Monday, November 30, 2009

Avoiding or Overcoming

John 16:33

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

What do you tend to avoid?

Every one has certain activities or situations or places that they try their best to stay away from.
Some of those choices are wise:
(i.e. Stay away from angry German Shepherds, shopping on Black Friday, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.)

Some are more personal, bordering on the ridiculous
(I have made various vows to avoid Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts, and Lime-away at all costs.)

But for the most part, human beings try their best to limit the amount of inconvenience, difficulty or suffering that they face. And that makes sense to a point. After all, who really wants more hardship or trouble? But in our efforts to sanely limit the amount of difficult things, our culture as a whole has tried to hide or compartmentalize normal parts of the human experience.

We confine sickness to hospitals, ageing to nursing homes, and death to funeral homes. Communication gets reduced to voicemail, Facebook and text messaging, not just because they are easier, but also because a face to face communication is harder.

The sad thing is that for many believers in Jesus Christ, we have somehow come up with the twisted idea that Jesus' job is to make everything easy for us, to free us from every instance of suffering or frustration or discouragement. We may not say that out loud, but all we need to do is to consider what we pray for and what we are disappointed over when we don't get our way.

In the last few chapters (including today's passage), Jesus has finished telling His followers all that He has in store for them. There are some amazing statements about who Jesus is (i.e. John 14:6, 15: 5) as well as some amazing promises about what He will provide (i.e. John 14:14, 15:15, 16:16). We spend a lot of time with these passages and we ought to.

But today's verse is the one promise that no one is naming and claiming, yet in it is not only the secret of Christian living, it is the very Gospel. God's promises are not for us to avoid all of life's hardships, they are our strenght to overcome those hardships. Jesus does not automatically remove us from every ugly or unfortunate circumstance, He tells us that He is always bigger. In Paul's words we are to not try at all costs to hide from the effects of a fallen world, but rather "overcome evil with good. (Ro 12:21) " The apostle John answer his own question this way: "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:5) "

So DO NOT live a life of hardship avoidance- it never works and it is contrary to everything about Christ. Here is the Gospel message once again:
"In this world you will have trouble (see Cross), but take heart, I have overcome the world (see Resurrection)."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

a primer on the Holy Spirit

The Word for today:
John 15:26--16:15

mark this:
John 15:26 --
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me."

The Holy Spirit bears testimony concerning Christ. If the Lord Jesus Christ is real to you, that is the work of the Holy Spirit:
No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Holy Spirit is a person, not a "force" or an "it." He is the third person of the tri-une God, co-equal with the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is always in the world, from the very beginning in Genesis 1:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

In the Old Testament, the Spirit came upon certain individuals (Gideon, Samson, Bezalel, Isaiah, etc.) for specific purposes. But God promised that one day the Spirit would come upon all believers! (See Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36: 26-27; Ezekiel 47; Joel 2:28-29; cf. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; Acts 2:33.)

Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1). Jesus' empowerment and guidance by the Spirit sets the pattern for us. We, too, are to walk by the power and guidance of the Spirit, as Jesus did. (See Galatians 5:16, 25.)

When Jesus resurrected, His Spirit--the Holy Spirit--remained on earth, as Jesus promised:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Since Pentecost, the Spirit dwells within everyone who trusts Jesus for salvation from sin. The difference that Pentecost made is that the Spirit who was abroad in the world is now in us!

Every believer is baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This is a one-time event which seals our salvation (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). Water baptism is an outward and public demonstration of a "Holy Spirit-ual" baptism--which already occurred!

We are to ask God for a daily filling of the Spirit to empower our lives and make us purposeful and productive in God's kingdom. (See Luke 11:9-13.)

The Holy Spirit hides Himself and reveals Christ (John 15:26; 16:13-14).

When the church departs, the Spirit will remain in the world as He was in the beginning, in order to make a climate for the Word of God to be heard. See John 16:11:

He will convict the world concerning sin (faith in Christ takes away our punishment);
and righteousness (faith in Christ adds His righteousness);
and judgment (we have already been judged as lost sinners; see Rom. 6:23).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the non-negotiable Jesus

The Word for today:
John 15:9-25

mark this:
John 15:23 --
He who hates Me hates My Father also.

God defines Himself in Jesus Christ. We don't get to define God. That's not ours to do.

The line is drawn at Jesus Christ. The decision is not about "God"--that vague Someone out there that we think we can define. The decision is about Jesus Christ--God's definition of Himself.

Jesus is the express image of God (1). That means that Jesus is God's expression of God, God's definition of God. It's the only definition that counts.

Many people claim to love "God," but they hate Jesus Christ. Jesus says that's a contradiction in terms. He made a powerful, non-negotiable proclamation when He said to all mankind, “If you don’t love Me, if you don’t acknowledge Me, if you hate Me, you hate My Father also."

The Bible will not allow any silly "God" talk--unless what you mean by "God" is Jesus.

(1) Hebrews 1:3

Friday, November 27, 2009

I am the True Vine

John 15:1-8

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

Jesus Christ is the True Vine and we, who have given our lives to him, are the branches. Thus the resurrected life and power that flows from the True Vine flows into the branches. How profound is that!

It is important to embrace the fact that it is Jesus and Jesus alone who is the True Vine. How many attach themselves and pour their lives into worldly vines that have little or no power and eventually wither and die. Anything we abide in that leaves Jesus out is a false vine that will leave us with a lack of sustenance.

So what happens when we become branches of the True Vine? A host of resources and spiritual power for a new life flows into our very being and changes us from the inside out. Old habits and useless baggage can be purged from our lives as we are changed into new creatures in Christ.

As that new life flows from the vine into the branches we realize we have the same Father and Spirit that Jesus has. We experience forgiveness, salvation, reconciliation, and sanctification as we put off the old nature and put on the new.

We can be filled with the Spirit. We become citizens of a new kingdom with all its rights and responsibilities. We are made part of a royal priesthood. Our spiritual ears and eyes are opened and we begin to see our world as Jesus sees it. We take on the mind of Christ. We bear good fruit. We can ask of God and expect Him to answer. We can call ourselves disciples of Christ.

If you find your life lacking direction and purpose, come to God and let Him graft you into the True Vine. Give yourself completely to being that branch in Him and experience the power and strength that flows from the Lord Jesus Christ into you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Note well:

The Word for today:
John 14:14-24

mark this
: John 14:14 --
If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

and this: John 14:20 --
At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

What does it mean--to pray in Jesus' name?

Many say the phrase "in Jesus' name" at the end of prayers, but what does it mean? Is it a magic formula to get whatever we wish?

We cannot stand in the presence of God on the basis of our own merit.
But when we pray in Jesus' name, it means that
1. We stand in Jesus' place, fully identified with him. When we do, we are heard on the basis of Jesus' blood and merit.
2. It means that we make our requests according to Christ's will, not our own,
in harmony with Jesus' character.
No matter how many “In Jesus’ name’s” I attach to my prayer, I am not praying in Jesus' name unless my prayer is in line with his grace, his truth, and his plan.

There is no more profound statement in scripture than Jesus' mono-syllabic promise in John 14:20:
"you in Me, and I in you"

“you in Me”—that is salvation. To be saved means to be in Christ. God sees everyone as either in Christ or out of Christ. You are either in Him by faith or you are out of Him with your sins still upon you. If you are in Christ, then God sees you in Christ, and His righteousness is your righteousness. You stand complete in Him. God sees the end from the beginning (1), so before we even begin to act like Jesus, God sees us just as if we did! That's salvation. See 2 Corinthians 5:21.

I in you”—is sanctification. That is Christian living down here. Is Christ living in you? Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (2).
Sanctification is when we become, by degrees, ever more and more like Jesus in our actions and attitudes. See 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29.

Salvation is our destiny, already achieved by Christ. We are in Christ.

Sanctification is the process of getting where God already knows we are! Christ is in us.

(1) Isaiah 46:10; (2) Galatians 2:20

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the First Commandment of the New Testament

The Word for today:
John 13:33-14:14

: John 14:16--
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

The Psalms contain a mysterious word: 'selah' (pronounced "see'-lah.")
Our best guess is that it meant 'stop, look, and listen.' It followed a thought which demanded reflection. From time to time we will use the word 'selah' to indicate a verse which is crucial to biblical understanding.}

Let's look at the First Commandment of the Old Testament:
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me." (1)

We think of the Commandments as restrictions: "Thou shalt not...

But look again at the First Commandment. It starts with a preamble of grace: I'm the LORD, who saved you...

The First Commandment has a lot more to do with salvation than it has to do with restriction! If you'll permit a paraphrase, here's the First Commandment:
"I AM; and there has never--will never--be a day when I AM not. If you're lost you can call out for me; if you're falling, reach out for my hand and I'll save you, like I did before, way back there in Egypt. But it's a matter of life and death that you understand this: If you call on any other name, you won't be heard. If you reach for any other hand, it won't be able to catch you."

The entire intention is to tell us that only the God revealed in scripture--at the Red Sea, at the burning bush, at the cross--can deliver us from bondage to sin, from oppression at the hand of our enemy.

Both the First and Second Commandments are all about looking to a Savior who can actually save. They are all about what thou shalt do to be rescued. There's a lot of love in God's law, His Commandments, when rightly understood.

Nothing changes in the New Testament. The I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush becomes flesh in the New Testament. He tells us that there's the broad way, which leads to death, and the narrow way, which leads to life (2). He tells us that He's the way, and that no one gets to the Father but by Him (3). In the book of Acts we learn that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (4).

That bothers many people. They think that's narrow-minded and exclusive.

But it's our fault that the road is narrow, not God's fault. Our sin closed the road. And God's heart broke to do what He had to do to re-open it. It cost Him everything to open one lane back to Him.

And how narrow is it? He opened it wide enough to save every man, woman, and child--whoever will choose to take it.

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me is, in a sense, the 'First Commandment' of the New Testament.

There was really a lot of grace in the law of the Old Testament. And that narrow way Jesus speaks of in the New Testament is paved with love, tears, and blood not our own.

Rightly understood, the Commandments point the way to liberty, to life. They point to Jesus.

When He fulfilled the law on the cross, the captives were set free.

(1) Exodus 20:2-3; (2) Matthew 7:13; (3) John 14:6; (4) Acts 4:12;

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

the King was in command

The Word for today:
John 13:21-32

mark this:
John 13:27 --
As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
"What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him.

Jesus died in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah, at Passover.

He had to.

The pictures and prophecies of the Old Testament foretold that the Lamb of God must die for the sins of the people in Jerusalem, on a ridge called Moriah which cuts through the city; the same ridge where Abraham had enacted the prophetic picture of the cross when told to sacrifice Isaac, his son.

And it had to be at a specific spot on Moriah--on the threshing floor of Araunah (1), which God had directed David to purchase, so that the Temple could be built there;

right where the ultimate altar would be built, from just two beams of wood.

It had to be in Jerusalem, where prophets go to die:
On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, "Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You."
And He said to them, "Go, tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.'
Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem."

When King Herod wanted to kill Jesus, Jesus told him he'd have to wait--until he reached Jerusalem.

When he reached Jerusalem, Judas was waiting to betray Him. "What you do, do quickly," Jesus told him.

The King, who had told a king to wait, now was telling the prince of this world (Satan, who had entered into Judas) to hurry up. (3)

The Prophet was in Jerusalem; the Lamb was on Moriah. It was Passover, his deathday.

The King was in command.

(1) see 2 Samuel 24; (2) Luke 13:31-33; (3) see John 12:31; John 13:27

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Follow me."

John 13:1-20

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15)

You have heard it said:
"Practice what you preach."
"Lead by example."
"Model good behavior."
"Be a living epistle."

Do you want to live a life that matters?
Do you want to make a difference for good?
Do you want to be salt and light?
Do you want your life to glorify your Father in heaven?

Then look to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Do what Jesus did. Be His disciple.

Jesus leads by example all the way to the cross.

Dear heavenly Father,
Help me be like your Son throughout this day and every day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

39 kings

The Word for today:
2 Kings 24, 25

39 kings.

Keeping them straight can be difficult, especially since 1 Kings jumps back and forth between two countries. Remember:

Israel was the Northern Kingdom, with its capital in Samaria. Its kings were all unfaithful to God.

Judah was the Southern Kingdom, with its capital in Jerusalem. Almost half its rulers remained somewhat faithful to God; the others proved disobedient.

What are we to learn from this dizzying array of names?

1. The Kings are known by this: they either walked in the ways of the LORD, or they did not.
The same will be the summation of our own lives.
Our lives will be defined by our relationship to God.

2. Our environment does not define us.
The second thing we learn from the kings is that we can change--for better or for worse. Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings. Manasseh his son was the "Ahab of Judah"--the worst. Amon, Hezekiah's grandson, was as bad as his father, Manasseh, had been. Then, next in line, is Josiah, who oversaw a great spiritual revival. So we are not locked into patterns which preceded us in our families or in our cultures.

3. Our own past need not define us forever.
The third thing we learn from the Kings is that we are not trapped by our own yesterdays. Manasseh, as we shall see in 2 Chronicles 33:10-20, will turn around and turns the people around with him as he reinstitutes worship of the LORD God!

Israel was the first to fall—to the Assyrians, who carried them away into slavery and captivity.

Judah’s captivity was delayed by the godly governance of Hezekiah. But eventually they, too, declined and were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon. For a few years the temple stood, but eventually it was stripped and burned, and the walls of the city were broken down.

The last king, Zedekiah, was captured and his sons were put to death before his very eyes. Then, they destroyed his eyes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

lost in the church

The Word for today:
2 Kings 22, 23

mark this:
2 Kings 22:8--
"I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD."
and this: 2 Kings 23:21--
"Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant."

Perhaps you parents out there should shield your sons' and daughters' eyes from what they will see in chapter 23 of 2 Kings.

As the great King Josiah systematically dismantles the idolatry in Judah, a list of idols, shrines, altars, false prophets, abominations, desolations, and desecrations passes in review like some perverse parade to perdition. Here comes the parade:

Then the king instructed Hilkiah the high priest to remove from the LORD's Temple all the utensils that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the forces of heaven.

He did away with the pagan priests, for they had offered incense to Baal, and to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and to all the forces of heaven.

The king removed the Asherah pole from the LORD's Temple and took it outside Jerusalem to the Kidron Valley, where he burned it.
He also tore down the houses of the shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the LORD, where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole.

He also defiled all the pagan shrines, where they had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba.
Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire as an offering to Molech.

He removed from the entrance of the LORD's Temple the horse statues that the former kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun.

The king also burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.

The king destroyed the altars that Manasseh had built in the two courtyards of the LORD's Temple.

The king also desecrated the pagan shrines east of Jerusalem and south of the Mount of Corruption, where King Solomon of Israel had built shrines for Ashtoreth, the detestable goddess of the Sidonians; and for Chemosh, the detestable god of the Moabites; and for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites.

He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. Then he desecrated these places by scattering human bones over them.

The king also tore down the altar at Bethel, the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he led Israel into sin. Josiah crushed the stones to dust and burned the Asherah pole.

Then Josiah demolished all the buildings at the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria, just as he had done at Bethel.

He executed the priests of the pagan shrines on their own altars, and he burned human bones on the altars to desecrate them.

Josiah also exterminated the mediums and psychics, the household gods, and every other kind of idol worship, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah.

Seen enough?

What had caused Israel to fall so far into idolatry?

The answer is in chapter 22: Israel had stopped reading their Bibles.
The scriptures had been lost in, of all places, the Temple!

Probably the easiest place for the Word of the Lord to get lost is in a church. Things can be in plain sight, but for all practical purposes be lost without our knowing it.

Church after church across our land has descended into moralizing, philosophizing, and the preaching of piety and platitudes. There's many a preacher who is more concerned with his cute little introductory joke every week than with the redeeming blood of the Son, the renewing power of the Spirit, and the perfect plan of the Father.

Then what caused this great spiritual revival in the time of King Josiah?
They'd started reading their Bibles again!
The scriptures had been found in the Temple--
Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD." He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.
Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.
"Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us." (2Ki 22:8-13)

Just a few paragraphs ago, I wrote that the easiest place for the Word of the Lord to get lost is in the church--because everybody supposes it is being followed there, when often it has just become elevator music, part of the background which nobody really listens to.
Now I'm going to tell you that the easiest place to find the Word of the LORD is in the church!

Just paragraphs ago, I slammed the lukewarm and powerless moralizing that passes for preaching in many churches.
Now I'm here to tell you that somewhere in your city a man, by the power of God's Holy Spirit, stands foursquare every Sunday, preaching the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How can we tell the difference? How can we determine whether or not the Word of the LORD is being faithfully preached? The difference is in the blood:
King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: "You must celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in the Book of the Covenant." There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah. (2 Kings 23:21-22)

The celebration of the Passover, the central ceremony of Israel's faith, had not occurred for 500 years or more.

The Passover is the Old Testament's most vivid picture of the cross of Jesus Christ. At Passover, the blood of a lamb was applied to the threshold of the door. If the LORD saw the blood, the death angel passed over. If the blood was not applied, the death angel put the first born of every household to death, from the poorest of the people to the household of Pharaoh. The only difference between life and death was the blood of the lamb.

The test of faithful preaching in our time--since the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world--is whether the cross is the central issue. Are we being taught that the only thing that stands between ourselves and eternal separation from God is the blood of Jesus?

Chapters 22 and 23 of 2 Kings hold the key to the history of the church. Our churches are dead inside when the Word of the LORD is bloodless and powerless, when the empty philosophies of man start to creep in.

Our churches come alive when the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of our teaching.

The blood of the Lamb is the test. The blood of Jesus makes all the difference.

{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Longsuffering Lord

Key Verse- 2 Kings 21:15

...they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day.

Our world is an impatient place. We rush, grab our food to go, cut others off, take shortcuts, and honk our way through life, dodging delays at all cost. And our ever decreasing attention span tricks us into believing that we have much more patience than we really do. After all, I think I am being patient if I hold my peace waiting in line at Tim Horton's.

Here in the middle of the wicked reign of Manasseh, we see one of the great understatements of the Bible (21:15). Have the Israelites really been so bad since the Exodus? Actually, they've been even worse. Let's take a brief walk down memory lane.

These folks saw the miracles of God up close (think the plagues in Egypt or the Red Sea) and with amazing regularity (think the daily manna supply or the pillar of cloud/fire). But instead of being strengthened by these events, they specialized instead in whining and grumbling. Psalm 78:32 sums this gang up the best:

"In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
in spite of his wonders, they did not believe."

This entire generation, save Joshua & Caleb, perished in the wilderness (Nu. 14:30)

Joshua- Ruth
This generation got off to a promising start as long as Joshua & Caleb were around (Jos. 24:31). But once those two die the Israelites once again abandon God (Jd. 2:10-13) . They become ensnared in a vicious cycle of blatant sin, terrible oppression, crying out to God in their misery, God raising up a judge to deliver them, only to repeat that same cycle again and again and again.

1 & 2 Samuel
This period of history starts with the almost comical account (if it were not such a tragedy) of the bumbling High Priest Eli. The Israelites then long for a king "to be like the nations around them" (1 Samuel 8:19-20) against the clear will of God. Even the great men of God Samuel and David have their serious flaws.

1 & 2 Kings
And here where we've been camping out for much of the Autumn, we've maybe become a bit too accustomed to the wickedness of the kings who lead two nations that are far from God (Israel & Judah). For Judah, there is certainly some good (Josiah, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat), but more often than not, the king or tyrant queen (see Athaliah) is leading the people astray. Israel is a lost cause, a perfect 20 for 20 when it comes to bad kings. And despite multiple prophets and warnings, both nations are stuck on a collision course of destruction because of their wickedness.

And all that brings us back to verse 15, and our Longsuffering Lord. God calls us to "be patient" (Eph. 4:2), but in doing so, we are only following the greatest example of patience ever seen: God Himself. From Adam to Malachi- God consistently restrains his full wrath and righteous indignation from people who more than deserve it. In the New Testament, Jesus follows that same example by refusing to bring His enemies to a deserved and wretched end (see Mt. 26:53). Instead He humbly prays for His enemies, even as He is dying upon the cross (see Lk. 23:34).

Let's be honest- as brick headed or prone to evil as Israel was, people haven't really changed that much. Their history is really a microcosm of human history. Their story is my story. But the great joy of the Gospel is that is not the end of the story. "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed" (La. 3:22) was Israel's promise. In Jesus Christ, this is my story as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

for Christ's sake

The Word for today:

2 Kings 19:8-37

mark this: 2 Kings 19:34--
"I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."

and this: Ephesians 4:32/KJV --
God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

When I was a kid, we lived next door to a major league blowhard. Amongst other distinguishing characteristics of his ilk, he was always swearing. He'd swear at his lawnmower, his wife, his dog, the birds in the trees.

He specialized in taking the name of the LORD in vain. He'd use the a-word, the b-word, the d-word, every swear word there was. But he reserved special emphasis for the JC-word and the GD-word.

He was a big man, physically, living proof that the brain and the body are often in indirect proportion.

One day my Dad and I were putting up a canvas tent in the backyard. (That's right, canvas; it was a long time ago.) My brother and I slept out every night all summer in that tent.

While we were finishing up, staking the ropes, we were subjected to another of the neighbor's tirades.
"That guy's a jerk, Dad. He doesn't like anything or anybody."
"He doesn't like himself, Franklyn."
"I wish he'd stop it."
"He will. Stay here."

My Dad dropped the tent stake he was holding. He walked across our driveway onto our neighbor's lawn. The swearing ceased.

My Dad was not what we'd call born again. I never saw him read the Bible that we had. It stood with a couple other books between some heavy brass bookends atop the mantle next to a chiming clock.

But he respected Jesus Christ. He swore, as many do now and then, but he drew the line between cuss words and taking the name of the LORD in vain. I swear my share. But because of my Dad's example, I have never taken the Name in vain. According to Jesus' standards for sin in the Sermon on the Mount, that's the only one of the Ten Commandments I haven't broken.

"For Christ's sake," we often hear, spoken without thought and without context.

In 2 Kings 19:34, God declares--
"I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant."

God saved the city for David's sake--a kind of down payment on God's promise to David that one of his descendants would be king and savior of Israel for all time.

Today God saves sinner's for the sake of that great promised King.

Not for the sake of my own merit am I saved, but on the basis of Jesus' blood and merit; on the basis of Christ's sinless, selfless sacrifice. For Christ's sake--and not my own--am I righteous in God's eyes.

God will save every sinner who trusts Him—for Christ’s sake. And when a believer prays to the Father in Jesus’ name, the Father answers for Christ’s sake.

Said carelessly by some, "For Christ's sake" breaks the third commandment.

Said prayerfully by others, "For Christ's sake" is the basis of their brand-new, ever-new, and ever-lasting relationship with God:

“There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. . . . This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ doesn't cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that we can rest.”

- B. B. Warfield, quoted by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson in Counsel from the Cross (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2009), 19.

{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

take it to the curb; set it right there next to Nehushtan

The Word for today:

2 Kings 18:1 -- 19:7

mark this:
2 Kings 18:4 --
He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.

The bronze snake which Moses made is one of the most startling prophecies of the cross in all of scripture.

It is startling because Jesus on the cross is represented as a snake on a pole! As the people of Israel made their way through the wilderness,
they grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert?" Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them and many Israelites died.
The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.
The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

The snake on the pole, a symbol of evil, represented Jesus on the cross because--
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2)

Jesus pointed to the snake as a picture of himself:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (3)

But now in Hezekiah's time, the people had forgotten that it was just a symbol of God's deliverance. So they began to worship the symbol instead of God, the Deliverer! It had become an idol, worshipped for its own sake: They burned incense to the brazen serpent and called it Nehushtan.

So Hezekiah broke it in pieces. It had become a stumbling block. It was time to get rid of it. God had used it for a purpose once. But that purpose had been served. What had been a symbol of saving faith had become an obstacle to faith.

Are there any traditions in your life or in your church that served a purpose once--but not any longer? Is God still behind them, or has the Spirit of God moved beyond them now?

Some of our old dusty relics should be set out to the curb. Set them right there next to Nehushtan.

(1) see Numbers 21:4-9; (2) 2 Corinthians 5:21; (3) John 3:14-15

{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

that's not Jesus

The Word for today:
2 Kings 17

mark this: 2 Kings 17: 32-33

2 Kings chapter 17 marks the end of the line for the ten northern tribes of Israel.

For hundreds of years, the Lord called to His people, but they would not respond. They continually went off into idolatry. And because they would not respond to His goodness, they began to experience His judgment. The Word of God is very clear that he sent them into captivity because they insisted on worshiping other gods.

On the tops of the hills and under the trees shrines to other gods were built and the worship of these idols was carried on.

God had put the Canaanites out of the land for their immorality and idolatry. Certainly, he will not permit His own people to stay in the land and do the same things.

So He allows Assyria to come and carry them away into captivity.

Carrying people into captivity was a common practice of the day. A conquering country would take the conquered people back into its own region so that, over time, the new arrivals would be absorbed into the host culture and lose their national identity. The people of Israel were divided and placed in various areas in order that separation and isolation would keep them from rebelling.

When the king of Assyria took the northern kingdom captive, he brought in other people to inhabit the land. The area of the northern kingdom was called Samaria. The Samaritans of the New Testament are the descendants of the colonists brought in by the king of Assyria. This is their beginning.

God had sent the prophets Ahijah, Elijah, Micaiah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos, and Hosea to these people in the northern kingdom of Israel. To the southern kingdom of Judah he had sent the prophets Shemaiah, Joel, Isaiah and Micah. Later on He will be sending Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah.

Every prophet warned the people of both kingdoms what would take place if they did not return to the LORD God.

Idolatry at its core is an attempt by man to diminish God.

Whereas God's image lifts us up, man in rebellion makes an image in order to tear God down to the level of creature, not creator. We in our era don't bow down to images of birds and crocodiles and frogs. Our image-making is more pernicious. We cannot lift ourselves up to God, so in an attempt to deify ourselves, we have to bring God down to our level.

This generation’s favorite form of idolatry involves remaking Jesus in the image of man. We remake Jesus in movies, books, and even in our churches.

Pretty soon we are worshiping a Jesus we've concocted ourselves.

The only real Jesus--the only Jesus Christ who ever lived--was the Son of God, virgin-born, who performed miracles, died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The only real Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus according to scripture (1).

As we study God's Word, absorbing the truth about Jesus Christ, there is yet another thing to do in order to know Jesus better. We must pro-actively kick out the Jesus made in the image of man--the Jesus of Hollywood, the Jesus of contemporary culture, the watered down Jesus you'll meet in many of your churches. That "Jesus" becomes entwined with the real Jesus we meet in God's Word, unless we drive him out of our hearts and minds.

Two days ago, we learned that King Jehu had exterminated all the prophets of Baal. But he didn't demolish the golden calves in Dan and Bethel.

Today we read these "odd" lines--
They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. (2)

They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. (3)

Breathe in the real Jesus. Spit out the "Jesus" that man has made in his own image.

(1) 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; (2) 2 Kings 17:32; (3) 2 Kings 17:33
{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas presents for the Bible student: Bible dictionary & reference Bible

The Word for today:
2 Kings 15, 16

mark this: 2 Kings 15:1-5
and this: 2 Chronicles 26:16-21

A few challenges for the dedicated Bible student present themselves in the opening verses of today's reading:
1. Bible characters often have multiple names.
2. Information that we need to understand a section of scripture is often found somewhere else.

1. Bible characters often have multiple names.
'King Azariah,' whom we meet in the opening verses of chapter fifteen, is 'King Uzziah'--best known from the awe-inspiring vision of the Lord which Isaiah sees in Isaiah 6:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1).

But he is called 'Azariah' in our reading today. Get used to it. Paul, Peter, Gideon, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Benjamin, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego...each are called something different at some point in the Bible. Only experience and a good Bible dictionary will help us to recognize a character by his alternative name.

2. Information that we need to understand a section of scripture is often found somewhere else.

We read that King Azariah did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. Then, a verse later, we read that the LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died. What's going on here? Why is he smitten with leprosy?

We find the answer over in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21, where King Uzziah (King Azariah) had made a tragic error. He went in to the temple and offered sacrifices. The priests warned him not to do it. But he felt God would bless him.
So he overstepped his parameters.

There is only one who is qualified to be both priest and king—Jesus Christ. Thus, Uzziah had distorted the picture of Jesus, so God punished him.

These Old Testament pictures of Jesus are called "types" of Christ. We've seen God carefully guard these pictures of Jesus before. The water-gushing rock in Exodus was a type of Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). It had already, by God’s command, been smitten (Exodus 17:6). Later on in Numbers 20:8-12, God tells Moses to speak to the rock and water would gush forth once again. But when Moses struck it, he was not being careful to preserve the rock as a type of Christ--because Christ the Rock is smitten only once--at his death on the cross for our sins. This picture was so important to God that Moses was unable to enter the Promised Land because, like Uzziah, he altered the picture.

When two or more passage of scripture deal with the same event--often supplementing our understanding--we call these "parallel" passages. Only experience and a good reference Bible will alert us to these parallel scriptures.

You'll see a couple phrases up there that are highlighted in red and green. Christmas is coming. Hint, hint.
{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"kenosis"--the emptying was a part of his greatest miracle!

The Word for today:

2 Kings 13, 14

Today, "Stand in the Rain" will answer a question from Aron, which he asked in response to the November 11th article titled "Those who will follow are led."

Q. This "emptying" of Jesus is hard for me to understand, given that Jesus comes across as the most consistently powerful "person" in the entire Bible...
I am having trouble reconciling the powerless Jesus with the powerful Jesus. How can I understand this better?

A. Hi, Aron--

Jesus had all the power in the universe!

What he did, by choice, was become one of us in order to take my place and your place at a cross where "he became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21) "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way." (Heb 2:17)

So the eternal Son of God willingly laid aside the glory of his divinity:
"He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:7, 8)

Nowhere does any of this state that he did not do miracles! He did multitudes of miracles! There were times when multitudes followed and "he healed them all!" (Matthew 12:15)

He walked on water, fed 15,000 with a few loaves and fishes, raised three people (that we know of) from the dead; he turned water into wine, stilled the storm, restored sight to the blind...

He did so many wonders that, "if they were written one by one, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."(John 21:25)

The blog article you are responding to quotes Luke 4:1 in order to show that Jesus was led by the Spirit, just as we are:
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert."

The topic of the article was God's guidance. It shows that Jesus modeled our dependence on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

The very same scripture--Luke 4:1--also shows the source of Jesus' miracle power:
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert…"
So he was a model for us in this regard as well. We are to live a life empowered by the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus did in the days of his incarnation, when "he became flesh and dwelt amongst us." (John 1:14)

I hope this answers your question, Aron.

Your final remark is, "I am having trouble reconciling the powerless Jesus with the powerful Jesus. How can I understand this better?"

Let me say, Aron, that there is no 'powerless Jesus!' Jesus had all the power in the universe available to him. He was "full of the Holy Spirit," we've just read in Luke 4:1. In John 3:34 we read that "God's Spirit is upon him without measure or limit."

I hope you keep learning and learning about Jesus. I pray that you'll "Stand in the Rain" with us day by day, and that you'll ask any questions you have.

If you stay with us, you'll find that the Jesus of Scripture is the Creator God, who made something--a universe of universes--out of nothing!

Then, as the Redeemer God, he became one of us in order to pay the "wages of sin" (Romans 6:23) that we can't pay. When he rose from the dead, he'd performed a greater miracle by far--he'd made good out of bad!

And this greatest miracle depended on the "kenosis"--the emptying--of Philippians 2:7.

But even when he'd emptied himself to become 100% man, he was always 100% God at the same time. There was never a moment when he was not God. He emptied himself of the prerogatives of deity, choosing to live on this earth with certain limitations. But they were self-limitations.

So the emptying itself was a part of his greatest miracle! It was a necessary part of the miracle of bringing you and me and countless other believers back from the dead.

In order for him to say, "Aron, come forth to eternal life," he had to become one of us; he had to bleed the same blood in order to die the same death.

It's been a privilege to answer your question, Aron. God bless you and keep you.
{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jehosheba: when it all hung by a single thread

The Word for today:
2 Kings 11, 12

mark this: 2 Kings 11:1-2 --
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and she was just as vicious as they had been.

When her son Ahaziah died, she seized the opportunity to rule. She violently assumed control of Judah. She reigned for six years, using her authority to promote the worship of Baal.

The previous deaths of Jehoram's brothers (1) and Ahaziah's brothers and relatives (2) left only her grandchildren for Athaliah to put to death to destroy the Davidic line.

Athaliah was determined to wipe out David's royal line--and she came within one baby of doing just that (3).

Had she succeeded, the family line of God's promised Messiah would have been severed. God's entire plan to bring his people back into a restored relationship with himself rested at this point in history on the intervention of one courageous woman--Jehosheba, who hid little Joash from Athaliah.

There would come another day, when King Herod would learn that a king, a rival to his throne, had been born in the region of Bethlehem. In order to remove any threat to his position, he ordered that all the infants and toddlers in the vicinity were to be annihilated.

But before he could carry out his evil plan, God sent a warning to the little king's father:
Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod

Our own contributions may at times seem insignificant. Jehosheba almost certainly had no inkling that God's plan to redeem a lost world hung by a thread--and she was the thread.

The "insignificant" work and prayer and sacrifices that we perform in the name of the king from Bethlehem will have far-reaching consequences that we are incapable of counting. So much can hang upon a single thread.

(1) 2 Chronicles 21:4; (2) 2 Kings 10:12-14; 2 Chronicles 21:17; (3) see 2 Kings 11; (4) Matthew 2:13-15

{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Friday, November 13, 2009


The Word for today:
2 Kings 10

mark this: 2 Kings 10:28-29 --
So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.
However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit--the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.

When Jehu wiped out all the prophets of Baal, he had come this close to wiping out idolatry in the northern kingdom of Israel. Had he kept going and destroyed the twin golden calves which Jeroboam had made, he would have put an end to idolatry in Israel.

But he wasn't willing to destroy the golden calves. Thus Jehu sinned "the sin of Jeroboam." What was the sin of Jeroboam?

Jeroboam's sin was the establishment of worship outside of Jerusalem, where God said worship should be conducted. He erected, at Dan and Bethel, golden calves, which he set up as symbols of the LORD God, urging the people not to go up to worship at Jerusalem, but to bring their offerings to the shrines he had erected. Thus he became known as the man “who caused Israel to sin.”

Now back to Jehu. Jehu exterminated all the prophets of Baal. Had he demolished the golden calves in Dan and Bethel, he would be hailed today as the greatest of Israel's kings.

But he allowed the continuation of calf worship in the nation. It was a political necessity, he thought. After all, if he took away the golden calves, people would have to worship in Jerusalem, and he would lose control over them. Jehu was more concerned for his own kingdom than for the kingdom of God.

Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (1).

How close are you to making the kingdom of God your first priority? Do any "idols" remain standing between you and God?

If so, knock them down--first, before you do anything else.

(1) Matthew 6:33

{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Thursday, November 12, 2009

the no-spin zone

The Word for today:
2 Kings 8, 9

When God tells us he'll do something, he will.  God through Elijah had promised wicked King Ahab that because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD...I am going to bring disaster upon you (1).

That negative promise was fulfilled in gruesome detail.  Under the direction of Jehu, Ahab's entire family was annihilated:
When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab's family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the LORD spoken to Elijah (2).

God always tells the unambiguous truth--no half-truths, no white lies.  He doesn't manipulate information to make people feel good or practice deceit to convince his hearers.  He is genuine in all that he says; the Bible consists of the words of the holy one, the true one (3).  Jesus' 'Yes' meant 'Yes,' and his 'No' meant 'No' (4).

God has made many promises to us:

When he declares Never will I leave you, we may rest assured that he won't. (5)

When he affirms that his arms are always underneath us, we know that he is there to support us. (6)

He promises that nothing can separate us from his love, and it can't. (7)

He assures us that he will forgive our sin when we confess it to him, and he will. (8)

We can overcome any obstacle through his strength. (9)

He will sustain us when we feel weary. (10)

We are safe in his hands. (11)

And when Jesus pledges to come back for us one day, we know that he will. (12)

The Bible uses words differently than we do in our day.  We often use words to conceal truth.  Politicians and the media seek to spin words to their side's advantage.  We even have to sift through the words of friends and acquaintances to see if any personal agenda lurks behind what they're saying.

But the Bible uses words to uncover and reveal truth. 

When we read the Bible, we are in the no-spin zone.

(1) 1 Kings 21:20-21; (2) 2 Kings 10:17; (3) Rev. 3:7; (4) Matthew 5:37; (5) Hebrews 13:5; (6) Deuteronomy 33:27; (7) Romans 8:37; (8) 1 John 1:9; (9) Romans 8:38; Philippians 2:13; 4:13; (10) Psalm 55:22; (11) John 10:29 (12) 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Those who will follow are led.

The Word for today:
2 Kings 6:8 - 7:20

mark this: 2 Kings 6:15-17 --
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Sometimes, we can't see things that are actually there.  This is a fact of perception.

This should not surprise us. Our ears can't hear sound frequencies that our dogs can hear.  So why should we presume that our eyes can see everything that is actually there?

We are being watched.  We are an exhibition of God's grace to principalities and powers that we can't see:
His purpose was that through the church all the rulers and powers in the heavenly world will now know God's wisdom (1).

Are you getting the creeps yet?  I am, just writing about this stuff.

Let's see how this works in reverse.  Did you know that we can see things that angels long to look into--but can't:
The things which you have now heard from the messengers who announced the Good News...are things which even the angels would like to understand. (1 Peter 1:12)

So--we can't see some things that angels can. 
But--angels can't see some things that we can.

Guess who else couldn't see everything?  This may surprise you:  Jesus.

Jesus emptied himself (2) of many divine attributes in order to became just like us.  As the eternal Son of God, he was omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere at once).   But at his incarnation he became just like us in order to take our place.  ('Incarnation' is a big word for what happened at Christmas--when the Word became flesh and arrived among us (3), as a baby in Bethlehem.)

And so, as one of us, with limited sight, he depended on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide him:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit...(4)

The Holy Spirit sees everything, even before it happens, so he knows the way. And he is always leading.

And those who will follow are led.

(1) Ephesians 3:10; (2) Philippians 2:7; (3) John 1:14; (4) Luke 4:1
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Road to Perdition

2 Kings 5

Some Bible characters make me laugh (Zacchaeus, Lazarus, or the seven sons of Sceva). Some test my mental capacity (think Melchizedek or Daniel). Some make me somewhat angry (like Jephthah or Solomon). And some make me sad. Gehazi falls into this category.

There are a whole slew of men in the Bible who flood my spirit with regret every time they are mentioned. My heart thinks of what was lost, compared to what could have been, and it sinks.
Those who were eyewitnesses to the truth, who were so close, only to make the worse possible decision and fall away. Balaam. Judas. Demas. There are more.

Gehazi had so much going for him. He had the privilege of being the personal assistant to one of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel. He spoke on Elisha's behalf. He witnessed God's miracles first hand. He was a key part of Elijah's ministry, even entrusted to carry out a potential miracle of his own. He was a failure.

Gehazi gave up everything good in his life for what? Two sets of clothes and a whole bunch of silver. Many people have sold out for far less. Demas deserted Paul because "because he loved the world" (2 Ti. 4:10). Balaam was willing to flirt around with truth and prophesy for hire as long as the price was right (Nu. 22:17). And worst of all, Judas Iscariot was willing to trade in his apostleship and friendship with Jesus Christ for a mere 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:15). Greed and the love of money forever ruined these men.

But what was the ultimate result? All of them lived out the warning later given by Simon Peter, "may your money perish with you!" (Ac. 8:20). Balaam was killed in battle as an enemy combatant, after leading Israel astray (Nu. 31:8) . Judas committed suicide (Ac. 1:18) . Demas is remembered only in infamy. Gehazi is stricken by the same disease that God washed Naaman clean of. This new leprosy that clung to Gehazi was only the outward reflection of the inward reality of his already leprous heart. All four are tragedies of what could have been.

The question for you and me is this: where are we in danger of making the same mistake, of selling out, of allowing greed to shipwreck our faith and lives? I would wish to tell myself and everyone else that we are somehow immune, that this could never happen today, but that is just not the case. Lord, save me from taking that same path of Gehazi!

Monday, November 9, 2009

pray without ceasing

2 Kings 4:8-44

When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed.
He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the Lord.

Pray, Pray, Pray!

Pray for the lost, pray for the saved.
Pray to change things, pray to restore things.
Pray for he sheep, pray for the shepherd.
Pray to receive, pray to give.

Pray for the church, for families, for friends, for the sick, for the troubled.

Pray for nations and world leaders.

Pray for wisdom, for knowledge, for understanding, and for discernment--for yourself and for others.

Pray with thanksgiving, pray with joy.

Pray without ceasing (1).  Pray, when you must, through weeping and travail.

Pray to the Father in Jesus' name.
Pray by the Spirit.
Pray in the Spirit.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

(1) 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Sunday, November 8, 2009

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows

The Word for today:
2 Kings 3:1-4:7

mark this:
2 Kings 4:1-6

The widow had no money.  She had nothing but a little oil at the bottom of one jar.

Elisha told her to gather every jar she could find, every jar in the neighborhood.  Then he told her to pour the oil she had into the first jar. She filled it. Then she filled another. And she kept pouring.  The oil never stopped flowing until there were no more jars to fill.

In scripture, oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament, priests and kings were anointed for service.  Sometimes, oil was actually poured over their heads to mark them out (1).

The Old Testament is filled with promises of the Messiah.  The Hebrew word "Messiah" means "Anointed One." Jesus' title--"Christ"--is the Greek word for "Messiah."

So when we say "Jesus Christ," what we mean is Jesus, the Anointed One,  because God's Spirit is upon him without measure or limit (2).

This brings us back to the widow with but one jar of oil.  That one jar--that's a picture of Jesus.  And those empty jars that aren't empty anymore--one of them is you!

Everyone who believes in Jesus is anointed--filled--with the Holy Spirit. The oil is limitless, without measure.

You are a christ--with a little 'c'--an anointed one.  All because Jesus Messiah pours out his Spirit until every empty jar is filled.

(1) Exodus 29:7; (2) John 3:34
{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found at }

Saturday, November 7, 2009

church: a part of each other

The Word for today:
2 Kings 1, 2

Elijah and Elisha--combined--foreshadow the New Testament church in many ways:

1.  Like the church, they are of the same spirit:
And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?" Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me."  (2 Kings 2:9)

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12:13)

2.  Elijah is caught up--"raptured"--while still alive.  Prior to Jesus' Second Coming, the church who are still alive will be "caught up" to meet Jesus in the air:
Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more.  (2 Kings 2:11-12)

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

3.  Combined, Elijah and Elisha represent a wide range of the attributes of the Savior to come.
The church is composed of individual believers who, when combined, form the body of Christ.
Elijah's powerfully dramatic miracles, combined with the common, healing touch of Elisha (who actually performed twice the miracles of Elijah) point out the power and the humility, the strength and vulnerability, the kingly and the lowly, the poetic and the prosaic...the justice and mercy… the seemingly impossible reconciliation of mutually exclusive virtues; in short, the grace and truth of the breathtakingly human Son of God:
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

He speaks God's words, for God's Spirit is upon him without measure or limit. (John 3:34)

Jesus' ministry to official Israel was in the power of Elijah; he began his ministry by cleansing the temple with a whip, a voice of thunder, and eyes of fire.  (John 2:13-17)
Jesus' ministry to the individual was the ministry of Elisha—the ministry of grace. (See Matthew 11:28-30.)

{ To our Facebook friends: "Stand in the Rain" takes you through your Bible in 3 years. The blog site and reading schedule are found here. }

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Verdict (Part 1)

John 12:47-48

When was the last time you were in court? Maybe it was a speeding ticket or for jury duty or as a witness or for some other purpose. For the most part, not many people enjoy the experience- the formality, the less that welcoming ambiance, and imposing presence of judges and bailiffs and even stenographers does not make you feel very much at home. It is something you endure and then move on from.

But for the last 25 days and in the last 12 chapters, we have been right back in the thick of a court case. John's Gospel in many ways is a forensic (legal) document. It is full of courtroom terminology such as witness, testimony, verdict and judgment. The author himself claims that this book is "written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ" (John 20:31) He is trying to led the jury (us) to that same conclusion.

He provides witnesses such as John the Baptist(1:19) or the Woman at the Well (4:39) who give key testimony to who Jesus is.

Of all the miracles that Jesus did, he shares with us seven particular signs that prove Jesus is who He claims to be.
1. Turing the water into wine (Chapter 2)
2. Healing a dying boy (Chapter 4)
3. Healing a lame man (Chapter 5)
4. Feeding the 5000 (Chapter 6)
5. Walking on water (Chapter 6)
6. Restoring sight to the blind man (Chapter 9)
7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11)

And here in chapter 12, he once again brings up the whole conversation about judgment. Jesus reminds us of his true mission- to save the world. But he also reminds us that as a by-product of that mission, there is judgment. Christ did not come in as an accusing prosecutor, seeking our ruin by burying us with the overwhelming evidence of our sin. But in coming to rescue us, he alos exposes our evil for what it really is. Any who reject His message and help stand accused and guilty already. Jesus Christ is Savior, but as Savior he is also Judge. (see John 5:22)

John's Gospel is certainly a legal document, but as we read, we realize that it is not Jesus who is on trial, it is us. The evidence for His deity and character and mission is overwhelming- and therefore the burden shifts to you and me: What are we gonna do about it? Will we "live by the truth and come into the light" or will we "not come into the light for fear that our deeds will be exposed?" (John 3:20-21) The choice is ours. We are on the stand.

He makes sure that we get where we choose to go.

The Word for today:

John 12:37-50

A few days ago, we looked at what role miracles play in the formation of faith. That blog concluded:

The problem is not with the evidence we have. The problem is that when we don't want to believe, we will find a way not to believe. We will even find a way to disbelieve our very eyes. Hearts that will not see will not see.We take Jesus at his Word, or we take him not at all:If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone should rise from the dead.
Today, with that thought as our background, we will explain a thorny "problem" in scripture: Does God harden hearts?

Let's look at John 12:37:
Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

But three verses later, it looks like it's God's fault!--
Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." (12:39-40)

What's going on is that those who would not believe in 12:37 could not believe in 12:40.

But all that God does between 12:37 and 12:40 is ratify their choices. The Bible calls it 'hardening their hearts.'

There will not be a person in hell who, in one way or another, has not chosen to be there.

It is not by God's choice that anyone will be found there:
The Lord isn't slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost (2 Peter 3:9).

God backs up our choices, whatever those choices may be. He delivers the consequences we choose. He makes sure we get wherever we choose to go.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

lifted up

The Word for today:
John 12:20-36

mark this: 12:32-33:
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself."
This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

We take some Bible verses personally. John 12:32 is one of those personal verses for me. Permit me today to reminisce and re-commit.

I read a Bible sometime just after my son Frankie was born, in 1994. I kept on reading that Bible, front cover to back cover, front to back, front to back; on each passing page falling ever deeper in love with the major character.

Then I showed up at a church one day around the year 2000, when Shelley and I saw a sign for Vacation Bible School, which prompted us to think that maybe Frankie and Eddy, 5 and 6 at the time, would benefit from "Veggie Tales." But I remained wary of church and hid in the pews for the next four years.

One day I showed up at a Sunday School class for men. Dan Verratti was the teacher. They were discussing a John Eldredge book. I loved that class. The next semester I went to Mr. Brown's class on the book of Daniel. Fantastic! When the class ended after its allotted 12 weeks, I asked Mr. Brown if we could just keep sailing into the next book of the Bible--Hosea--and then keep going all the way through until we got back to Daniel. But the next set of classes were already scheduled, he told me, and there wasn't a classroom available.

I spoke to Shelley on the way home about my request and about what Mr. Brown said.
"Why don't you teach a class that goes cover to cover, Franklyn."
"I wouldn't even know where to begin."
"How about Genesis?"

I taught my first class in January of 2005. The church was torn up for renovation, and the only place left to hold a class was in the church kitchen. So amidst the pots and pans and sinks and stoves and a big old freezer which hummed and thrummed so loudly that I had to shout over it, I started: "In the beginning, God..."

We called that class "Lifted Up." The theme was taken from John 12:32-33:
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.
This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

Jesus came from eternity for this hour, for this cause (1): to die a redemptive death, taking the judgment and curse of sin upon himself. Then he rose from the dead, verification that his sacrifice was accepted. The plan, decided before the foundation of the world (2), had worked!

The cross was his purpose, and the cross is our purpose. We can't die for the sins of others, but we can communicate the cross; we can lift him up.

Then we can lift him higher:
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple (3).

(1) see John 12:27; (2) Revelation 13:8; (3) Isaiah 6:1