Monday, April 23, 2018

"Pester Power"

John 13.2, 27 NLT

“It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.”

“When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him.”


Nagging works. A nagging husband or wife usually get their way. A nagging thought often comes to pass. A persistent, nagging cough can last for months. Many parents eventually cave to the wishes of a nagging child.

Matthew Bell, a zoologist at Cambridge University, conducted a study of banded mongooses in western Uganda. He speculated that, because begging has a cost in terms of energy, “the amount of noise [mongoose] pups make should depend on the degree to which they think they will get a return on their work.”[1] He found that pups were more likely to make noise with generous caregivers than with those who were stingy or in bad condition and thus had less food to spare.
“He [Dr. Bell] thinks the findings are more broadly applicable. Parents of over-fussy babies, or tantrum-prone children, will not be pleased to discover it is their very attentiveness that is making matters worse.”[2]
Because parents don’t always know the real reason for the cries of a child, they may unknowingly set themselves up for manipulation by a child who has learned the benefits of nagging.

The devil discovered this secret eons ago. He nags and nags until the weak-willed give serious consideration to his request. Once he has a mental foothold, the devil can leverage his position and ultimately take charge of a person’s behavior. The devil “prompted Judas… to betray Jesus” and eventually “Satan entered into him.” What began as a nasty little prompting, ended with full-fledged demonic possession. By then, it was too late for Judas.

Learn to recognize the quiet prompting of an evil thought somewhere in the back of your mind. When you do, just say “no!” The devil has no power against a determined Christ-follower who refuses to surrender to a nagging impulse which inevitably leads to serious temptation.  

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
James 4.7 NAS
_________________

[1] “Sob Story ~ Parents can make things worse”, Science and Technology , “The Economist” magazine, Volume 386, Number 8571, March 15th, 2008, page 97.

[2] Ibid.

Note: The "Nags" image is from a sign above a pub called Nags Head and used by permission of LondonSLR whose excellent photography can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/londonslr/.

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Why Seeking Approval Gets You None"

John 12.42-43 NASU

“Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

A follower of Jesus Christ must be strong to resist conformity and stand up for what’s right. He may be required to endure a little disapproval or rejection…

The phone call was from one of the most popular boys in the high school. He wanted to know, “Can you get us some beer?”

When I was in 10th grade, my friend, Mark, gave me an old draft card he found in a discarded wallet in a trash can. A date of birth was printed on this legal document. The guy would have been 27 years old at the time. “False ID… my ticket to the most wanted commodity on earth, that illegal elixir holding legendary fascination for high school students everywhere… beer!

“You think you can get away with it?” Mark wondered aloud. “I can try” was my fake-modest response. So approximately fifty years ago, I sat in Mark’s Volkswagen bug in front of the Sundown Tavern on 85th Street in Seattle, Washington. It was dark outside. I mustered my ‘guts’ and with a push from accomplice Mark, boldly entered where no boy had gone before... the inner sanctuary of the revered “tavern,” the place only real adults dared to tread.

Ignoring the scrutiny of the patrons, I addressed an elderly gentleman behind the bar. “I would like a case of Heinekens, please.” He squinted through ancient, bloodshot eyes. “How old are you?” he demanded. “I’m twenty-seven and my name is ____________.” I cannot now remember the name on the draft card I thrust at the bartender, but then I had memorized every letter and number on the card and was prepared to defend my new identity. I was fifteen, and I’m certain I did not look twenty-one, much less twenty-seven. If the man behind the counter had stared me down or surprised me with “Boo!” I would have fled in fear. Instead, in the silent moment of truth, the bartender made the decision I dreamed of… “O.K.” he said finally and ambled his way to the cooler.

A middle aged lady, several bar stools away, hunched over her drink, glanced my way. “You don’t look no twenty-seven” she said, with a wink I think. “I am too. I am twenty-seven and my name is ______________.” I paid and thanked the old man who handed me a case of beer, and casually made my exit. A safe distance from the Sundown’s front door, I dashed to Mark’s car with a sense of exhilaration and the beloved merchandise under my arm. I still vividly recall the rush, the excitement, the thrill. Nowhere in high school history had a young man displayed such machismo in the face of danger. I was a hero. Mark slapped my back and emitted a loud and victorious, “Yeeaaahh!”

Word of my daring exploit swept through Ingram High School in 1968. I was now known among the elite, adolescent underground as “the kid who could get beer.” I purposely understated the experience as I strutted from class to class, but my new swagger betrayed how pleased I was with myself. 

Then it happened. The call I had been waiting for. One of the most popular boys at Ingram phoned my home early one Friday night. “Can you get us some beer?”

So this is how you make it into the “in-crowd.” My reputed feat of valor had gained the attention of the coolest kids in school. “Sure!” My response was immediate. I crowded into the back end of a car filled with the veritable “cream of the crop” kids. These were the “movers and shakers,” the most revered and respected guys in the entire school of over two thousand kids, the top level B.M.O.C.’s, truly the most popular teenagers I knew. And now… I was one of them! I could hardly contain myself. I would have thrown myself in front of a moving train to obtain the favor of this group. Fate had handed me an opportunity to prove myself worthy of a place among this venerated collection of boys.

My repeat performance at the Sundown Tavern came off without a hitch. I flashed my false I.D. and got the beer. We hastily drove away, the most popular guys on earth, laughing and shouting, holding up our trophy… a case of Heinekens. Where would the driver take us? Carkeek Park? Golden Gardens? Some party with girls and no parents in sight? I couldn’t wait. It was my shining moment. My flash of stardom. My fifteen minutes of glory. My highest and most noble achievement to date.


The automobile took a strangely familiar turn. Then another. Before I could grasp the obvious, we were parked once again in front of my parents house! There was an awkward moment of silence. The unthinkable was occurring before my eyes. The unbelievable thought slowly penetrated my mind, “They want me to get out!”

This was my real moment of truth. Obtaining the beer was easy compared with the challenge now confronting me. Would I dare to admit that I had hoped to stay with these kids for a night of partying? Was I crazy? Did I really think I would be invited to join the fun? Did I actually imagine myself to be more than a courier, a necessary means to the end, just a way for these guys to get some beer? I had allowed myself to be used. What a fool I now thought myself to be. I would not dare to demonstrate the guts to say what I have often since wished I could have said…”Listen, you dumbs_ _ _s! If you want the beer then you take me with you. It’s a package deal.” Instead, I failed the true test of machismo. I could not risk the horror and dishonor of rejection. I acted as though it never even occurred to me to tag along with this auspicious crowd. Maybe they did not know how much I craved their approval. Maybe they would have welcomed me. Maybe not. I will never know.

I quickly exited the automobile. “Thanks for the beer,” one of the boys yelled driving away. I waved back, “No problem.”  My mom was surprised to see me. “You’re home early. Did you have fun?” I mumbled something adolescent like, “Yeah. It was O.K.” 

Quietly, in my bedroom, early on a Friday night in 1968, I stared in silence at the draft card. It was my ticket to beer, girls, and popularity. I briefly savored the possibilities. Somehow, deep inside, I knew it was folly to pursue a career as my high school’s most notorious beer smuggler. It would bring even more of the same unhappiness and shame I had experienced minutes ago. It might even destroy my life and endanger the lives of other stupid teens who wanted to drink and drive. I made the most courageous decision I was then capable of making; a decision I am still proud of and one I never once regretted… I tore up the draft card.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Real Sympathy"

John 11.3, 5, 33-36 NASU

“So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’ ”

Jesus was fully human. The gospel record proves that. Jesus Christ experienced the full spectrum emotions common to all mortals and, for that reason alone, is qualified to “sympathize” with our human condition.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our
weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Hebrews 4.15 NKJV

My oldest daughter, Christina, has a heart of gold.  She was a successful CPA and now an amazing stay-at-home mom. When Christina was seven years old, early one Saturday morning, she stumbled across a TV infomercial with a lady modeling a dress. Christina was struck with the idea of obtaining that dress for her mother. It was an innocent gesture of pure love. She followed the instructions given by the television announcer and made the 1-800 number call. Christina tried to explain to the sales representative that she wanted to get the dress for her mommy.

I don’t blame the telephone attendant for being curt. She had sales to make. There was no time for small kids with no money. “Get off the phone, little girl.” Click. Christina was devastated, sobbing. I tried to affirm her selfless act and console her broken heart. She attempted to do a good thing for her mother and was rejected for her genuine effort. I shall never forget that tender moment.

I have often felt Jesus console me in the same way. I tried to do the right thing, but it did not work out well. Jesus truly understands. He “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” and loves each one of us. Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit” by the grief of His friends who lost their brother. It “troubled” Him when others were in pain. He feels our pain and identifies deeply with our broken hearts.

Two little words comprise the shortest verse in the entire Bible. They pretty much say it all…

“Jesus wept.”
John 11.35
_________________

The image entitled "Tear!" is used by permission of ::: *TearS* ::: (Almaha) whose wonderful photographic work you can view at http://www.flickr.com/photos/almaha/.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"I am Not the Gatekeeper"

John 10.7, 16 KJV 

“Then said Jesus unto them again, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.’

‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.’ ”


The church of Jesus Christ is broad and far reaching. It spans all limitations of time and space. Christians appear in every generation and nation on earth. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Not every follower of Christ looks like you. Don’t worry about how they look, sound, smell, or think. Do not trust your initial impressions. Accept one who acknowledges Jesus as your brother or sister without judgment. You are not the entry point for salvation. Jesus is. He is the gatekeeper, the one and only “door of the sheep.”

I used to attend a weekly 12-Step meeting. After each meeting, three of us would meet for coffee at a local café. Our men’s small group was tight and characterized by free and honest discussion. We grew to trust each other. One evening, another gentleman joined us at the invitation of one of the other two guys. It was never said, but I presumed it to be understood that, while our little group may not have been closed in a strict sense, attendance would be by permission only. I was never consulted. I acted polite but secretly resented this intrusion into our established clique. I was agitated by the newcomer’s failure to comprehend our well developed small group dynamics. He had the gall to act as if he was fully accepted without the customary relationship trial period. The man behaved like he’d known us forever… he was friendly, jovial, and belted our a hearty (irritatingly loud) laugh. He tended to monopolize conversations, in my opinion. I became angry and a little sullen. My “support” group had thoughtlessly abandoned me and changed directions without my consent.

As the weeks went on “Joe” became a regular and I begrudgingly accepted his presence as a foregone conclusion. That was many years ago. There is a moral to this story... today I cannot remember the names of the original members of my so-called “support group.” I can’t even remember what they looked like. It was fun and beneficial while it lasted but... it didn’t last. Not many things do. One relationship continues, however. “Joe” and I are still great friends. Imagine that! If I had designed the group and kept control the people whom I would allow influence in my life, this fine man would never have been inducted. Also, I would be a lesser man. “Joe” became my lifelong friend.

I have no business deciding who should be “in” or “out” of my life. That’s Christ’s job. He’s the gatekeeper, not me. Jesus is the “shepherd”of the “fold.” He alone decides who should be in our out. I am much more exclusive than God. Jesus is “door of the sheep” and His door is always open.  

“I am the door of the sheep.”

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring,
and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
____________

The black and white photo of the sheep at the door is used by permission of photographer Andy Farrell of Liverpool, England (http://www.flickr.com/people/caerphoto/). I love this picture! It fits perfectly with the “I am the door of the sheep” theme.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Apply a Little Mud"

John 9.1, 5-7 NIV

“As he [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth.”

“…he [Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”

A man walked into a bookstore and asked the sales clerk for directions to the ‘self-help’ section. The clerk responded, “If I told you that, it would defeat the whole purpose!”

Sometimes we just need a little help. What we really need is someone to help us help ourselves. Jesus had no intention of living the blind man’s life for him. The afflicted man was expected to participate in the healing Jesus offered. Jesus did not carry him to “the Pool of Siloam.” The blind guy had to get up and “go… wash” all by himself.

But Jesus knew the man was stuck in the mud of his own dilemma . He could not help himself. He needed a jump start. Jesus took some of the mud that had defined the blind man’s condition since birth, added divine spit, and applied it to the man’s biggest problem. Then Jesus required the guy to do something to help himself. “Go… wash in the Pool of Siloam.”

Willingly give a little help when it’s needed. No need to carry people. They can “go… wash” themselves. They just need some encouragement to get up and take the first step. Don’t begrudge this small gesture of kindness, or expect hurting souls to help themselves alone. 

Someday you too may need a small helping hand.

Monday, April 16, 2018

"He's Part of the Package"

John 8.30-57 selected verses HCSB (42a; 44a, d; 57-59a)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me...  You are of your father the Devil,... he is a liar and the father of liars.”

The Jews replied, “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them,...Before Abraham was, I am.” 

At that, they picked up stones to throw at Him.


Do all paths lead to God? Will I get to heaven as long as I am a good person? Can I trust my heart to know the right thing to do? Is it enough that I am sincere in my beliefs? Was Jesus just another great spiritual leader like Mohammed, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa? No, no, no, no, and no. 

Jesus is often glamorized by those who do not know Him. They place Him on a pedestal with other enlightened and inspirational historical figures while disregarding the highly controversial statements that made Him hated by many of His generation.

  • Jesus called “God his own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5.18), a comparison that infuriated the religious leaders of His day. 

  • He boldly announced, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8.58) claiming His own pre-existence. 

  • He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14.6), thus shredding the ‘all paths lead to God’ theory. 

According to Jesus, truly ‘spiritual’ people who know God, would also love Jesus.

“If God were your Father, you would love Me.”

Jesus claimed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10.30). Apparently, I cannot have God the Father without the God the Son. I can’t know God without Jesus. He’s part of the package.

Friday, April 13, 2018

"What's Not to Trust?"

John 7.18 NIV

“He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”


How do you know when people are telling the truth? Check their motives. What do they have to gain if you believe what they say? That they have much to gain, does not necessarily preclude the possibility of truth-telling. However, if they have nothing to gain, chances are good they are not lying. A man who truly seeks the honor or welfare of another has pure motives. 

I occasionally question my own motives. Here’s a few questions I’ve posed to my self. Feel free to consider them for your self. 
  • Am I more interested in the object of my devotion or the reward for my devotion?
  • Is it possible for me to give freely without thought anything in return?
  • Do I expect recognition, appreciation, or honor when I perform well?
  • Am I as kind and loving to the vendor as I am to a client? If not, why not?
  • Am I seeking nice treatment when I treat others nicely?
  • Do I “do unto others” as or so that “I would have them do unto me”?
  • Do I really listen or am I formulating my own thoughts while others are talking?
  • Am I capable of placing myself under the authority of another for whom I will speak?
  • Do I appear humble or am I humble?
  • Can I kneel in my heart or only on my knees?
  • Do I behave differently alone or with my family than I do in public? 
  • Am I “a man of truth”?
Jesus was the only pure and authentic “man of truth” yet, He did not possess an inflated self-view. Christ willingly placed Himself under the authority of His Father: “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7.16). Jesus claimed no ownership for His teaching which He delivered purely for the benefit of others. He had nothing to gain and, of course, lost everything including His own life. Jesus proved He “is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” What’s not to trust?
_______________

The interesting close-up of the coin is called "In God We Trust" by photographer Terry C. with caption: "IN GOD WE TRUST" the US quarter say[s] it all! at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tenor_t/485575711/.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"How We Got to Where We're Going"

John 6.16-21 ESV

“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”

Life is a journey and not always an easy one. Most of us can look back with some regrets admitting “the sea became rough” on more than a few occasions. It got “dark” out there when “Jesus had not yet come” in our time of need. “Strong wind” made progress slow and the “miles” long.

We “were frightened” by our first encounter with Christ. But “coming near” He whispered to our anxious souls, “do not be afraid” and fear vanished. We became “glad to take Him into the boat” and “immediately” we arrived at the place we “were going”.

Thank you, Jesus.
________________

The papier-mâché and driftwood art was created by Anita Russel who kindly gave me permission to use its image on this post (http://www.driftwood-dreams.co.uk/).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Thoughtful Skeptics Agree"

John 5.25, 28-29a NASB

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live.”

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth…”

Have you ever wondered why the institution of the church has thrived for two thousand years and still going strong? The movement started with one man’s promise, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.18). Renowned philosophers and philanthropists, leaders and statesmen, nations and religions have all come and gone, but the church of Jesus Christ remains. Why?

Perhaps there is a reason for the church’s longevity. Could it be that the great things Jesus did were so great that history and culture will simply not permit this man to be forgotten? Millenniums and generations of people and events have passed away. Only a few remain hidden in the dark pages of forgotten and dusty old history books, but no one can erase the memory of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I did pretty well with my March Madness bracket this year. My wife loved college basketball and got me hooked in the years before her early death in August 2015. I had Duke going all the way... and they made it to the Elite Eight. Adonica would have been so proud of my effort!

Ten years ago, front page news in local newspapers all over America read: “Kansas Wins!” Mario Chalmers of the Jayhawks hit a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation play sending the final 2008 NCAA men’s basketball championship game into overtime. Kansas went on to take the title with a 75-68 win over the Memphis Tigers. What an unforgettable game! Or, was it? 

Less than thirty-six hours later, there was no mention of this game in the Oregonian. I searched E1 to E10 of the Sports section. Nothing! The game was great, but apparently not that great. No one, except perhaps players, coaches, and family, remembers the glory days of March Madness 2008. Games, even great ones, appear for a moment in time, and then forever disappear.

Not so with the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “…the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God; and those who hear shall live” and “…all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth…” We spiritualize words like these insinuating that Jesus was used symbolic speech to describe leaving “the tombs” of sin and rising to new life in faith. However, Jesus meant literally and exactly what He said: “…the dead” and “all who are in the tombs shall… come forth”. Historically, that’s what happened! 

“The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had
died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection
they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”
Matthew 27.52-53 NIV

Jesus Christ rose from the dead and so did “many holy people” in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. This may be the only event in history that qualifies as truly unforgettable. The resurrections of Christ and other departed saints who heard “the voice of the son of God” were observed by hundreds of people twenty centuries ago (1st Corinthians 15.6). These eyewitnesses knew what they saw and refused to deny the fact of the resurrection even upon penalty of martyrdom. The resurrection was, and remains to be, permanently seared into civilization’s memory. 

Even thoughtful skeptics would agree... the church of Jesus Christ is never going away.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"People Must Hear for Themselves"

John 4.39, 41-42 HCSB

“Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’

Many more believed because of what He said. And they told the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.’ ”


I was never very good at basketball, but I still remember an important concept from my 5th grade hoops coach. I could not shoot or dribble with any degree of proficiency, but I could steal. Coach would say, “I’m glad you can force the turnover, but it is not a valid possession until you have enough control to pass the ball to a teammate.”

St. Paul coached the young pastor Timothy on this same concept. Paul’s plan was to reach the entire known world, from Palestine to Rome, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle’s life was characterized by a passion to spread the word of God. But Paul knew he could not do it alone. He needed “faithful men who” like Timothy would “be able to teach others also” (2nd Timothy 2.2). Paul expected his converts to “pass the ball” by sharing the gospel with those who would “in turn, pass it on to others.” In effect, Paul was saying, “If you can’t give it away, you never really had it.”

The Samaritan woman heard the gospel. She testified of its impact and “many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said.” But that was not enough. The impact of this woman’s experience was not fully realized until she was removed from the equation. At some point, those who heard were compelled to say, “We have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior.” Until those I tell of Christ can say, “We have heard for ourselves,” I have not yet passed the ball. It’s not enough to tell them. They must hear for themselves.

The energy spent in ‘passing the ball’ to a faithful few will count as major ‘assists’ in God’s game plan to reach the world with the gospel of Christ.
________________

“Basketball Net” image above is used by permission of photographer Suzy Mack. Check out her excellent photography at http://www.flickr.com/photos/suzymack/.

Monday, April 09, 2018

"God"

John 3.33 AMP

“Whoever receives His [Jesus Christ’s] testimony has set his seal of approval to this: God is true.

My style of reading is to attack a book with pen or highlighter in hand. My personal library contains mostly battered volumes of earmarked pages, scribblings of diagrams with arrows, underlinings, margin comments, and other evidence of book abuse.

My wife’s book collection was quite different. She was a minimalist and chose to own less, not more, possessions of any kind, including books. I will own any popular book. She was quite selective about the company of literature she kept. A few classics and her Bible. That’s about it. A voracious reader, my wife opted for the public library rather than “clutter our home with one more book,” as she put it.

Adonica made an exception with A. W. Tozer. She had to own The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s a skinny 120 page volume and, in my initial opinion, no bargain at $12.95. But my dear woman read and reread this book many times. She could review any page at any time to instantly reconnect with God. This reading practice is not systematic enough for me. I read a book once, cover to cover, while identifying the key points with a yellow highlighter. My wife claims that highlights and underlines demand your attention at subsequent readings, while excluding (what the author meant to be) other just as meaningful passages of a book. She does not underline her Bible for the same reason. “It’s all God’s Word,” she would claim, “not just the part you decide to underline!” Powell’s Bookstore apparently agrees, offering you less at the ‘book buyers’ counter for marked up copies.

Before she died, my precious Adonica read to me this portion of “Knowledge” from Tozer:

“Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering. To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him. Yet how He eludes us! For He is everywhere while He is nowhere, for ‘where’ has to do with matter and space, and God is independent of both. He is unaffected by time or motion, is wholly self-dependent and owes nothing to the worlds His hands have made.”[1] 

I was mesmerized. These words fed my soul. I was still contemplating Tozer’s message the next morning when I read my Bible. Tozer (and my wife) inspired me to meditate that day on three small words from John, chapter 3: “God is true.” I did not begin to make even the slightest scratch in the surface of their meaning, but I may have moved incrementally and imperceptibly in the direction of “The Knowledge of the Holy” by the practice of this simple discipline of meditation. According John 3.33, I “set my seal of approval to [the fact that] God is true” by simply believing the words of His Son, which I do.

_________________

[1] The Knowledge of the Holy ~ The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life, A. W. Tozer, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1961, pp. 26f. Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was a popular Christian author and mystic. He authored thirty books and is one of the most influential American evangelists of the twentieth century. He also wrote: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (p. 1) and, “…because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological. Some knowledge of what kind of God it is that operates the universe is indispensable to a sound philosophy of life and a sane outlook on the world…” (p. 27).

Friday, April 06, 2018

"Do Whatever He Tells You to Do"

John 2.5 CEV

“Mary then said to the servants, ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.’

Will you “do whatever Jesus tells you to do”? 

Jesus and His mother and disciples were invited to a wedding. The host ran out of wine at the reception. Mary informed her Son, “They have no wine” to which Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” I find this interaction between Jesus and his mother curious and have yet to hear a good explanation. Mary alerted the servants, “Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” Jesus told them to fill six large water pots with water. Miraculously the water changed to wine, but not just any wine. It was good wine.

Miracles happen when the decision to “do whatever Jesus tells you to do” is made. The water of common experience becomes the wine of new opportunity. Options open, fears subside, money appears, issues resolve, hope springs forth, ideas flourish, people cooperate, minds change, insights emerge, and new paths become visible in the dark landscape of despair. Miracles happen. They happen before you “do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” They happen when the decision is made; that is, when you decide to obey Jesus, which is a miracle in itself. Miracles beget miracles when someone decides to…

“Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.”

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The beautiful image of the water pot above is entitled “Pot Luck” and used by permission of photographer Shayne Krige. You can view this artist’s work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/underthebridge/.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

"The Ministry of Stepping Aside"

John 1.19-21 NAS

“…the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 

And he confessed… ‘I am not the Christ.’

The Jews could have accused the Baptist of avoiding the question. They asked John, “Who are you?,” not “Who aren’t you?” John told them who he wasn’t.
  • He wasn’t Christ, the Anointed One, the coming Messiah predicted by Daniel (Daniel 9.25-26).
  • He wasn’t Elijah who would be the Messiah’s forerunner according to the minor prophet Malachi (Malachi 4.5).
  • He wasn’t the “Prophet” promised by Moses (Deuteronomy 18.15-19).
Who did John say he was then?

I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
John 1.23 NAS from Isaiah 40.3

John was nothing more (or less) than “a voice.” “I am a voice,” claimed the Baptist… 


έγω φωνη' 

...(pronounced ay-go' pho-nay') from which we derive the word ‘phone.’ Pick up the phone and listen to a voice. That’s all John claimed to be... “a voice” telling others of Christ. 

John consistently directed attention away from himself and toward Jesus. He was fond of saying, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I” (John 1.15, 30). John described Jesus as “He… the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1.27). When Jesus Christ asked to be baptized by him, “John tried to prevent Him” feeling unworthy of the honor (Matthew 3.13-14). His was a ‘ministry of stepping aside’ to make room for Jesus Christ who “must increase” while, as John claimed, “I must decrease” (John 3.30).

You and I are “not the Christ.” We cannot save ourselves or others. If we think ultimate control of our destiny is our God-given option, we are deluded. At our best, we are nothing more (or less) than “a voice” of hope in a world of hurt. Like John, we may give voice to the truth about Jesus, then step aside and watch Jesus do His work.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

"Why Pray?"

Luke 24.17-19 BBE

Jesus: “What are you talking about…?”

Cleopas: “Are you the only man living in Jerusalem who has not had news of the things which have taken place there at this time?”

Jesus: “What things?”

Jesus posed a rhetorical question. “What are you talking about?” He was God. He already knew what they were “talking about.” Jesus knew all about “the things” Cleopas and his traveling companion were discussing. He was the subject of the rumors. Jesus was up to speed and fully aware. 

So why the inquiry? He asked not because He needed to know. He asked to engage the people He loved. Jesus persisted in His initiative, “What things?”

Jesus wants to engage you. “What are you talking about?” is a question designed to get you into a conversation with Jesus. Don’t dismiss prayer because you know He already knows anything you’d have to say. Prayer is not for the purpose of providing intelligence to God. He’s got all the information He will ever need. Prayer is for you. When you need someone to talk to, Christ offers a willing ear. “What things” matter to you? Those “things” also matter to Jesus as you will discover in conversation with Him. He will provide divine perspective and “open your mind to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24.65). Talking with Jesus will heal your soul and strengthen your spirit. 

Tell someone who really does care. Tell Jesus.
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Note: The beautiful picture of the boy praying above is entitled “Lord, Hear His Prayers” and is used here by permission of the photographer, Julie with “~The Olis In 'Consin~'s photos”. You can view more of her wonderful work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theolivers_inwisconsin/297521908/.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

"Fill in the Blanks"

Luke 23.33, 42-43 NIV 

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”


Imagine Jesus speaking with you, as He did the criminal on the cross. What would He say to you? Fill in the blanks:


____(Your Name)____, I tell you the truth, today you will _______________.”

“…pay dearly for the trouble you caused.”
“…get a spanking when Dad comes home.”
“…be very, VERY sorry.”
“…wish you’d never been born.”
“…need to call your attorney.”
“…suffer the consequences of your sin.”
“…be taught a lesson you’ll never forget.”
“…lose everything.”
“…fall flat on your face.”
“…never know what hit you.”
“…cringe from embarrassment.”
“…cry in sorrow.”
“…perform poorly.”
“…become the scapegoat.”
“…be the butt of the joke.”
“…let everyone down.”
“…have the worst day of your life.”
“…go unnoticed by those you love.”
“…learn what an undeserving pig you are.”
“…think the worst.” 
“…hurt like hell.”
“…feel like dying.”
“…die.”
“…go to hell.”

The thief did not get what he deserved and thankfully, neither do we. God’s “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2.13). Imagine again Jesus speaking to you. Fill in the blanks:


____(Your Name)____, I tell you the truth, today you will _______________.”


“…be forgiven.”
“…forget the past.”
“…become highly functional.”
“…know the power of God.”
“…convey the love of Christ.”
“…walk with Jesus.”
“…overcome temptation.”
“…love the people in your path.”
“…be an example.”
“…be a leader.”
“…have some fun.”
“…live victoriously.”
“…take care of business.”
“…perform brilliantly.”
“…get a windfall.”
“…learn a valuable lesson.”
“…provide for your family.”
“…become the woman [or man] you were destined to be.”
“…show courage.”
“…take the high road.”
“…make a friend.”
“…reconcile a broken friendship.”
“…turn a brother or sister from the error of their ways.”
“…treat others the way you want to be treated.”
“…inspire those around you.”
“…act with dignity.”
“…show compassion.”
“…be with Me in paradise.”

What do you think Jesus would say? How would He fill in the blanks for you?