in the Spirit
will look back a few verses, you will see that God is about to teach a
lesson to Moses and the children of Israel. They've been grumbling about
the menu; He's about to give them meat (quail) for thirty straight days.
But to be sure the explanation is clear, God calls Moses and the seventy
elders to the Tabernacle. Two of them miss the shuttle bus. In the
process, we see one of the constants of church life: the "theological
some people, the "way we do it" is not simply a matter of convenience. For
these people, there can be only one right way of doing anything in the
church. They are utterly certain that the bread is on the left side of the
table and the wine on the right. The organ should play during communion;
it should be silent. Drums and guitars are good; no, they're evil. For
such people, only the right ritual at the right place and the right time
will do. That seems to be how Joshua felt about it.
matter, however, is one of authority. Joshua felt that the two elders
should be told to shut up. Moses, secure in his relationship to God, sees
things the other way. He understands the nature of authority:
that God is the ultimate authority. It's his universe.
there is the prophet Moses. He knows his authority—God chose Moses.
Finally there are the seventy elders—who are subordinate to Moses because
Moses chose them.
Therefore, if the Holy Spirit chooses to come upon the seventy, including
the two still in camp, it should be a matter of rejoicing. Moses' authority
is not challenged by this; it is enhanced.
learn something of the Holy Spirit here, as well. In John's Gospel we learn
that the Spirit goes where he wills. We see that principle here: the
Spirit is not confined to the Tabernacle. We must look at this and praise
God, for since the coming of Christ the Spirit enters into each Christian.
He is the deposit guaranteeing that we will be raised up on the last day.
is a sad note in this passage; Joshua wants to stifle the Spirit because
those two elders are in the wrong place. He is like those today who argue
over communion tables. Are sinners so few we need no time to call them to
Holy Spirit, forgive our dissensions and make us one. In you the church is
one; may our eyes see it too.
World War II, Admiral Bill "Bull" Halsey was asked by a reporter, "Why do
you always call a battleship `she'?" Halsey's reply was short and to the
point: "Because it costs so much to keep them in paint and powder."
Despite our modern view that male and female are interchangeable parts, the
Scripture consistently paints a differing picture. There is no sense of
being interchangeable; equal, but different, is seen. The feminine role is
always portrayed in submission to the masculine.
reason can be seen here. The church—universal, militant and triumphant,
composed of all believers of all times and all places –is female to Christ
Jesus. This passage gives us the soaring image of the wedding of the
Lamb—the marriage feast of Christ with his bride, the Church. The words may
seem slightly familiar to you. Should you have a copy of the King James
Version, you will recognize them immediately. This is the source text
Handel used for his "Hallelujah Chorus."
Lord God Omnipotent (as in the King James) reigns, and for this the saints
and angels shout Hallelujah! We are then commanded:
to rejoice and be glad. Have you ever watched your team pull victory from
the jaws of defeat? The rejoicing for that is nothing compared to this.
But it gives us an idea of the feeling all Christians will have on that day.
to give glory to God. It is not our doing that God is omnipotent; it is
not our doing that Satan is cast down—praise and glory to Him who deserves
fitting that we should give God the glory. But John here records something
of credit to the church. She is given fine linen to wear. Interpreting
Revelation is a risky thing; so just to make sure we get this right, John
tells us: the linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. (Saint,
you will recall, is anyone in the church—all times, all places, all
believers.) As a bride on her wedding day is dressed radiantly, so is the
church—in the one raiment needed: righteousness.
Blessed are those who are invited. As if to emphasize the point, John is
told to write; then told these are the true words of God.
Father, we can know so little of our Lord's return. Help us cling to what
we know, so that when He comes, we shall rejoice.
story may be apocryphal, but it is said that Father Junipero Serra used
mustard seed to mark his way from one mission to another. California's
chain of missions marked its beginning.
thing is certain: if Father Serra tried to follow that mustard today, he'd
get lost. It's everywhere in California.
fitting, given the characteristics of the plant, that Jesus uses it as the
model for the kingdom of heaven. It is a small beginning. The seed pods
are small, and the seeds in them are barely visible to the naked eye. But,
as one gardening expert put it, "mustard is notoriously easy to grow." We
shall consider, therefore, what must be done with the mustard of the kingdom
this, we shall take as our guideline the gardening instructions for this
to be planted in "full sun," on soil which is "well drained." Alone among
the great religions of the world, Christianity asks the skeptic to examine
its beginnings. The light turned on the faith soon makes it clear that the
church is of God. This is one reason that the world is so hesitant to turn
the light on the church. Many an atheist has become a Christian by
examining the evidence. But we must mind the injunction to be "well
drained." The water of life must flow through the church, not just into a
theological swamp. What the Lord gives so freely, the church must pass on.
all plants, it requires its proper nourishment. The Christian will have no
difficulty in identifying this: it is the word of God, the Bible. If you
will look around the church today you will find a certain sameness. Those
churches who hold the Scripture in esteem are growing. Those who are too
sophisticated for that are now studying meditation
(or whatever else) and dying—for lack of nourishment.
mustard seed pods must be harvested at exactly the right time. It seems
strange, but if left too long the pods will open and the seeds be scattered
to the wind. So it is that we can say that the harvest of God will be a
surprise—the pods are not open yet. So it will be at the end of the age:
the seeds still securely in the pod, harvested at the right time. It will
be a surprise to one and all. Are you ready?
Lord we know that you will come when you are not expected. Keep us faithful
to you until that day of rejoicing.
the subjects in Christianity, the one which can be counted on to bring
controversy is the time of the end, the time of Christ's return. Thousands
of books have been written on the subject of the end times—nearly all of
them by people who have no living experience with the subject. The only
exceptions being those whose works are in the Bible, it's easy to see that
being an authority on the subject depends mostly on just how forthrightly
you put your case. After all, with all those interpretations out there,
somebody's bound to be right. But who?
cannot clear that up in so short a writing. But we can examine the
statements of those who knew. Here, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul
tells them what they need to know.
he tells them, that the perishable is the seed for the imperishable. This
comparison, that the natural side in some way prefigures but always gives
way to the spiritual side, is the key to his message. That we are
perishable is inarguable. If we examine the accounts of the risen Lord, he
is imperishable. We shall be like him.
this mortal body is planted in dishonor, raised to glory. It is the same
with our Lord: the ignominy of the death on the Cross—followed by the glory
of the Resurrection. When he returns, we shall rise to be like him.
body is sown (buried) in weakness. For those who have the care of an
elderly parent as a part of life, it can be very frustrating to realize that
the one you counted as being very strong, when you were a child, is now very
weak. But as in the example of our Lord, that body is raised in power.
this is done because the natural gives way to the spiritual. The body we
now have gives way and is buried. But when our Lord returns, we will rise
as he did, in the new spiritual body.
have wondered about this. They challenge this idea by saying that we become
spirits—disembodied spirits. The details of that are not fully revealed;
this much we do know—man, without body, is not truly man. Jesus had a body
like ours; when he rose from the grave, he had a body like we will have.
What a day that will be! Praise God for his glorious promise.
Lord, we see but dimly into the future, to the day of your return. Keep us
faithful to you, so that we may rejoice when you return
Good, the Bad, the Ugly
of us who are of sufficient antiquity will recall a series of films starring
Clint Eastwood, films known as "spaghetti westerns." They were produced
largely in Italy (hence the name) and were noted for what passed as deep
psychological meaning. One of the most memorable furnished the title for
of my acquaintance who fancied themselves interpreters of the motion picture
art attached a great deal of significance to these westerns. Never being
gifted with the great artistic mind, I thought them passable movies.
Sometimes the Scripture has that same characteristic stubbornness. You know
that the verses are trying to tell you something; but what?
passage is like that. People become confused with the involuted style which
John uses. It brings to mind memories of the opening of his Gospel, so
different from the other three. So it may seem hopeless to understand this
writing. But perhaps if we take an inscrutable western and apply it, we
might see the light:
Water: the good, the bad and the ugly.
good: baptism is a ceremonial cleansing of sin, a rejection of the way of
sin. We need this if we are to come to God for eternal life.
water alone does nothing to deal with our past sins, nor with our sinful
ugly: if baptism is all I have, I am but one of the crowd. You might as
well assign me a number. Baptism alone does not mean that God really knows
who I am.
Blood: changing the bad
blood of Christ changes the bad into the great—for the blood of Christ
atones for our sins. It reinforces baptism by the atonement, and also
convincing us of the price of forgiveness—the life of Jesus Christ.
Spirit: changing the ugly
baptism and blood alone seem very impersonal; salvation and eternal life
become a matter of formula. The Spirit changes that! The Spirit within us
is intensely personal to us.
all three agree: I have eternal life, as witnessed to by the water of
baptism, the blood Christ shed on the Cross, and the work of the Holy Spirit
in my life. The three are one.
Lord, forgive us our doubts. Bring us close to you in your Holy Spirit so
that we may know truth and salvation within ourselves. May we come to you
each day with faith increased.
Recital of Curses
geography of this particular region makes in particularly suited for the
recital in this passage. Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim are separated by a
narrow valley. The chant of the six tribes on one mountain would easily be
heard on the other.
meant to deliver more than vocal exercise. By bringing the tribes to this
place, and having them participate in the blessing and cursing, he meant for
this lesson to stick with them. Listen and see if any of this seems
Casting an idol—look
at the pictures on your wall. Sports teams? Individual players? Playboy
centerfolds? The boat you really want? Do any of these come before God?
Dishonor your father and mother—"well,
of course, we call it teenage rebellion today. It's a perfectly normal
phase of life to go through; everyone rebels and tells off their parents.
You just have to leave them alone so that they can grow out of it." Is
there any evidence this produces law abiding, faithful adults?
Move your neighbor's boundary stone—of
course we don't do this anymore. We go to court to settle these matters.
After all, if it's legal, it's got to be morally right, right?
Leading the blind astray—of
all the sources of laughter on the planet, is there any so common as
laughing at someone? Preferably someone who is "different?" Look at
the geek, look at the nerd, look at the old geezer with a can, look how
different they are—and laugh.
Withholding justice from the alien—unless,
of course, he or she is an illegal alien. That's different. Those
guys shouldn't be entitled to any justice. Even when we hire them as day
laborers and laugh at them when we refuse to pay them? Who are they going
to complain to?
Sexual relationship with close family—do
you think this is a thing of the past? It is not. The taboo still holds
for most of us, but we see more and more the "scientific" articles which
proclaim this not to be a problem—even sexual relationships between grown
men and young boys. The perverts who do that actually have a public society
to lobby for changes in the law.
three thousand years have passed since Mount Ebal heard the cursings. God
has not changed; it seems, neither have we.
Lord, we see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and pass it on by. We read of
the captivity of Israel, and think it means nothing to us. But you are a
God of justice; send us the spirit of revival soon.
Protestant Christians today have only the haziest idea of church history.
One of the reasons for the popularity of the premillennialist view of
Revelation is that we know nothing of our history—and therefore the events
depicted there cannot possibly be over. Ignorance is a foolish method of
not always so. Early Protestants in England read Foxe's Book of Martyrs
right along with the Bible. Those whose belief led them to be executed in
horrible ways rather than deny the faith became a common place reading, and
frequently used to make a point in the long sermons of the day.
do not know if reading Foxe ever led someone to rise to the same level of
courage as the martyrs. I do know this: my courage has yet to rise to that
point. How much courage I do have is not yet tested by fact; but I know
myself well enough to know that I have not been given such courage. And I'm
sufficiently analytic to know when I'm being "encouraged." In the
statistical sense, I'm normal. Most of us are not cut out to be heroes—or
martyrs, either one.
when my Lord foretells the incredible bitterness and anger that his
existence will cause within the family, to the point that parents betray
their children and children betray their parents, it brings to mind the
question: what would I do under such circumstances?
very comforting to note that our Lord quite well understands the problem.
His solution is one to which the "courage deprived" will quickly subscribe:
we run away.
would not want you to think that my fleeing in terror is anything other than
obedience to God. It is perfectly that, but I wouldn't want you to think
so. Do you see how God has placed a weapon in the hands of those without
courage? We need not stay to become martyrs; we can flee—taking the Gospel
last is important: we must remain faithful until the end. It is likely the
case that I won't withstand the torture; therefore, I should pack my bags
early—and include my Bible among them. Thus it is that the Gospel is spread
not only by the men and women of great courage, but also by those of us who
are but sheep. Torture is the weapon of Satan; flight the counterweapon of
God. As Satan tortures one, a hundred more flee to a hundred new locations,
spreading the Gospel.
Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one. Give
me wisdom to know when to fight and when to flee.
familiar with the story. It is the "Good Samaritan," a story so much a part
of our culture that the phrase itself is generic for some stranger who gives
help to someone in need. It is also a classic example, for the part of the
expert on the law, of snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory. He
had the answer right; but he just couldn't resist that little clarification
and do likewise? The first part of that instruction is contrary to all the
principles by which God's will was supposed to be determined. The young
rabbi Jesus has made a powerful point; but let's see if it holds up under
detail scrutiny. We need to stay to debate the point. But the sentence is
in the imperative tense: Go.
from the lawyer's point of view, is the command to do likewise.
in this story is a dim bulb; no one travels alone on the road to Jericho.
The Samaritan is evidently no brighter. Doing likewise runs the risk of
being severely injured and at the same time appearing to be rather stupid.
worse than that. The priest and the Levite had good reason to pass this man
by. It could have been a fake to lure them to the robbers. They would be
ceremonially defiled, which is always inconvenient.
look where the Samaritan took the fellow! Christ's instructions to the
seventy evangelists said nothing about staying at an inn. Any traveler
would know that the inn was a barely disguised brothel, inhabited by the
traveler whose wife would never find out. Worse, this Samaritan must have
been a regular customer—his credit with the innkeeper was good.
all this commandment doesn't seem very practical. It involves a goodly
amount of risk, and the association with a number of socially undesirable
(to put it mildly) individuals who would not only ceremonially defile you
but also cause other lawyers to question your integrity—and common sense.
commandment was not given in common sense. It was given by the authority of
the King of Kings, Jesus, the Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He is
aware of the drawbacks. He is also aware of the pain and terror of the
injured traveler. As often as you have done it to the least of these, my
brothers, you have done it to me. Do you believe that Jesus will provide
all you need—even outside of your comfort zone?
Lord, don't let the comfort of our lives keep us from being help to those in
time of trouble. You will provide—and bless the results.
strident call of feminism has all but obliterated the concept of a woman who
"keeps house." Things that once were viewed as cherished skills handed down
mother to daughter are now just so many antiques. One of the things I miss
most is the aroma of baking bread. There is nothing else quite like it;
one whiff and you were hungry for it.
today comes only in plastic bags, and the aroma has been replaced by
preservatives. But if you can remember that aroma, you can understand
Jesus' use of bread as a metaphor. In his time, there were no
preservatives. Bread was fresh, and therefore a treat. So when company
came, fresh bread was a natural meal.
can understand the situation here. The bread was a major element in
hospitality. Jesus uses that to point out that persistence in prayer is
important. He has just taught them a version of the Lord's Prayer; now
he's teaching about getting results. The first point is to make sure you're
serious about this. Persistence is a measure of your intent.
then outlines for us the character of God. In three simple verbs he tells
us much of what has been revealed about God.
wants you to call on Him.
Over and again in the Old Testament, God tells the Israelites to call on
him, to trust in him in their times of trouble. He wants to be in your
life; he wants fellowship with you.
Suppose your house
burned down, who would you turn to for shelter? Strangers, or a good
wants you to know him.
Over and again we hear in the Psalms the delight of knowing God by his
laws. God wants you to know him; indeed, Christ wants you to know and
wants your commitment.
Many of those in church don't really grasp this. Let me use a simple
illustration. My daughter had invited a friend (male) over to our house for
a study session. He was at that awkward age when you find that girls are
different and that makes a difference. He didn't show up at the time
appointed. This caused us to send out the search parties, only to find that
he was on our doorstep all the time—trying to get up the courage to ring the
of us are afraid to ring God's doorbell; he might just open the door and
invite you in. That's what he wants to do. Your persistence in knocking
tells him that you want to come in.
Lord, teach us to persist in prayer. Lead us in the narrow way of
commitment. Grant us courage to ring your doorbell.
Lost and Otherwise
parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin are familiar to those who read
the Bible with any regularity. Sometimes we need to make a cultural
translation, though, before the English translation makes sense.
example, since I've never been a shepherd, I would assume that in the time
it took me to find sheep number 100 the other 99 would have gotten
themselves lost too. I have worked (briefly) with cattle; they'd manage to
coin makes more sense to me. Picture having lost a gold coin in our time;
the search makes sense. If you're an investor in gold coin, you'd see the
a constant of human nature that we rejoice much more over the unexpected
success. When the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union team,
America went wild in rejoicing. Why? Because the Soviets seemed
invincible; the American team was not supposed to even make the finals.
There were many other Olympic gold medals won by Americans that year—but can
you name any? (Just think how Jamaica felt about their bobsled team!)
Olympics come and Olympics go. God deals with us in time, but his view is
eternal. So heaven celebrates most when the unexpected good news arrives.
Now, picture in your mind a man who is a complete slave to sin. By our
experience we might give this man up.
the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. We can now see the love that
God has for us. Instead of condemning the sinner and wasting no further
effort on him, it is clear that His primary effort is for just such
sinners. Those who walk the narrow way he guides gently; but see how he
stretches to reach the lost.
the church, are the body of Christ. We are here to do his will. His will
is clear; seek and save the lost. It is given to us in the Great
Commission as well as the example of Christ. May I suggest we need to
rejoice by his example as well?
easy to welcome good, solid Christians into our fellowship. They are like
us; they hold the same values and share many of the same experiences.
Often, the hardened sinner is very much unlike us. All the more reason to
reach them. When they turn towards home, we need to celebrate likewise.
Lord, we do not see things the way you do. Open our eyes, Lord, that we may
rejoice with the angels when a lost one comes home.
newspaper recently featured the "ten most difficult feats in sports,"
beginning with number 10 and working up to number 1. The suspense
surrounding the articles was not very great; anyone with an eye on sports
could tell you what number 1 is. Sure enough, the paper agreed, number 1 is
to hit a 95 mile per hour fastball for a base hit. If you can do that four
times out of ten, you're better than anyone else in the world today.
also helps explain why getting teamwork out of a group of boys takes some
doing. The temptation to be the showboat
is always there, telling your teammates how good you are. Every coach knows
the value of teamwork; it's the toughest of lessons, but it is the most
Teamwork. Paul had to convince a fractious bunch of Christians in Corinth
that this is God's way in his church. Teamwork calls for unity:
of purpose. The church needs to show the world that its mission—to seek and
save the lost—drives it yet today. All else is secondary to this.
in method. Places in the church are not bid for, but assigned by the Holy
in reward. Our Lord will reward each of us in accordance with what is right
and just. (And for that reason we are not to judge).
there is also a sense of teamwork in the different tasks. This teamwork
comes from God himself:
and foremost, the worker in the church knows that he is a servant of God.
Even Christ washed the disciples' feet. The Servant Leader is the model for
the servant leader.
assigned differing tasks—with no real emphasis on how important the person
told that we are God's fellow workers. We are, in fact, on God's team
taught that work in the church is supported by gifts of the Holy Spirit.
That same one Spirit is within us all. One Spirit within—a very good
definition of teamwork.
Lord, so often we are shown the example of the peacock strutting. Deliver
us from those who must be seen, heard and agreed with; show us those who
work for your church in your way.
curious how God works things together. As your author sits tonight to
discourse on this passage, he has (in small scale) a similar situation to
that which Paul faced.
about to celebrate the wedding of my nephew. He's a fine lad, and I'm told
that the young lady is equally suited. It should, therefore, be a pleasure
to attend such a wedding. It isn't.
groom's mother, my sister, has made a series of accusations against me that
would blister what little hair I have left. Then, having made these
accusations, she tells people that I am "overly sensitive" for taking
offense at them. Since these accusations would, if proven, be felonies, you
(O gentle reader) will be kind enough to understand that the problem is
have no grievance against bride nor groom; moreover, I am charged with the
care of my mother. She is anxious to be in the wedding, as you might
expect. What then, am I to do about it?
a small picture of what Paul was facing here, in his Corinthian problem.
His solution is one which could grace the column of any newspaper advisor.
To put it in local terms, I'm here for the wedding. Thus anything that
pertains to the
wedding will command my complete support; anything else is irrelevant.
very picayune way that describes Paul's answer to the problem posed by his
Corinthians. They are a fractious lot; so Paul tells them that the only
thing he's going to pay any attention to is Jesus Christ, and him
It is his dividing line.
may be seen to have some disadvantages:
makes him appear weak (to any given faction) when they would wish him to be
strong. His answer is that the strength of Christ is not given to fracture
also means that he must depend upon the Holy Spirit to be the power in his
dealings. But, who better?
a lesson in grace for all of us. We need to recognize that God's command is
superior to our quarrels. For those in any form of a leadership role, it
also means that we must put our own dignity and pride on the auction block,
to be sold to purchase the harmony God requires in his church. After all,
when our Lord returns to judge the living and the dead, which would you
prefer to say: We dealt with it in grace, or we've yet to forgive?
Lord, grant us the vision that calls out your salvation only when we are
willing to forgive as you forgave us.
generally not good policy to anger the God who created the universe.
Indeed, making him unhappy usually results in very bad things happening.
One way to surely anger him is to hold him in contempt.
what the Israelites did here. They have seen miracle after miracle, and
still they do not have faith. God is so upset with them that he plans to
wipe them out; only the intercession of Moses stands in the way. They
simply refused to believe.
is a lesson in that little verse which applies to us. Belief is not
something that just happens to you. Belief, in the sense of faith, is a
matter of conscious choice. Which, of course, most Christians today think
take this step by step. Faith is an intellectual belief that results in
action in life. We generally hold to the view that faith is something that
happens to you; and so it makes sense to many to say, "I won't believe until
I see a real miracle." That is, simply put, refusing to believe. The
evidence is before you but you don't like the conclusion. It's a conscious
is not blindly trusting with no evidence at all. (That's the opposite
mistake). Faith means that you have examined the evidence, come to a
conclusion and implemented it.
that we said nothing about how old the evidence might be. If your demand is
for a miracle, right this minute, you may have to be content with those
recorded in history. Your demand that God provide a new miracle just for
you is being highly contemptuous of God. Nothing but new evidence will do?
Nothing but evidence right in front of your eyes? Did you think the Lord
God Almighty is yours to command so frivolously?
Miracles are not a requirement of faith, they serve as evidence. Their age
(or lack of it) is mostly irrelevant. So when we dictate terms to God
("I'll believe when you.") we are showing him the uttermost of contempt.
suppose you'd like to stay on the fence? Can God judge you for not making
up your mind? We treat this as if we were being honest. There isn't going
to be that much evidence; not to decide is to decide. God doesn't give you
much room to sit on the fence. He did not intend to.
Lord, spur us to action. Help us throw away the desire for our own personal
miracles, our self-inflicted ignorance, and follow You
Understanding and Faith
is an enduring myth among non-Christians (and many Christians as well) that
you have to "know enough" and be "good enough" to enter the church, the body
of all who believe. This is not so. This little passage outlines for us
what Christ is looking for in those who would come to him.
Centurion in this instance brings many lovable attributes to the situation.
He is evidently a man who understands the Jewish belief fairly well. He
knows that Jesus, being Jewish, would not want to enter into the house of a
Gentile, for this would make him ceremonially unclean. The Centurion could
not invite him into his home—but he made Jesus welcome in his heart.
acknowledged his own unworthiness.
How often has someone told you that they're not good enough to be in
church? Here is a man who understands the issue. There is no worthiness in
a human being sufficient to earn the presence of God. The man has the
humble honesty to acknowledge that fact. He
cannot have God on his own terms; he needs God on God's terms.
believed that Jesus has power.
concerned for the life of his servant. He is not "finding out" about
Jesus; he is not
asking Jesus to prove himself—he believes that Jesus has power to help.
brings what understanding he has and commits it to the Lord.
Is the man's theology correct? Does he belong to the right denomination?
Do we need to have a sermon with an altar call? Not one of these things
touches this man. No, he certainly does not have the correct theology, if
only because this is prior to the Cross. He brings what he knows to Jesus,
and thus shows him that he has done the best he could to understand. He
shows Jesus not the terms by which he will accept Jesus, but rather the
understanding that led to his plea. The Lord now can see the depth of the
response is quite unusual. Jesus commends him for his faith. He also gives
the proof test to the crowd around. He sends the man home with the
assurance that it will be as he desires. There is the real test: will the
man get up from his knees and go home, trusting, or will he want to "make
Perhaps that's the cause of our weak faith. We want to "make sure" of Jesus
Christ, when we should believe—so that he can make sure of us.
Lord, we seek proof of your power when we should be providing proof of our
faith. Forgive us; bring us to this great faith.
evident that Jesus did quite a bit of healing on days other than the
Sabbath. But when he healed on the Sabbath, you can detect a sense of the
theatrical. Let us examine the cast of this theater, to see what we may
learn from each.
Despite her condition, she is where she needs to be—in the house of the Lord
on the appointed day. How many of us come only when convenient! Lesson 1:
Be consistent in worship. You can see that she is not expecting healing
from Jesus; he's the one that calls her to the front. She came to hear
what Jesus had to say (lesson 2: come to learn and grow). When assailed,
Jesus defends her as a "daughter of Abraham" - an heir to the promises of
God. (Lesson 3: Judge not—we are sinners and heirs alike.)
The ruler is one of those "gnat and camel" people, whose rules and
regulations will drive you crazy. He also has an inverted picture of
service to God. Being a servant of God means just that: serve. (Lesson
1). His authority has been challenged, about which we may notice three
addresses his indignation to the synagogue, not to Jesus. (Lesson 2: The
majority vote never outweighs "thus sayeth the Lord.")
indignation, however, is specifically targeted at the woman. (Lesson 2:
beware when your target is upheld by God.)
addressing the people with a remark for the woman, of course Jesus speaks
directly to him. (Lesson 3: it doesn't matter to whom you speak; what
matters is God speaking to you.)
Perhaps we can pick up a couple of tips from the behavior of Jesus:
teaching in the synagogue when this happens. (Lesson 1: what are you
supposed to be doing Sunday mornings?)
the faithful and true witness—he tears the mask of hypocrisy from the face
of the ruler. (Lesson 2: Every time you think you are fooling God, you get
to be the fool.)
Redeemer is faithful and true; He will defend the cause of the weak, and
the powerless. What a friend we have in Jesus!
Lord, we know that we can hide nothing from you. We come to you as we are,
willing to hear the truth that sets us free.
deep in Leviticus we find what appears to be another regulation for another
type of sacrifice that no one uses, nor cares about, nor has cared about for
the last two thousand years. It appears to be just about useless. But, we
know, God does not put
the useless into the
Scriptures, for all Scripture is inspired—and is profitable, Paul tells
Timothy. So this was put there not just for the ancient Jew, but for us to
Say the word "Thanksgiving" to the average American and he will respond with
images of a feast centered around a large turkey. The picture is a good
one, for it tells us how we should be thankful to God.
ancient Israelites had a little different view. When they wanted to give
thanks to God, they would prepare an offering of Thanksgiving. That's not
so much different as it might seem. In those times, when you brought an
offering of any kind, the priests (on behalf of God) got a certain,
preordained section of the offering. You got the rest. But there was
usually an instruction to eat it up quickly (this is the only place that I
find same day, though). So you would probably have that feast anyway. You
could not eat the fat (must be burned) so it seems the feast would have
been approved by my doctor.
today, hardly ever hear of a thanksgiving offering. But the Old Testament
example is strong. When my children were born, my wife and I gave a small
amount extra to the church as a thanksgiving to God. We didn't "owe" it;
we did it for sheer joy. We were so grateful for our children (and still
is one other coincidence to find. This is the only place where the
Israelites were told to consume the offering the same day. But the phrase
"same day" has another use. If a man was executed by hanging on a tree, the
body was not to be left up on the tree overnight. The body was to be cut
down and buried on the same day.
body of Christ was cut down from the cross for that reason. He was buried
on the same day. Those who had him executed were following the Old
Testament regulation. But behind that, can we not see the rule for the
thanksgiving offering here? For of all the things for which I can give
thanks, my Lord's death is certainly one.
Lord, we are often told to give thanks, but seldom told to give a
thanksgiving offering. May our wallets do what our mouths say.
with some trepidation that we take up a passage in Revelation. Passions run
high when Revelation is the subject. There are many who are convinced that
they and their group alone hold the answers to the mysteries
contained therein. But it is sufficiently profitable to you that we will
risk a bit of it here.
let us recall who Jezebel was. She was the wife (and queen) of King Ahab of
Israel. Of her character we have no good report. She was a backstage
intriguer who dominated her weak-willed husband. She committed murder for
personal gain. Most egregiously of all, she led Israel in worshiping Baal
and Ashtoreth, She was finally slaughtered at God's command by Jehu.
interpreters, commenting on this passage, tell us that Jezebel is to be seen
here not as one particular person but rather the corruption of the church.
Notice these specific points:
woman misleads the church into compromise with the other religions of the
day—based on her "authority" as a prophetess.
woman promotes sexual immorality in the church.
woman promotes idol worship in the church.
tempting to say, "This is the worship of Mary in the Roman Catholic church."
(It must be made clear: Mary had nothing to do with that, which started
after she died.) But before you jump to that conclusion, let me ask a few
questions about the evangelical church—the Bible believing sort:
not the case that we see compromise with the world around us? Feminism says
men and women are interchangeable parts; we proclaim that the Bible does
too. In my father's day a Christian's word was his bond; my son must get
it in writing.
immorality? We hardly know how to define it. I remember the pained
embarrassment in the congregation when our preacher declared that sex
outside marriage is wrong. For most, that makes him a helpless fossil.
worship: TV evangelists with palaces that glow in the dark—enough said.
is known by the judgments he executes." (Matthew Henry)
Lord, open our eyes so that we might see your truth; seeing it, believe,
believing, put into action.
Question of Authority
scene is a familiar one to readers of the New Testament: Jesus is teaching
when his enemies challenge him. This challenge, however, is a much more
serious one. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem, a week before the
Crucifixion. He has entered the city as a king seeking peace, in what we
refer to as the Triumphal Entry. This increases the challenge to the
Pharisees; the man claims to be the Messiah. The Pharisees know that Jesus
has done no public miracles in Jerusalem, lately. It seems the ideal time
to challenge Jesus.
question Jesus asks in return is a jewel of many facets:
Jesus brings to them the witness of John the Baptist. One purpose of his
question is to have them reconsider what John said about Jesus. He came to
seek and save the lost.
it points out (again) the decision they must make. Based on the evidence,
they cannot treat Jesus as another great mind instructing the people in the
Law. He is a lunatic, a liar or Lord—nothing else fits. Pick one.
also points out—thought they were none too likely to listen—how they are
attempting to keep their positions by pandering to the crowd. If they are
the authorities, and Jesus a liar or a lunatic, then take courage and have
the man arrested. His movement would soon fizzle out.
minds of the Pharisees, the shame of lying is a much greater thing than the
sin of falsehood itself.
Thus, "We don't know."
authority of Jesus rests on the surest of foundations. In the kingdom of
God, authority comes only with matching responsibility. He has been
commissioned to seek and save the lost. That responsibility alone would be
sufficient authority. But the question of authority is central to our
understanding of who Jesus really is. Ultimately, there is only one
question that counts: Who do you say that Jesus is? If you say that he is
the Christ, the Son of the Living God—and you're not being a hypocrite about
it—then you're on the narrow road. All depends upon the person and
authority of Christ. He took the responsibility of our salvation; with it
God the Father gave him all authority in heaven and on earth (a point which
will be perfectly clear when he returns).
Lord, all authority is yours. May we ever acknowledge this and praise you
for the sacrifice you made for us.
Necessity of Faith
the great puzzles to young scientists (I mean those in kindergarten) is the
mystery of the telescope. They seem to accept quite casually the fact that
it brings distant objects closer. The puzzle is that when you turn it
around the other way, it doesn't become a microscope.
is like that as well. We might conclude that a healthy skepticism is a
necessity of the Christian life. After all, it certainly has its uses in
our worldly life; why not in our spiritual life?
But those who
say they won’t see, can’t see.
kind of soul does it take to see God?
would be a vigorous soul—one which is accustomed to working in the spiritual
realm. It's a soul which is more accustomed to think in terms of "right
and wrong" rather than "profit and loss."
would be a generous soul—one which takes care to forgive quickly, which is
quick and public in praise, quiet and sober in criticism. This is a soul
which leans toward mercy; one that overlooks the minor offenses of the day.
would be a visionary soul—one which sees the good that can be achieved
despite the anger and bitterness around.
short, it would be a soul which is like God himself. The more you are like
him, the easier God is to see. For the vigorous soul is quick to see and
praise the moral righteousness in this universe, and acknowledge its
creator. The generous soul is quick to praise and reward the righteous,
which is but a mirror of the reward God provides the faithful. The
visionary soul sees not only what is, but what God will do.
there is a word of warning. Often enough the cynics of this world see
something like this and say, "OK, I'll give it a try. But I don't think it
will work." Following that, they go through the motions and find, as
expected, no vision of God. There is one more requirement: the pure
heart. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The double
minded have spiritual myopia.
can't get a job without experience; you can't get experience without a
job. It seems that you cannot see God without faith and you can't get faith
until you see God. It's not quite true. Faith is given to those who apply,
in pure heart—and then they see it.
Lord, we have but little faith; we beg you to increase it. Give us a pure
heart for our faith, so that we may both see and please you.
middle of the 19th century, the United States Navy had a little
problem—money. Feeling that the demands placed on them by their various
duties exceeded the means at hand, the Navy asked Congress for money to
build new ships to deal with the situation. Congress was isolationist,
however—and fully remembered that they had voted some such thing for the War
of 1812. Congress viewed the problem as one of repairing what you have or
buying new. Reminding the Navy that frugality is a virtue, they authorized
funds to repair some number of ships.
such ship was the USS Constellation. She was a veteran of the Revolutionary
War. Years of neglect had put her into a condition in which repair would
have been foolish. Her design was obsolete. So the Navy took what seemed
the obvious course. They announced their request for bids to repair
her—with the unwritten proviso that they would scrap her and build a new,
happened, Constellation saw a very long service career and was then selected
to become a museum ship. All the official records stated she was the
Revolutionary War frigate—so the museum officials "restored" her to what she
had never been. After about fifty years, the official historian for the
ship discovered the truth. Then they had to correct the corrections.
face the same decision. We are ruined by sin, and must decide: repair, or
rebuild? To repair is to use my own resources, my own righteousness; to
rebuild needs God. The choice may seem difficult until you realize that God
has already paid for your rebuilding. You are rebuilt in baptism, kept in
trim by the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. All this is the free and
glorious gift of God through Jesus Christ.
want to repair themselves; it is a proud thing to do. But that depends on
the soundness of the original timbers; those timbers are rotted with sin.
It seems so easy; it is so hard to try—and at the end, it just doesn't
those who are justified by grace are "rebuilt." They are in no need of
anyone to correct the corrections. Indeed, more than just righteousness is
theirs; they are heirs of the kingdom of God. More than heirs, more than
conquerors—they have the hope of eternal life. Repair—or rebuild?
Lord, we know that our own righteousness can never save us; it is only a
reflection of yours. Thank you—for such divine grace.
Being a Pirate
God's good pleasure that I wear a black patch over my right eye. It is not
mine to complain of it, but I must admit that it has made my life a bit more
interesting—particularly when there are small children around. Four to five
years old seems to be the right age—they look at me and turn to mom and say,
"Mom—a pirate!" We have a number of stories that start that way.
what would you expect? You and I have a set of preconceived notions about
various people. A clown should look the part; policemen are in uniform,
and pirates must wear an eye patch. (By the way, black seems to be the only
color the drug stores will carry.)
what, then, does a prophet look like? Our image is shaped by the stories
we've heard and the movies we've seen. We would picture Charleton Heston as
would see a mind picture of Elijah. It's a striking picture; the wild
hair, the wandering in the wilderness and that absolute sense that God has
commanded him to speak—no matter who it might offend. It fits John the
Baptist quite well. It did not sit well with the Pharisees, who said he was
prophet in the wilderness is one thing; what about the Messiah? What
should he look like? The Son of Man came as friend to the sinners—and the
Pharisees liked him even less.
points this out in a devastating parody. He likens them to children who
take a flute down to the market and play—and then wonder why no one is
dancing to their tune.
problem has not left us. We still think in terms of our stereotypes—even in
the house of God. If the preacher touches lightly on sin, he's afraid. If
he hammers home God's point, he's too much fire and brimstone. If he talks
on marriage, he's ignoring the singles. If his sermons are evangelistic,
he's ignoring the need for spiritual growth. If his sermons are designed to
produce mature Christians, we wonder why he can't just preach the Gospel.
As for music in the church—well, there isn't room enough here for that
preacher isn't dancing to our tune. But if the preacher is in close and
familiar touch with Christ, he will know what to preach. The real question
is, will we recognize a real preacher when we see one?
Lord, be merciful to us. Teach us to learn from what you have given the
preacher—as he dances to your tune.
53rd chapter of Isaiah is a striking prophecy of the crucifixion of our Lord
and Savior. It is rather detailed as prophecies go; once you see the
crucifixion and this chapter, it's rather difficult to say there is no
connection. The prophecy written is so complete and specific that Isaiah is
often called the Fifth Gospel.
Isaiah begins with the problem: people aren't going to believe this. His
message is so different, so unlike what people think should happen that
people just aren't going to believe it.
regard to humanity in general, we see that we are all astray (we are all
sinners) and each of us has his own way of doing it. No novelty there.
Consider, however, the treatment of the Messiah prophesied here as being
due to God.
will crush him and cause him to suffer. How can this be, from the loving
and merciful God?
will make him a guilt offering by laying all of our sins on him. Is this
the God of justice?
Indeed, his punishment will be so great that those around will consider that
it must have come from God.
this is not the end of the matter. Ultimately God who has done this will
also grant him "offspring" and "lengthened" days. Most powerful of all is
the statement that the will of the LORD will prosper in his hands.
see how difficult this passage is to believe—before the Crucifixion and
Resurrection? Looking back in hindsight we see the prophecy so clearly;
but for those looking ahead it would have seemed unbelievable.
said that God allows evil only when a greater good can come out of it. If
this is true, the Crucifixion is the ultimate example of it.
good, sometimes, to remember that the grace we have received was bought with
a tremendous price: the life of our Lord Jesus. Stricken, smitten,
afflicted and crushed; pierced, oppressed and cut off; these are the verbs
of pain. Our Lord was brought to the most humiliating death—so that we
might live. Do we then imitate him in our own lives, enduring suffering for
his sake? Who, indeed, has believed the message?
Lord, we have no experience which prepares us to examine your suffering.
Keep us, therefore, near the Cross.
you ever ridden in a limousine? We always associate a ride in a limousine
with events of great importance to us. For example, it is common for
newlyweds to take a limousine from the church to their destination. It is a
ride of distinction (and prevents your friends from sabotaging your
also true that we tend to be impressed by a limousine as a method of
arrival. We just naturally feel that anyone who arrives by limousine must
be someone important. Heads turn when the limousine whizzes by, and we
speculate as to who might be in it.
method of delivery, it seems, should be commensurate with the importance of
the message. When God gives the Ten Commandments He does it on stone
tablets at the end of a series of mighty miracles. If, then, the Old
Testament was given in such a way, what can be said of the New Testament?
The matter is simple: God gave the message in the Old Testament; God sent
The Message for the New Testament. From prophet and priest we go to King of
Kings. The New Testament, therefore, is much more important.
tells us something quite important. The ancient Jew was to read and
meditate on the law daily; to post it on doors; to wear it on his
forehead. If this was the attention due the Law, what should be our
attention to the New Testament?
this greater delivery has led to lesser attention. Few are those who will
spend any time studying the Word of God on a regular, daily basis. It is as
if we saw the limousine coming and assumed it was really a garbage truck.
The ancient Jew carried the word of God on his forehead; we can't be
bothered to have it in our pocket.
Victoria was once asked by a tribal chieftain the secret of the success of
her people. She replied by showing him her Bible. He told her he had one,
but that the cover showed signs of decay. How, he asked, did she keep the
leather cover in such good condition? She replied that there was only oil
capable of preserving it that way—the oil generated by the human palm. Only
by constant reading could the leather be kept; by constant reading the
British Empire achieved greatness.
me, then, in what state is the cover of your Bible?
Lord, you have richly provided for us in your word. Plant in our hearts the
desire to take in what your word has for us. It is so simple yet so deep;
teach us to love your word.
in this passage, is dealing with thinkers who would find themselves right at
home today. In this short section, he is dealing with a very specific
argument against the resurrection. The argument is simple: "Details,
please." If you can't give me more details, then obviously you don't know
much about it.
method is very common today. We think that we understand something when we
have taken it apart and specified its component pieces. To understand how a
car works, taking it apart is a good method. To understand what his own car
means to a boy learning to drive is not subject to the same method of
the engineer, believes that anything can be broken down into its pieces, and
when you have done this, you understand it.
reaction is typical of his rather short fuse: "How foolish!" If I invent
something, it's reasonable to ask to have it broken down into pieces. But
if God creates something, the question becomes foolishness. For God does
not create in the sense of the engineer—but of the artist.
that this is so, consider the painting, The Mona Lisa. It is viewed by
thousands going through the Louvre. Very few care how the individual
molecules of paint are arranged, or on what type of canvas it was painted.
The painting is intended to be viewed as a whole thing. And from whom did
we get this intention, if not the painter himself?
must deal with the works of God in creation in much the same way. Augustine
tells us that we can only understand God by analogy; he is like this
or that. So when this question concerning the resurrection body is raised,
Paul points them to the obvious answer.
then relieves their pain by pointing out, by analogy, that God has already
given us examples of resurrection in our surroundings. The grain of wheat
in the ground does not resemble the wheat growing in the field. But the
connection is quite clear.
said all that, when this subject comes up it will be found that there are
those of very firm opinion on the subject, even to this day. We so much
want to take this apart and explain it! This may help explain the
popularity of books on Revelation; we have the picture and we're trying to
work our way back to the paint. This much is sure: I know that my Redeemer
Lord, our redeemer—grant that we will take courage and strength from the
resurrection, leaving the arguments to themselves.
selecting this little bit of Scripture I may have misled you. This section
is normally divided out this way, as the miracle of feeding the five
thousands deserves its own attention. But we forget what started all this.
The miracle does not begin with the crowd following Jesus; it begins with
the news that John the Baptist has been beheaded.
receives the news and behaves in very human fashion.
withdrew from the public by the expedient of getting into a boat to sail
away. If they're going to follow him, they'll have to walk around.
does this privately—no last words at the dock.
heads toward "a solitary place."
short, he wants to mourn his friend and do so privately. The crowds prove
enthusiastic, however, so much so that when he arrives, so do they.
of us would understand if Jesus now told them to go home. It takes much
less than this to put most of us in a bad mood. We have our expectations,
and when they are not met we get rather cranky. Jesus, however, puts his
own feelings aside, takes pity on the crowd and goes out to heal the sick.
he has healed the sick, the disciples come to him suggesting that he send
the crowd away to get something to eat. This is after the healings; why
didn't the disciples think that Jesus could handle this?
I suspect, saw the miracles and said, in essence, that's what he does. Not
Others, more likely, felt that as they were annoyed with the crowd so Jesus
would be—and he would not feed them.
likely of all—they just weren't thinking.
that so like us? We go to God in prayer, acknowledge him as Almighty, and
then present our list of complaints. We ask the God who heals to find a
good doctor for someone. We complain about the people we work with, feeling
that God would definitely not do something to help them. Or, perhaps most
simply, we go through our laundry list, not thinking at all. Is it any
wonder, then, that he so often shows us himself as one far above our
Lord, as we intercede, let us do it with your mercy, asking for your power,
obtaining more of you as light to see.
Consider, for a moment, the character of the apostle named Andrew. He is
always listed with Peter, James and John, but he does not seem to have had
any great distinction to his name. He wrote no letters nor a Gospel. He is
one of the innermost quartet of Apostles, and he is an enigma. Why is this
man so highly thought of by both Christ and the writers of the Gospels?
Perhaps this passage may help explain it. The vast majority of us do not
have what it takes to become famous—nor handle fame should it arrive.
Andrew could have been like that. There is a role for such people in the
body of Christ; they are the neighborhood evangelist, the one who calls
another to Christ.
kind of man was Andrew? Take a look at what we know from this brief
a man who diligently studied the Law and the Prophets.
Testament is still worthy of our diligent effort.
familiar with the prophecies of the Old Testament, even knowing that Moses
had set forth the Messiah in his teaching.
have everything right; he is as yet unschooled regarding the virgin birth.
last is important to note. Andrew was diligent in the Scriptures, but he
did miss some things. He'd never get a doctorate in theology. Fortunately,
our Lord is willing to work with such.
Nathaniel provided him with an opportunity. We can see more of Andrew's
character in Nathaniel's reaction:
quite well aware of which side of the tracks Nazareth might be found. His
reaction is skepticism—but note that Andrew brushes this off. It's not
Nathaniel comes with Andrew to see. Andrew's character is shown here to be
one of a reliable man.
Nathaniel shows Andrew to be a man of strength—for the strong need not
commit themselves until they are sure.
you have it: a man to be emulated. His honest character, diligent study of
the Scriptures combine with his enthusiasm to make him the one to call
another. Maybe Andrew is there to show us that even the ordinary can make a
Lord, grant us greatness—not greatness of self, but greatness of mission,
for your mission is very great.
are two things which have just happened. Jesus has fed the four thousand.
Following this, the Pharisees have demanded that he show them a miracle.
It's the spiritual equivalent of a double take. The disciples hear Jesus'
warning—and miss the point.
The wary guess. I was taught that any question in American history could be
answered with "Ben Franklin." It seemed so safe.
Group decision. When no one knows, we huddle and call our group ignorance
Failure to "connect the dots." Working a connect the dots puzzle does
require the ability to count to three.
Failure of recent memory. Do you remember the miracle? Do you remember the
Faith. Faith is often the key to understanding the way in which God
works—and the parables as well. The Holy Spirit does not enable the mind
of little faith; but one of great faith can "connect the dots." Seeing the
connections of God, we become thankful for them—which strengthens our faith
the Savior's rebuke. In his snap reply, Jesus leads them away from the
empty formalism of the Pharisee. He also, by his sharpness of speech,
sharpened their memories. Most of all he dealt with their lack of faith.
Does Jesus rebuke your "little faith?"
See if you see yourself in any of these areas:
hear the word and understand it; you seem to be the only one who doesn't
find yourself puzzling over matters with no guidance from God.
memory is short; you have forgotten to praise God and thank Him for what he
this is you, it is time to deal with your lack of faith. The matter is not
complicated, though it is a strain. You must humble yourself before God,
acknowledging your lack. Do not be dismayed ; he's expecting you. Then
ask him to act in accordance with his word; ask him to give you faith. When
it comes, accept it, keep it and use it—and thank him for it.
Father, increase our faith. May your mighty power be seen in us, walking in
the path to which your word gives light.
understand this passage, you must know its history. It occurs just after
the feeding of the five thousand. It is also after the incident in
which our Lord calmed the sea.
begins with the desire of our Lord to meet his Father in prayer. He gives
us the example, going into the wilderness. It contains the peace that we
cherish in prayer; the peace of God. It leads to a soul which is truly
must not think that Jesus is just walking on the lake when they saw him.
The Scripture tells us that he went out to them; he has sent them into the
storm and now he comes to them, by God's plan. He lets them go through this
storm; can you ask why?
times of trial awaken the hardened heart.
such trials bring remembrance of time with Him.
our trials produce a longing for Jesus.
Curiously, they did not recognize Jesus as he walked on the water. It was
not until he spoke that they recognized him. The voice that spoke the
worlds into existence now speaks to the disciples:
commands them: take courage. The matter is not only one of heart but of
tells them that the apparition is really their Lord; the unknown is now the
they take such courage? They know the wind and the waves; they are
fishermen. But here is a new power, unknown in its strength.
bold always seize the moment. If this is Christ, he can walk on even this
stormy water. If I am his disciple, then I can imitate that—if he will but
command it. So the bold disciple jumps out and walks. And sinks.
too much trust of the ordinary and too little confidence in God—he forgets
who rules wind and wave.
must remember that he tried. He tried not to be one who walked on water,
but the one who came to the Master.
you there, would you have taken courage? In the storm in your life now, are
you asking that the sea be calmed—or that you be commanded to come to him?
And when he calls, do you go?
Lord, you who spoke and the worlds began, call us by the power of that
voice. Call us into your path, the path that leads us home.
and Body, Heart and Soul
reader of the Scriptures comes now to a point for which most commentaries
have no comment. The reaction of the disciples is one which contains three
aspects, each of which poses its question.
disciples were completely amazed. Why? Jesus had just demonstrated
his power over nature in the feeding of the five thousand. But we see that
this was completely unexpected. We tend to gloss over this; we have not
seen him as they had.
disciples did not understand. The problem, it seems, is an
intellectual one. We are so often told that God wants our heart it's as if
we should check our brains at the door. But it is not without purpose that
we are told to love our Lord with all our mind as well as strength, soul and
explanation given is simple: their hearts were hardened. How is it
that this explains their amazement and lack of understanding?
last is the key to seeing their difficulty. We often forget that humans are
"amphibians" - we have both a natural body and a spiritual soul. As such,
that which touches part of us touches the rest. If your tooth aches it is
very difficult to tell yourself that the rest of you feels fine and, on
average, you should ignore the pain. The same connection applies to the
emotions and the will.
begin with simple bodily weariness. Work hard enough and long enough and
you begin to focus on your weariness. You begin to wonder if everyone else
is doing their share. But see how much easier such exertion becomes when
the Lord unites the team, for they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
than weariness, there is fear. The wind and wave are wild, and the
disciples knew fear.
is a great source of doubt. The danger in my face looks so much stronger
than the Lord who tells me, "Fear not."
is the enemy of faith, for it tears our gaze from the Christ to come and
sets it on the danger now.
then, blocks the understanding of the disciples, which allows that hardness
of heart to show. But perfect love casts out fear! After the Resurrection
the Holy Spirit replaces fear with love—and the fearful disciples boldly
turn the world upside down.
Lord, grant us that perfect love that casts out fear; let us learn to wait
to renew our strength and be bold for you.
is a recurring theme in the writing of the 20th century, concerning Jesus.
The church, it seems, has gone to great lengths to point out that Jesus, no
matter what you might think, is indeed quite harmless. A little religion,
you know, could never hurt.
is madness. We put warning labels on flammable items; a skull and
crossbones appears on poison bottles, and in general we now have a well
warned society. Surely, given the tenor of the times, we should let the
world know just how dangerous Jesus really is.
lifetime I have seen the image of Jesus change. When I was young, the
gentle Jesus was in fashion—certified harmless. Later, he gave way to Jesus
the friend. We now seem to be transitioning to Jesus, the solver of
personal problems—on call psychiatrist, so to speak. Is this wise? I think
not. Perhaps we need a "truth in religious writing" movement. Let us
therefore see if we can make some contribution to this.
the apparition John sees is indeed one calculated to give the impression of
power. Like many angels, this man starts his speech with, "Do not be
afraid." This, it seems, was a result of John falling down at his feet as
if dead. This is a measure of the fear due the Lord.
then proclaims himself to be "the first and the last." It tells us with
whom we are dealing. The Self-Existent one, the one from whom you and I
borrow the very concept of existence, stands before the Apostle.
also the Living One, the one who was dead and is now alive forever. This is
the one who was killed for our sins; who died so that you and I might
live—and live like him, eternally.
holds the keys of death and Hell. This should be sufficient; it tells you
that he, by his own life, will determine who obtains eternal life.
somehow, does not resemble the meek and mild Jesus, nor the buddy Jesus—it
is our opening glimpse of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (did you know
the words to the Hallelujah Chorus are from Revelation?) Perhaps the reason
our prayers are so ineffective is that we don't realize who we are talking
Lord, you who spoke and the worlds began, give us sight to see you in power
and endurance to wait for you until you come.
or Poetic Echo?
been talking of Christ walking on the sea; it may come as a surprise to know
that the subject has arisen before. To set the context for you, Job is being
"comforted" by his three friends—who are united in their opinion that Job is a
secret sinner, getting what he deserves. In their argument they bring forward
the character of God; here, Job agrees.
note that the passage is set as verse, not prose. This would make it easier to
memorize. In this one verse, Job connects the creation of the universe (and by
implication the power and authority that comes with it) with this passage of
walking on the sea. By their appearance in this way, Job connects the two. The
connection is fairly obvious: only the one who creates the universe could walk
on the sea. We may turn that around and say that the one who walked on the sea
must therefore be the creator.
question, of course, is whether or not Job is bringing forward a prophetic
statement. There is no confirmation of this as prophecy in the New Testament.
But there is a form of prophecy which we might call poetic echo. He is not so
much prophesying as he is describing God; so when God acts in his character,
the poet who saw the character appears to be a prophet.
Job see in the Almighty? He sees the eternal character of God. He knows the
eternal power of God. Therefore, he sees the connection which brings out the
glory and majesty of God—the creator who is good.
understand this, you need to know a little Hebrew poetry. Remember Psalm 23?
is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
(David) by his style is telling us that the two lines are alternate expressions
of the same thing. The Lord is my shepherd; how could I possibly want for any
good thing? Similarly, Job makes the comparison between the one who spreads out
the stars and the one who walks on water—they are the same. If this is not
prophecy, it is exquisite poetry. God is indeed a creative artist.
the pit of pain after so much loss, holds God in full esteem. He praises God.
We should also praise him in the worst of circumstances: praise him for his
perfection, praise him for his true unity and for the sheer beauty of his work.
our words are not good enough to sound your praises. May we always see you with
delight, praising your glory.