness I can be so filled with pride that I will actually gloat over how spiritual I am. Until someone comes along with a problem I consider a real sin. I think the Lord loves tossing these situations through my houses of glass to shatter my ugly conceit.

Jesus was always showing Himself to be the center of loving activity among those thought to be hopeless and totally lost. Think what most of us would tell that woman taken in adultery in John 8. You know you really are a whore and you’re only suffering the consequences of your choices. Now get Christ in your life and start going to church. That’s a 2 line sermon that in that kind of circumstance most of us couldn’t resist preaching. The grace of God said, “I do not condemn you either, go and sin no more.” Thank God He doesn’t look upon us with conditional acceptance. We’d all be in the corner with Rudolf. Grace. It is a concept that is hard to get our minds and hearts around. It is acceptance and merit that are undeserved even through our mistakes and omissions. Let them who have eyes to see and ears to hear learn this lesson. No shiny noses required.


Monday, December 7, 2009


Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Psalms 96:2 (New American Standard Bible)

We have come into the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to our celebration of the birth of Christ. This is a festive time and one of good cheer. We celebrate with family dinners, church and office pot lucks, decorating our homes with holiday garland, decorated trees, lights on the house and within, and the giving of gifts. It is not only a time of fun and remembrance but a time to reflect on the meaning of God’s greatest gift to humankind, the gift of His Son.
We ponder just what kind of a Being would give so deeply of Himself to redeem a horribly sinful and rebellious race as we humans. It can bring to us a deep sense of wonder and awe. No other god in any religious belief has done this. Any religious being who has even come close to doing this for us has only sacrificed himself and never risen from the dead in all Power, Authority and Honor as has our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Psalmist writes, “All the gods of the nations are idols” (96:5).

This story is astounding in its notion, rich in its concept and fully stunning in its completion. It is entirely life changing in its power. Jehovah God became a flesh and blood human and walked among us, tasting of life as we know it, experiencing every aspect of dirt, dust, heat, cold, and sorrow from birth to death to triumph from the grave. How perfect is it to have another human being representing our case to the Father over an angel or other spirit being? Astounding doesn’t even begin to explain it. Being 100% God and 100% man He fully understands us.

During this time it is often said “Tis the season to be jolly.” As we consider what God has done for us it is also a season to rejoice. This is indeed tidings of great joy to the entire world. So rejoice; take heart and be glad for this child given to us has become our salvation, bringing us from darkness into glorious light. He has broken all our chains and opened the doors of our prisons and poured out on us the present of God’s love to those who call upon the name of Jesus. It is truly a time of laughter and light for those who believe on Him. Light is sown like seed for the righteous, And gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the Lord you righteous ones; And give thanks to His holy name (Psalm 97:2).


Monday, November 30, 2009

Walking Works of Art

For we are His workmanship, created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (New American Standard Bible)

Do you believe you are a work of art? It helps to understand exactly where the word ‘workmanship’ comes from. It is taken from the Greek word poiema (poy-ay-mah). It is the root word from which we get our English word ‘poem.’ You are His work of art; His beautiful love poem. How does that make you feel knowing the Creator of the universe has made such a stunning statement about you in Christ? How lovely you are to Him.

But even though our beauty outshines the stars we weren’t meant to just stand around and look pretty. Our spiritual light was made to glow within a shadowy world. Christ has not only created us as His very own masterpiece but He has given us the power to do good works through Him; good works He has created beforehand for us to walk in. People enjoy things of beauty and when they see the beauty of the risen Christ in us they are touched and influenced, whether they admit it or not. Ever have someone say to you, “Man, there’s just something different about you”? People are reading us all the time and most people love a good story.

You are God’s beautiful poem to a curious world and one that even a child can read with great depth and understanding. It’s a splendor for ashes story that cannot be rivaled by any other dimension or idea. You are such a beautiful masterpiece created by Christ Himself to walk in good works. There is so much ugliness in the world that when something of rare beauty comes along it stands out like a sparkling diamond on black velvet. Christ can make torn and damaged pages into beautiful poems that tell of old lives becoming new creations in Him. When God wants to display His very best He opens our pages to a world starved for the beauty of His Spirit. In Christ you are indeed a thing of rare beauty. You are His workmanship; a page redeemed from ruin and decay to a poem written in gold for the entire world to see.


Monday, November 23, 2009

What He Did and What He'll Do

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. Revelation 21: 3, 4 (New American Standard Bible)

Did you ever notice how there is a Christian emphasis on the redemptive work Christ did on the cross and not much is said about what is in store for us in eternity? The account of our redemption is a marvelous story; one crowned by the glorious resurrection of Christ Jesus from death and the grave. However as beautiful as that story is it is only the beginning for us Saints. In doing a recent series for our church youth on the End Times I again had a chance to once again sift through the rest of the story; a story that touches on total redemption. Not only will our souls and bodies be redeemed but there will be redemption of the entire universe (Revelation 21:1). When Christ comes the second time with all honor, glory and power we Saints who return with Him will have already been translated into resurrection bodies, immortal and completely geared for living in an eternal environment. Our new and eternal bodies, instantly received when we are taken up in the harpazo, the translation of the believers to heaven, will be patterned after Christ’s own glorious resurrection body. Of that the Apostle John says we are the children of God and shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1st John 3:1, 2). And again the Apostle Paul says Jesus Christ will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21). Our glorified bodies will be undying bodies of flesh easily recognized by one another and made to withstand the rigors of standing before the throne of God and even exploring the universe.

Unlike our bodies now, our glorified bodies will not be weak of frail. They will be imbued with great power and glory while remaining corporeal and substantial. They will never age, be sick or die. As our pattern Jesus gave us brief insights into what a resurrected body could do. There are many strange qualities which He demonstrated which are difficult to reconcile to a body like His. For instance He was able to vanish and reappear at will (Luke 24:31). He was not limited to space or time and could teleport Himself wherever He wished as He wished. This was demonstrated when He ascended to heaven (Acts 1). He could handle objects (Luke 24:30). He could eat food even though He no longer needed to (24:43).

And then He puts the icing on the cake as He throws in a high end residence for us. He told His disciples He was going to the Father to prepare a place for those who believe in Him, adding if He went away He would return again to receive us to Himself so that where He is we could be too (John 14:3). The City of God comes down from heaven; it is the city in which the Saints will have a seat forever. Within the city are the very Throne of God and the Lamb. A crystal clear river flows out of the Throne and down the main Blvd of this heavenly metropolis where the tree of life will bear 1 full crop of fruit every month. Its leaves will be for the well being of the nations. There will be no need for the light of the sun, moon or stars for the Lord will be its light and He will light the nations. There will be no Temple there as the Lord will be the Temple and kings will bring their glory into the city. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? It must as the Lord has to remind us twice these things are faithful and true (Revelation 21:5, 22:6). He will dry our tears, stop our pain and our crying and end death and all mourning. Our Heavenly Father has indeed given us redemption from our sins and because of that we are encouraged and ever grateful. He holds within His power great gifts which He will lavish upon us with fondest delight, even as a parent does for a child on Christmas morning. We have believed in God and in His Son (John 14:1). Because of that we can be excited and sure He has readied eternity for us and the best is yet to come.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Like the Stars

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1 (NIV)

In a time of fear and discouragement Abram received deep comfort and encouragement from the Lord of Heaven. Abram and his wife, Sarai, were childless and were greatly advanced in years, well beyond the normal ages for bearing children. It looked like the line of Abram would end with him and there would be no male heir to carry on the family name. Not only did God tell Abram not to be afraid He promised him a great blessing. In her old age Sarai would bear Abram’s son. To put the finishing touch on the promise the Lord took Abram outside his tent into the night and told him to look up at the stars and count them if he was able (15:5). Imagine in that time without all the earth’s light pollution just how the nighttime sky must have blazed in its fullest glory with millions of stars, the dazzling stars proclaiming the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). This son God was going to give Abram and Sarai would have a family line that would be as numerous as those millions of sparkling points of light above him. I can imagine that in the quiet of that night contemplating God’s promise and those stars that Abram must have been nearly overcome to tears.

God does not change. In the 4000 years since Abram stood outside that tent and gazed up at that beautiful nighttime sky the earth and its people have changed a lot but God has remained the same. His Holy Character, Attributes and Power are as great and spanking new as they were then. He is as interested in you and I now as He was in Abram way back when humanity was young. Are you waiting for a promise? Waiting sometimes is the hardest part. Abram waited longer than any person who wanted to be a father had to wait but still he believed the Lord and it was accounted unto him as righteousness (James 2:23).

You are as precious to the Lord as righteous Abram was. You may be working through your long wait with no expectation that a spiritual promise will be fulfilled. The Lord has not changed in the last 4000 years or even a speck in eternity past. He is the same yesterday, today and yes, forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is our shield and very great reward. His compassions and mercies never fail. He is not a God who just offers us the moon. Because He is our shield and our very great reward He gives us the stars.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Like a Boomerang Only Better

So shall my word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11 (New American Standard Bible)

What do you do as a parent when you want your kid to live in the City of God and they consider it the City of Snoresville? The things of God are a justifiable aim to them but just not something they want to take a shot at just now. The greatest heartache any parent can have is to watch a child make choices that will bring them nasty consequences. For us experience and insight make 20/20 hindsight guaranteed and from that we can pretty much know when they are heading down the track toward the 5:14 from Toledo.

But it isn’t a lost cause. They’re hearing, even if it seems like they aren’t listening. And they’re watching even if it seems like they’re glued to their cell phones. The word of God is so powerful that it is compared to a razor sharp two-edged sword that pierces the division of the soul and spirit, ably judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). That word and example when it is thrown out, like a boomerang, will go out in all its power and begin to come around again.

We can only count on the faithfulness of the Lord to apply His word to the hearts of our children as He judges their receptivity. Sometimes it takes what seems a short time and for others its years of the 2000 yard stare. That sword never loses it edge and it continues to work even when it looks like the Lord is choppin’ and no chips are flyin’. The Lord is faithful in His work and we don’t know the last thoughts our kids think before they close their eyes at night. Perhaps there are thoughts of wonder or even surrender. God’s sword is a work in progress for us all and like a boomerang it faithfully returns and accomplishes everything He desires.


Monday, November 2, 2009

An Independent Service Provider

Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. John 13:16 (New American Standard Bible)

Slaves and servants are both expected to do what they are commanded with no back talk, argument or debate. I am not always a good bond servant. I have holding me back from total faithful service a national American mindset of personal independence and a nature that is both fallen and more than ready to demand my own rights.

I find it is helpful for me to share some of my struggles in this area. Many of us share it equally so hopefully my sharing might serve as a source of encouragement in helping others see they are not alone in this. This week I clashed with my Master in my role as a bond servant. Many of you know I manage the facilities at my church and have for the past 12 or so years. Over the years one of my pet peeves is people using chairs and not stacking them after they are done with them. Stacking them against the wall helps make cleaning the carpets easier. I’m hesitant to mention this as some may think I’m pointing fingers but I’m not. The only thing I’m pointing out is my encounter with my Master this week when I felt the need to exercise my “rights” as an Independent Service Provider. Upon beginning my week’s cleaning the first room I encountered had unstacked chairs sitting on the floor. I and our Kidz Zone Director are constantly asking Sunday School teachers to stack the chairs in their class rooms at the end of their hour. This particular day my patience had worn thin. In my righteous indignation I said to myself, “OK, if the chairs are down I can’t clean the carpet. Tough. So I’ll just move on to the next room.” Well I’d not gone five feet when an inner voice said to me, “You say you’re my bond servant, Ken. Don’t you know a servant does whatever he is commanded? You cannot be selective in your obedience for a servant has no right to refuse any commands that aren’t well-liked. A servant serves the one who commands him. You may think you're cleaning this church for the people but you are cleaning it for Me your Master.” I returned and stacked those chairs and even did a little extra cleaning for that particular room not to my own credit but to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

I don’t know if any of you ever deal with that but I do all too often. My “rights” are particularly dear to me and when I feel they are being trampled on it can really make me itch. But a lord never makes suggestions to a servant but instructs and, yes, even commands that his will be done. How can I call Him Lord and not do what He tells me? Can I be a true bond servant when I say “Sorry Lord, I’m not willing to follow that command”? When coming to the point of true servanthood I can only understand I am not my own. As a true servant I cannot be selective in completing all I am called to do. As the Lord commands me so must I obey in every circumstance. It comes down to a matter of the heart. After all, does a servant
do whatever his Lord tells him or file a 1099 as an Independent Service Provider?


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Well Done or Extra Crispy?

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know of what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:54-56 (New American Standard Bible)

Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, my zeal for the Lord surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees. It’s as though I’ve been drinking directly from the nozzle of a spiritual espresso machine. I’m primed and ready to call fire down from heaven on anyone and anything I believe is disrespecting the sanctity of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

My devotion to tradition and my own pride is the poorest reason to want to see others taken to task for their sins. Yet in my own eyes my personal indignation is the most righteous and pure. And whose righteous indignation is not the best? James and John were of a people whose righteous indignation and, at times, outright hatred of a neighboring region, Samaria, was always near the surface. It could bubble up like stinky sulfur without much provocation. Jews in this time were extremely antagonistic of Samaritans and the dislike was mutual. Calling fire down on them was not so much to avenge the slight upon the honor of God but due to prejudicial feelings of James and John. I can tend toward being like that too. I could think of a bunch of people I’d like God to turn into crispy critters. Jesus surely didn’t see it that way. As Deity Incarnate, He had every right and the personal power to call fire down upon those surly Samaritans who had insulted Very God of Very God. But He had not come to kill but to save.

Jesus didn’t try to reason with James and John but instantly give a warning to them for their insensitive and uncompassionate spirit they had allowed themselves to go into. I’m glad He will do the same with me when I am inclined to pray down fire and brimstone on an unbelieving world. But being stopped and rebuked really isn’t enough. What I long to see is a spiritual renovation of my heart. It is far better He would make me the kind of person who would automatically want to use oil to bind and heal wounds and not to boil scoffers in. How else would we expect sinners to act except to act like those out of fellowship with Christ? Is grace too weak and inept to have any effect? Thousands come to a saving knowledge of Him everyday all over the world. What if someone had burned them down the day before they became believers? Is anyone so lost in their sin that Christ’s death and resurrection can’t change them? Even those with an agenda so obviously opposed to the works and righteousness of God? If God can extend such amazing grace to an unbelieving world then I can work to understand what that looks like and practice that part of His presence. Lord Jesus help us when we want to call down fire on those who hate You. When trying to decide between Regular or Extra Crispy let us pray that we’ll choose grace, patience, prayer and to deal righteously instead. In that Lord you will only say “Well done.”


Monday, October 19, 2009

What if He Doesn't?

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:17, 18 (NASB)

OK, I have to admit it, I like to praise God when things work out like I hope but it’s the sound of crickets when He decides to work in a way that wasn’t in my idea of how things ought to conclude. Even if most of us don’t say it aloud when God doesn't do it the way we think He should most of us think “Man, I wouldn’t have done it that way. What’s wrong with you Lord? Didn't you see my way was better?”

Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego were three Israelite slaves who served in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Though living in a foreign land where foreign gods were worshipped these three young men had dedicated themselves to serving only the One True and Living God. When commanded to worship another god they immediately said the answer was something they didn’t even need to think through. They would worship no other one than the God Yahweh and even if He didn’t keep them from being consumed in this Babylonian crematorium they would still not bow to the king’s idol.

So what about today? What if God’s decision for us is to face the fire and be physically consumed or left with a situation in life that is less than desirable? What if He doesn’t heal that brain tumor, or that cancer, or make that miserable job better or changes that mate into the person we crave? Does that mean He is any less loving or any less perfect in His choices for us? Would we, like these three children of Israel, put our complete faith into His choice for us and trust that through the fire He has a plan in it somewhere that benefits me? If He had not saved those 3 boys physically then there would have been a plan and direction for their deaths that would have glorified Him in some way and they would have been safe in the place He would have brought their souls. For myself praise is a two-way street that a lot of times leave me standing at the corner of ‘What I Want’ and ‘What God Knows is Best.’ Deciding to head down the street called ‘What God Knows is Best’ and trusting in that outcome is something that many times after the fact brings great understanding why the best choice was for me to endure the flames. I don’t need to like it but God does want me to grow through it. God is good and He is perfect in His choices all the time, not just when He pulls me out of the fire.


Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm Not Afraid of God

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

I was once rebuked by another Christian when I mentioned the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” The man had been a Christian for only a few years and didn’t understand what the meaning of the phrase really meant. I explained to him the word ‘fear’ meant a very deep and holy reverence and did not convey that we needed to be afraid of God’s punishment. Still, this gentleman was very offended at the word saying it conveyed to him a father of wrath who was ever willing to punish His children first and ask questions later.

I really couldn’t blame this brother for his feelings. I’d wrestled with that understanding for years. He wasn’t the God of love and grace to me but the short-tempered Parent-in-the-Sky that always had his Cosmic Club ready to pound me if I slipped up just a smidgen. I think many of us have been there or are currently struggling with that concept. We were taught early on an unbalanced view of any kind of correction as punishment, the kind that was given to control rather than to give instruction and teach correction. This certainly isn’t what is meant by the “fear of the Lord.” He wants us to know His complete and rounded character.

When things are balanced nothing gets broken. The concept of a great and fearfully working God is a real one but fortunately it isn’t the only one. Yes, He can show wrath upon wickedness but His being and attributes are beautifully counterbalanced by His perfectly gracious and merciful character. His great and awesome holy power should cause us to have deep awe and reverence of His Being. Even angels before His throne cover their faces and their feet as they fly before Him and cry holy to one another (Isaiah 6:2). They aren’t afraid of Him but reverence His Being. There is no one else in the entire universe like Him. He is so awesome and holy in His Being that only He has the right to require He be worshipped. I’m not mad at God and neither am I afraid of Him. I truly reverence His wonderful and breathtaking Being. That is the beginning of a wise relationship with the Ancient of Days. Blessed be His Holy Name forever.


Monday, October 5, 2009

When God Reins

“Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all.” 1st Chronicles 29:11(NASB)

It was a perfect California evening. I went out for a walk one evening in a neighborhood I lived in back in the 1980s. The sun had set and the twilight was softening the shadows. There was a nice smell to the evening air as I walked, lost in thought. I’d taken this route numerous times with no difficulties. As I walked around a corner and headed up a street toward my house I noted a large black Rough Collie (bigger than Lassie) I’d not seen before sitting in an open garage watching my approach along the sidewalk. It waited until I was directly in front of the driveway and lunged snarling down the driveway toward me. All I saw was a 70 pound mass of black fur coming at me. The animal moved so quickly that all I could do was turn and face my attacker and hope I could keep from being mauled to badly. It took that big dog about 2 seconds to get within jumping range of me then it reared up, continuing to snarl but standing on its hind legs. The animal was on a 12 foot chain and had reached its limit and could go no further. When it saw I wasn’t about to run it stopped growling and went to all fours and stared at me. I’d not ever seen any animal give a “gotcha” look but that dog gave me one. I was visibly shaken as I turned to walk on. At one point I glanced over my shoulder to see what the dog was doing and it had trotted back up to the garage to await its next “victim.”

Satan is a lot like that. He works by intimidation and fear making you think he has more power and clout than he does but, like that collie, God has him on a very short leash. While as a created spiritual being he does have a lot more power than any human he’s no match for the Son of Man. He can growl and threaten all he wants but Christ’s restraining supremacy reins him in. There is ultimate power in the Name of Jesus and many of us have experienced it firsthand.

Satan uses situations and other people to try and gain victory over God’s people. Sometimes it seems like victory is a sure thing for him but if you wait long enough you can see him drawn up at the end of the line as God reins him in causing those he sends against us to fail. That big, black collie scared the daylights out of me on that calm evening and Satan works the same way-through dread and harassment. But when it comes to the restraining power of the Living God it is evident, like that big old black dog, Satan's bark is a lot worse than his bite. All praise to the God of heaven who upholds us with the right hand of His righteousness (Isaiah 41:10).


Monday, September 28, 2009

I've Got You Covered

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not approach you. Psalms 91:6, 7 (NASB)

I really like stories about how God delivers people from drastic circumstances and even death. What is more exciting than reading about it is hearing a firsthand account from someone who experienced God’s protecting power. Nick Choco (sounds like choe-koe) a pastor of mine when I was a teenager, had been a Navy Medical Corpsman during the Korean War. Navy corpsmen were used as combat medics in Marine Corps divisions and a young Nick Choco was attached to the 1st Marine Division. At that time he was a 20 year old from New Castle, Pennsylvania and a committed Christian. Pastor used to briefly mention from the pulpit incidences he had experienced in going to injured Marines under fire and how God protected him. He mentioned one time from the pulpit that a Navy corpsman couldn’t stay under cover when a wounded Marine yelled “Corpsman!” but had to go to the man and give medical aid, even if bullets were flying. After one service I stopped him outside and asked, “Pastor Choco, were you ever wounded when you put yourself out in the open to help a marine?” He thought a moment and said, “No, but I came close.” He paused as his eyes got a faraway look. “I do recall one time I went to a wounded marine by a tree. While I was working on him Chinese machine gun bullets were tearing into that tree next to me.” His eyes got really big as he thought of it and he finally said, “Whew, that tree was being torn apart by that machine gun…thinking back on that I ought to be dead but I didn’t get a scratch. God’s hand was covering me that day.”

I believe it’s good to read and hear stories like this. A lot of Christians say miracles were only for the Old and New Testaments. But I’ve always tended to choke on that bone as I have personally experienced God’s miraculous power working in my own life and in the lives of those around me; Mighty Power that has no equal. That power is given to each of us individually to meet that individual need we are facing. Perhaps it isn’t always in the physical realm as it was for Medical Corpsman Nick Choco but in a wonderfully tender and emotional keeping that puts us at rest and builds our faith and trust in Him. He works for us in the smoke and noise and when His voice speaks to us in quiet reassurance. His keeping power is constant and capable. In any condition and situation His word to us is, "Don't worry, I've got you covered."


Monday, September 21, 2009

Just Plain Scary

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time now and forever. Amen. Jude 25 (New American Standard Bible)

We’re a couple of days away from the first day of autumn and this past weekend I put my fall decorations in the front yard. One of them is a happy looking inflatable harvest scarecrow. When my 2½ year old granddaughter, Elizabeth, saw him she immediately buried her face in her mama’s shoulder saying she was afraid of him. We immediately took her out of the area and soothed her but when she and her mom left my house Elizabeth said, “Good bye Pawpaw,” and looking at the scarecrow said “Good bye Scary.”

Now you know as well as I my harvest scarecrow is purely decorative fun and is no threat to anyone or anything. But even though I am an adult I believe that, like Elizabeth, I sometimes see things outside of their proper context as looming horrors that will do me under.

Christ as my protector probably takes these incidences with a smile, much as I saw Elizabeth’s fear of this inanimate object. All I needed to do to handle this situation was to simply pull the plug on Elizabeth’s specter and he would have been immediately subdued. How hard is it for God to do the same for my own specters? Is He not the God of all power and authority? As the God who measures the universe with the span of His hand can’t He work through any problem I encounter? In an effort not to make light of people’s problems I do believe that the Living God sees any problem we encounter as simple and easily taken care of as Elizabeth’s. What may seem like a Scary the Scarecrow may in fact be to the Lord a problem just filled with air and His answer may be as simple as pulling a plug. He says of Himself “Behold, I am the God of all flesh; is there anything too difficult for me (Jeremiah 32:27)?” Jesus was right when He said in this world we would have troubles (John 16:33). It’s true and at times I’m hiding my face in the shoulder of the Father crying “Scary.” But in His sure way He smiles at my troubles knowing they can be as easily handled as a harvest scarecrow. Now that’s the greatest comfort. In fact that isn’t scary at all.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Is it Really too Good to be True?

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5 (New American Standard Bible)

If I didn’t trust in the final work of Christ the reports I see of the world would lead me to despair. Things are bad enough already for me to have a continuing rock in the stomach and a knot as large as a pineapple between my shoulder blades. Tension might be relieved somewhat if things showed a tendency toward getting better, but alas the news I see seems to continue to grow more evil and darkness hovers over the earth like a funeral shroud. So how will it all end for us and how will we know what is going to happen?

The truth of it is God doesn’t want to leave us in the dark. For hundreds of years He worked through the prophets of Israel identifying things that would be happening in the future. Jesus continued unveiling the plan to His disciples when He spoke of the signs that would be happening in the world before His Second Coming. Many of the Biblical prophecies have been fulfilled and some are yet to happen. The final state of affairs ends in the Revelation of Jesus Christ when the earth and heavens as we know them will be fully redeemed and made new. What a glorious hope. At that time the tabernacle of God will dwell among us and we shall be His people. The curse will be lifted from animals and mankind alike. The strong will no longer prey upon the weak, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, there will be no more mourning or crying or, pain. As the old heavens and earth melt with fervent heat new heavens and a new earth will be created. Old things will be forgotten never to be remembered again (Isaiah 65:17). There will be no “Hey, do you remember back on earth when we did…” The old things will be gone replaced by eternal life in a completely pure mind and dimension.

It does all seem too good to be true which leads God to reassure us again that these things to come are faithful and true. In today’s world if it seems to be too good to be true it usually is. Not so at the end for believers in Christ. What we see now won’t even be a shadow of things that were. Those things will be gone and forgotten as the universe is made beautifully new and perfect by the One who holds all things together by the might of His power (Colossians 1:17). The hope is in Jesus the Anointed One of God who is the First and the Last. If it sounds too good to be true this time it will be. Christ is accurate, reliable and exact in His knowledge and power to do it. He is constant, unfailing and certain in His promises to fulfill it. Is it only too good to be true? It is beyond that for it is Faithful and True.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Power of the Rod

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (New American Standard Version)

Do you know what a shepherd’s rod is or what it’s for? I quoted today’s verse for years with no idea what I was talking about. When I did finally learn what it means for a shepherd to carry a rod I came to a whole new appreciation and respect for the care and courage of the shepherd. A rod is a weapon of protection for the sheep. Shepherds in the Middle East and Africa still carry them. A rod is a short club that is crafted from a young sapling and cut to fit the hand of the shepherd. After the shepherd finishes making the rod he practices throwing it until he perfects his aim against any predator that may threaten the sheep. A rod in the hand of a good shepherd becomes not only a weapon of protection but also a symbol of power and authority in defense of the flock. The sheep of his care rest easy in the nearness of a good shepherd knowing that remaining near him means he will not hesitate to protect them in any frightening valley or from any lurking shadow. The staff is a sign of guidance, supervision and even fondness. Sometimes a shepherd will walk beside his favorite sheep allowing his staff to rest upon the back of the beloved one in a sign of affection.

When I’ve walked through my own personal valleys it was sometimes difficult to know that I was under the guarded eye of the Good Shepherd. But when I came out of the valley of the shadows into the light it was both a surprise and great comfort to see Him walking beside me with His rod in one hand and His staff resting upon my back. Not only was He guarding me He was holding me in the highest regard and affection. His protection isn’t a duty but a love. In any darkness you may find yourself today I encourage you that the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is right there in the dark places with you. May you be comforted knowing His rod is ready to protect and His staff to give guidance, fellowship and affection. His Authority given by the Father is His rod and His Loving Kindness to you is His staff. You can be comforted in the dark places and know He is really there with you. Where you are right now might be dark and scary but His watchful eye is upon you. His rod and His staff are ready to do their job. There is the greatest comfort in that.


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Last Word

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” John 18:38 (New American Standard Version)

The words Jesus spoke are the most profound any human has ever uttered. Why then did He say so little during His trial before His crucifixion? He was silent before Herod Antipas. When the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, later interrogated Jesus Pilate asked the rhetorical question, “What is truth?” It really wasn’t a question asked to gain insight but was asked in a spirit of distrust and skepticism. It is not recorded that Jesus said anything to him in reply. We can look at that momentary pause after Pilate put that question out and are surprised that Jesus said nothing. Imagine what He could have answered in that moment. He could have said something that would have knocked Pilate to the marble floor. He did it to the men who came to arrest Him with the simple words “I am He.” (John 18:6). But He made no defense to this Roman chief but only agreed He was indeed a king. Most of us would be looking to sing like canaries, to give a rapid defense and to have the last word. It isn’t that Jesus was powerless to do so. He told his disciples that if He wanted He could summon more than 12 legions of angels for help (Matthew 26:53). To give you an idea of what that might have looked like consider a fully equipped Roman division of infantry (a legion) consisted of about 6000 soldiers. Twelve legions would be 72,000 men. Now 1 angel went through the camp of the Assyrians and slew 185,000 of Israel’s enemies in one night (2nd Kings 19:35, Isaiah 37:36). Imagine what 12 legions of them released for war could have done to the earth in defense of the King of Glory. I truly believe Jesus was keenly aware that all He needed to do was speak the word and thousands of angels would immediately pour out of heaven on His behalf.

Why didn’t He do that? When He was brought before the disbelieving Jewish Council wouldn’t it have been grand if He’d proved without a shadow of a doubt that He was Israel’s long awaited Messiah by releasing His power before them and revealing the truth of who He really was? Instead the opposite happened. Jesus made no defense. As Isaiah foretold, as a sheep before its shearer is silent He didn’t open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). During the entire arrest, trial and execution of Jesus He didn’t strive to demonstrate the upper hand although He held it the entire time. At any moment He could have called on heaven to immediately get Him out of the situation. He simply chose not to. There was another motive He followed and that was obedience to the will of His Father to become the supreme sacrifice for all the sins of the human race. To those who arrested Him He said simply, “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” What He did that night in allowing His arrest was not by constraint, but by consent.

Jesus Christ could have had the last word but for your sake and mine He chose not to. He knew the shedding of His blood would bring the solution of total forgiveness for our sins. His silent obedience led Him to a cruel method of execution and the perfect sacrifice and the shedding of His innocent blood satisfied God’s wrath toward sin and sinners. But before He died on the cross His final sentence proclaimed the plan of God’s redemption as finally finished. Three days later the grave He’d been buried in came up empty with no practical explanation of how it was done under the noses of seasoned Roman troops guarding the tomb. He had been resurrected from the dead and in the ensuing days He was seen powerfully alive to hundreds. Considering the evidence of His living presence throughout the past 2000 years it is clear He will again have the opportunity for the Last Word and at that time He will not remain silent. The next time the King of Glory speaks it will be in His established eternal kingdom ruling in all Authority. There will be no doubt that as a man born in a lowly Middle Eastern town some 2,000 years ago He is now the Exalted King of Glory. His kingdom will be established in the highest and greatest glory the universe has ever seen or ever will. All because when He had every right to do so He chose not to seek the last word.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Tin Can Beach

And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. Colossians 2:13 (New American Standard Bible)

Growing up in southern California in the 1950s I got to spend a lot of time at the beaches along the coast. There was one beach that was called Tin Can Beach by the locals. The reason it was called that is it had received the trash, broken bottles, tin cans and other assorted debris over the years from people who went to spend a day at the seashore. The standard operating procedure for trash before Woodsy Owl’s “Give a hoot-don’t pollute” campaign was when you were done with it toss it on the ground (or the sand). Tin Can Beach was one of the filthiest public places I can recall ever seeing. As the new decade of the 1960s came in the City of Huntington Beach cared enough to clean up Tin Can. Over a few months all the trash and rusted tin cans were cleaned up and the beach was given a clean and manicured look. It even got a new name-Bolsa Chica State Beach. Imagine how shocked I was when I first saw the new face of this beach. It was clean. It was neat. As a teenager I spent a lot of hour’s enjoying the new beach forgetting how dirty it had been at one time.

I’ve been thinking about Tin Can and how dirty and messy it got through years of neglect. Standing on that stretch of shoreline we all thought it was beyond redemption and too far gone to be worth doing anything with. It would be forever a beach full of rusted tin cans. We were like that once and many people who saw us said “That guy (or gal) is too far gone and dirty for God to change.” Or the classic; “You need to clean up your act before God will consider being your friend.” Uh-huh, like Tin Can Beach could have cleaned itself up. If that had been the case it never would have happened. A lot like us. It took concerned and loving hands to clean up Tin Can and it took concerned and loving Hands to clean us up. We didn’t have to go to God first because He loved us first and approached us with the intent to clean up our soiled lives through His redemptive plan that involved His Son Jesus Christ. Tin Can Beach could not have gone to the city council and asked to be cleaned up. The city sought to restore this stretch of California shoreline. In the same way the initial offer of human restoration was made by God to us and not by us. What a glorious saga this story interweaves throughout the Old and New Testaments. For while we were as dirty and foul as Tin Can Beach Christ died for us (Romans 5:10).

It’s good to recall Tin Can at times. It was something that was dirtied beyond belief yet still loved and wanted. The thing about Tin Can is that after it was cleaned up and given a new name the City of Huntington Beach continues to keep it in a continual state of care. If people are willing to clean up such a mess and continue to care for it how much more is Christ willing to save us from our bad choices and by His power to keep us clean and sanctified? God saw us before we were born and knew what the condition of our own shoreline would be, yet He came to us in our dirtiest state because He first loved us and cleaned up our lives when we called on the name of Christ for help. Dirty beyond belief and then cleaned with great relief. The vast Pacific rolls its breakers upon a clean beach in southern California. So Christ has done for us in cleaning up our own Tin Cans. And coming from that vast ocean of His love to us is wave upon wave of astounding grace.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Rhoda and the Gang

And when she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the front gate. Acts 12:14 (New American Standard Version)

A few times when I’ve prayed for something that didn’t come to pass someone has said to me, “Well, Ken, your faith just wasn’t strong enough.” Honestly, it used to torque my jaws when this was said but now I have to chuckle and refer them to the prayer meeting of Rhoda and the Gang. Peter had been put in prison by King Herod for preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A group of believers got together at the home of John Mark’s mom, Mary, to pray for Peter. During that prayer vigil an angel went into the prison and got Peter out of stir. Peter immediately set off down the dark streets to Mary’s house. When he knocked on the door a young woman named Rhoda answered and heard Peter’s voice and with joy ran to tell the others Peter was at the front door. Those great men and women of faith immediately told Rhoda she was out of her mind and it couldn’t be Peter! But to Peter’s credit he kept knocking until someone let him in. And the greatest part is when they opened the door and saw him they were amazed it was actually the guy they’d been praying for (Acts 12:16).

Now Peter could have just walked on home, gone to bed, and got in touch with the Brethren the following morning, but it is interesting the Lord led him to Mary’s house that night where a prayer meeting was going on for him. Those folks were praying but it is evident from their response to Rhoda they didn’t have much hope that God would answer their prayers. So where was the faith that got Peter out of the Big House? It is obvious the belief of those praying wasn’t very high yet there was indeed faith in all of them deciding to come together to pray.

Because God is Sovereign He chooses to act any way He sees fit even if it’s answering a prayer given in a rapid state of decay. Indeed He knows our makeup and that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14) yet the Bible is consistent in telling me and you how compassionately He loves us and that His loving kindness will last forever. With that Kindness and Might working for us and the ever present problems we face are we still uncertain God will act mightily on our behalf? Rhoda and the Gang didn’t seem to have much faith but there was faith in meeting together to pray about big issues and Peter facing possible execution was a big issue. There are many who use prayer as an excuse against involvement. Hey, I prayed about it, OK? And then they go on without offering to become part of the solution. The Lord calls those who will pray to do so and He will deal with those who use it to get around getting involved. The Lord commends us to fervent prayer for one another and even for our nation struggling to find peace that only Christ can impart. Rhoda and the Gang may have prayed without much faith but the results were noteworthy anyway. It broke Peter out of stir. If need be He can bust us out of stir too or even change and revive the heart of a nation.


Monday, August 10, 2009

David the Speechless

Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” 2nd Samuel 7: 1, 2 (New American Standard Version)

King David was filled with regret. God was living in the Tabernacle (a large tent of meeting) while he, David, was living in a fine palace. Because of this he called his friend and prophet of Israel, Nathan, to him and revealed his plan to build the Lord a house worthy of His Name. Nathan was pleased and told David “Go, do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.” Later that night, God spoke to Nathan and explained that because David was a man of war his hands were tainted with the blood of battle. Because of that he would not be allowed to build the Lord a house. But instead of only bad news the Lord told Nathan to tell David that He would instead build David a house. In His loving kindness and mercy this house God would build for David would endure before the Lord forever including a Kingdom Throne that would be established forever (2nd Samuel 7:16). That throne’s everlasting power and glory was given to David’s descendent Jesus Christ.

The next day Nathan gave David the news. Instead of David showing regret or anger or sadness he was moved with awe at the goodness of the Lord. He went in and sat down before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me this far?” He went on to say, “What more can I say to you?” David was probably one of the most articulate men in history. If that is difficult to believe read the Psalms. But when the grace and kindness of his Lord was shown to him in his wonder and praise he went from being David the Articulate to David the speechless. When we know what we truly deserve and the goodness God gives us instead through His grace it is enough to leave anyone speechless. David was not the most faultless saint in God’s eyes. The Lord knew the bad choices David would make yet He poured out blessings upon him even to bringing the Messiah through his earthly line. We ourselves are certainly not faultless in our actions and thoughts yet God loves us unconditionally and has given us a house of righteousness to dwell in through His Messiah and Son Jesus Christ. When we do stop to consider how much God does love us and how He continually blesses us it is a channel for intensely moving praise. And when I consider that for my own life it truly does leave me speechless.

O Lord God we are in awe of your continuing grace. No words of praise we can express sufficiently honor your Glory as You deserve to be honored. Yet You delight in the wonder, awe and praises of your children even when that awe leaves us speechless. Thank you for all the good things you do for those who love and serve You.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Big John's a'Comin'

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18 (New American Standard Version)

A tenderfoot had just arrived in a town in the Wild West. He no sooner stepped off the stagecoach than many of the townsfolk came running past him in terror. Weeping women were grabbing their children and hurrying off to hide. One old timer ran past the dude shouting, “You’d better find a good place to hide, Stranger. Big John is a’comin’!” Everyone in town was getting out in a hurry. Instead of running the dude from the East was curious and stepped up on the wooden sidewalk to see what was going to happen. In a few minutes he noticed a large dust cloud heading down the street. As he watched, out of the dust cloud rode a weather beaten old man riding a grizzly bear and using a rattlesnake for a whip. The old man rode the bear up to a water trough, climbed down and dunked his head into the trough, drinking until all the water was gone. After a few moments he looked up, shook water out of his scraggly beard and said with alarm, “You’d better head for the hills, Stranger. Big John’s a’comin’!”

I learned early on in my life that no matter how big and bad someone is there’s always someone who’s tougher. I remember a 4th grade classmate named Roger who took down a 6th grade school bully named Billy. Billy the Bully. All of us kids were scared to death of this bully who routinely terrorized whoever was close enough to make eye contact. He used our fear as a tool toward intimidating us. This one particular day, to our great pleasure, Roger got that big bully into a headlock and held him until the bully started to cry tears and beg for mercy.

I often remember that story when Satan and his power seem to loom too big and too unstoppable. Satan does have limited power yet it is dwarfed by the power of Jesus Christ. Whatever Satan does he does only by the assent and will of God. Satan has been trying for thousands of years to destroy the work of God only to be thwarted at every turn by God’s Wisdom and Eternal Power. Like a bully Satan uses bluster and fear to scare us into discouragement and paralyze us into inaction. While he does have more power than we humans that power can be compared to a match flame in a hurricane compared to the Power of Christ. There is a feeling within the human community that Satan is the equal of Jesus Christ. He is not nor has he ever been. He may be the equal of the archangel Michael but he does not hold power or command anything close to the power and authority of the Son of God. Jesus said all power and authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. I think the adjective all pretty much sums it up. We can be sure when Satan rides into town in a swirl of dust he’s constantly looking over his shoulder because he knows Jesus is right behind him. Yes, I would say all power and authority pretty much covers it.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Ate Who's Lunch?

Then Rabshekeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have?’” 2 Kings 18:19 (New American Standard Bible)

I recently heard a minister speak a good word about how near and strong God is for those who honor and serve Him. Hezekiah was king of Judah and had been approached by a guy named Rabshakeh, an emissary of the Assyrian king Sennacherib, telling Hezekiah that Judah was doomed and, to use a modern colloquialism, was going to “eat Hezekiah’s lunch,” that is, overthrow and destroy him and his kingdom. Needless to say Hezekiah was quite frightened. He sent his servants to the prophet Isaiah and inquired as to what the Lord would do.

Isaiah told the servants to tell the king not to be afraid because of the threats with which the king of Assyria threatened Judah and blasphemed God. The Lord had a plan for little Judah, outgunned and standing alone against the mightiest army of that day. Isaiah’s word from the Lord was “Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.” That very night an angel of the Lord went out and destroyed 185,000 soldiers in the camp of the attacking Assyrian army. After this defeat Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, where he suffered the ignominious fate of being murdered by his two sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer (Isaiah 37:38).

When we are threatened by the Rabshekehs of the world and find we are vulnerable all around it is a great encouragement to remember we serve a God who is powerful to save. He knows and understands where we believers are and can certainly intervene on our behalf. He has never lost control and He always hears us when we pray to Him. He may not always respond for us in such a way as He did for Judah, although He is still able to. Any way He chooses to respond for us is perfect because He is perfectly holy. You can take His response to Hezekiah as one of the defining aspects of His personality to those who love and serve Him. Those who want to eat our lunch may ask what is this confidence we have? “Because you have prayed to Me about your situation I have heard you.” Rabshakeh and Sennacherib came with the intention of eating Hezekiah’s lunch but the Lord sent them both away hungry. Is someone trying to eat your lunch? You may find that when the sun next raises the camp of your most ardent enemy is no longer a threat.


Monday, July 20, 2009

One of These Days, Alice

But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. Daniel 12:4 (New American Standard Bible)

For those of us old enough to remember the 1950s situation comedy “The Honeymooners,” we recall Ralph Kramden’s continued hollow threat to his long suffering wife Alice, “One of these days, Alice…pow, right to the moon!” Today is the 40th anniversary of the day humans first walked on the moon and I’m happy to report we did it without Ralph’s help. I was a mere 19 years old at the time and was as astounded at the feat as was the rest of our planet. I learned later that at the moment the moon landing was being broadcast around the world the crime rate in every nation fell. I guess all the crooks were indoors glued to someone else’s TV set.

The angel Michael told the Hebrew prophet Daniel that in the last days before God begins finishing His redemptive plan for planet Earth that people would be going back and forth throughout the earth and knowledge would be greatly increased. It was only 66 years from the time Orville and Wilbur Wright lifted their Wright Flyer off the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for a fleeting 59 seconds that Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin put their feet on the surface of the moon. Since 1950 the time between the doubling of knowledge has grown increasingly shorter. At first knowledge was doubling every decade or so, then every 8 years, then every 5 until today it is estimated that all knowledge is doubling at a rate of between every 22-24 months. Because of commercial air transportation people are going to and fro throughout the entire earth in a matter of hours instead of weeks and months as a mere 100 years before.

Knowledge began to really move in the 20th century and has picked up to a blistering pace into the 21st. Most would agree the earth is in quite a mess at the moment and if there isn’t an answer to the problems we face as a race then we are truly hopeless. There are wars and rumors of them, earthquakes in various places, famines and pestilences worldwide, not to mention the madness we see in daily news casts. So what is the answer? The Jewish prophets foresaw total redemption of mankind and the earth through the personal intervention of God Himself. Daniel prophesied about the redemption of the earth from its curse and the return of the Messiah to rule it from His Temple in Jerusalem. The conclusion of the age is exciting to contemplate and the signs of the last days as the Bible relates them add additional evidence to its closing. Jesus said when we see these things coming to pass then lift up our heads for our redemption is approaching. What an encouragement from the word of God. And for Him to do it for us we don’t have to ask for the moon. He is in the process of being faithful to His word and to finish His work of redemption. Even so, Come Lord Jesus!


Monday, July 13, 2009

A Guy with a Mop

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 (New American Standard Bible)

One of my most memorable experiences with the wisdom of King Solomon came one day while I was working at a local hospital in the house keeping department. My supervisor assigned a young fellow, new to the job, to me to take around the hospital and acquaint him with things and with what needed to be done on a daily basis. We were chatting as I finished mopping an area of tile floor that went out to the loading dock. As I was wringing out my mop two women from the hospital offices came through as my charge and I continued our friendly conversation. All of a sudden our chat was broken by a loud voice strained with subdued fury. “Hey, you with the mop.” We looked up. One of the women was pointing her finger at me. I remember her friend had lowered her eyes in embarrassment. The lady speaking went on to say to me, “This floor is way too wet. Your carelessness is going to cause someone to slip and get hurt. You need to pay attention and be more careful.” I looked down at the floor and saw it was the normal dampness after having been mopped. As I stared at the floor for those fleeting seconds I was thinking shall I be cheeky or defiant? My mind was going over some really harsh words. What to say, what to say? Then today’s verse came to mind. I looked all around me at the freshly mopped floor and raised my eyes to her. She was just daring me to defy her. I said gently, “Yes ma’am, it is a little wetter than it ought to be isn’t it? I will be more careful in the future. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.” The steam went out of her and her mouth actually dropped open. Her friend’s eyes went wide with surprise too. Not knowing what else to say my antagonist replied, “Well, you just watch what you’re doing or I’ll report you to management.” Having been deprived of ammunition to continue her attack she and her friend hurriedly exited the area. My young apprentice looked at me and said, “Man, I wouldn’t have been that nice. I would have told her where to go.” I told him “I can’t respond with that kind of gentleness and restraint on my own. Only the power and grace of Christ could make me answer like that. That lady could have just been chewed out by her supervisor or had a tiff with her husband this morning and her reaction was just a symptom of her anger and frustration. I just happened to be handy to lay it on.” He looked thoughtful and we continued our training.

I wish I could be consistent in answering with a soft answer all the time, but alas I am not. I’m just glad there really is Power through the Holy Spirit that strengthens me to respond and not react. Knee jerk reactions can eventually cripple our walk with Jesus. Who knows but that lady went home that evening and after considering my response may have said to her family, “I had the strangest encounter today with a guy with a mop.” A soft answer may not be what we want to give in moments of stress and attack, but they really do turn away wrath and in the process demonstrate the greater power of Christ in our lives to those around us.


Sunday, July 5, 2009


And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Ephesians 1:17(New American Standard Bible)

Have you ever heard of laminin (lam-eh-nen)? I recently learned about it and in doing so my view of Christ as Creator was once again vindicated. Laminin is the cell adhesion molecule that holds our bodies together and is the body’s reinforcing steel, like human “rebar.” I was pretty astounded at what this little protein molecule does but was even more amazed when I saw the basic structure of it. In the last few years science has been able to identify what this molecule looks like. Its physical properties remind us of both Christ the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. Below is a picture of what it looks like. If you Google laminin you can see an actual molecule of it that was magnified by an electron microscope.

The Word of God tells us that everything that is was made by Christ and there is nothing that exists that was not made by Him (John 1:3). But the holding power of Christ goes far beyond this incredible molecule that He made for us to hold our bodies together. Jesus said that everyone the Father has given into His hand will be held by Him and not be cast away or lost. His holding power is beyond anything we can imagine and is proof on a daily basis that His Almighty power keeps us, protects us and encourages us in the meaning of who He is as our Creator and God. He holds us through any and all circumstances. Does Satan hold the upper hand? He may for a brief moment but history has shown that all his devices are outwitted and overcome by the mighty Wisdom and Power of Christ who is God in the flesh. Christ is the Creator of all things and even more the Lord of all things. He has all authority and is interested in us down to the molecular level and even to the smallest details of our lives, thoughts and needs. He holds us in His hand and will not let us go (John 10:28). Laminin may be the glue that holds our bodies together but Christ Jesus is the power that holds us in His hand and no occurrence, power or thing will be able to snatch us out of it. How special, loved and cared for we are by the Maker of all things. We are truly marked for majesty.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Four, Five and Sixers

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (New American Standard Version)

When I was a kid some of the most unclean and polluted expressions were set in four letter words. I suppose things haven’t changed that much. Why so many cuss words came in four letters is still a mystery to me. As a youngster I observed that using one of those four letter words around an adult was pretty much the Kiss of Death.

It was surprising, then, as I grew older, that I realized there was a four letter word Christians used without moderation and which hardly ever drew even a raised eyebrow by believer or nonbeliever alike. That four letter word was j-e-r-k; ‘jerk.’ I used it myself with impunity, aiming it first in school at fellow students, and as I became older other drivers and even bosses, certain pastors and some brothers and sisters in Christ. There are other words too. Five and sixers, like ‘idiot’ and ‘doofus.’ One day, by God’s mercy and grace, I came to realize the words themselves were just guttural sounds and disappeared into the air the moment I uttered them, however it wasn’t the words themselves that Jesus condemned but the contempt of my heart that caused me to say them.

I had become desensitized to their use. Like the science experiment where one can boil a frog by putting it in cold water and turning up the fire I was taught to look at the words as evil (the cold water) and ignore the contemptuous spirit behind them (the fire). I slowly allowed my conscience to be cooked and it was pretty easy to use these words against others without much thought or regret. Down deep I really did know it was wrong to say these kinds of things about another person but I was always very good at rationalizing my situation. Was it really that big of a deal? After all it wasn’t one of the BAD four letter words. Jesus said contempt is pretty serious. If one is angry with a brother he is guilty before the court, if he says to another person “Raca” (you are worthless) he will be guilty before the supreme court but whoever calls his brother (or sister for that matter) “fool” will be in danger of fiery hell (Matthew 5:22). The word “fool” itself isn’t the point here but disrespectful attitude and contempt of the heart. Being honest at this point, even though I rarely say the words now, I do often find myself thinking them at moments of frustration and irritation as the old contempt rears its ugly head. The good thing is the Holy Spirit does help me not linger in my anger and redirects my thoughts so I can take hold of the better part (Luke 10:42). There are some really good four, five and sixers I can imitate in my life and speak, like ‘care,’ ‘edify,’ and ‘esteem.’ They’re little words but they can speak volumes when I allow Christ to speak them through me.

There is no law against love. Anyone hearing those excellent and uplifting words and statements can only reply, “Well said.”


Monday, June 22, 2009

Turn or Burn?

And men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory. Revelation 16:9 (New American Standard Version)

I really hate the mess we humans have made of life on planet Earth. It gets so that when I see something on the news that I believe to be the heart of depravity, the next morning there is something new that tops the previous day in its vileness. I’ve caught myself thinking, “Lord, if only you’d lay some really heavy judgment upon these evil people to get their attention they’d clean up their act.”

The Word of God teaches just the opposite; that human nature and its natural reaction to God’s will would be to despise and blaspheme His name. Jesus said the unregenerate heart hates Him first and seeks darkness because its deeds are evil (John 3:19, 20, 7:7). How else would degenerate people react to having light shone upon their evil choices except to display anger and hatred against that Light? And even though that judgment is justly deserved in the examination of a completely holy God?

It is mostly true that unbelievers know us Christians not for what we are for but for what we are against. While grace is mostly misunderstood as weakness by the world, I’ve found the general feeling toward it by many Christians is hostility and an unsympathetic viewpoint toward its lack of deserved punishment. If those unbelievers would just start acting right, going to church, not cursing, not having abortions, not using drugs or alcohol…and on and on. Those kinds of changes won’t happen by themselves; they will only follow a change of heart. A means to this change comes from our offering grace and truth to an unbelieving world and being spiritual salt shakers (Matthew 5:13). How will they know unless we tell them? How will they trust us if we come at them with a “turn or burn” attitude? The apostle John said people will know us by our love and the apostle Paul said there is no law against love. True love breaks down barriers opening hearts and minds. As we love and show grace to an unbelieving world the power of Christ can change lives by cleansing and transforming the inside of the cup (Matthew 23:26). An attitude of judgment hinders relationship while an attitude of love breaks no law at all. The latter is what Christ wants us to be known for.


Friday, June 12, 2009

More Desirable Than Gold

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 1st John 5:3 (New American Standard Bible)

Following someone’s commands is seldom easy. I remember as a child when my mom would call me to supper with the statement, “Kenny, come in for supper and wash your hands off.” My daily reply to that became, “How will I eat if I wash my hands off?” It became quite a game. Her standard response was, “Oh, you know what I mean.” I sure am glad she never asked me to wash my face.

What about what Jesus’ commands to those who choose to follow Him? He is specific in how He phrases the subject. He didn’t pull any punches. He never said “Why do you call me Lord and not do what I recommend?” Commands are burdensome when they are not necessary or they are partial. The 19th century preacher, Charles G. Finney, said “No law is grievous which requires only that which is for our own good. This, our reason necessarily affirms.”1 The difference between being given a burdensome command as opposed to one that is a help is that the Lord is righteous and would never give me any command that would overwhelm or hurt me.

The secret of my living an abundant life in His commandments is simple. It is to live my life as He did and practicing His whole lifestyle. And if I choose not to do that then what is the alternative? A heavier yoke and dropping in the harness. He tells me to take His yoke upon me for He is humble and gentle and He will teach me what I need to learn. The commandments of the Lord are necessary to help me in my walk with God and completely fair in their intent for me for they are given for my highest good. They bring rest to the mind and buoyancy to the heart. King David summed up the righteousness of the Lord’s commandments in Psalm 19 when he said “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. It is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey and the dripping of the honeycomb.” Is my wish His command? On the contrary His command is my wish.


1. Charles G. Finney, The Oberlin Evangelist, 21 June 1854

Monday, June 8, 2009

Only Batman Would Know

“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 (New American Standard Version)

Misunderstanding something someone says can be interesting at times if not downright funny. When my daughter, Kenna, worked for a local home improvement center in our town she told me of a lady who came into the store one day and asked one of the sales associates where she could find the Bat Trees. The young fellow looked at her like a tree full of hoot owls having no idea what she was talking about. After a moment of racking his brain he said, “Hmm, Bat Trees. I’m not sure. Let’s check with the people in Lawn and Garden.” He took the problem to another co-worker in that area saying, “This lady is looking for a Bat Tree.” The lady quickly chimed in and said, “No, not a Bat Tree, I want a batt’ry. You know, it’s electric with wires that will start my riding lawn mower.”

We don’t have a problem understanding Jesus when He speaks of His relationship with His Heavenly Father. He is just not a reflection of that Deity He is its exact representation (Hebrews 1:3). He is His Father’s Only Son. There is no other. To what other has He said “You are My Son, today I have begotten Thee”? There is no misinterpretation when Jesus states the heritage He has to God the Father as Son and Heir of all Things. He told Philip that if he saw Jesus he’d seen the Father. After His statement in today’s verse the religious leaders of His day had no problem understanding what He meant. They immediately threatened to stone Him to death. He asked for which good work they were going to do the deed. Their answer was, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

That leaves us little choice in how we see Jesus. If He wasn’t Lord then He was the biggest liar or lunatic who ever deceived people. And that opens another can of worms, so to speak. How could one uneducated person fulfill over 300 biblical prophecies from the Jewish Tanach (the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings; the Hebrew Scriptures) and have His teachings spread all over the known world within 100 years after His death? The chance of any one man's fulfilling just 48 of the 300 prophecies is one in ten to the 157th power! And 2000 years later His teaching and power are still fresh, vibrant and relevant continuing to change hundreds of lives for the better every day. When Jesus Christ states His case there is no room for misunderstanding. Speaking of Bat Trees may be confusing and leave us with room to wonder but when Jesus says He and the Father are One it is obvious who He is and the strength of what that means to us through our faith in Him.


Monday, June 1, 2009

The Day I Stumped Ben Franklin

Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, And informed Him of the way of understanding? Isaiah 40:13, 14 (New American Standard Bible)

A few years ago I visited Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. As I took a tour of the Governor’s Palace my tour guide was dressed as Benjamin Franklin. He looked like the Founding Father even down to his round wire rimmed glasses. Before my small group began the tour our guide, after giving us a short discourse on Williamsburg in the 18th century, asked if we had any questions. Several folks asked him questions concerning the times which he answered with almost bored ease. Then Ken raised his hand. “Were people born in America allowed to be colonial governors or only British-born?” In asking this particular question I’d inadvertently thrown old Ben a curve. A look of panic flashed across his eyes. After a couple of seconds and a look that said he’d like to put me in the stocks, he finally shook his head and said, “No, only a British-born individual could be a colonial governor.” He’d been had and he knew it but to save face he had to say something. After all, he lived in the 18th century and who would know better than he? I’m sure when he got home later that day he found after researching the matter that men born in America could become colonial governors as in the case of Boston born Thomas Hutchinson who was the governor of colonial Massachusetts from 1771 to 1774.

I’m relieved that I can’t throw God any curves. He is never surprised by anything I say, do or think. It’s a relief that I never need to come into the presence of the living God and say “Oh man, Lord, I lost my temper today and raised my voice to my wife,” or “Lord, I let my eyes rest a few extra seconds on that girl wearing the shorts today.” He knows. He’s God. The wonderful thing is while He knows me and you He still loves us without condition. His knowing everything about us means He already knows our needs and has the knowledge and wisdom to act on our behalf, sometimes even before we ask. We will never surprise or stump Him with any question, statement or thought. In fact there are no pauses or raised eyebrows with Him toward any of us. Who has been His counselor or to who has He had to go for instruction? No one can surprise Him, especially the man who stumped Ben Franklin. I’m so glad for that.


Monday, May 25, 2009

The Key

I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue swear allegiance. They will say of me only the Lord are righteousness and strength. Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame. Isaiah 45:23, 24 (New American Standard Version)

I heard it once said that the gates of hell are locked from the inside. While God does offer us an escape from our sins many do not want to take that narrow road choosing instead to run down an eight-lane highway to destruction.

But while the gates of hell try to prevail against Christ’s church His grace is a power to be reckoned with. God is angry with the wicked everyday (Psalm 7:11) yet while everyone was yet sinners He sent His Son to die for us that we might be brought back into fellowship with Him (Romans 5:10). Because God is perfectly holy He hates sin perfectly and instead of hurling lightning bolts at us He sheds tears of grief over the refusal of the wicked to come out of their sin and to take His light and easy yoke upon them.

I am coming to a new appreciation of grace and exactly what it is and does for the human race. Grace is both getting what we don’t deserve and not getting what we have coming. God poured out His entire wrath toward sin onto Christ who took our penalty for what we had coming and in return put His righteousness on us (2nd Corinthians 5:21).

While God is a perfectly rounded personality He shows, among many of His attributes, both the abilities toward anger and tenderness. God is not willing that anyone should perish but that everyone should come to repentance (2nd Peter 3:9). While the Bible is silent about what those who reject Him will say on that final day when God reviews their life choices I wonder if the sorrow won’t be as much from the judgment but something more horrible. I believe those who are found outside of Jesus Christ on the Day will be stunned by His wonderfully beautiful, gracious and breathtaking Being. Will it be that the deepest sorrow of those outside of Christ will be looking upon God’s Only Begotten Son, fully aware of the beauty they rejected during their lifetimes? They will go into eternal separation with the memory of the Beautiful One they rejected as they turned the key to the gates of hell from the inside. It is not a pretty thought yet its message is evident throughout Scripture. Grace is indeed a power to be reckoned with. Its message offers new lives for old, beauty for ashes and an abundant life in Christ that can be lived right now. Every human who ever has lived or ever will was born with the key to the gates of hell in their hand. The choice is will it be used for its purpose or will it be tossed aside for the God of
Grace? Taking the easy yoke of Jesus is more satisfying and easier than turning a key.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The Man Who Stopped God

And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many were sternly telling him to keep quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” Mark 10:47-49 (New American Standard Version)

The Jewish man Bartimaeus was not only blind he’d been reduced to begging to support himself. But even though this man was physically unable to see he had an inner vision that few of the folks around him had experienced. As he sat by the roadside day after day in his darkness he was looking for the One he knew would be sent by God to Israel. When this Anointed One showed up one day blind Bartimaeus immediately recognized Him and cried out to him for help. The many sighted folks around him told him to be quiet. Who there was truly blind? This blind man called out addressing Jesus by His Messianic title “Son of David.”

I really believe that Jesus was smiling when he told the people in the crowd to call the blind man to Him. As concerned as Jesus was for Bartimaeus’ physical condition that day His mission was to bring light to the man’s inner darkness. All the fear, frustration and estrangement from God and man Bartimaeus had experienced up to this moment were swept away in the excitement of coming to the Messiah. And God in His mercy and grace reached out and touched a blind beggar and healed his eyes so he could see.

For those of us who call on Jesus today we will find He is more than willing to stop and offer mercy. It may be to help us with a habit that is out of control, a temper we always seem to be losing or a situation that seems too large to overcome. Jesus is still Lord over all. He is constantly active in His universal power and might but He’s never too busy to stop and touch us when we cry out in our pain. Bartimaeus’ had a need and his call stopped God in His tracks and we can do the same. He stops and says, “Come to Me.” His merciful touch brings healing to our hearts and His presence light to our darkness.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Those Dirty Guys

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. Hebrews 11:1, 2 (New American Standard Version)

Abraham had a tendency towards being a liar (Genesis 12:13, 20:2), Jacob was a conniver and a thief taking advantage of his brother Esau to get the elder brother’s birth rite and later stealing his blessing (Genesis 25:30, 27:19), King David had a man murdered to cover his adultery with the man’s wife (2nd Samuel 11:15), the wicked king Manasseh led and encouraged Judah in idol worship (2nd Chronicles 33:13), Peter denied his Lord (Matthew 26:74), and before Saul became Paul he sanctioned the death of at least one Christian and was a respected leader in the persecution of the early church (Acts 8:1, Galatians 1:13). In the eyes of most people these trespasses would brand these fellows as a bunch of reprobates not to say some of them as outright criminals.

One thing I do know that as often as we pull away from obedience to the Lord grace for each one of us does much more abound (Romans 5:20). Grace is solid, overwhelming and always there for you and me. Abraham lied to Pharaoh and King Abimelech yet God made him the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4), Jacob the thief and conniver became the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22-26). Manasseh repented and was restored to his throne ruling Judah for a total of 55 years (2nd Chronicles 33:13, 2nd Kings 21:1). Peter was restored to fellowship with the risen Christ (Mark 16:7). Paul became the chosen instrument to give the Gospel to the Gentile world (Galatians 1:15, 16).

The Lord God has been miscast by many as a cosmic killjoy or worse yet an impatient father ready to strike with fear, terror and punishment. In reality He is full of lovingkindnesses and graciousness to the point of blessing us in spite of ourselves, just like the men of old. As believers in Christ when others look at our mistakes and say “Why that dirty guy, “the Lord only sees His Son, living within us; His Son in whom He is well pleased. All He will say of us is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Faith is trusting God will take care of us in all of our choices, even when we can be dirty guys. Grace to us is the incredible and finished work.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Snakes and Sticks

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. Acts 28:3 (New American Standard Bible)

As a prisoner of Rome, Paul was being taken by ship to appeal his arrest to Caesar himself. On the way his ship encountered a fierce Mediterranean storm and was battered by winds and waves for two weeks. Finally the ship ran aground on the island of Malta and all 276 persons aboard survived. Soaked to the skin, cold and hungry the tired group was immediately taken under the care of the local Maltase who built fires to warm them and care for their needs. While gathering firewood, Paul was bitten on the hand by a poisonous snake. Paul shook the viper into the fire and went on as before showing no ill effects from the venomous bite. The locals were amazed.

For many years the miracle after the snake bite was the slant I gave the story when I read it; a miracle for Paul and a witness of God’s power to unbelievers. One day as I was sharing this with a friend he said in passing, “I think the real miracle was that the great Apostle Paul was gathering firewood and serving the needs of the others.” I chewed on that one for awhile and came to the conclusion my friend had been on to something there. Didn’t Jesus say to let the person who wanted to be the greatest be the servant of all (Luke 22:26)?

Great people expect to have done for them and not to condescend to any task below their station. The example of Paul humbling himself to gather wood for a fire was mirrored in the examples of Jesus as how the King of Glory humbly washed the feet of His disciples when they should have been kneeling at His; how Jesus humbly created a fire on a beach and cooked breakfast for them showing the True Servant’s Heart. Truly the ground at the foot of the cross is level. There are no superstars in the kingdom of God although there are some who think they are and expect that if firewood is to be gathered someone else ought to do it. There is more than just a calling to esteem others higher than ourselves; there is the example of our Lord Jesus Himself and the great men and women of faith who humbled themselves and displayed the greatest courage in being faithful in the menial tasks. A miracle healing from a snake bite or gathering sticks to warm and comfort others? In the eyes of Jesus I wonder which situation would give Him the greater pleasure. I think I know.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Breakfast on the Beach

And so when they got upon the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid, and fish placed on it, and bread. John 21:9 (New American Standard Bible)

The world of Jesus’ disciples had been turned upside down after His resurrection. The Master they thought they’d lost had never really been misplaced. His Heavenly Father knew exactly where He was those three days after His crucifixion. I imagine it was all a bit to take in for guys like Peter, James and John. When life became a little too much for Peter one evening he said to his buddies, “I’m going fishing.” Some of the disciples chose to go with him. They got in their boat and pushed out about 100 yards, casting their nets all night but catching nothing. But as the sun rose a man they didn’t recognize walked onto the beach and asked them how it was going. When they told Him they’d caught nothing He suggested they put the net over the right side of the boat. As they pulled in the net it was so heavy with fish they couldn’t get it in the boat. Some disciples had to bring another boat to help drag the catch back to the beach.

Where God guides, God provides. It became aware to them that this mysterious stranger was none other than Jesus Himself. He had already prepared a charcoal fire, laid some fish on it and prepared bread and invited the boys to bring some of the 153 fish they’d just caught and join Him for breakfast.

Peter said, “It’s the Lord!” Wow, how many times have I suddenly turned around after a discouraging time of labor to find Jesus standing there so intensely interested in how I was doing? Why am I so amazed that I cry, “It’s the Lord”? I am moved by this account that the King of Glory was acting in a servant’s role having built a charcoal fire, laying out a meal for His disciples. Do not kings require that done for them? This King was meeting the needs of His own by seeing to the littlest details. He just doesn’t meet some of my needs but all of them. He looks out for me and you. The little details may not seem that important but I’ve always found Jesus is very interested in them and goes to great length to see they are complete. He just doesn’t help me catch my fish and says, “OK, you caught ‘em, now cook ‘em.” He’s already on the beach with the charcoals glowing and the bread ready to eat. Breakfast with the Great King is a study in how He takes care of the smallest details.