October
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October 1

The Lord Will Provide

Genesis 22:13-14

 

There is a classic cartoon from Peanuts that involves Snoopy's water dish.  Snoopy is thirsty, so he takes water dish in jaw and kick's on Charlie Brown's back door.  No result.  Next he finds a faucet on a pipe sticking out of the ground.  He puts the dish under the faucet, but can't turn the handle.  Then it starts raining.  The dish fills with water; Snoopy drinks.  The rain stops.  Snoopy takes the dish back to his doghouse with the thought balloon of, "I'm going to have to think about that one."

Here, in what is likely the most sacred spot on earth, Abraham finds that God has provided the sacrifice—to take the place of Abraham's only son.  This mountain later becomes the site of the Temple;  on its outer slopes the Crucifixion was done.  Abraham is so taken with this that he names the mountain, "The Lord Will Provide."  Moses (the author of Genesis) notes that it was still called that in his day.

The principle is quite simple:  God's provision for God's purposes.  If He commands it, He will provide for it.

·         He will provide no matter the difficulty.  What are the chances of catching a wild ram like that?  Is anything random chance to God?

·         He will provide from the oddest of sources.  To find his chosen king for Israel, he sent Samuel to the house of Jesse.  And Jesse left David with the flocks, knowing that surely Samuel would not choose him.

·         He will provide at exactly the right time.  Read the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples for the last Passover.  It was a lesson in God's provision.

·         He will provide in the right place.  If he tells you to be somewhere, be there.

All this, however, has a condition:  obedience.  Obedience comes from trusting God, and following his way.  If you do that, his provision is ever available.

This incident is a picture for us:  Isaac, like all of us, was going to die for his sins.  But on this mountain Abraham was given a sacrifice in Isaac's place.  On that same mountain, God has provided for us a sacrifice for our sins—Christ, our Savior.

 

Lord, we are so much taken with our ability to get things done that we stand in the way of your work.  Teach us to expect great things in our obedient walk with you.

 

October 2

 

Presumption

Matthew 12:38-42

 

Calvin Coolidge was a man who loved baseball.  During his administration the New York Yankees were the dominant team in the American League.  On one occasion it was arranged—what we would now call a "photo opportunity" - to meet the Yankees.  They lined up, in uniform, on the third base line.  The player would be introduced, and as the ballplayer stepped forward to shake his hand he would say, "Good morning, Mr. President."

Until he got to Babe Ruth.  "Hot as ****, ain't it, Prez?"  Mr. Coolidge's reply went unrecorded.

Presumption:  humorous here, dangerous there.  If you see it here, you understand the danger.  Christ's reaction is fitting to both the tone and the content of their remarks:

·         He reacts to their flattering tone with harsh words; he reacts to harsh words with gentleness. 

·         His reaction to their presumption is to remind them of just who they are talking to.

He gives them two examples.  The first is Jonah:

·         Jonah was a servant of God;  Christ is God in the flesh.

·         Jonah came preaching doom;  Christ, the coming kingdom of God.

·         Jonah came to them from the fish;  Christ, the grave.

The argument is simple:  If the people of Nineveh repented when Jonah appeared, how much greater should repentance be for the Christ himself?

The appeal is not only to those who know themselves to be sinners, but those who strive for righteousness.  The Queen of the South came to Solomon;  Christ came to Israel.  She sought wisdom.  Solomon was the wisest of kings; Christ is God in the flesh.  So even for those who walk in righteous paths, Christ is the greater.

So, whether sinner or saint, the point is clear:  seek the Christ while he may be found.  Do not speak presumptuously to him.

Does this apply to us?  Perhaps.  Have you ever gone to prayer to give God a complete plan for straightening things out?  Did it work?  Or did God take pleasure in showing you his higher way?

 

Lord, often we do not acknowledge you as awesome; nor holy; nor sovereign.  Forgive us;, Lord—that we may know You to be You

 

October 3

Long for the Works of your Hand

Job 14:11-17

 

It is a modern delusion:  people of long ago were so stupid, so misled, so ignorant that what we consider obvious today they never thought of.

In many ways this is true.  But in the things that are important, we have no great improvement on our own.  Death is still our fate.  Indeed, Job here reveals that the grave will hold each of us "till the heavens are no more."  It is probably the oldest written prophecy concerning the second coming of Christ;  the New Testament says much the same thing.

Job, you will recall, is in a very bad situation.  He's lost all he holds dear, except his relationship to God.  His friends accuse him of being a secret sinner.  He himself wants to ask God the one question we always ask:  why?  He is in such anguish that he is willing to wait in death, if only God would set a time at which his works would be judged. 

Perhaps patience was more available then;  but here is a man who will wait for the Lord.  Is he confident that the character of God will do this?  Indeed.  God will call (note, not our power or our doing) and Job (and all others in the grave) will answer.  Some will rise in joy;  others, in terror.

How can Job be so confident here?  His friends have been telling him that he must be a very wicked (though secret) sinner.  But Job knows that the resurrection does not depend on man;  it comes from God.  If man is to rise to eternal life, then the righteous God must do something about sin.  So therefore God must have a plan to cover over our sins.  His yearning for the works of his hands—us—will provide the covering, somehow. 

It is no accident that the lid on the Ark of the Covenant is called the Atonement Cover, or the Mercy Seat.  That cover stood between God and the witnesses of his covenant—the tablets of the law, Aaron's rod  and the manna (a reminder of miracles).  God could then look at Israel and see only the cover, not the sin.

It is much the same with us today.  By God's grace at the Cross, he looks at his children and sees us as "little Christs" - Christians.  Jesus is our Atonement Cover.  Job, secure in his wisdom and in his knowledge of God, knew that redemption must come, and sin be covered over.  He knew the character of God.  Though he could not know how, he knew Who.

 

Lord, by your great mercy we are spared.  By your great love we are called to be with you forever.  Come soon, Lord, come soon.

 

October 4

The Lord Has Spoken

Isaiah 25:6-8

 

Weddings are great beginnings.  No matter how tight the budget, every woman wants her wedding day to be completely memorable in a very positive way.  So the church is the most beautiful, the reception the best we can afford.  It is a day of joy, and such days call for the best.

The wedding supper of the Lamb will be like that, too.  In the days of Isaiah, a feast was not just a party, but a time in which you got foods that did not keep very well.  The butcher could slaughter a cow– if you had enough guests to eat it.  So in their day they would rejoice even more.

There is a certain divine style to this.  God never goes second class.  Remember the wine at the wedding in Cana?  When God throws a party, you want to be there.

This party marks not only the wedding of the Lamb of God, it also marks the death of death, the destruction of the terror of the grave.  How this could be done we cannot imagine, but it is clear from the prophecies (both Old and New Testament) that this will be done.  The Hebrew here says that death will be "swallowed up" - a fitting metaphor for a feast.  Indeed, swallowed up forever—because "forever" is the province of the Eternal King.

There is more than just a party here;  there is a victory celebration.    But perhaps the greatest event at this banquet is the way in which God will deal with all the misery in our lives:

·         He will wipe away all tears.  All of the sadness and grief in our lives will be wiped away.

·         More than that, he will remove our shame.  All the things you hope your neighbors never find out will be gone.

All of this seems so "pie in the sky" that we have a tendency to gloss over it.  We look with our finite minds and ask, how could this be done?  But his ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts higher than our thoughts.  He will make a way, and we will see it—along with the New Heaven and the New Earth.  The church has not forgotten the promises of her Lord to return.  For those who scoff at him, for those who defy him, for those who will not repent, it will be the Day of Wrath.

But for his children, the ones who love him, it will turn into a day of joy.  When God throws a party, you want to be there.

 

Lord, many are they who think they know how;  but it is needful only to know who.  Prepare the table, Lord, come soon.

 

October 5

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

Isaiah 26:19-21

 

From the earliest times in Israel, through the prophets and particularly in the New Testament, there is clear testimony to something which the world cannot accept:  the resurrection of the dead.  In this passage, the teaching is made quite explicit.  It's interesting how the Sadducees had to ignore the prophetic works of the Old Testament—because they didn't fit with their new, modern scheme of thinking.  It wasn't possible;  therefore it could not be prophesied.

The Resurrection of our Lord shows us the contrary.  He is the first born from among the dead.  Notice, please, that this is a physical resurrection.  Thomas was told to put his hand in Christ's side, his fingers in the nail holes.  Christ ate with them at the Sea of Galilee.  This is not a disembodied spirit;  this is human, a spirit in a body.  It's just that the body is of the new style.  That same physical resurrection is promised to us, too.

Something else comes with it.  It is the Day of Wrath, God will go through the people of the earth to punish the guilty.  So how does he keep his children from suffering?  He tells them to go inside and hide themselves in an inner room.  It sounds suspiciously like our instructions on prayer.  Perhaps Isaiah is foreshadowing Christ's word on this.

We may note one other thing.  The perfect crime won't be.  At this time all the sins of man will be laid bare, ready for the judgment.  Some will tell you that God cannot be both righteous and omnipotent, because sinners still walk the earth.  God is both; he's also not finished with us yet.

Curious, is it not, that most people have an instinctive fear of ghosts?  We know that a human being must have a body—and we'd rather not face one who doesn't.  But on that day he will face us as truly human, body and all.  It will be a time of wrath and punishment, but also a time of forgiveness and reward for those who love him.

Keeping that in mind, what does this mean to me today?  First, it means that anything you think is hidden is coming out in the open.  It means that God will pass righteous judgment on it—and on you.  You don't know when this will happen;  but God's righteousness ensures that it will.  Live, therefore, like one with nothing to hide.  It ain't over till it's over.  But then it's over.

 

Lord, we do not know time, but we see the signs of the time.  Keep us in your hands.  There is no safer place.

 

October 6

On Trial for Hope

Acts 26-6-8

 

Winston Churchill remarked that the battles between church and state are fought out on trivial detail—as the stakes are so high neither side can afford to lose.  It’s easy to see why.  Both claim the obedience of the citizen, and at times both do so absolutely and unconditionally.  Neither wishes to give up control.

As happens here (and often, during the earliest days of the church) Paul has been obliged to put himself in the hands of Roman justice.  The Jews have been trying to have him executed.  They know that religious charges will not influence the Roman governor.  So they substitute riot and insurrection.

Paul nails this instantly.  He understands quite well what the issue is.  He dismisses everything else but the main point:  he believes in the Resurrection.  Not just that of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead in general.  This is the issue;  he has seen the risen Christ.

As he now faces King Agrippa, who is somewhat of a scholar of the ancient Jewish Law and Prophets, he makes three arguments for the resurrection of the dead:

·         He cites, in a general way, the writings of the Prophets.  The King is well aware of these references, so Paul does not need to give him chapter and verse.

·         He then cites his own experience.  He has met the risen Christ in person, on the road to Damascus.  (By the way, this is why the Bible rarely argues for the existence of God.  Its authors were the eyewitnesses.)

·         As if to seal the issue, he brings to their mind the power of God.  To say the resurrection of the dead can't happen is to deny the God who did it.

Paul's trial makes an interesting comparison for us today.  He did not know it at the time, but his captivity would give him access to the highest reaches in Rome, and ultimately start the conversion of the Empire from heathenism to Christianity.  This came from his firm hope in the resurrection.  Do we still have such hope today?

·         Does our attitude towards death—particularly our own—show that we hope for the resurrection?

·         Does our attitude towards life show that we are simply sojourners, just passing through—until he comes again?

 

Lord, by the power of the Resurrection living in us, make us bold to speak your name, and gentle to forgive in your name too.

 

October 7

Theory and Practice

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

 

You can imagine the problem.  There's always someone in the back of the class, putting the pieces together in his own twisted way, who then comes up with what he things is a brilliant, logical and very strange conclusion.  You can see it here.  Sure, we know that Christ promised the resurrection of the dead to eternal life.  But what about those who are alive when he returns?  What do they get?

·         Well, some might say that those on earth get left there:  stranded, hey, tough luck buddy.

·         Others, knowing that God would not do such a thing, make this the basis for the idea that the church will gradually die out (an idea preached in my time, believe it or not.)

Give me a verse or two to play with, and I can make nonsense too.  But this has a larger implication.  When people start fitting things to the theory, it isn't long before some get discouraged.  Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth (first edition) around 1970.  There have been many "editions" since.  If you read the original, you can't help but notice some rather poorly aimed prophecy.  None of this discourages the Lindsey enthusiasts;  they just tell you to get the new edition.  But consider this:  in 1931, Talbot (of Talbot Theological Seminary) produced a radio series and book that clearly showed that Mussolini is the Antichrist.  For those who bought it, this can be discouraging. 

Paul caters to no such theory.  His instruction is practical and to the point.  Theory gives place to the Holy Spirit.

Here are the main points he's trying to get to you:

·         Jesus died—and was raised from the grave, bodily, by the power of God.

·         He called the shot—he said beforehand it would be.

·         He taught the disciples that the church would be united on the last day;  those still here rising to meet those coming with the Lord.

Sound like theory?  Then listen to the last words:  "encourage each other with these words."  The next time you're at a Christian's funeral, remember that.

 

Lord, we are told so plainly that we are to expect astonishing things.  Uphold us as we do.

 

October 8

I Can Do All Things

Philippians 4:10-13

 

Paul seem to stumble over the words in this passage.  He needs to thank his friends in Philippi, but also to teach them about giving.  We need the lesson too.

World's View  In the world's view of charity, the recipient is the one who gets the benefit.  Since we think that so, we impose conditions upon our recipients:

·         They must be morally worthy, either by their mission or by their circumstance in life. 

·         They must be "innocent" in some sense.  A victim not of their own making, for we will not fund the wastrel. 

·         And, lastly and of least importance, they must really need the money.

Sound familiar?  This may be a surprise to you, but there is a reason charities show pictures of starving children.

What about the giver?  What motivates that man or woman?

·         One reason is ego.  If you have enough money you can add the "Joe Smith Building" to your alma mater.  But even small amounts, if handed to the right Girl Scout, can build the ego.

·         Sometimes it's guilt.  Some give to veteran's organizations because they went to Vietnam;  others because they didn't go. 

·         Believe it or not, revenge can be a motive.  Revenge on life;  as in, "I suffered through that, but I'm going make sure that.."

Christian View  The Christian view starts with:  "it is more blessed to give than to receive."  How can that be?

·         Giving makes you more like Christ—this is your journey.

·         In so doing, you cause love to abound in the church.

·         You do it so that God will reward you;  who better?

Worthiness?  Forget it.  We have all sinned;  none of us is worthy.  Needy?  That we can figure out.

Little and Much  Paul teaches us the art of receiving:  be grateful for all you get.  If you get little, train yourself to demand less.  If you get much, give thanks both to giver and God.  Such a lifestyle is not gained but by walking closely with your God.

Impossible?  Only the great can do this?  Here is Paul's secret:  "I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

 

Lord, we are so foolish when we think we are wise.  Give us eyes to see—it is more blessed to give than to receive.

 

October 9

The Cheerful Sinner

Luke 5:4-11

 

Most of us have a sense of what a cheerful sinner is, though perhaps not by that name.  It's the person who goes through life, doing what good they can, avoiding the most grievous of sins but freely admitting that they're a sinner—and having taken Christ as Lord, what more can I do?

Peter, I suspect, was a man like that.  You can just about picture him as one who made an annual trip to Jerusalem to present sacrifices as sin offerings, and lived the rest of the year as a fisherman.  There is even a sense here that Peter is telling Jesus—in his tone of voice—that there are no fish in this lake tonight, and just to put you into your place, we'll lower the nets and prove it.  Then he saw the catch

The cheerful sinner found himself in the presence of God.  Peter knew enough of the Old Testament to know this was not healthy for sinners.  He would recall Isaiah's instant reaction:  "I am ruined!  I am a man of unclean lips."  The usual reaction to the presence of God is to assume you have met your maker, in this instance, literally.  No one tainted by sin can stand in the presence of the Awesome God.

So Peter does the one thing that panic suggests:  he asks Jesus to leave.  (It was, after all, Peter's boat.) 

How times have changed!  We now proclaim the gentle Jesus who wouldn't cause anyone the slightest alarm.  But from the beginning of the church until fairly recently the church preached Christ crucified, risen and coming again.  Jesus never angry?  Ask the scribes and the Pharisees, the moneychangers in the Temple.  

What's the difference?  The cheerful sinner knows that he is one, and that God is holy.  The legalist knows that he is holy;  the hypocrite pretends that he is too.  Those who defraud others in God's name put on a bold face about it.  These are the ones whom Jesus chases out. 

But to the cheerful sinner he says, "Don't be afraid."  Yes, your concept of God missed his awesome power and sovereignty, now revealed.  But his purpose is not the destruction of such men, but their redemption.  He even goes so far as to use such men to bring others to him.  In one hand he holds power and righteousness, in the other love and mercy.  The call is the same:  Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

 

Lord, it seems so hard to do what is so simple:  follow you.  Open our eyes to your path, and lead us home.

 

October 10

 

Considering the Lilies—From a Distance

Luke 12:27-31

 

This passage, and its other instance in the Sermon on the Mount, have been favorites with preachers and listeners since the earliest days.  Alas, one reason for this is that many such listeners have absolutely no intention of considering the lilies.  "Preach on, Brother, you ain't near me yet."  Why?

Because we believe that God can't provide.

Oh, we're willing to acknowledge that, in the abstract and theoretical world of the preacher's sermon, it's entirely possible.  It sounds good—but you don't know my boss.

No, I don't know your boss.  But I do know someone who has the power and desire to provide for you, if you will but trust Him.  "Yeah, but I don't see how he could possibly.."  You will kindly note that at no time does Jesus ever state that you would see how.  He simply tells you that it is so.  Your blindness is not the same as his impotence.  Even the blind man trusts his guide dog;  and you will not trust God?

Because we believe that God won't provide

Some of us think it's simply a question of not being holy enough.  God provides for lilies, missionaries and visiting preachers, with an occasional Bible teacher thrown in.  But are there any second class Christians?  Others will tell you that they're "small potatoes" to God.  His infinite power is matched by his infinite care for detail.  "Yeah, but why would God..?"  Have you ever been able to answer any question that starts with "Why would God"?  It's usually unanswered.

Sometimes, it's simple fear of embarrassment:  what if I trust him and nothing happens?  Have you ever tried it?

Because we know the secret sin in our lives

We are afraid of his discipline, or perhaps we are simply enjoying ourselves so much we don't want to give it a thought.  And think of the shame and humiliation if my Bible teacher found out about this!

There is such a thing as being too ashamed to go to the doctor.  There is such a thing as being too afraid to go to the dentist.  The time lost cannot be regained, but you can keep it from getting worse.  Repent now, and trust him for forgiveness too.

If he cares for the weeds, he will certainly care for you.

 

Lord, we muster and master our excuses with those lilies in plain sight.  Forgive us, Lord, and give us greater faith.

 

October 11

Zounds!

1 Peter 2:23-25

 

May I invite your attention, for the moment, to my dentist?  This won't hurt a bit, trust me.

My dentist is by now accustomed to the fact that when this poor teacher needs an example of suffering, the dentist is always there.  In a day when pain relievers are common, medication excellent, we still face the fact that dentistry involves suffering.  I would not mislead you on the subject;  my dentist is a fine Christian gentleman who inflicts no more pain than is absolutely necessary.  And he's cautious and sensitive about that pain.  But still, the modern Bible teacher finds him indispensable for more didactic reasons.  Everyone's been to the dentist.

So put yourself in mind of your last visit to the dental chair, and read this passage again.  For if you will look just before it, you will see that Peter is particularly addressing this passage to servants—slaves, in those days.  His example of suffering for God is our Lord, the Suffering Servant:

·         In all forms of suffering, he is our example.  He, like a slave of the time, made no threats to those who abused him.

·         Indeed, we know him as the Servant King;  the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.

·         More than that, Jesus is the Suffering Servant—and he knows the pain we feel—dental or otherwise.

It was necessary that he suffer in this way.  His sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sins.  In his own body, we are assured, he bore our sins.  Can we fully understand that?  Not now; perhaps not ever.  But we can understand what it means to us;  forgiveness, the state of being innocent before God.

We are told here, as prophesied by Isaiah, that by his wounds we are healed.  His suffering, then, is our healing.  Such love is beyond what we deserve.

You might have wondered about the title of this essay.  Most of us, like Bugs Bunny, would pronounce the word to rhyme with "sounds."  That is incorrect;  it rhymes with "wounds," for it is a contraction of an oath:  "God's wounds."  It was considered impolite to use the entire phrase in mixed company.  It is used to express astonishment.  By God's wounds we are healed, and it is astonishingly wonderful

 

Lord, we glory in your resurrection, but so often fail to contemplate the glory of your wounds.

 

October 12

Godly Sorrow

2 Corinthians 7:8-11

 

Have you ever been in this situation?  You know that someone in your small church group is cheerfully putting a bold face on what can only be called besetting sin.  They should know better.  And somebody ought to speak to them about that.  But, you don't want to be that somebody—you might hurt their feelings.  But somebody should.

Paul was that somebody to the Corinthians.  There evidently was someone in the congregation to whom church discipline was to be applied.  But note the objective:  godly sorrow.  Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and leaves no regrets.  Godly sorrow fixes things; it restores them.

Take an example.  Suppose you own an auto repair shop, and someone comes in claiming to be defrauded by one of your workers.  What's the right reaction?

·         You would be eager to clear things up; after all, it's your name on the front door.

·         You'd be indignant with the fraud.  After all, the customer lost money;  you're losing a reputation.

·         You'd be alarmed—how long has this been going on?

·         You'd feel that sense of longing that comes when you know something has to be fixed right now.

·         You wouldn't be lazy about it;  you'd jump right in and fix it.

·         Most of all, you would want justice and fairness to be done.  If the customer was wronged, fix it.  If not, defend it.

That's exactly the same reaction Paul was looking for from the Corinthian church.  They had a problem, a black eye, a blemish.  Because his letter stirred them to action, they dealt with the problem—and in so doing showed themselves to be faithful servants of God. 

So often we sit back and wait for "somebody" to make a move.  I recall my father's words on the subject:  "You're somebody.  Do something."  Take your stand to set matters right.  The object of church discipline is to restore the sinner to fellowship with the church.  That may require hard words, or gentle persuasion.  It will certainly require courage.  But remember:  it's your church too—and you must care for her as well.

 

Lord, we sometimes mistake tact for love.  May our minds listen to you, take courage, and bring the sinner home.

 

October 13

Things That Accompany Salvation

Hebrews 6:10-12

 

To understand the nature of faith, it is necessary to understand the work that accompanies it.  The Scriptures do not suggest anything like the idea that intellectual assent alone will bring salvation;  rather, it is clear that faith is always attended by its handmaiden, works.  Sadly, many forget this.   Having made a good beginning, often working hard for many years, at some point they decide to rest on their laurels.  Some find it physically impossible to continue;  most, simply stop. 

Paul gives us the antidote here.  Why would you quit when the reward you seek is within your grasp?  Why would you not go on until the end?  God knows what you have done;  he is righteous, and he will reward you. 

·         He will reward you for the work you have done.

·         He will also reward you for the love you show to his children (as often as you have done it for the least of these.)

·         Perhaps unnoticed elsewhere, He will reward you for the help you give. 

The key to this is diligence to the end.  You may not be physically capable as you once were (the man with one good eye knows all about that), but God will still send you opportunity.

Diligence—to the end.  Why does God so greatly treasure and reward this?

·         It makes your hope sure.  It keeps you on the team, and you know that those on the team make it home.  It also gives God raw material—your life—to work with.  And He will be faithful to complete his good work in you.

·         It keeps you from being lazy.  Sloth—laziness—is indeed a sin, though it is not much preached against.  It is a deadly one too, for sloth opens the door for many other sins.

How do you maintain this diligence to the end?  Look for examples to imitate.  You are not the last Christian in the world!  Look around you for those whose faith is strong, and imitate them.  Look around you for those with great patience, and imitate them. 

God is righteous, just, "fair."  He knows you; he knows your motives.  As you have opportunity, and use it, he will reward you.  But the prizes go to those who finish the race.

 

Lord, the marathon of life seems so long at times.  We do not know the day of our death;  therefore, keep us diligent every day.

 

October 14

Eyes Light Up

Ephesians 1:18-21

 

The human eye is not just used for vision.  It is also meant to be seen by other humans.  Through our lives we learn to watch other people's faces, particularly the eyes.  When there is a sudden burst of understanding, we say the person's "eyes lit up." 

That's what Paul wants your eyes to do—but in this instance, the eyes of your heart.  Experience the sudden burst of understanding with him, please.  But not just on the trivia of the times, but on things eternal. 

What, then, does he think it takes to light up the eyes of your heart?  The sudden burst of understanding these three things:

·         The hope to which you have been called.  Your hope is in the return of our Lord, the resurrection of the dead, the rewards at the judgment, the New Heaven and New Earth.  You didn't wander into such hope;  God called you to it.  If he doesn't call, you have no such hope.  But he has called—and your future with him is indeed glorious.

·         The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.  We may see this in two things:  first, the incomparable depth of his grace towards us.  No matter how horrible your sins, he stands at the door and knocks, forgiveness in hand.  Second, we are the heirs of the kingdom of God.  No eye has yet seen what that will mean—but we indeed will be blessed.  Even as we are blessed with forgiveness and fellowship now.

·         The incomparably great power he has for those who believe.  What is there that God cannot do for his own children?  Is there any limit to the good things he can and will do?

Power, in our world, shatters things, kills people and causes war and rumor of war.  Power in God's hand is much greater:

·         By this very power he raised Christ from the dead.

·         He raised him, not to simply walk around on earth again, but so that he would be seen forty days, then taken to heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

·         As such, he is above all power and authority we can imagine.

That power, as awesome as it is, is for us.  Those whose hearts are in God's will find that his power is there with them.  No weapon formed can stand against Him;  the battle belongs to the Lord.

 

Lord, we so often see you as the gentle Jesus; open our eyes to the Christ of awesome power, moving mightily for his own.

 

October 15

Church Growth

Mark 4:26-29

 

It's a gag I've seen many times.  There is a blackboard on which we see a mass of equations, arrows, flow diagrams and other markings not meant for mere mortals.  But buried in the diagram is one particular box.  The caption in that box reads, "Then a miracle occurs."  The scientist at the board points to that box and says, "I think I've found the weak point."

If you are working in the sciences or in technology, that is the weak point.  You can't rely on the unknown, on miracles, on voodoo or even Murphy's Law.  It's unreliably reliable.  But in the kingdom of God you are told to count on such miracles.  Not just expect them, count on them.

Christ's illustration here is a simple but deep one:

·         We sow the seed—a visible action on our part.

·         It grows.  God knows how (and he hasn't told me how to do it with my roses yet).

·         We reap the results.

Just because we don't know how it works does not mean we can't rely on it.  We can rely on it because it is the work of God. 

But why would God choose such a method for something so important as the kingdom of God? 

·         So that we will not grow proud.  If we know that we didn't do it all by ourselves, we might just be honest with that fact.

·         So that we will not grow complacent.  God needs no lazy farmers.  Lazy farmer—a synonym for bankrupt.

·         So that we will see our efforts rewarded.  God knows that we need to see results from our efforts.  He will provide.

·         So that we will know that we have been blessed.  If the results are out of proportion to what we did, we know who did the rest.  God makes a little into a lot.

·         So that those who come to Christ will know who really did it.  We are not here to glorify ourselves, but to call others to know the name of Jesus, the Christ.

God will not honor those who will not scatter the seed of evangelism, nor those who will not reap the harvest from it.  But he bountifully blesses those who do his will and praise his name.

 

Lord, we can scatter the seed; we can harvest the grain.  Connect the two by your great power, and call us to your great harvest.

 

October 16

On Wisdom

James 1:5-8

 

Wisdom, as of late, has had bad press.  It is seldom commended to the young anymore, and even if the old have it, they are despised for the sin of being old.  So perhaps we had best understand what James is talking about. 

Wisdom is the practical art of righteousness.  There are some who are the "heavenly" righteous; that is, when the subject comes up they can discourse learnedly on morals and ethics.  But they never let this get in the way of business.  But the one who seeks after wisdom soon learns that it must be applied every day, or soon lost.  As it is said in business, you must do the right things, and you must do things right.  That's where you need wisdom.

James gives us this message in the context of suffering trials for the faith.  This makes sense, if you think about it.  The humorous version of wisdom shows the guru on the mountain top, or living in a desert cave—to which someone travels for an answer.  But did you ever think how that image got started?  People who are content with little (who could, therefore, live in a cave) are people who are at peace.  Often, when we ask God for an answer, we are really seeking peace—peace in ourselves, peace with our family or friends and peace with the world.  Wisdom from God often provides the peace that passes understanding.

James tells us here that if we want to receive wisdom, we must not doubt.  Some will argue that this is impossible in our world.  But look at the man James describes.  You know the type;  the latest fad in thinking is stuck between his ears.  Last year it was transcendental meditation; this year it's political correctness, next year?  When he gives God a try, nothing happens.  He's just a leaf blowing up against an oak, wondering why the oak won't stick.

The Christian knows that Oak.  We are taught to ask him for what we need and want—to ask, seek and knock.  Persistence is required;  let God know that you really do want this wisdom!  Solomon assured us that its price is beyond rubies, but God gives it away to those who will ask, not doubting.  Nor does he let it out in tiny dribbles;  God gives generously.

Take God at his word in this.  Throw off your doubts and commit yourself to his way.  Then ask him for the wisdom you need—and be specific.  Ask, seek and knock—and you will find the God who gives wisdom generously.

 

Lord, we are quick to complain of our troubles and slow to ask wisdom in them.  Help us reverse those two.

 

October 17

All In A Day's Work

2 Corinthians 6:3-10

 

Montague Hipple II (Monty to his friends, and never "junior") is, to my mind, the world's greatest salesman.  He achieved this distinction by walking into my office, announcing that he was going to sell me six million dollars worth of software, explain what he was doing every step along the way—and that I would love the entire process.  (He succeeded, by the way).

Monty is a man of proverbs.  He enjoyed revealing his sales techniques in short, pithy sayings.  One particularly well remembered was this:  "It is impossible to insult a salesman.  You can insult his product, but not the man." 

Paul, I think, would have agreed.  Take a look at what he gives us as being in his daily toil for the Lord:

·         There are the external trials so visible in an Apostle's life—emotional suffering and physical suffering (verses 4-5).

·         To endure such things, the Apostle must have the inner resources of a child of God (verse 6).

·         Is he allowed to fight back?  Yes—but only with the weapons of the Lord (verse 7).

·         Results, from the world's point of view, seem rather indeterminate.  Is he really successful? (verse 8)

·         Through it all, though the world thinks of him as poor and sorrowful, he knows himself to be joyful and rich. (verse 9-10)

Joyful?  Note that the word "happy" doesn't appear.  There is no sense of smiley face happiness in the Scripture;  only the fierce joy of the saints.  You can be happy because you have no trials.  You can be joyful in trials because, with God's strength, you can overcome them.

That joy is made all the more apparent when your trials are for the sake of Jesus Christ.  The world rejects him;  if you are a child of God, it will reject you, too.  When that happens, rejoice!  Satan has testified that you are a worthy foe, and God has confirmed it.

Rich?  How can Paul call himself a rich man?  By the same test we should use:  his blessings exceed his desires.  Desire is within;  how can we recognize the truly rich, then?  Simply this:  it is the rich who give to the poor.  Do you give, or receive?

 

Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may know your will.  Teach us to count blessings, not belly-aches.

 

October 18

Authority

Matthew 28:18-20

 

In the course of completing my MBA at a local Catholic college, one of the instructors held forth that the church is poorly organized for she is "goal conflicted."  The matter is a relatively simple one, and easy to understand.  Successful organizations usually have a single objective.  That's why people keep writing "mission statements" and "objectives."  The thought is simply that if you know what it is you're supposed to be doing, and put all your effort into doing it, you're more likely to be successful.  As Mark Twain once put it, "Put all your eggs in one basket—and watch that basket!"

The church has two objectives, or so it would seem.  We are told to go and make disciples (evangelism) and then teach them all that Christ commanded.  Church bodies which believe in good business principles soon must pick between the two.  As neither is sufficient alone, they soon wither.  How then, does Christ expect us to perform this work so poorly organized?

We need a greater understanding of this problem.  Yes, we are given two different goals.  But they are followed by the statement, "I am with you always."  The unity of the church is not in her goals nor her business practices—the unity of the church is in her Lord Jesus Christ.

Indeed, if our unity is not in him, then his authority is not in us.  He is the one who gives the commands; but he does not just issue orders and leave.  By his Holy Spirit we are kept to our course.  As there is no disharmony of purpose in the Trinity, his church can do both things at once.  The church is compared to a body, and this body can do many things at once.

Here, at the close of his ministry, Christ lays out the mission of the church.

·         The church is to make disciples, baptizing them.  As Christ has been given all authority, this is to be done in the name (authority) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

·         Those disciples, once given new birth, must now be brought to maturity—teaching them the commands of Christ, just as he handed them down to his Apostles.

·         It is an awesome task;  but the source of our unity is also the source of our strength.

 

Lord, we know what you want us to do;  energize to do this quickly, so that we may be obedient to you.

 

October 19

Firstfruits

Proverbs 3:9-10

 

It is one of the simplest and yet most taxing of requirements for the ancient Jew:  firstfruits belong to God.  He was required to bring the first of his fruit, his grain, his oil (olive oil), his wine and his fleece to God.  In effect, what we might call his "renewable resources" were to be given to God first.

None of this was allowed to be blemished in any way.  This would easily be noticed, for he was to bring his firstfruits to the Tabernacle and present them to the Lord.  Here we see another principle of the firstfruits:  unblemished, they belong to those who are doing the work of God.  You will remember that the priests and Levites were given virtually no land in Israel.  They were to live from the offerings to God.  The principle is simple:  firstfruits belong to those who depend entirely upon God for their living.

It may not seem that this would be a test of faith.  But the farmer of that time would certainly have seen it that way.  He would be trusting God for his promise of full barns!   Not an act of faith?

·         That farmer would tell you instantly—he had no guarantee that the rest of that crop would be harvested—before a hail storm hit.

·         Remember, too, that people feed themselves a lot better around the time of harvest.  Just when you're at your hungriest (winter starvation) you have to part with the tithe.

·         It puts the "practical" in faith;  if you don't do it, the priest must beg for food.

God's attitude about this is simple:  trust me.  I told you that if you do, I will provide.  He says to the priest, trust me—they'll trust me.  Sometimes they didn't.  God's bounty is for the righteous.

In a way, we are firstfruits also—of the Holy Spirit.  (See James 1:18).  Just as Christ is the firstfruits from the dead, so we are the firstfruits of the resurrection to come.  But that carries a responsibility.  If you are to be firstfruits, you must be without blemish.  Do you seek forgiveness and righteousness?  And if you are firstfruits, you are dedicated to those who depend upon God for their living.  Do you show such dedication?  Those who look to God for their food—those in need, those incapable, those who work in the ministry—are depending on Him.  And you know who he is depending upon, don't you?

 

Lord, we are so timid when we should be so bold.  Give us the faith and wisdom to trust you with the first, not the last, fruits.

 

October 20

 

Worthy of Suffering for the Name

Acts 5:41-42

 

Can anyone be genuinely worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ?  It seems almost an impertinent question;  yet we have it on the authority of the Apostles themselves, by practical experience, that the answer to that question is "yes."  Being blessed for such suffering we understand;  after all, that's in the Sermon on the Mount.  But being worthy? 

The question springs from an attempt at humility.  That humility is a virtue is known to Christians, and unknown to the world.  In the faith, however, there is a pernicious form of blasphemy that say, "Oh, I could never be worthy like that.."  Some parallels are of the more direct form of  "God could never use someone like me."  This is false humility;  he certainly can use someone like you.  And you can be worthy of suffering for the name, if you're stubborn (I mean, persistent) enough.

Why would God permit this?  Because he's honest.  Suffering produces results;  suffering for the name produces great results.  Indeed, the Scripture assures us that if we are insulted because of the name, the Holy Spirit rests upon us. 

The greater the loss, the greater the gain in the kingdom of heaven.  The Apostles counted it a joy and a privilege, and I see no reason why we can't as well. 

One reason we don't see it that way is that our sufferings are slight compared to theirs.  If you read the passage just before this, you'll find that after Gamaliel makes his wise speech, the council lets them go—after  a flogging, of course.

It seems a paradox.  How can something like the cause of Christ provoke such reactions?  Why is it that in our society tolerant people will tolerate anything but Christianity?  More to the point, why does Christ command us to suffer for the name—and then reward us for it?  It is the power of paradox.  The things that the world sees as the weakness of the church, God sees as its strength.  The world sees inflexible, intolerant people.  God sees children who have found the truth.  He will stand by those children, and use their weakness to show his strength. 

If you know those who sneer at the name of Christ, you know they are not impressed by what you believe.  Show them your scars;  they are your testimony.  Words, we haggle;  scars convince.

 

Lord, the time approaches, indeed now is, that we will be winnowed by suffering.  May we be wheat, not chaff.

 

October 21

Eternity

Psalm 102:25-28

 

"In the beginning."  It is difficult for us to remember it, but still true:  the man Jesus of Nazareth, is, was and always will be the agent by whom God created the heavens and the earth.  All that is matter or energy came from him.  Philosophically, it must be so.  The universe had a beginning, that we know from physics.  It is absurd to say the universe created itself; or that it willed itself into existence.  So then, a Creator is required.

Physics also tells us that—eventually—the universe may indeed cease to exist, or at the least wind down to an amorphous spread of energy and matter.  This is not scheduled for the immediate future—unless, of course, God has his own timetable.  For long ago the Psalmist told us that the universe, the heavens and the earth, will pass away—God will change them, as you and I would change a dirty shirt.

Through all this, He remains the same.  He is eternal—not affected by time, not captive by it.  It is his creation;  he changes it, it does not change Him.  It is so much a part of his character that he uses it as his name:  I AM.

But this might surprise you:  you, too, are designed to be eternal.  It is God's intention to "bring many sons to glory," and to do so by making them joint heirs of the kingdom of God with Jesus, the Christ.  As he said to his disciples, "Because I live, you will live also."  (John 14:19)

It is not just that we are designed to be eternal.  Nor is it that plus the fact God intends to have us be eternal.  The stunning thing is this:  our lives are eternal because of the very nature of God.  God, in his essence, is the great I AM.  That fact, and that fact alone, is sufficient to ensure that all who trust him will have eternal life.

How can this be?  We don't know.  It has taken mankind thousands of years to develop the technology to even begin to know how God made the universe, what its formation was like and how it is likely to end.  Even now, there are more questions than answers.  If this is so with the old creation, how much more true is it of the new creation—for which the only example we have is the resurrected Lord?  It is beyond our understanding.

But not beyond our hope.  All who put their trust in God are assured of eternal life.  He who gives that assurance never changes; He is eternal.  If we trust him, we will be, too.

 

Lord, grant that we may see our hope soon.  Until we do, keep us strong in the faith, the evidence of that for which we hope.

 

October 22

Right Response

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

 

On a brief vacation trip, my wife and I saw something quite rare:  a grey fox.  The animal is known to exist in California, but is very elusive, even in rural areas.  The reason is simply that the coyote considers the fox a meal.  The animal is a beautiful creature, particularly noted for its long, bushy tail.  We watched for several minutes as it foraged. 

As we left the area, a couple rode in on a pair of loud motorcycles.  We stopped them as they entered, and told them about the fox.  They immediately silenced the motorcycles and went to see the animal.  It's interesting that our reaction to this rare specimen in God's creation should be one of admiration and interest.  It seems there is something very much ingrained in human beings to seek that which is grand, and to praise it.  It is the right reaction.

David, at the end of his life, set aside a vast fortune with which Solomon was to build the Temple.  As he saw the contributions come in, he led Israel in the psalm we read here.  He too, praises—not the creation, but the creator God.

·         He begins by adoring the eternity—and the unchanging nature—of God.  God is eternal, and therefore his praise should be eternal as well.  We can praise his deeds of the past, knowing that they teach us about his character even today.

·         Next, he praises God's perfections—greatness, power, glory, majesty and splendor.  Consider the awesome nature of the God who created all things—from nothing.  Consider both his power and his glory, the one who is adored by the angels.  Indeed, the ruler of heaven and earth, the creator, could not be  less than he is.

·         All this would mean little to us if he took no interest in our lives.  But not so!  He is the source of wealth and honor, the fountain of strength and power.  If God is for you, who can be against you?

All this calls for a reaction from the righteous man.  That reaction is two-fold:  giving thanks for his many blessings, and praise for who (and what) He is.  The sinner grumbles about his misfortune; the righteous man praises the God who is the source of all his blessings.  The sight of a beautiful animal calls up praise from our minds;  how much more the praise of his creator.

 

Lord, all things are yours, in heaven and on earth, for you created all.  Keep us mindful of your glory, so that we know who You are.

 

October 23

Benediction

Hebrews 13:20-21

 

We sometimes miss the end of the various letters of Paul, for it seems that his message then becomes personal, and of no further use to our modern age.  This is not wise;  all Scripture is profitable, if we will but examine it carefully. 

We begin with, "the God of  peace."  Do you have peace in your heart as you read this?  Perhaps so, perhaps not—but now you know the source of peace—and his desire that we have it.  It is a part of his character, which is entirely good and righteous.

God deals with mankind by covenant.  Some think by contract, others think by bargain, and still others by hasty prayer.  It is not so;  he deals by covenant.  How is this?

·         This covenant is eternal.  Before the worlds began, before there was man to sin, God made this covenant.  It is therefore a covenant that begins among the Trinity;  thus we know that the sacrifice on the Cross was known before  the worlds began.  It is eternal; therefore, it will last  forever, as God himself will last forever.

·         It is a covenant of blood—the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross.  It was pictured in the animal sacrifices of the Old  Testament;  revealed in the New Testament.  It is shown to be completely powerful in this:  by this covenant Jesus was  raised from the dead. 

This, then, is the God we serve.  What blessing does Paul ask for his fellow Hebrew Christians?  Blessings we might ask for even today:  that God equip us.

·         First, with every good thing—that we may lack nothing.

·         Next, that these good things be used to do his will.

This is what is pleasing to God:  that you accept the good things from his hand, showing yourself to be his child by doing his will.

How, you might ask, can this happen?  Only through the Christ, the bridge between man and God.  If we are truly to join in God's purposes, there must be a way for his power and righteousness to flow from his perfection to our imperfection.  That way is through Jesus Christ, who is both completely human and completely God.

The matter seems so simple, yet is so powerful.  It depends upon our accession to the covenant of God.

 

Lord, we strain ourselves to bargain with you, when your covenant is already proclaimed.  Open our eyes, Lord;  help us see.

 

October 24

Body By Fisher

Romans 7:4-6

 

Many years ago, when I was a young lad experiencing true love for the first time (cars, not girls, of course), one would see advertisements for cars by GM which had the tag line, "Body by Fisher."  My dad bought a Chevrolet, and prominently fastened to one door was a plate assuring us that this car did, indeed, have a body by Fisher.  I have no idea why this would be of advantage, but GM kept assuring us that this was a great thing.  So "Body by Fisher" really meant what?  As far as I could tell, it meant that the body wasn't by anybody else.  More than that, I could not say.

Confusing?  Yes.  Sort of like Paul's argument in this passage.  How is it that we died to the Law through the body of Christ?  It seems to us a source of confusion, not explanation.  But if we remember our example, perhaps we can make it clearer. 

In a spiritual metaphor, Paul tells us that we have a choice.  We can have a "Body by Law".  If we select this, we need to obey the rules laid down in the Old Testament.  Or, if we choose, we can have a "Body by Christ."  Siamese twins are not allowed;  it's one of the other. 

If we select "Body by Law," we quickly find some disadvantages.  For while the Law lays out (in detail) what righteous behavior is, it gives us no real power to live that way.  Since none of us are perfect, the ultimate end of this body is death,.  Even while we live, there's a problem with it.  When we begin to be selfish—and we all do, at times—we quickly find the law to be a barrier to what we want.  So we begin to look for loopholes to allow us to be selfish.  How do you feel about a lawyer who finds a loophole which allows him to get an obviously guilty client set free?  God feels the same way about you when you're loophole hunting.

But if we select "Body by Christ" the situation changes.  This body is noted for one thing:  the Resurrection.  This is the body that ends up with life, not death.  This is the body that gives freedom in this life and life eternal when our Lord returns.  This body is given not in a list of rules but the Holy Spirit. 

But to get from one body to another, the first one has to be scrapped, or die, or be discarded somehow.  That happens when you accept Christ as Savior.  Or, as we might say, you trade in the body of death for the body of Life.  "Body by Christ" - it does make a difference.

 

Lord, it is only by your death that we can live in the Resurrection.  It is our choice;  may we choose you each and every day.

 

October 25

Inspiration

2 Timothy 3:14-17

 

There is a quiet controversy raging in Christian circles today.  It is not based on denomination, but on interpretation.  The word seized on is "inspired," also transliterated "God-breathed."  Having a degree in physics, I cringe inwardly when a preacher starts a sentence with, "Scientists think."  (Note to preachers:  forget it.  You won't understand that any more than the rest of us understand theology.)  It can get worse.  There are still those who know that the only truly inspired English version of the Bible is the King James.  The 1611 King James.  Yea, and verily.

Paul, in this section, lays out the principles that should guide our thinking in this.  Let's take a look:

First, he lays out the idea that the interpretation of the Scripture is not a solo flight.  Timothy had trustworthy instructors, those known to him both by word and deed.  He was taught from infancy, so Paul encourages him to continue in the faith.   So first of all let us make sure our teachers are trustworthy, living the Christian life as well as teaching it.

Next, he gives us the character of the Scriptures themselves.  They are holy, or sacred.  This does not mean they are written in a secret code—but it does mean that they are set apart for the purposes of God.  Thus, God did not intend them as great literature (though we find such in them) any more than he intended them as a cookbook.  We are told that they are "inspired" - the word is the correct translation of the Greek, which is now transliterated as "God-breathed."  The literalist will tell you that Paul's hand wrote this while in a trance, moved by the Holy Spirit.  If so, it is amazing how Peter, Paul and John have such different writing styles.  The Bible is not the product of "automatic writing." 

All this would mean nothing if we did not know the purpose of the Bible.  Paul gives us three such purposes here:

·         First, and most important, is that we find the wisdom which leads to salvation—the truth about Jesus, the Christ.

·         Next, it is the source of rebuke and correction, so that things which are wrong may be put right.

·         Finally, it is the source of teaching and training, so that we may do what is right the first time.

God's book, used for His purposes, produces His results.

 

Lord, grant that we may put aside our differences in interpretation and see the unity you desire in your church.

 

October 26

Grafting

Romans 11:18-21

 

In the middle of the twentieth century the vineyards of Europe faced a grave problem.  The vines were gradually succumbing to a vicious infection which rotted away the roots of the vine.  No known cure existed.  Various remedies were tried, but only one method really worked.

This method was particularly galling to the pride of the French.  It seems that the American grape vine was immune to this disease.  The only solution was to import root systems from America and graft the existing vines onto these roots.  I am told that this does not affect the flavor or character of the wine, only the pride of the winemaker.  But there was nothing else to be done—if there was to be a continuation of the wine industry.

American roots; European vines.  It is an example that Paul uses here to explain to the Gentile Christians just exactly why they are so favored by God as to have the Gospel preached to them.  The reason is simple:  the Jews have rejected it.  But God's word will not return to him void;  having been sent out, it will achieve its purpose.  That purpose is nothing less than the presentation of the message of Christ to the entire world—and the salvation of all who will come to Jesus.

The issue, you see, is not one of your inheritance, or your family.  The dividing line is this:  who do you say that Jesus is?  If you say that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and you act in that belief, then you are one who has been grafted in.  The world is concerned that the root system be sound.  God is concerned for the vine, for He is the root.

This is no reason for us to boast of superiority.  Christ encountered a Gentile on a few occasions.  On two of those occasion—the Centurion whose servant was ill, and the woman whose daughter was dying—his response was simply to admire their great faith.  So it would seem that those who are grafted in had best follow in that practice—we need that "great faith."  None of us, no matter our heritage, can rest upon the accomplishments of our ancestors.  To say that your father was devout puts a greater, not a lesser, burden upon you.  You "know better," and you should behave accordingly.  If you have the privilege of knowing someone great in faith see to it that you not only admire it, but imitate it.  By example you are inspired; now work out the salvation given.

 

Lord, so often we take it for granted that we are privileged in you.  Teach us to know the price you paid, so that we may value it.

 

October 27

Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

 

In the early part of the 20th century, a physicist named Niels Bohr contemplated what appeared to be a very simple problem.  It was known as "black box radiation."  In your mind's eye, picture a block of steel with a cavity in it.  There is a tiny hole into the cavity.  Now, heat the object in a very hot oven, and examine the energy that radiates from that tiny hole.  If you perform the calculations according to classical, Newtonian physics, you find that there are an infinite number of frequencies of light coming from that "black body," which implies there must be an infinite amount of energy coming from it.  Which is absurd.

Bohr found an answer to the problem.  He simply assumed that the atoms in the cavity could not radiate energy at just any frequency, but only at certain select frequencies.  When he did this, the experimental results matched the theory quite nicely.  It's just that the physics were wrong.  So in this little problem, Bohr turned the world of physics upside down, beginning what we today would call atomic physics. 

The death, burial and resurrection of Christ turned the world of religion and philosophy upside down, too.  Before the coming of Christ, two approaches prevailed:

·         The Jewish approach—only the chosen people, endowed with God's wisdom, could please God sufficiently.  (And, by the way, look down on the rest of the world in the process). 

·         The Greek approach—this is a matter of heavy brainpower, and deep thought (which none of you Jewish fundamentalists could possibly grasp).

Both approaches make one fundamental mistake:  that the wisdom and power of God are on the same scale as those of mortal man.  When stated, it seems absurd to think so—which is why it is so often unstated.  Indeed, his wisdom is so great that his foolishness exceeds our wisdom.  In the grand, cosmic scheme of thinks, the divine sense of humor has come before the divine power.  Before God comes to the human stage to close the existing universe so as to open the new one, he has sent his son in the power of paradox.  Are you weak?  Then in Christ you are strong.  Are you ignorant?  Then in Christ you know all.  The matter is simple:  "Not by might, nor by power—but by my Spirit," says the Lord.

 

Lord, so often we think ourselves wise, telling others of your will, when we have yet to obey it ourselves.  Teach us obedience first.

 

October 28

Norwegian Blue

Romans 6:1-4

 

My children are fans of the British humor group, Monty Python.  Most noted for bringing the word Spam to our attention just in time to have it become a label for unwanted electronic messages, their repertoire includes many famous (and often quoted) routines.  One of these is the Dead Parrot Sketch, in which the customer tries to convince the shop owner that his parrot, bought half an hour before, is quite dead.  Had the bird not been nailed to the perch, our customer contends, the bird would be pushing up daisies. 

How do we know the parrot is dead?  Here are three tests:

·         The customer yells at the bird—and gets no response.

·         The shop owner offers it food—and gets no response.

·         Finally, the customer inflicts pain on the bird (in the simple method of banging its head on the counter).  No response.

Despite the explanations of the shopkeeper ("It's just pining for the fjords of its native Norway"), it's dead.

We might well, in examining this passage, see if there is any similar evidence that we are dead to sin.

·         The world yells at us in constant advertising;  you have to drink the right beer, drive the right car, wear the right clothes and have the right toys.  Do you have the right stuff?  Or are you dead to commercials—and the materialism they convey?

·         The world pushes "food " at us constantly.  Not only in terms of gluttony (there are restaurants which consider any meal less than 10 pounds to be a failure), but also in bodily desire.  Other people have sex with a fashion model on a daily basis;  aren't you watching over the Internet?  Or are you dead to sin?

·         Finally, there is pain.  Emotional or physical, the world says, do it my way or pay the pain.  Those who are dead to this world see pain as the tool by which God forges them for his purposes.

The parrot didn't move.  It gave no response.  To keep it on the perch, the shopkeeper nailed it there.  Once before a man had nails in His feet—so that he might die.  He died, that we might live, and live eternally.  Dead to sin?  Look for the nail marks.

 

Father, by your love and grace we are saved, through the sacrifice on the Cross.  Teach us to be dead to sin—and alive to you.

 

October 29

Unwelcome Guests

2 John 1:7-11

 

Some years ago, at a prior address, we needed to have the inside of our house painted.  My wife has long since concluded that I'm hopelessly inept at this, and therefore we hired someone to do it.  The painter was an ex-convict.  I knew him fairly well, and felt untroubled about leaving him in the house to continue the work. 

About a year after this we moved to our present location, and joined our current church.  I mentioned this incident in connection with a question, thinking it a simple example.  One of the ladies present was shocked to discover that I allowed an ex-convict in my home—and with my children there, no less!  What seemed to outrage her was the thought that I would socialize with such a person.  (This probably didn't do anything for my reputation.)  What she said when I told her that he is a Christian, and indeed was in the Bible class I taught, perhaps is best left unrepeated.

John, in this very short letter, deals with something similar.  He identifies to us the visitor who is the real danger to the church—one who fits one or both of these criteria:

·         He denies the Incarnation—that is, he says that Jesus was not completely human, or not completely God, or both.

·         He goes beyond the doctrine of Christ, adding things to salvation by grace.

John's instruction is quite remarkable.  He is the Apostle of Love;  in all his works he stresses the central nature of love in the Christian life.  But here he makes it clear:  don't eat with this man, don't let him in your house, show him no hospitality at all—in short, publicly demonstrate how much you abhor such a man.  Why would he do this?

·         The result of such doctrines (there have been many) is the division of the church, hatred and rancor, and large numbers of people who thought they were Christians—and weren't. 

·         One principle result is this:  if Jesus is not uniquely both God and man, then he is not uniquely savior.  Many are led astray by this, and do not accept the one who can save them.

If you found a cobra in your house, you would promptly shoot it.  You would have no hesitation in crushing a poisonous spider.  These men are worse;  they send others to hell.  Why would you kill the snake and spider, but welcome the agent of hell?

 

Lord, we know that courtesy is a form of love, and graces any Christian.  Teach us to know the snakes when we see them.

 

October 30

No More Teachers

Hebrews 8:10-13

 

It is a fact.  The Lord has proclaimed it.  The usefulness of the Bible teacher will come to an end.  Not because Christ's words will cease to be true; nor because we have no need for God.  Such usefulness ceases when the Lord writes his New Covenant.

Covenant.  Except for certain legal uses, the word is now almost entirely a "church word."  It is sufficiently misunderstood that many, including those in the pulpit, conclude that it is nothing but a synonym for "contract."  But there is a substantial difference!  In a contract, both parties must surrender to the other "consideration."  The legal term means something of value.  If I have a contract with God, he gives me something of value, and I  in return give him something of value.

But a covenant is not like that.  God lays out the terms, take them or leave them.  There is no sense in bargaining.  It is not like buying a used car;  it's not really even like getting the groceries.  Its best comparison might be a child's Christmas.  Wrapping paper, smiles, photos and love abound.  God is the master of love.

What kind of covenant will this be?  We know but a little.  So we cannot say, "thus and such will happen."  But we can see it as the will of God, a goal for all of us.

·         It is his desire that his laws be written on the hearts and minds of his people.  Not just with our emotions, nor just intellectual assent, but with all our being we should acknowledge his law in all our ways.

·         We should be lonely no more, for he is our God.  Our care is his concern.  Our fellowship in worship makes us his people, a royal priesthood set apart.

On such a day the teacher is no longer required.  No more nights of study;  no more searches through the minds of the past.  All will know the Lord;  there will be no favoritism 

Is it not amazing how willing God is, to meet us where we are?  But there is a condition—if we are to know him, we must come to him as forgiven, not as the proud.  In the meanwhile, it has pleased God to allow sinners such as this teacher the privilege of bringing you closer to Him—and that by his sovereign grace. 

The day approaches when the teacher's work will be no more.  The trumpet will sound; study no more.  Lord, come soon!

 

Lord, the teacher's privilege is his burden.  Grant that it may soon become a crown in the kingdom to come.


 

October 31

 

Public Standards

1 Corinthians 8:7-13

 

My father was the most intimidating man I have ever met.  One reason for this was that he gave respect to all in authority; but with an air that showed all that he was assisting them.  He never rose above the rank of major in the Army; but his personal presence was such that he once filed court martial papers against a two star general.  My father insisted on respect for those in authority;  he also expected right conduct from them.  This was particularly true of my teachers.  On one occasion for which he had hard words for the principal in my school, he politely ushered me outside, so that I would not hear his superb grasp of military language.

It is a pity, in my opinion, that we no longer hold public school teachers to the high moral standards of the past.  Worse, we neglect this with Bible teachers as well.  In the days of my youth, it was expected that teachers—public and Bible—were to present to their young students a high moral standard.  The reasoning was simple;  young minds are easily misled.  To allow anything else was to wound the conscience of these young minds.  The consequences of this were well known then.

Now, of course, the public school seeks to quickly eradicate the conscience as being an obsolete hangover from "puritanical" times.  Kindergarten students in my home state are taught that a lesbian couple is the ideal environment for raising children.  What is remarkable about this—that there is nothing remarkable about it.  The surprise to the teachers is that having eliminated the conscience they find themselves no longer respected by either student or parent.  Could there possibly be a connection?

The Bible teacher is, perhaps, the last of the standard bearers.  Even there the high example is brought low.  There was a time when divorce was considered a sin in most cases;  now, no one cares, even for teachers.  The family?  Teen rebellion is accepted as normal now.

Does our Lord care?  The one who said that it would be better to have a millstone around your neck and drown yourself than to mislead one of the little children?

Where is the weak conscience to turn?  There are still those who teach the old ways.  They are found in the shelter of His wings;  seek them there.

 

Lord, those with conscience seem to be few;  strengthen the remnant that remains, so that we may be a witness for you.

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