Advertisements

Blog Archives

Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

Advertisements

Psalm 117 // The call to praise

1 Praise the Lord, all nations!Glorify Him, all peoples!

2 For His faithful love to us is great;

the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.

 Hallelujah!”

Psalm 117

Yes, that’s the whole psalm. 

Read it again, the whole thing, but slow it down a little, considering the words.

Read it once more, and think about the full number of those who praise Him in the church.

Read it again, and remember the things that God has faithfully done for you.

Read it again, and sculpt a prayer of thanksgiving to Him.

  

Psalm 114 // The Power of God

“1 When Israel came out of Egypt —

the house of Jacob from a people

who spoke a foreign language —

2 Judah became His sanctuary,

Israel, His dominion.

3 The sea looked and fled;

the Jordan turned back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams,

the hills, like lambs.

5 Why was it, sea, that you fled?

Jordan, that you turned back?

6 Mountains, that you skipped like rams?

Hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 who turned the rock into a pool of water,

the flint into a spring of water.”

Psalm 114

Read this again, a second time, but a little more slowly, letting the imagery take shape in your mind & heart.

Read it a third time, piece by piece, phrase by phrase & linger on what is being said.

Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer to begin your Sunday morning. 

  

Psalm 99 // The King is Holy

“1 The Lord reigns! Let the peoples tremble.

He is enthroned above the cherubim.

Let the earth quake.

2 Yahweh is great in Zion;

He is exalted above all the peoples.

3 Let them praise Your great

and awe- inspiring name.

He is holy.

4 The mighty King loves justice.

You have established fairness;

You have administered justice

and righteousness in Jacob.

5 Exalt the Lord our God;

bow in worship at His footstool.

He is holy.

6 Moses and Aaron were among His priests;

Samuel also was among those calling on His name.

They called to Yahweh and He answered them.

7 He spoke to them in a pillar of cloud;

they kept His decrees and the statutes He gave them.

8 Lord our God, You answered them.

You were a forgiving God to them,

an avenger of their sinful actions.

9 Exalt the Lord our God;

bow in worship at His holy mountain,

for the Lord our God is holy.”

Mark 13:1-13 // Endure in Him

“1 As He was going out of the temple complex, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!”

2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!”

3 While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple complex, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?”

5 Then Jesus began by telling them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, “I am He,” and they will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, dont be alarmed; these things must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 But you, be on your guard! They will hand you over to sanhedrins, and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of Me, as a witness to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 So when they arrest you and hand you over, dont worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour — say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Then brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and put them to death. 13 And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.”

Mark 13:1-13

Things that will happen:

– Destruction of the temple complex

– False teachers and pseudo-Christs

– War, natural disasters, famine

– Public scrutiny of believers

– Gospel is shared globally 

– Family strife experienced for belief

– Believers hated

Now, most of these have been happening since the birth of the church. The Temple complex was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans, but pretty much everything else has been happening repeatedly, in different places at different times. The Gospel being shared globally is the final ingredient that has not been fulfilled, but it draws closer. 

Human turmoil and family strife over the belief in Christ has been a dividing factor since Pentecost. All the social ills that Jesus listed are also age-old issues for the church. So, if so much here is common, then what do we focus on? 

Two things: 

– Getting the gospel to all nations

– Enduring to the end

Those are the two things we have any part in and control over anyway, right? We could spend our days worried and fretting over things we cannot fix or change, or we could do the two things that seem to matter most.

It seems like a simple choice to me, and Jesus told us that He would be with us always, to the very end of the age, so that includes His part in seeing these things done is us and through us. We simply need to trust in Jesus. We focus on these areas of priority and trust Him to handle everything. 

So, GoLove people in His Name, do whatever you can to get the gospel message out there and you concentrate on sticking with Jesus in the process, growing and maturing in Him. There are about 6,500 dialects that lack a copy of the scriptures in their native language. So, funding for those ministries who translate and the missionaries who go there should be our primary concern. Meanwhile, we make sure the Gospel is preached where we are and we endure all things in Christ. 

That’s the plan, that’s the part we can handle being a part of, too. Leave all the big, cataclysmic stuff to God, trust Him to handle it well, and see you through. He is more than capable. 

Psalm 97 // Praise Almighty God!

“1 The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice;

let the many coasts and islands be glad.

2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;

righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

3 Fire goes before Him

and burns up His foes on every side.

4 His lightning lights up the world;

the earth sees and trembles.

5 The mountains melt like wax

at the presence of the Lord —

at the presence of the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim His righteousness;

all the peoples see His glory.

7 All who serve carved images,

those who boast in idols, will be put to shame.

All the gods must worship Him.

8 Zion hears and is glad,

and the towns of Judah rejoice

because of Your judgments, Lord.

9 For You, Lord,

are the Most High over all the earth;

You are exalted above all the gods.

10 You who love the Lord, hate evil!

He protects the lives of His godly ones;

He rescues them from the power of the wicked.

11 Light dawns for the righteous,

gladness for the upright in heart.

12 Be glad in Yahweh, you righteous ones,

and praise His holy name.”

Mark 12:1-12 // It all belongs to Him

“1 Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug out a pit for a winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went away. 2 At harvest time he sent a slave to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from the farmers. 3 But they took him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent another slave to them, and they hit him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 Then he sent another, and they killed that one. He also sent many others; they beat some and they killed some.

6 He still had one to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.”

7 But those tenant farmers said among themselves, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!” 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the farmers and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t  you read this Scripture:

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

11 This came from the Lord

and is wonderful in our eyes?”

12 Because they knew He had said this parable against them, they were looking for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd. So they left Him and went away.”

Mark 12:1-12

The misuse of the Lord’s Kingdom and resources is a serious thing. The mistaken heart that believes that these things are theirs, simply by right, as if they are entitled to it, is woefully off track. The United States was, for a long time, the leading point of growth and outward sending evangelism in the world. But then, over time, the church here got distracted, started setting goals for comfort, and stagnated into an inwardly focused mindset. She became quiet and apathetic, and let the culture dictate what was acceptable rather than living and being that example. Complacency ruined her effectiveness. 

According to the Gordon Cromwell seminary, the fastest growth for Christianity is now happening in China, Nepal and the Arabian peninsula (2013 study.) missionaries are being sent out by countries that we used to send missionaries to and some are even sending them to the U.S.. 

Our work in the vineyard has not been effective and the Lord has seen fit to hire more laborers. This is for His glory and our shame. We do not get to dictate how this work happens or when harvest is supposed to occur. No. The work of the laborers is given by the owner of the vineyard. He is sovereign over us and He is the One who gives direction and guidance. We have no say in the matter, that’s what sovereignty is, the rule of one over another. But God is no heartless dictator, He desires to see us grow and flourish and be successful, because that is His heart and that is for His glory. A stagnant church or culture does not bring Him honor. And so our response to His call should be to grab a hold of His will, claim it for ourselves, and focus our lives and efforts through it. 

An effective worker is one who respects and honors the will of the one who hired them on. An effective Christian is one who respects and honors the will of the One who redeems and restores their soul. We GoLove the nations and our neighbors simply because He told us to. He has commissioned the labor for those whom He has purchased by the blood of His own Son. His Holy Spirit strengthens and guides us. We simply need to trust and obey.

Mark 12:1-12 // It all belongs to Him

“1 Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug out a pit for a winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went away. 2 At harvest time he sent a slave to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from the farmers. 3 But they took him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent another slave to them, and they hit him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 Then he sent another, and they killed that one. He also sent many others; they beat some and they killed some.

6 He still had one to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.”

7 But those tenant farmers said among themselves, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!” 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 Therefore, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the farmers and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t  you read this Scripture:

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

11 This came from the Lord

and is wonderful in our eyes?”

12 Because they knew He had said this parable against them, they were looking for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd. So they left Him and went away.”

Mark 12:1-12

The misuse of the Lord’s Kingdom and resources is a serious thing. The mistaken heart that believes that these things are theirs, simply by right, as if they are entitled to it, is woefully off track. The United States was, for a long time, the leading point of growth and outward sending evangelism in the world. But then, over time, the church here got distracted, started setting goals for comfort, and stagnated into an inwardly focused mindset. She became quiet and apathetic, and let the culture dictate what was acceptable rather than living and being that example. Complacency ruined her effectiveness. 

According to the Gordon Cromwell seminary, the fastest growth for Christianity is now happening in China, Nepal and the Arabian peninsula (2013 study.) missionaries are being sent out by countries that we used to send missionaries to and some are even sending them to the U.S.. 

Our work in the vineyard has not been effective and the Lord has seen fit to hire more laborers. This is for His glory and our shame. We do not get to dictate how this work happens or when harvest is supposed to occur. No. The work of the laborers is given by the owner of the vineyard. He is sovereign over us and He is the One who gives direction and guidance. We have no say in the matter, that’s what sovereignty is, the rule of one over another. But God is no heartless dictator, He desires to see us grow and flourish and be successful, because that is His heart and that is for His glory. A stagnant church or culture does not bring Him honor. And so our response to His call should be to grab a hold of His will, claim it for ourselves, and focus our lives and efforts through it. 

An effective worker is one who respects and honors the will of the one who hired them on. An effective Christian is one who respects and honors the will of the One who redeems and restores their soul. We GoLove the nations and our neighbors simply because He told us to. He has commissioned the labor for those whom He has purchased by the blood of His own Son. His Holy Spirit strengthens and guides us. We simply need to trust and obey.

Psalm 96 // The King is Coming

“1 Sing a new song to the Lord;

sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Sing to Yahweh, praise His name;

proclaim His salvation from day to day.

3 Declare His glory among the nations,

His wonderful works among all peoples.

4 For the Lord is great and is highly praised;

He is feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,

but the Lord made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before Him;

strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name;

bring an offering and enter His courts.

9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness;

tremble before Him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations: The Lord reigns.

The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken.

He judges the peoples fairly.

11 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;

let the sea and all that fills it resound.

12 Let the fields and everything in them exult.

Then all the trees of the forest will shout for joy

13 before the Lord, for He is coming —

for He is coming to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with His faithfulness.”

Mark 11:12-14; 20-26 // Fruitless Lives Condemned, Faith Encouraged 

“12 The next day when they came out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 After seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, He went to find out if there was anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples heard it.”

“20 Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed is withered.”

22 Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. 23 I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for — believe that you have received them, and you will have them. 25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. [26 But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing.]””

Mark 11:12-14; 20-26

Here we find the only destructive miracle in the Gospels. This cursed fig tree, that should have borne at least some edible buds, was entirely fruitless. Fig trees have been symbols of Israel throughout different eras in the Old Testament, specifically within the prophets. And yet again, this fruitless fig tree stands as a witness against the nation. 

Looking back to the beginning of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 14, we see that God intended for Israel to be a blessing to the nations. They would serve God and in turn bear witness to the Gentile nations, teaching them and blessing them in His Name. But they became a group of navel-gazers, looking inward and neglecting those nations and peoples whom they had been tasked with serving. 

Just like the priests in the tabernacle and temple were meant to serve in the presence of God and bear witness to Israel through their ministry and teaching, Israel was meant to bear fruit for the nations in the same way. But here, they stand fruitless, and so stand cursed. 

And so Jesus shows His disciples that faith is simply a matter of sincere belief and truthful expectation. It’s not a ritual to play out or something you are born into. Faith is an active, intentional thing. We trust God in faith and then move in that faith. Fruit comes from an active faith. The fruitless life is obviously, then, unacceptable. 

As we GoLove people in Jesus’ Name, we must understand that it is to be done in, through and with faith. Faith in God, in His calling on us, in the works He desires to do in and through us, all this must be acted upon so that fruit is born for Him and for the Kingdom.  It is not an option to be fruitless in our lives, fruitlessness does not honor Him or draw people to Him. Faith bears fruit for God, not out of obligation or ritual, but out of love and thanksgiving. 

%d bloggers like this: