Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Lamb of God

It all looked so good. It started out with such promise – this kingdom. The angelic announcement to Zacharias that Elizabeth would have a son, even though she was well beyond child-bearing years. The son would be John the Baptist, the voice calling from the wilderness to announce the coming of the King of kings, the Messiah. There was the angelic announcement to Mary, a virgin, that she would deliver the Savior of the world, the King of the Jews, and the one who would rule and deliver His people. And of course, the angelic announcement to the shepherds of His arrival in a manger in Bethlehem.

John the Baptist declares in John 1:29, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And Jesus’ ministry was launched. Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear Him. And He preached of the Kingdom of God. Luke 4:43, “But He said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…'” Miracles happened. People were healed. Demons were cast out.

Then, He became a threat to the leaders of Israel. Slowly, things began to fall apart, or so it seemed. The Kingdom, which He spoke of, was not external but internal. I mean, where was the gold, the silver, the trumpets, the conquering armies? Where was the final escape from persecution for the Jews? Who was this man who called Himself God?

And as they walked, watching in horror, this Messiah carried all their hopes, dreams, and plans alongside Him to hang and die on the Cross. The Kingdom of God was not as they thought. Was it all a hoax? What was He talking about? What Kingdom?

Luke 13:18-19, “Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

He was saying to the disciples, “This is only the beginning. This is just the start.” Some 2000 years later, we understand what He meant. We see the fruit of those who spread His word. But what about the kingdom?

Pick up any newspaper, anywhere in the world, and its easy to see, the world is in trouble. Maybe more so than its ever been. It is easy to become despondent, to lose heart, to wonder if there is a God, to question if it is all a hoax. Some of us are on that path, the same path walked by the initial followers of Christ. Some of us are watching our hopes, dreams, and plans destroyed. Fear of the unknown causes some of us to wonder like they did, walking behind the cross, what kingdom?

Initially small and insignificant, the seed grows into something totally unexpected. Sometimes our perceptions cause us to see things out of proportion; but Jesus shows us, like the man who planted the mustard seed in his garden, that the Kingdom of God is very much growing. Now, more than ever, we need to become disciples of Christ. We need to spread the word of God’s love and the significance of the resurrection and not allow the situations around us to alter our persistence.

So, what are you growing in your garden?

The Wonder and Beauty of God

Multiple arguments for the existence of God have been offered through the centuries.  An example, the universal belief argument, purports that every person is born with knowledge of God in their inner most being.  No matter who they are or where they are from, every person has an awareness of a supreme being in the core of their being.  That knowledge produces worship.  Some psychologists may argue against it, but anthropological study reveals that in every society in the history of humanity, regardless of geographic and cultural trappings, mankind has worshiped what he perceived to be the supreme being.  Whether it was the sun or a star, humanity has consistently bowed to the being believed to be supreme.  That inner desire, it is argued, must come from a God who exists.

A second argument for the existence of God is the cosmological argument.  When you observe the world around you, there is an order, a design, a rationality to everything.  The way everything is put together distinctly implies there is something out there, someone who put it all together.  Since for every effect there has to be a direct cause, a rational cause must have developed the rational world.

My favorite illustration of this argument comes from Sir Isaac Newton.  In his office, the universe was modeled.  A gold metal ball in the center demonstrated our sun.  All the planets were formed revolving around the sun.  As many stars as he could make were affixed in their places perfectly.  All was made of metal, intricately designed and exquisitely made.  It made sense of the universe.  With that model many of his students were able to understand much more regarding the physical workings and relationships in the world of space.  One day an atheistic scientist walked into his office, saw that intricately designed universe, and said, “Wow … that’s fantastic. Who made it?”  Newton seized the moment, “Nobody.  It just fell together.  One day I was sitting at my desk and all the metal just started wrapping around itself and developed into that beautiful structure you see sitting there.”  As with most of us, the atheist got the picture of a Divine Designer…the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

One need only to look around and realize the wonder and beauty of God: the hand of an infant, the soft fur of a bunny, the delicious scent of a rose, the sweet taste of an orange, the glow of the stars, the bloom of a cherry tree, and the splendor of white fluffy snow. We are without excuse to question His existence.

Against the Grain

Romans 1:1, Paul writes, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God…”

Are you set apart for the gospel of God? Those words filled my mind this morning as I was reading from God’s word. The very nature of them can give us a connotation of being weird, different, strange, a nerd of sorts. Those words bring an unpopular dimension to Christianity, having to go the opposite direction of a group; having to say no to our peers; having to go against the grain of the population; having to be politically ‘incorrect.’

We’d like to imagine Christ as a popular guy; captain of the football team; good-looking; president of his class; the one everyone likes – BUT HE WASN’T! His ideas were not normal. His actions were strange and argumentative. He went against the grain and the religious establishment of His time! He included Gentiles. He spoke to Samaritans. He was an outcast of the biggest kind. I wonder if I would’ve let my kids hang out with Him!

It brings this questions to mind, “What am I willing to be for Him? How far am I willing to go to share His word?”

Paul writes, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.”

To whom are we obligated?  What about your alcoholic neighbor who continues to drink despite his wife’s efforts to get him to AA? Do you dismiss him? Do you write him off because he just doesn’t want help?

What about the kid at school who cuts himself? Is he just too weird to deal with?

What about the co-worker addicted to pornography? Is it just men-being- men or is it? Or women-being-women? Is it true ‘everybody is watching porn now’?

What about the friend who just doesn’t have time to go to church? Or the one who says ‘everyone in church is a hypocrite’?

To set yourself apart, is to make yourself a new and different being. It is defined in Romans 12 as not flowing in the current stream of cultural norms, but being resistant, swimming upstream.  God has a higher calling for us. We are asked to be different! We are asked to stir the pot! We are called to get the right word out to the people of the world, even if it means, we lose our friends in the process. We are asked to be set apart for the gospel.

Today, determine to set yourself apart, to stand up to the pressures from those you know are doing wrong against God, to say no to sin. Today, accept your responsibility in God’s Kingdom. Realize you have an obligation to His people to spread His word.

Discerning the voice of God

The definition of follow is to accept the guidance, command, or leadership of. The definition of believe  is to accept (something) as true.

Jesus called us to follow Him. If we are followers of Jesus, He is our leader.

John 10:3, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The sheep can only follow their Master if they know how to listen to His voice. In listening to His voice and following His direction the sheep are protected. It is no different for us. What has to happen in our lives though is we must learn to listen to His voice. It’s not just about believing that He exists and He is our Savior. It goes far beyond a simple belief.

I heard a sermon once about discerning the voice of God. The minister gave the example of a young man, appointed to Special Forces in the US Army and stationed in Antarctica. He was given a radio, a guide-book, and survival supplies. His Commander warned him, “You will hear instructions from many sources, some of which will be enemy sources and you will hear instructions from me.”

The soldier asked with concern, “How will I know when it is you?”

The Commander gave him three ways to know the instructions were from him.

1. Every message you are given, check it against the procedures given to you in the guide-book. If the instructions do not line up with the policy, the voice is not mine.

2. Learn to recognize my voice. At first, I will not give you anything too difficult because I need you to know who is speaking to you. Train yourself to identify what I sound like and the things I should tell you to do.

3. As you familiarize yourself to the guide-book and hear my voice repeatedly, you will begin to understand where our mission is going. Even when enemy forces are around you, you will be able to decipher mine.

Good advice for you and me as well. Spend time reading God’s Word today. Talk with Him in prayer. Start today to learn to listen to your Master.

Does God change His mind?

1 Samuel 15:10-11,”Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.”

Regret is painful. I do not know anyone who does not have regrets in some form or another. “If I had just taken a different path…if I had not spoken those words…if I had studied harder…if I had not gone that day.” Regret for humans is a belief that if we had not done something, the outcome would be different. Regret for God is not the same.

In this scripture it appears the all-knowing, supreme being of God made an error or a bad decision. We all know that God knows the beginning and the end. He holds our future in His hands. Nothing surprises God; but by our definition of regret, this scripture might make us wonder.

God’s decisions are made perfectly and righteously; however, it doesn’t say He enjoys seeing the trials and struggles we have because of those decisions. It was probably disheartening for God, to see the actions of Saul; even though He knew those actions before Saul ever made them.

Remember, when Jesus faced Pilot, He had no doubts as to what would happen. He knew the pain He would endure. He knew the anguish; but, He went through it anyway because of His deep love for us.

God, knowing how Saul would turn-out, chose him to be king anyway. 1 Samuel 15:29, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

God, the Glory of Israel, does not change his mind – He isn’t like us in that regard. What is difficult for Him is seeing the result of the decisions that He made; because of His great love for us, it is hard to watch us mess up. It’s hard to view our choices.

There’s also more to glean from this scripture. When we are disobedient to God, as Saul was, we hurt Him. Many times we don’t think about that. We are caught in the middle of sin and are either trying to hide it from God (impossible) or repenting of it. Either way, we are so self-absorb in our doings, we fail to realize what we are doing to our Savior.

Today, take some time to thank Him for the love He has for you. Apologize for hurting Him with your sin. Rejoice in knowing the depth of love God has for you. Spread that love to those you encounter today.

Exposed to the Elements

Security is an important element in our lives. We want to know that we are secure in our relationships with family and friends. We like to have a comfortable nest egg incase we have a financial emergency or are approaching retirement. Being assured our health is good is especially important to us. At night, we lock our doors and windows so that we feel safe while we are sleeping. What we don’t spend enough time contemplating is our eternal security. Psalm 91:1, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty;”

Last July, I was at an outdoor event in 95 degree weather. The heat on my skin burned and I started to look for a tree with shade. Around the corner of the building, I noticed a weeping willow tree and walked over to it to stand in its umbrella like shade. Under the tree, I felt 10 degrees cooler. It made me think of this verse from Psalm 91 and how God’s shadow hovers over us, protecting us.

In the real world, we know earthly trials will come our way. We are exposed to the elements – good and bad – because of the fall of man. There are times when God doesn’t rescue us from those dangers; but when we place our trust in Him and dwell in His shelter, we can be assured that whatever we face, God will turn it for our good and His glory.  Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to proper you and not to harm you. To give you a future and a hope.”

As a believer, when we place our trust in God to keep our soul safe, He will not let us down, whatever our circumstances. Eternal security is given to us because of God’s tremendous love for us. Today, talk with God about your plans. Make sure they are in line with His will. Examine what you are doing to secure eternity. Ask Him to help you dwell in His shelter so that you can be secure in His shadow. You were created with a huge purpose in mind. Allow God to use you. When we stand in His shade, we are defended by the God who will give us everything we need, exactly when we need it.

The Importance of Words

Matthew 12:35-37, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

In this scripture, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees; even though they can quote scriptures, their hearts are not good. God is more interested in our core being, our inner self, and our hearts than in our memorizing scriptures. In these verses, Jesus is pointing out the importance of our words. Words matter to God. Words are significant to Him because words reveal our heart. There are other scriptures which point out the importance of what we speak.

Ephesians 5:3-4, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”

Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

NEVER underestimate the power of words. Words can cause you to ruin your marriage; separate you from your children; lose your job; break up your friendship; and cost you your reputation. Winston Churchill said of words, “By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.”

Your words can also be a source of good. They can encourage someone who needs to hear a kind word. Words can offer hope, strength, compassion, and love. Words can change a person’s life and impact God’s Kingdom.

How do you use your words? Consider carefully what you say for Christ tells us we will be judged by the words.