Friday, January 3, 2014

The Power of God

In his "Gospel Primer," Milton Vincent points out that while the heavens may declare the glory of God there is only one thing that is called the power of God in the Scriptures.  Think about these things for a moment:  A Tsunami sending waves out for thousands of miles in every direction;  a hurricane ripping through an island city, an earthquake or raging forest fire unleashing devastation hard to imagine unless you have seen it or been through it.  We think about the power of our sun, and the stars of the universe moving at speeds and releasing energy beyond what we know how to quantify.  Yet when God wanted to show His limitless power, He did not rely on these things.  He looked to His Son.

Romans 1:16  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

The power of God is shown in God the Son setting aside his glory, coming humble as a frail baby, living as a righteous man, and dying tortuously upon a cross.  All of this willingly to bear our sin that God might be both Just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Him. Then He rose from the grave, leading forth a host of captives to live eternally with the Lord!  This is raw power on display.  Burning suns dim in this light.

1 Corinthians 1:17-18  "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  (18)  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

This powerful life changing gospel can appear to be simplistic and foolish to those who stand opposed to God.  They will look to humanistic solutions to the problems they face in life.  They will lean on their own strength and wealth and provision.  Yet all these things will fail them, because they have no real lasting power.  The gospel of Jesus, however, will carry the believer into eternity.

Ephesians 1:16-20  "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  (17)  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  (18)  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  (19)  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  (20)  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,"

I hope and pray that God will give the reader of this post the "Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him." I want you to know the power of God!  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Follow the Leader

I love the Scriptures.  I love when you come to a passage that you have read a thousand times and never "gotten it."  This happens a lot for me, I will humbly...and honestly...admit.  I love the moment when some clarification comes along and the passage opens up and a nugget of truth is revealed.  One of these passages for me was:

Joh 12:20-26  Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  (21)  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  (22)  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  (23)  And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  (24)  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  (25)  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  (26)  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

This passage always had me scratching my head because it seems like horrible storytelling or Jesus just missed the opportunity in a big way.  What I mean is that thee Greeks come to Jerusalem to worship and they go to Philip, he sounds approachable.  they tell him they want to see Jesus.  Phillip takes their request to Andrew who takes it to the Lord.  Jesus answer then apparently shoots out some other direction like hew never heard the request that was made of him.  He starts talking about his own death and the fruit it will bear, he challenges his followers to do just that...follow him.  I can picture Andrew thinking "so...what should I tell Phillip to tell the Greeks?"  "Is that a yes or no?"

I know that the story is told just as it needs to be told and I know Jesus is not missing anything, so I was praying and asking God to show me how Jesus response is answering the question the Greeks brought to him.  Then, there it was.  Jesus came for the Jews.  Sure, he shared some crumbs that fell from the table to gentiles like these Greeks, but his ministry was to the Jew first.  The gospel has always been  God's promise for all the families of the earth and gives hope to all peoples and nations, but Jesus personal earthly ministry was primarily among the Jewish people.  

His answer then goes something like this.  "It is time for me to be glorified.  That is, to be seen and worshiped by everyone, just like these Greeks.  My glory will be seen amazingly in my suffering and death.  This is the most magnificent display of my glory.  But my death won't be alone, it will like a seed grow up and bear more fruit.  That fruit will also be willing to follow me in suffering and death. IT is those disciples who will be showing Jesus to the Greeks."  The Greeks will be killing Jesus "body" just like the Jews killed Jesus.  In both cases Jesus would be magnified.  

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?  Really?  You realize that to follow Jesus is to chooses a road of suffering.  He did say "If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me."  You can't follow Jesus and seek a life of comfort and ease.  "You can't serve God and Mammon."  I think as modern Christians we hear words like that from Jesus and we wouldn't say it out loud but we think "oh yeah, watch me."  We think we can follow Jesus and serve our own desires.  

Here is the call, ringing from the keyboard of a convicted hypocrite...let us follow! Choose the road that requires self denial and crosses.  Let these things seem light and momentary as we 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grapes of...Grace.

I'm afraid.  I'm also arrogant, so when I saw fear rising up in my six year old daughter (and not myself) I wanted to wage war against it, for her sake, in the word of God.  Let me explain my fear first.  Our church is about to break ground on a building project that is bigger than we can afford.  We have sought the Lord over six years and come to this place, but it almost unraveled at the last minute.  We were denied by our city Planning and Zoning Board.  We appealed to City Council because we felt we had met all the obligations.  The City found in our favor and has allowed us to proceed.  The following day I was confessing to several others that in a way I would have been relieved if the council had voted against us.  We would be back in the safe, comfortable, place of feeling in control.  I didn't recognize my fear.

I was distracted and alarmed instead by the fear my daughter had after my wife found and killed a black widow spider in our back yard.  Now our daughter thinks a spider is under every toy and under every sheet.  We have prayed and sought the Lord and talked about trusting him.  This is all the back story for the grapes, not of wrath but of grace.  I wanted to bless my daughter so I took her to Numbers 13 and we read how twelve spies went out from Israel to look over the promised land.  They found it to be a land flowing (just like the Lord had said) with milk and honey.  They found a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it, and they named the place Eshcol (Bushel of Grapes).

As I continued reading to the response of the people I was already preparing to demonstrate for my daughter the necessity to trust in the Lord even if we are afraid.  The people had seen God's provision but were too afraid to lay hold of it.  But I was unable to get that far.  As I was reading, my two year old son came to me in his distress.  He had reached up onto the dining room table and had taken a grape from his sisters bowl and the grape was now lodged in his esophagus.  Back blows would not dislodge it, he was gasping, we called 911.  Five minutes passed in an eternity before the EMS and Ambulance arrived.  I held him on my lap trying to comfort and calm him as he gasped (successfully) for air in the back of that ambulance.  Then I heard those words from the man who had been instructing me through this process, "it's out."  I turned to see there on my shoulder the now dislodged grape resting there.  A block from the hospital I also saw the the provision of God in the form  of a grape.

My son is fine.  He had aspirated and had pneumonia but I am thankful the Dr.'s at the hospital identified this so we could be treating it.  Then my attention was focused on my own fear.  I was reminded that God is God.  I will not have the air to finish this sentence if God does not uphold me by the word of his power.  He exercises his authority over snow storms, and traffic lights, and black widow spiders, and banks, and grapes.  If you are walking with the Lord and in obedience to Him, " strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."  He has caught me and my son and my church again and again and again.  I write this post largely because i never want to forget his immeasurable goodness to me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Garden, Misery, and Quiet Hope!

I was reading Future Grace by John Piper this morning when a point he made in passing hit me hard.  He pointed out that we sometimes think Adam and Eve lived with and related to God in a very different way than we do.  this may be true in a lot of respects, but He mentions they lived by Gods grace.  They had not existed to do anything to merit God's grace in creating them.  They did not by their own merit deserve to walk with him in the cool of the day, and yet he did relate to them with this gracious kindness.  Likewise they had to take Him by faith.  When he said they would die if they ate from the fruit of the tree... they had to exercise faith.  They didn't know for themselves, they had to trust by faith that God's word was right and true.  This was a remarkable reality to me.  Adam and Eve were created in a relationship that was all of God by grace through faith.

Then the serpent came along with this temptation.  He promised Eve she would be like God "knowing good and evil."  Piper points out that this seems like a desirable thing in our day.  We want to be self determined to define for ourselves what is right and wrong.  Yet, by the Biblical standard there could not have been a worse reality.

I have just finished a study of the book of Judges with my Sunday School class.  It is a difficult book to read.  It is defined like the promise of Satan to Eve, "there was no king in the land, everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  While we are seeing many of the same effects in our nation of such a foolishness, Judges gives a glimpse further down the road.  What results from living as self determined people.  The book describes idolatry, rebellion, homosexuality, rape, murder, genocide, kidnapping.  It is a dark time!  That is what results from "being like God knowing good and evil."  Misery!

And yet, the book of Ruth describes events going on during the time of Judges.  It describes how God  was quietly moving to bring about David and National deliverance; Davids greater son Jesus and eternal spiritual deliverance; and hope for even the individuals suffering unimaginable pains in the midst of it all.  Reader, consider God today.  Consider how you might relate to Him by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Be saved out of the misery of a life of self determined rightness and wrongness and trust that our loving, wise, powerful God really has revealed what is the best way to live. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day Five Casper Serve

"Better Than Anything"
Mat 13:44  "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Did you like Broccoli when you were a kid?  O come on, not really.  No one really likes that stuff do they?  I understand that it is good for you, but health benefits aside, it was hard to get down as a little one.  I'm only joking, but you get the idea.  Sometimes we think god is like Broccoli.  We think that while God is good for us he doesn't taste very good.  Consequently we seek after the really great things this life has to offer and maybe, we think, one day we will get around to seeing what God has to offer.  Maybe we will be able to stomach him when we are older.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is an old hymn that says it like this "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace."  This is absolutely true.  God is not suggesting you choose him over your joy and happiness, he doesn't want you to be so easily satisfied with that which can't really make you happy.

That is the transaction that takes place in this verse.  This man is travelling through a field and in days with no banks, found a treasure hidden there.  He doesn't want to steal it, but wants to gain it legally if it has been forgotten or the owner is dead.  He offers to buy the land, which he does.  In order to have the funds to buy the land though, he has to sell everything else he has.  he stacks up his whole existence against the treasure, and realizes the treasure is more desirable.  He lets go of everything to get it and no buyers remorse here, he goes away with joy.

This is how the Lord is.  He is not only good for you but he tastes good and satisfies.  His invitation to live your life with him is not calling you to choose a life of drudgery over pleasure but a call to enjoy the deepest pleasures we were made for in Him.

Day four Casper Serve

What Are You Afraid Of?
Mar 4:39-41  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  (40)  He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"  (41)  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

The context of this passage takes us to the disciples of Jesus with Jesus in a boat and afraid for their lives in a horrible "man swallowing" storm.  These disciples were no hacks, some of them were fisherman and had been raised on the sea.  They had seems storms like this one, they had lost friends to storms like this one.  They were afraid that they might be the next statistic; "How many has the sea taken this year?" 

Though the boat was heaving and tossing, Jesus was asleep in the stern.  The disciples (like we often do amidst the storms of life) mistake Jesus apparent lack of involvement for a lack of care.  Yet it wasn't that Jesus was uncaring it is that he was unafraid. He stood and spoke and the storm ceased!  Read that last sentence again...seriously. 

Jesus called the disciples away from fear and to faith.  Despite this call, the next thing we read is that the disciples remain in fear.  In fact, they are filled with fear.  Now they are afraid of the man who stood and spoke and the storm ceased.  What manner of man or who then is this that even the wind and sea obey him. They got in that moment a glimpse of Jesus divinity.  In other words they realized they were riding in a boat with God.  They were afraid because God is holy and we are not.  Jesus had come to save them from storms and from sin.

Today consider the Lords hand in your own life.  Are you trusting him in the midst of your circumstances and trying situations?  Have you trusted him to save you from your sins? As you pause for prayer, consider how big God really is.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taken to the Tool Shed

Day 3 devotion for Casper Serve
Taken to the Tool Shed
Heb 1:3  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

You have been working out under the hot sun for days now.  You have probably had enough sense not to look up and gaze into the brightness of the sun.  If you have done that, you know it's light is blinding.  You feel it's warmth.  The heat of it can actually burn us.  There is an intensity to the sun.  Of course when we say these things we know that what we are calling the sun is not actually the sun but light waves that left the sun approximately 9 seconds ago.  They represent the sun to us.  They carry the light and heat and energy we see and feel.

This is, I think, what is meant by describing Jesus as the radiance of the glory of God.  God shines infinitely brighter than the sun which he created and sustains by the word of his power.  Jesus is the brightness of that holy God that comes to the earth and touches us.  He perfectly represents God to us, he is the exact imprint of his nature.  Jesus would say  "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."  He touches us without consuming us because he made purification for our sins.  That is why he died on the cross, to pay the penalty our sins deserve.

Our devotions this week have been focused on seeing Jesus and his glory.  We have been challenged that "believing is seeing" and we know to look past the hard work of God's people to see the God whom they serve. We give him glory.  Today I want to challenge everyone to take a step forward.  Here's what I mean:

C.S. Lewis wrote a brief article entitled "Meditations from the Tool shed."  He described going into a dark tool shed with a sun ray shining through a knot in the wood.  The light illuminated a shaft of dust particles and protruded into the dark.  Lewis points out how different the experience is when you observe that light as you sit in the darkness from when you step into the light and gaze out the knothole back at the blinding light of the sun. The light is small and unimpressive from the darkness but overwhelmingly intense from within.

It is the same with Jesus.  You may be content to stand on the outside as you gaze at Jesus.  You pass your hand through his light and he seems small.  Today step in to Jesus by faith.  Believe in Him and you will see, his brightness, his glory, his goodness.