Saturday, October 31, 2009

God draws himself--and draws us closer


John 10:1-21

When we try to define or explain God to someone, we most often struggle with the task. Who can get his arms around the I AM who has always existed and always will? How can we describe the one who created not only this world, but all the worlds that have ever existed--and yet has numbered every hair on our heads, and knows every sparrow that falls. How can we share or even know such a complex and powerful Being?

The answer to this question lies in Jesus Christ:
God loves us so much that he became one of us and lived among us. He then began to paint very clear pictures showing us who he is and how we can know him. He took everyday things we are familiar with and showed us Himself.

In our scripture passage today, he explains that he is a good shepherd and we, his sheep, know when he speaks. He goes on to say he is the gate; when we enter through him, we can experience salvation.

His purposes are revealed throughout scripture. God in the person of Jesus Christ reveals his character and his heart and, amazingly, his desire to enter into a personal relationship with--you!

The King James Version of the Bible uses the word similitude (1). A similitude is what it sounds like--something familiar to us which is similar to an attribute of God, thereby helping us to know him better:

I AM the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11, 14)
I AM the Gate for the sheep. (John 10:7, 9)
I AM the bread of life. (John 6:35)
I AM the living water. (John 4:10-15)
I AM the true vine. (John 15:1,5)
I AM the light of the world. (John 8:12)
I AM the Resurrection and the Life. (John 11:25)
I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

The list goes on and on, picturing what he means to us and drawing us into closer relationship with him.

Today Jesus Christ is living and moving in our midst. As the song goes, "He walks with me and talks with me and he tells me I am his own."

Expect the Lord Jesus Christ to manifest himself afresh and anew in your daily life. Turn Light and Vine and Water and Bread and Gate and Truth and Shepherd over in your mind. As you do, you will continue to know him better and better.

(1) see Hosea 12:10/KJV

Friday, October 30, 2009

let the light speak for itself


The Word for today:
John 9

mark this: John 9:5 --
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.


My Dad died 25 years ago.

It seemed to me that he was forever fixing something. He'd be fixing his car, his boat, the house, the house next door, or my bike. And when he did, I always had to tag along, carrying the toolbox.

He'd be underneath the car and a hand would stick out: "Six-inch Crescent," he'd say; or "Phillips medium." So I'd find that tool in the box and place it in his hand.

Sometimes we'd be working in the cellar or the garage and he'd say, "Get out of my light." Then I'd move aside so he could see.

"Light" in the Bible is never self-generated. It comes from outside ourselves. It comes via God's Word. In fact, God speaks light:
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

Light is one of the Bible's master images. As a physical reality or a spiritual symbol, light is at the heart of such central biblical themes as creation, providence, judgment, redemption and sanctification.

There's a verse in the Bible which carries light from eternity past to eternity future--at the speed of light:
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

I'll see you tomorrow. I'm going to step aside now, and let the light speak for itself:

God created light. He lives in light:
Genesis 1:3-5
2 Corinthians 4:6
1 Timothy 6:15-16

Jesus Christ is the true light of the world:
2 Samuel 22:29
Psalm 18:28; Psalm 27:1
Isaiah 9:2
John 1:1-9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46
1 John 1:5-7

God's Word is a light for our lives:
Psalm 119:105; Psalm 119:129-131

As Christians, we are a light to the world. Our words and actions are to shine God's truth to the world:
Isaiah 42:6
Matthew 5:14-16
Luke 8:16
Acts 13:47
Ephesians 5:8-11



Thursday, October 29, 2009

before Abraham was, I AM


The Word for today:
John 8:30-59


Mark this: John 8:57-58 --
Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"
Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."



God's name--"I AM"--takes no object, because the completion lies in itself.

Let's say I come up to you and say, "I am." You'll be waiting for the rest of the phrase, because when I say, "I am," it begs the question: You are what?

But God is the self-existent one, complete in himself.

If the grammatical isn't dramatic for you--if that discussion of the objective and subjective doesn't grab you, that's alright. We'll move on.

God has a lot of names in the Bible, but his most complete, all-encompassing name--which Jesus evokes in John 8:58--is spelled 'YHWH' in the Hebrew language. (The Hebrews left out vowels in order to save space and parchment, so exactly what the vowels were has been lost to us.)

The name "I AM" is derived from the Hebrew verb "hayah," which means "to be." It was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, when God appeared in the burning bush. Notice that 'hayah' is the same, whether it's read forward or backward. The future and the past are undifferentiated in the "Am."

Q. Wow! That is out there! But I've never seen "YHWH" in my Bible.
A. That's because the Jews would not write it or say it, for fear of breaking the third commandment. So they wrote it in a form called the tetragrammaton: "YHWH." It is rendered as "LORD" in most English Bibles, in all capitals.

Q. This is too much to remember.
A. It is. The name of God is a vast subject. What you should remember going forward are two things:

1. In John 8:58, Jesus claims to be God. He states his claim in the clearest terms possible, the highest terms that language affords--invoking the very name of God. There were no words available to him by which he could state his claim any more forcefully or certainly. The Pharisees clearly understood Jesus' statement to be a declaration of His deity. They took up stones to kill Him, because they considered it blasphemy to even say YHWH, let alone claim to be YHWH.
By using the present tense "I Am" in speaking of existence more than 2000 years earlier--before Abraham--he is claiming a transcendence over time that could only be true of God.

2. Remember the burning bush! God revealed his name --"I AM" / "YHWH" / "LORD"--when he appeared as a burning bush. Exodus 3:2 tells us the bush was burning but it was not consumed.
Know your elements: fire is an image of judgment in scripture. This bush, under judgment yet remaining alive, is one of the most complete pictures of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ in all of scripture.

The Bible student who can link "I AM" to the burning bush, and the burning bush to the cross, is beginning to hear the "Symphony of Scripture!"
Q. I am? Err, I mean, am I?
A. You are!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

just you and Jesus and the rocks


The Word for today:
John 7:53 to 8:29

mark this: John 8:9 --
But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

In chapter 8 of the book of John a woman’s sin catches up to her. I recall the day my sin caught up to me. Maybe your sin hasn’t caught you yet, but it’s gaining.

The punishment to be administered was death.

Jesus strode forward, alone, to face down the mob. He positioned himself between the woman and her accusers. Stooping down, he wrote on the ground. An old Pharisee relaxed his grip on the rock he held.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The rock fell from the old Pharisee’s hand. Head down, he walked away.

Jesus looked up. His eyes met the eyes of each of the remaining accusers. Then he wrote some more...

When Jesus Christ wrote in the sand—his only recorded instance of writing-- it very likely was a re-enactment of the finger of God upon the tablets of the law (1), reminding the accusers of their own adultery. Some have even speculated upon the damning specificity of the law in this regard, and have imagined that what Jesus wrote were names in the sand; names like "Sue from Beersheba, Beth in Jericho, Barb from Bethlehem, Jane from Bethany…"

When he had finished writing, he stood up. There remained only Jesus, the woman, and the hundreds of rocks.

That's a picture of the cross. At the cross, Jesus will stand between death and the sinner, to shield her from the rocks.

If the story of the cross ever gets away from you, return to John chapter 8. And stay there for a minute or two,

just you and Jesus and the rocks.


(1) see Exodus 31:18

Not of This World


John 8:23



"Be yourself "is the rallying cry of this country. And selling products that are supposed to make you unique has become a cash cow for advertising. (Case in point- check out the latest commercial that celebrates the breaking of conformity and rules put out by, none other than that icon of rebellion- Miracle Whip! Ha!)



But the more I encounter people, the more I realize how alike we are, especially in the areas of sin and temptation (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). Is there any one of us who have yet to struggle with greed or selfishness or pride? As different as we look or talk or dress , despite our various backgrounds or personalities, we really are not that different from the next guy or girl. That is why we need to be careful to judge others, lest we ourselves be judged. (Lk. 6:37)



But even more than humbling us, the common weaknesses that we humans have showcase the only real Original Man this world has ever known: Jesus Christ. He is the only New Thing under the sun. He is the Eternal One in a dying world. According to this verse, He alone is not of this world but rather from above. Oswald Chambers sums it up much better than I can:


"Jesus Christ was born into this world, not form it. He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being; He is a being who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all. He is not man becoming God, but God incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it form the outside. His life is the highest and holiest entering in at the lowliest door."

Today as you think about the story when Jesus rescued a helpless woman as only He could, remember just how utterly unique He is among any other human to ever exist. There is no comparison!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a Pharisee, born again


The Word for today:
John 7:25-52













Pharisees are the bad guys of the New Testament.

They were legalists who piled extra traditions on top of God's laws. They cared more about Sabbath law than about the people whom the Sabbath laws were supposed to benefit. When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees from that time forth sought to have Jesus put to death.

Jesus gave an illustration of a Pharisee's proud prayer and the humble prayer of a "low-life" tax collector--and said the tax collector, not the Pharisee, would be justified in God's eyes. Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs, full of dead men's bones (1).

'Pharisee' in our day has come to mean a person who cares more about rules than about people; a person who is more intent on academic knowledge of the Bible than real-world application of biblical principles.

I've got a little bit of Pharisee in me. Maybe you do, too. Paul, the writer of most of the epistles, was a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee (2). He was actively trying to shake free of the influence.

In the gospel of John, we briefly meet another Pharisee. We meet him in chapters 3, 7, and 19. His name is Nicodemus.

He is a polished, accomplished, and honored spiritual leader. He is a renowned teacher of Israel, on a national scale. But Jesus has to walk him, by the hand, through the basic plan of salvation in chapter three: You must be born again (3).

We don't think Nicodemus came to faith that night in chapter 3. And when we meet him here in chapter 7, we still don't think he's born again. But as he pleads with his fellow Pharisees for fairness in their judgment of Jesus, there's a hint that the seed Jesus planted in chapter three is alive and germinating.

When we meet him again in chapter 19, the one who must be born again is born again! The light broke through (see John 19:39) for Nicodemus where it breaks through for all of us who are born again--at the cross of Jesus Christ.

When you tell a person about Jesus, don't get tangled up in philosophy, or religion, or evolution, or existentialism. Turn discussions and debates to the cross--how he died to save us; and that he rose again and wants to save everyone, to make their broken lives brand new.

When you tell people about Jesus, remember Nicodemus. He was a Bible expert; he lived a moral life; he was highly educated and respected. He'd even met Jesus Christ face to face.

But only the cross could change his mind.

(1) Matthew 23:27; (2) Acts 23:6; (3) John 3:7

Monday, October 26, 2009

let's all cuddle up to the Sun


The Word for today:
John 7:1-24






mark this:
John 7:7 --
The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.

How could anybody hate Jesus?
The way Jesus is presented in our culture and even in many of our evangelical "Bible-based" churches would certainly make you wonder.

*********************
The single reason for Bible reading and study is to get to know God. All else--service, love, prayer, self-transformation, world transformation--springs from our relationship with God.

The Bible, through its revelation of Jesus Christ, has the only complete picture of God:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
(1)

"In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." What does that mean? It means that the language God speaks is "Jesus." Let me say it again: the language God speaks is "Jesus." Jesus is the way God communicates Himself to us. That's why Jesus is called the Word of God.

We speak English. We can't understand a person speaking Chinese. And we can't understand God unless we are fluent in "Jesus."

We've been told that Jesus is the Light of the world. Isn't that sweet and nice. The way that's presented to us 99% of the time, all we want to do is cuddle up to Him.

But here's the flip side of the Light of the world:

The world hates Christ because he is the Light of the world, revealing sin. Cuddling up to that Light would be like cuddling up to the sun.

But Hollywood won't present that Light. Most of our churches won't present that Light. They depict the Light as a candle, maybe a flashlight. No one ever got seriously burned by a candle or a flashlight. And no one was ever saved by one of them, either.

The only true (2) and complete Light, the only true and complete Word, the only true and complete God--is the Word, the Light, the Jesus of Scripture.

So let's learn the language of God; let's be fluent in biblical "Jesus." Let's gain a mature vocabulary so we understand that "Light" is comprised of a spectrum of many colors--that the Jesus who is the Savior of some will be the Judge of others; that the cuddly Lamb of God is also the Lion of Judah (3).

Many of you, in order to learn the complete language of God, will have to break free of the limitations imposed by your culture, your family, your church, and your century.

Learn to speak in real Jesus, biblical "Jesus." Think in "Jesus," pray in "Jesus." But when you do, beware--because then the world won't like you either:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2)

So, how could anybody hate Jesus? Because he is the Light of the world.


(1) Hebrews 1:1-3; (2) John 1:9; (3) Revelation 5:5; (4) 2 Timothy 3:12

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the crowds start to dwindle


The Word for today:
John 6:41-71


mark this:

John 6:66 --
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

The world loves Jesus the great philosopher and teacher. They love Jesus the moral genius. They might even believe that a man so connected with God could perform the miracles Jesus performed.

But the world will not follow Jesus to the cross.

In today's passage of scripture, Jesus explains that without receiving his sacrifice at the cross--graphically portrayed as eating his flesh and drinking his blood--we are spiritually dead, separated from God: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.

Jesus knew that many in the crowds did not believe in him as Messiah and Son of God. These false disciples followed the popular Jesus. They loved his personality. They were in awe of his miracles. But His teaching concerning the cross offended: So from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

Our pride is offended by the cross (1)--by the notion that we can't make it without God, without His sacrifice on the cross. In our pride, we want to believe that we can live independently of God. Jesus said we can't, and the crowds started to dwindle.

If you have never gone to the cross of Jesus Christ, then you can do one of two things right now:

You can walk away. Many have.

Or you can place your sins in a big bundle, go to the cross of Jesus Christ, and exchange your bundle for the righteousness of God (2).

I don't know what's in your bundle. It's none of my business. I just know that if you choose to walk away and face judgment on your own, you will pay the wages of sin, which is death (3). But should you choose to take your sins to the cross, Jesus Christ will pay the wages of sin for you.

If we've never met, I hope to see you at the cross. I'll be the one with just about the biggest bundle there.

(1) Galatians 5:11; (2) 2 Corinthians 5:21; (3) Romans 6:23; (4) Deuteronomy 30:19

Saturday, October 24, 2009

selah










The Word for today:

John 6:22-40

selah:

John 6:28-29

Some Bible verses are so crucial that we should pause there before going on. They should be underlined, highlighted, memorized, and meditated upon.

The Psalms contain a mysterious word: 'selah.'
(It is pronounced "see-lah," with the stress on the first syllable.)

No one is exactly sure what it meant, but our best guess is that it meant 'stop, look, and listen.' It followed a thought which demanded reflection. So 'selah' signaled that the musicians were to play an instrumental interlude with no singing, in order to let the idea and emotion sink in.
Day by day, Stand in the Rain uses the phrase 'mark this' to focus on a verse.
But from time to time we will use the word 'selah' to indicate a verse which is crucial to biblical understanding.
**********************
One such Bible passage is before us today: John 6:28-29.

Faith? Works?
If ever you get confused about the fundamentals of your New Testament, go to John 6:28-29:

Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

You will hear a lot of discussion in the Bible about faith and works. Are we saved by our faith or by our works? The answer is here. We are saved by our faith in the work of Jesus Christ--who fulfilled the law by living a sinless life, then paid the penalty our sins deserve when he died on the cross. When he rose from the dead, it was proof that He'd done it! He'd defeated death by his sinless sacrifice.
So we are saved by our faith in the work of Jesus Christ.

Selah.

Friday, October 23, 2009

God's Recycling Plan

John 6:12

The Zach family and the youth room have gone green! Well, we at least not try to throw out stuff we know that can be reused in some way. There is even a makeshift recycling box in the office and youth room. (By the way, I was inspired NOT by Al Gore and his snooty Prius, but rather by LAC's own Mary Rachel Robbins!) I know its not much, but every little bit helps.

Chapter six is not only a pivotal passage in the Gospel of John, it is one of my personal favorites. And in these first dozen verses or so we get a glimpse of God's own recycling plan. The verse that leaps out to me is the twelfth and particularly the sentence: "Let nothing be wasted." After an awesome miracle where 10,000+ were fed, this command comes directly from Jesus. It seems a bit odd at first, until we look at it in the bigger scheme.

Jesus is not giving advice on how to preserve food in pre- Tupperware times. These baskets were not the ancient equivalent of doggy bags. Jesus is sharing a key lesson about how He operates. He is a recycler.

The word that is translated as "be wasted" is the exact same word we find in a much more famous verse- John 3:16. " For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not PERISH but have eternal life." God's desire is that nothing and no one perish, be lost, be wasted, be destroyed. (See 2 Peter 2 :9)

This verse here is a small reminder that all of the broken, unwanted, left over people are valued by God. None are to be left behind. It also shows us that God can use and redeem all of the broken, unwanted, left over parts of our lives for His glory. He is the God who counts our tears (Psalm 56:8). He can redeem and recycle even the most painful mistakes and wounds of our lives because nothing is wasted with God.

the University of Jesus


John 6:1-21






{Stand in the Rain welcomes a new contributor!
Starting today,
Norm adds a new voice to the Stand in the Rain "choir." Franklyn and Pastor Joe welcome his help. He'll be checking in every so often, so be on the lookout for his articles!}

******************

He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
(John 6:6)

As my wife and I raised our children, we would often use teachable moments to help them make good decisions. Jesus does the same thing with Philip in this chapter of John, and He does the same thing with us in our daily lives.

Life can be viewed as a series of tests that are set before us. How well we do on these tests is directly related to how well we are prepared.

There is no better preparation for life's test than to know what Jesus would do. The best way to know what Jesus would do is to have a close relationship with Him. We gain this type of relationship by knowing His Word and by being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

How well are you doing with your test of life? You can certainly increase your mark by having Jesus and His Word--the Bible--as your tutor.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

the Bible Jesus read


The Word for today:
John 5:30-47





mark this: John 5:39 --


Sometimes, an idea can be so obvious that it escapes our notice. We're going to look at something like that today. Here goes:

Jesus never read the New Testament.
Paul never read the New Testament.
Peter never read the New Testament.
John never read the New Testament.
Luke never read the New Testament.

Earth-shattering information, right? Actually, it is.

Today, in John 5:39, Jesus tells the Pharisees--
You study the Scriptures, because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And these very Scriptures speak about me!
Then Jesus goes on to say--
If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?

In the gospel of Luke, after Jesus' resurrection, he told his followers that--
Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled (1).
(At that time, the phrase "Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms" meant all of scripture.)

The clearest, most concise expression of the gospel in the Bible was written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
He was buried;
He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

It is important to understand that, for Paul, "according to the Scriptures" meant 'according to the Old Testament'-- because there was no New Testament when Paul wrote those words.

Paul also tells us that all the prophets testify about Jesus. (2)

John, in his gospel, wrote that when Philip found Nathanael, he told him, "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth." (3)

Peter wrote that the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, telling in advance about the sufferings of Christ and about the glory that would follow (4).

*****************
Here's how the Bible is set up:
The Old Testament is made up of "pictures" of Jesus--so people would recognize Him when, one day, he'd be coming down the road.
In the New Testament the "pictures" come to life, the Word is made flesh--Jesus!

So look for Jesus in Genesis; then look for Jesus in Joshua, Judges, Job, Jeremiah, Joel, and Jonah.

That's the best approach to Bible study--according to Jesus, Paul, Peter, Luke, and John.

Something tells me they'd be the ones who would know.

(1) Luke 24:44; (2) Acts 10:43; (3) John 1:45; (4) 1 Peter 1:11

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the best questions point to the Answer


The Word for today:
John 5:1-29


Mark this: 5:6--

"Do you want to get well?"

Q. Why would Jesus ask such a thing when the answer is so obvious?
A. Because the answer is so obvious!
Q. What?
A. Jesus wanted the man to see the obvious answer. Jesus knew the man wanted to be healed. Jesus wanted the man to know how.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Let's say you walk by the park and a bunch of boys are playing a spirited game of football. They are giving it everything they have, but they are getting nowhere. Suppose you go up to their huddle and say, "You want to win?" Those boys know that you can see they want to win. So they don't reply, 'Yes,' or 'No.' They wait expectantly for you to show them how. So you draw up a play in the dirt.
Q. I get it, I think.
A. Look at the man's answer. He doesn't say, "Yes, of course I want to get well." He starts talking about the way to get well: "I have no one to help me into the pool."
Q. I've got it! So Jesus shows the man that he--Jesus--is the way to get well, by saying, "Pick up your mat and walk."
A. Right.
Q. Jesus is the plan--the play, so to speak, that God drew up in the dirt! The man said he had no one to help, but he was wrong. He had Jesus.
A. Bingo!

****************
Are you waiting around for something to happen, for a stirring in the water?
Forget it.

Do you think there's no one to help?
Think again.

Do you want to get well?
The best questions point to the Answer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

skip the seminar; hang out at the well


The Word for today:
John 4:27-54



What was Jesus like? I mean, if you happened to meet him, what was he like?
Chapter four gives us a glimpse.

Pretend you're the woman at the well in Samaria.

A man approaches. He asks for a drink. He strikes up a conversation.

This is nothing out of the ordinary today, but it was revolutionary on the day Jesus met her. A Middle Eastern man would never speak to a woman in public. And no Jew would converse with any "half-breed" Samaritan. And no man of God would ever speak to a person of disreputable reputation. But Jesus, speaking to the woman at the well, did all three.

And he was nice. But he wasn't playing nice. He listed her sins. He told her she didn't have a clue about spiritual matters.

And he said crazy things about living water. But he wasn't crazy. Not at all.

He even told her that he was unique in all the world. She'd no doubt heard that line before. He was what she'd been waiting for. She'd heard that one, too. But he was humble, even simple, as he said such grand things.

Jesus was able to stay right on an edge between things that seem contradictory.

He revered God, while holding established religion in contempt.

Authority, bureaucracy, status quo, tradition, conventional thinking, and established institutions were under threat when Jesus came to town. Yet he was respectful, even gentle. Children and puppies knew they were safe, while money changers fled the scene.

When he fed 15,000 people, food materialized as he thought about it. But on a personal level, he knew hunger, thirst, and weariness.

I should be teaching you all about Jesus the evangelist, who converts the two most opposite people in the world--Nicodemus, the renowned religious expert in chapter 3; and the notorious woman at the well in chapter 4.

They held a seminar once at a neighboring church, something about a thorough analysis of the evangelistic techniques of Jesus as demonstrated in John chapters 3 and 4. That kind of thing makes me so sad.

Because it's the inexpressible about Jesus, the things between the lines--his unconquerable bravery, his uncontainable joy, his broken heart--that save and sustain us.

Skip the seminar and go to the well, just you and Jesus.

You'll find that he's funny, sometimes. He can be trusted, always. He keeps a secret, forever. He stores your tears, each one, in a bottle (1). Then he fills your cup with living water.

(1) Psalm 56:8

Monday, October 19, 2009

the reunion of heart and head, continued


The Word for today:
John 4:1-26

Mark this: 4:22-24 --
You worship you know not what. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and
they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


Yesterday, in a characteristically confrontational way, I addressed the pharisaic tendency to leave Jesus in the book, so to speak. Academic heads (like me) must be sure to live biblically as we study.

And I addressed the equally distasteful habit of many Christians who--loudly and demonstratively--profess their love for Jesus, but aren't curious enough about this love-of-their-lives to open his book and learn more about him. They believe the Bible--every word!--but will seldom open it to find out just what it is that they so fervently believe.

Jesus meets a Samaritan woman in our passage today. She is a worshiper according to the local traditions. Jesus does not deny that she worships. That she worships is not in dispute. But then Jesus hones in; first on her sin, and then on another spiritual problem: "You worship you know not what."

I typed that phrase in King James Version English because there is just no better way to say it. She worships, alright. But she worships in ignorance.

Then Jesus tells her, "They that worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth."

What does it mean, to worship "in spirit and in truth"?

It means we've got to put our hearts into it, and we've got to put our heads into it.

Jumping up and down and banging the tambourine in ecstatic ignorance is not the worship God is seeking.

And learning for learning's sake, learning which is left in the ivory tower, is equally as useless.

Christian teachers and preachers have used the model of "the distance from the head to the heart." The illustration has served us well. It has pointed out dry and listless worship. It has challenged those who are hearers of the word to become doers of the word (1).

Today, Jesus is going in the opposite direction. He is not talking head to heart. He's talking heart to head. He's talking about worship, outwardly ecstatic as it may be, which is actually dead--because it is worship of ye know not what. It is the worship of a heart without a head.

So I proposed a new model yesterday, and I'll reiterate it today:

"God made the head and the heart. They are to be seamless, of a single piece.
The trick is not to stop being emotional. Be ever more emotional! But make sure you are using your head as well as your heart.
The trick is not to stop being academic. Be ever more academic! But make sure you are using your heart as well."

There's a picture above. I've used it two days in a row. It's a silly picture of a head that is a heart. It's a silly picture of a heart that is a head. It's a picture of the worshiper God is seeking.

Hold a self-reunion, the reunion of heart and head. Worship in spirit and in truth. Put your whole heart and your whole head into your relationship with Jesus.

(1) James 1:22



Sunday, October 18, 2009

the reunion of heart and head


The Word for today:
John 3:22-36





Yesterday, I went to the monthly men's breakfast at our church. Our Pastor spoke about the purpose of the Word of God:


"The purpose of reading the Bible is not information, but transformation."

When we read, he said, "We should ask ourselves--
What is this saying?
What does this mean?
How does this apply to me today?"

Pastor Kevin is 'standing in the rain' with you and me, so he used this example:
"Many of us are 'standing in the rain.' Yesterday's reading was from John chapter 2, when Jesus turned water into wine. As I read the passage, Mary's comment to the servants stood out: Do whatever he tells you. For the rest of the day I endeavored to stay attuned to his prompting, and to perform whatever I was told."

*******************

I tend to be an academic head. I can be three cross-references over that-a-way before I even know it. Certainly there is nothing but right with mining deeply for the treasures of God's Word. And Pastor Kevin would be the first to say so.

But let me be the first to say to all you academic heads out there--
How does this apply to me today?

When I got home from the men's breakfast, I turned on the computer to write tomorrow's Stand in the Rain blog. I looked at the schedule for October 18th: John 3:22-36. I turned to the bookshelf beside me and reached for my big, trusty New American Standard Bible, center-column-referenced. At verse 23: Now John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim..., I was already in the back of the Bible, in the maps, looking for Aenon near Salim.

God made the head and the heart. They are to be seamless, of a single piece. Emotional so-called Christianity turns my stomach, if it is not accompanied by a deep and systematic study of God's precious Word. I know no one--no not one--who neglects systematic Bible study and knows Jesus well.

And I know no one--no not one--who studies scripture but disdains to practice it, who knows Jesus well. Pastor Kevin pointed out their type in the Bible: Pharisees. Enough said.

The trick is not to stop being emotional. Be ever more emotional! But make sure you are using your head as well as your heart.

The trick is not to stop being academic. Be ever more academic! But make sure you are using your heart as well.

So, with our Pastor's lesson still sounding in my ears, I placed my heavily referenced Bible back on the shelf. I reached for a little pocket Testament. There'd be no cross references in there.

Listening for direction, I heard John the Baptist say, He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. So I purposed in my heart to live that way today.

I closed my little Testament and reached for my Bible atlas. I found where Aenon near Salim was.

Then I closed my atlas and began to write this blog, my heart now reunited with my head.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

some verses should get more TV time


The Word for today:
John 2:23 -- 3:21



John 3:16 is the Bible's most famous verse. In fact, people who don't know the words of John 3:16 know the reference: "John 3:16," seen in stadiums and arenas, on TV screens all over the place. Most people, at the very least, have the vague sense that it's biblical.

But let's forget John 3:16 for a while in order to concentrate on its context, the verses surrounding it which frame its meaning.

In 3:14-15 we hear Jesus the Teacher, again using pictures from the Old Testament--as he did in chapter one-- to demonstrate the way to salvation:
"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."

Jesus is referring to Numbers 21:8-9, when God told Moses to fasten a bronze serpent to a pole--and that the people should look to it, in order to escape a plague.

Q. But isn't a snake a symbol of evil?
A. Yes.
Q. So we look at a symbol of evil and we are saved?
A. No. We are looking at a picture of Jesus on the cross.
Q. I'm confused. Jesus isn't evil!
A. Listen very carefully to 2 Corinthians 5:21:
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Jesus on the pole (the cross) became sin for us. So that snake is a picture of the exchange which saved my soul. He became my sin and I became his righteousness.
Q. That's wild!
A. That's the plan. Jesus--see 3:16--is God's plan. Nothing else would do.

Let's move to John 3:17 for further context:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Q. So the Bible says Jesus will not condemn!
A. It certainly does, because Jesus doesn't waste words. Carefully note the next verse in your Bible:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Q. 'Condemned already?'
A. Right. And Jesus won't waste words condemning what is already condemned. Therefore, a person does not have to reject Jesus Christ to be lost. He is lost already, because he is a sinner.
Q. So John 3:14-18 shows that God condemned Himself so we could be with him.
A. Not only with him, but like him!
Q. I'm going to make a big sign that says: "John 3:14-18"
A. Oh, no; here we go again...

Do I Even Know You?


John 2:24-25


"But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man."

Have you ever thought that you have a pretty good idea about who someone was, only to find out that you really had no idea. It is a rather disconcerting feeling. In the past year or so I have felt utterly bewildered at least three times as people who I had known to be one way, revealed that they were, in reality, much different, and not always in a good way.

The truth is that deep down inside of every one of us there is a secret place that the rest of the world does not see. Often we don't even show it to our closest friends and family members. Sometimes we can even fool ourselves.

This verse in John reminds me of another classic- Jeremiah 17:9.
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

Who can indeed? Jesus Christ walked and talked and ministered in a world full of double talk and self-deception, a world of flattery and false motives, a world where the same people could cry "Hosanna" one day and "Crucify!" the next. The calendar has changed since then, but the basic nature of man, deceiving one another and being deceived, remains. This verse, among others, shows how Jesus rejected operating along those lines. His life and his message would never
be reduce to manipulation or propaganda. He would never be subject to any man's agenda- only that of His Heavenly Father's.

But not only does he know what is in us, he never lets that very damning information stop him from loving us anyways. That is what is different about Jesus Christ. He knows all and loves in spite of it. He knows the deepest and darkest parts of every human soul. He knows what we won't share with others. What we don't even admit to ourselves. He knows.

He is the only one who put his command to love his enemies (Matthew 5:44) into action before they even were enemies. He loved Peter despite the fact that he knew Peter would deny him. He loved Judas, even thought he knew the greed and betrayal inside of Judas' heart would lead to his crucifixion. He "demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)."

Friday, October 16, 2009

washwater into wine


The Word for today:
John 2:1-22





Mark this: John 2:6-11 --
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons...
...This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

One of the major prophecies concerning Jesus is from Genesis 49:10:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

(The scepter was a rod denoting sovereign authority. This prophecy tells us that the ultimate King must come from the tribe of Judah.)

And the prophecy continues into the next verse, Genesis 49:11:
Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey's colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.

What?

Some of the statements in the Bible require an understanding of the customs at the time they were written. So let's look at Genesis 49:11 in light of the customs of the day.

A donkey would never be tied to a grapevine, because there would soon be no grapes left! The donkey in this prophecy is tied to the choicest vine. What a waste of the finest grapes.

And not only that, but this king to come through the line of Judah will do another unheard-of thing: he would wash his clothes in wine!

What is going on with all this waste?

What's going on isn't waste. It is a description of a new day, a day of God's superabundant provision--a day when the choicest grapes will be so common that we'll tie the donkey to the vine; a day when wine will be as common as washwater.

But was there ever a day when wine was as washwater?

The day arrived in John chapter 2, when Jesus turned 6 casks--each holding 20 to 30 gallons of washwater--into the choicest wine.

The disciples knew what they were seeing. They knew its prophetic significance. It was an unmistakable pronouncement to His disciples that here was the promised King.

God's superabundant provision during His first coming would be the blood of the Son of God, symbolized from Melchizedek to the Lord's Supper by wine. It would wash our sins away.

At Jesus' Second Coming--during the Millennial reign yet to come--God's superabundance will be literally fulfilled, when the choicest wine will be as common as washwater.

Jesus' orchestration of His first miracle drew from the past, projected into the future, and centered on the cross--while harmonizing the poetic, prophetic, literal, symbolic, and redemptive notes of scripture.

An engagement gift to His Bride, it is the poetry of blood and wine, a love song so exquisite that it can only be divine.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

we are climbing Jacob's Ladder


The Word for today:
John 1:35-51

mark these:
John 1:51 --
"I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Genesis 28:12 --
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!

The Bible student should be on the lookout for all the pictures of Jesus that are in the Bible!

No, these aren't pictures of his face--no one knows what he looked like, because God hasn't shown us that.

But pictures of his heart, his work, his character, his life, his cross, his death, his resurrection, his kingdom--pictures of these are strewn throughout your Bible.

Yesterday, when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and exclaimed, Behold, the Lamb of God (1), he was teaching us that the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament was but a picture of Jesus, who would take our sins upon himself, dying in our place.

Today, Jesus points to the well-known Old Testament story about Jacob's ladder (2). In Genesis we are told that Jacob dreamed of a ladder which stretched from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it.

Jesus teaches us in John 1:51 that he is Jacob's ladder. He is the connection between man and God; the commerce between heaven and earth will be upon him. The transaction at the cross, and the ongoing transaction in prayer are through him. He is the covenant; he's where the deal goes down.

Here in John chapter 1 we hear from two great Bible teachers, Jesus and John the Baptist! Both of them use the pictures God provides in the Old Testament to show us the Bible's deepest truths.

When we begin to see that the Lamb is Jesus, that Jacob's Ladder is Jesus, that the Old Testament is one picture of Jesus after another--then we are climbing higher, higher.

(1) John 1:29; (2) John 1:51, referring to Genesis 28:12.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

at the door to the cross



The Word for today:
John 1:19-34



mark this: John 1:29 --
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29 is a crucial verse in the Bible. It's the point at which major themes of the Old Testament reach their fulfilment. Each of these themes pointed to the Messiah who would come to deliver the people. In this verse, John the Baptist ecstatically exclaims, "Look! He's here!"

The prophet in the Old Testament served two major functions:
He pronounced judgment on the people's sins.
He pointed to a chosen servant of God who would deliver the people.

The prophets can be confusing, because in the very same breath they seem to speak of God's judgment and His mercy. How can that be? Only the cross--where God Himself took the judgment for sin in order to forgive the people--could explain these seemingly contradictory themes of the prophets.

The sacrificial system--the shedding of the blood of another to atone for the sins of the people--is the very heart of the Mosaic system, the system of law God described to Moses, as recorded in the first five books of the Bible.

The priest in the Old Testament must be from the tribe of Levi. He inspected the lambs which each family brought to the Temple to be sacrificed. He literally stood at the door and blocked the entrance of any unqualified lamb. It had to be flawless, or it was not a worthy sacrifice.

Faith in the Old Testament is the basis of relationship with God. Abraham was told to bring his son Isaac to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah--the very ridge where the temple and the cross would later stand. Isaac, looking around as he trudged up the hill, carrying the wood to be used for the burnt offering, asked the question which would reverberate all the way to the cross:
"Father, behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
Abraham answered with faith--a trust in God, which was the only possible way out:
"My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering." (1)

So we come all the way through the Old Testament, all the way to John 1:29:
We hear the great prophet, John the Baptist, denouncing the people's sins. Baptizing with water, he told them of One to come, who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.

We hear the voice of a priest: not only was John a prophet, but as a member of the tribe of Levi, he was priest as well. He had known Jesus since literally before both of them were born! (2) He had watched Jesus grow up.

Now, 30 years later, this prophet with no tolerance for sin; this priest with the highest standards of purity, stood at the door--between the people and the altar of sacrifice. He inspected the offering--the Lamb God had provided--and he pronounced it spotless, without blemish, qualified to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The grand and sweeping themes of the Old Testament converge in this verse. Don't just mark it in your Bible. Treasure this one in your heart. You're at the door to the cross.

(1) Genesis 22:7-8; (2) Luke 1:44

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

deep calls unto deep in its native tongue


The Word for today:
John 1: 1-18

I clearly remember the meeting on the day we thought up the simple concept of "Stand in the Rain." In fact, the concept is so simple it thought itself up: a three-year Bible reading program, with daily readings alternating between Old and New Testaments, accompanied by a daily blog to promote and teach it. The plan was simple, strong, true. We saw that it was good. We committed to it. The meeting was over.

But walking down the short hall from the meeting room to my desk, a moment of panic crossed my mind: "John, chapter 1. How on God's green earth do you blog John chapter 1?"

Because John chapter 1 packs more meaning onto the page it occupies than any other page in all of recorded writing. Well, John chapter 1 is here now. Where to begin?

Maybe I should write about the three beginnings in the Bible: in John, Genesis, and Mark--in that order.

Maybe introduce the concept of the logos--the Word.

How about noting the light of Genesis 1:3 which echoes in John 1:4. Or was it the light from John 1:4 which echoes in Genesis?

Or the unbridled pure power of our rebirth and resurrection in 1:12?

Or the incarnation--the Word made flesh and now amongst us--in 1:14?

Or how about grace upon grace?

Faced with my own limitations, unworthy to render meager comment, I've decided to get out of the way, and listen as deep calls unto deep in its native tongue:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

adopt a Bible character today


The Word for today:
1 Kings 22

Micaiah is an absolutely wonderful character! He is cut from the very same cloth as Elijah--standing alone, facing down hundreds of prophets by himself. His sharp irony and caustic satire cut through the fog of lies that every other so-called prophet is spewing.

But we don't hear much about Micaiah. Why?

I think it's because we pay too much attention to the traditions of men. Everyone hears about certain Bible characters. You know the list.

But what about Micaiah? He is complex, fearless, with a personality and a style of speaking unlike anyone in the Bible.

But have Max Lucado, Dr. David Jeremiah, John Eldredge, Beth Moore, Chip Ingram--and whoever else happens to be on the top ten Christian bestseller list at a given moment--have any of them featured Micaiah? I honestly don't know.

But I know he has a place in my favorite Book. And I know he rubs people the wrong way because he won't compromise. I know that one of the political sycophants who called himself a prophet punched him in the face for telling the truth. I know that didn't faze Micaiah in the least.

I know he has a place in my heart. I find courage in his uncompromised word of the LORD. I take delight in his cutting-edge personality.

Others come to mind--big in my Bible but left off the bestseller book list--as I write this. In 2 Chronicles 20, a soaring faith is voiced by and through a man named Jahaziel (1), who rallied a nation in biblical times and has rallied individual souls ever since. I know a hundred people who can quote his faith-building lines in scripture. But no one--and I'm including myself--knows his name without looking it up.

Pastor Joe joins us regularly on this blog and possesses a rare devotion--an absolute love affair--with the Word of God. Together, a month or so ago when we were blogging our way through 2 Samuel, we were taken away--captivated--by the story of Mephibosheth (2). He is not a minor character by any means, but he is so much a picture of you and me and our relationship with our gracious God that he should be at the tip of every Bible student's tongue.

As you read, make your own list of Bible friends. Look for characters who don't seem to be on everyone else's list. Make the soaring faith of Jahaziel, the razor-sharp truth of Micaiah, and the glad-to-be-alive-in-the-King's-house gratitude of Mephibosheth part of your Bible--the Bible you carry in your heart.

Make your Bible your Bible by adopting a stray character or two today. Then draw from their inspiring faith, or their simple gratitude, or their fearless purpose.

(1) 2 Chronicles 20:14-17; (2) see 2 Samuel 4:4 and 2 Samuel chapter 9.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

hot, or not?


The Word for today:
1 Kings 21










Today, Stand in the Rain will field an excellent question submitted via Facebook:

"What do you make of the 100 prophets (1 Kings 18:4) who hid in the caves? Elijah doesn't even acknowledge them at all. I thought of Revelation 3:15,16-- they were lukewarm, neither hot nor cold... I'm not sure what to make of them."

Good question--because there is no definitive answer that I am aware of.

Elijah stood for God, but he took off on the run from Jezebel, ending up cowering under the broom tree in Beersheba (1). Then God picked the depleted prophet up, visited him in a still, small voice, and put him back into service.

To say that the 100 prophets were lukewarm could be true. But if they were, then Elijah was lukewarm for a while himself. Somehow, "lukewarm" and "Elijah" don't go together.

So I think there is a middle ground to be explored. Perhaps the 100 prophets are amongst the remnant of 7000 whom God extols for not bending the knee to Baal (2).

Thus, in a kind of descending order, some varying degrees of faith:

**Elijah--stood alone, but also succumbed to momentary despair.

**The remnant of 7000. Elijah was not aware of them, so they could not have been out front and active. I think Obadiah and the 100 prophets he hid were amongst these. God includes them amongst the faithful.

**The lukewarm of Revelation 3:15-16 are not in any way commended by the Lord Jesus Christ. They are vomited out of his mouth.

We slide on this scale from day to day. I find myself vacillating in my ability to stand on the bare Word of God from season to season. God understands and picks me up when I find myself, so to speak, under the broom tree in Beersheba. He whispers in my ear and sends me back into the front lines of service.

But the last state--the lukewarm condition--is to be avoided at all costs:
"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (3)

I know when I'm cold and I know when I'm hot. It's the lukewarm state which deceives us.

So keep the fire burning (2 Timothy 1:6, below) by whatever means we must:
be ever studying God's Word, seriously and systematically;
pray;
serve, using the gifts God gave you;
give--of your time, treasure, talents;
love--the LORD your God with all that you are, and your neighbor as yourself.

Without these spiritual exercises, some individuals and churches fall into a lukewarm condition from which there is no recovery. God does not put them back into the ranks of service. He spits them out.

As churches and as individuals, we are either fading or gaining at any given moment. Paul's advice is to keep the water boiling hot:
"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God." (2 Timothy 1:6)

Are you hot, or not?

(1) 1 Kings 19:4; (2) 1 Kings 19:18; (3) 2 Timothy 3:5

Saturday, October 10, 2009

because of the valley


The Word for today:
1 Kings 20

mark this : 1 Kings 20:23, 28 --
Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, "Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they."
Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, "Thus says the Lord: 'Because the Syrians have said, "The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.' "

We've heard this charge before, when Satan told God that Job was faithful only because God blessed him. Satan insisted that Job would turn away from God if he were made to go through "valley" circumstances (Job 1:6-11). So God temporarily took away Job's riches and his health in order to prove that Job trusted Him even when blessings were withdrawn.

In the same way, God chooses some of us to walk with Him through the dark valleys:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (1).

If you're in the valley, then it may be that you've been chosen:
chosen to walk with God, who walked up the slopes of Mt. Moriah beneath the shadow of his cross;
chosen to demonstrate that the valley of the shadow is the mountaintop of our faith--

because we don't trust Jesus despite the valley. We trust Him because of the valley.

(1) Psalm 23:4

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Pocket Full of Miracles


1 Kings 17-19

I don't presume to understand the "whys," but it is clear from the record of history and Scripture that "miracles" are few and far between. There are a good number of them in there, but it was not an every day occurance (unless you were a child of Israel being led & fed in the wilderness.) [1]

In reality, the Biblical miracles seemed to be clustered to specific time periods and people. There is the age of Moses and Joshua with miracles such as the Egyptian plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and the sun standing still. [2] That is a time period of 45-60 years. We are currently reading about the second "era" as we hear theses amazing stories concerning Elijah. Next month, we will see this ministry continued with his successor: Elisha. Once again, we see a concentration of miracles in a relatively short time period.

From that point on, there are a few scattered miracles here and there, but not much until the time of Jesus Christ and then what He empowers His church to do. This is not to say God is somehow restricted with miracles in anyway, but rather, that He seems to allow for more during certain time periods and less in other time periods.

The more important matter is the fact that miracles are always secondary- they are always pointing to something greater than themselves. As I read Elijah, I am certainly stirred by what God does through him- sending food via avian air mail, sending fire from heaven, sending rain to end a drought. But even more so, I am grateful fort he fact that these miracles prefigure and foreshadow one much greater than Elijah. One who not only raises the dead, but defeats death itself. One who not only multiplies food for others, but also sustains us spiritually. One who sends the greatest fire there is- the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Elijah- like so many others in the Bible is merely the opening act for the real reason we are all here- Jesus Christ.

[1] Exodus
[2] Exodus 7- 14, Joshua 10

for little Elijahs, everywhere


The Word for today:
1 Kings 19


mark this: 1 Kings 19:9-12 --

Behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
So he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."
Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.


First Kings chapter 19 is a Bible chapter for you to hang onto. I know a man who keeps it under his pillow.

Elation, depression, self-pity, exhaustion, despair, wavering faith--all of these are making an emotional wreck of the great prophet...

until God steps in to restore him.

Elijah experienced numerous intense emotions within a few short hours. First he challenged 850 false prophets on Mt. Carmel, calling down fire from heaven. Then he eliminated 450 of those prophets. Then he watched a demonstration of God's power as the long drought came to an abrupt end.

Running--about 25 miles--ahead of King Ahab's chariot all the way to Jezreel, the man who had single-handedly faced down more than 800 pagan prophets suddenly found himself running for his life from Queen Jezebel's death threats.

Physically and emotionally and spiritually spent, Elijah crashed. He asked God to end his life, because he viewed the situation as hopeless. He considered himself alone, the only one still standing for the LORD.

Are you standing for the LORD against the opposition of your culture, your family, or against a church that is falling away from the Word of God? Has the fight sapped your strength and enthusiasm and even your measure of faith?

Chapter 19 is for you, because--tower of power that people expect you to be--God knows you as just a kid in need of a cool drink, a good supper, a sweet nap and a reassuring lullaby.

Chapter 19 is for Elijahs everywhere. The struggle goes on, but your fight is not in vain. Your Father has noted your bravery. He takes great delight in you. The whisper you hear is His.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Elijah


The Word for today:
1 Kings 17, 18


mark this: 1 Kings 17:1 --
Now Elijah the Tishbite...

Elijah is one of the Bible's unforgettable characters.

He enters the Bible all at once, at a single stride: Now Elijah the Tishbite...

He leaves the Bible just as suddenly--in a whirlwind, caught up into heaven on a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. (Only Elijah and Enoch were taken up to heaven--"raptured"-- without experiencing death. Many Bible commentators think the church will be raptured to heaven prior to the second coming of Jesus.)

He doesn't occupy a lot of space in your Bible, but we get the feeling that he's about to pop up just about anywhere!

Here in 1 Kings he called Israel back to the LORD and demonstrated that the LORD is the one true God:

Under Ahab and Jezebel, Israel worshiped Baal, the Canaanite god of storm and rain. So God sent a drought upon Israel (17:1)--to show who was actually in control! Elijah hid until the drought ended, and he was sustained by God. During that time, he lived with a widow in Zarephath. The widow’s son died, but Elijah prayed for him and he was revived (17:8-24).

In the third year of drought, Elijah challenged Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel to a contest to demonstrate the identity of the true God (18:1-40). The prophets of Baal called on Baal in vain, becoming frantic to induce him to appear, while Elijah made fun of Baal. When it was Elijah’s turn, he poured water over his sacrifice and prayed a simple, powerful prayer. Fire immediately consumed the offering. The people of Israel worshiped the LORD and, at Elijah’s direction, killed Baal’s prophets. Then Elijah prayed for rain, and the drought ended (18:41-46).

The Old Testament closes with the expectation that Elijah would return before the day of the LORD (
Malachi 4:5-6), an expectation that John the Baptist fulfilled, at least in part (see Matt 11:14; 17:10-13; Luke 1:17).

Elijah appeared with Moses at Jesus’ transfiguration (
Matt 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

In
Rev 11:3-12, one of the two witnesses is either Elijah himself or is modeled after Elijah.

He is the ever-ready prophet who keeps going and going and going and going. Be on the lookout for this radical tower of power. He enters and re-enters without knocking, and without introduction.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I've Got The Power!


1 Kings 16




It has been said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The last six chapters of 1 Kings are strong evidence for the truth of this statement.




- Despite all his great wisdom, Solomon wastes his power in self-indulgence.


- His son Rehoboam is so puffed up with pride, he allows power to blind him to his own political weakness


- Jeroboam squanders his opportunity with power in idolatry


- Baasha murders a king to gain his power, yet his own son Elah is himself murdered by the usurper Zimri


- Zimri's reign of power lasts a whole week before his life is swallowed up in a fiery suicide.


- Omri takes his power and somehow manages to do worse than every king before him (16:25)


- Ahab marries perhaps the most infamous and power-hungry woman in history- Jezebel, and even outdoes his father Omri in evil (16:33).



What a legacy! What a mess!


Who wants that kind of power? Can you handle it without getting seriously burned?


But despite a clear history of power destroying those who have it, mankind has sought it out with a fervent lust. Whether it is on top of the heap like a Pharaoh or a Caesar, or merely a local magistrate or ruler, to have authority over others has been the standard goal for many.


And into this environment enters Jesus Christ. The only one who ever really had absolute power. The only real King and Master. And what does he do? He says He "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)." He tells his followers that fighting about the usual pecking order was not for them, that instead "whoever wants to be first must be slave of all (Mark 10:44)." He refuses to be made king by a well fed mob (John 6:15). He humbly washes feet, and call us to do the same (John 13). He backs up his words and commands by willingly laying down his life for others as he dies upon a cruel cross.


That's my King! I want to be like Him! Every other emperor, general, admiral, cardinal, president, czar, pope, prime minister, chancellor, and monarch pales in comparison.

against the darkness, a match is soon to be struck


The Word for today:
1 Kings 16:8-34


mark this: 1 Kings 16:31-33 --
And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.
Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.
Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.


These are dark days in the history of Israel. King after king after king outdoes his predecessor in evil--in drunkenness, debauchery, conspiracy, treason, murder, and idolatry.

The ringleaders in this circus of perversity were Ahab and Jezebel. Their very names have become synonymous with wickedness.

Under Jezebel's influence, Ahab began worshipping Baal. Baal was the predominant god in Canaanite religion. He was said to be the storm god, who provided the rain for the fertility of the land.

The worship of Baal had already infiltrated Israel long before Ahab and Jezebel (1), but Ahab gave it official sanction when he built a temple for Baal in Samaria.

As David had captured Jerusalem and his son Solomon had built a temple for the LORD there, so Omri established Samaria and his son Ahab built a temple for Baal there.

Against this dark backdrop, God is about to light a fire. His match head stands ready--Elijah the Tishbite.

(1) see Judges 2:11, 13; Judges 3:7; Judges 10:6, 10; 1 Samuel 12:10

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

rise, and walk


The Word for today:
1 Kings 15:1 -- 16:7





mark this: 1 Kings 15:5 --
For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life--except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

Throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles, David is held up as a standard by which other kings are measured. We all know about David's sins, so how can it be that we should walk as David walked? (1)

First, it must be made clear that David did not live in habitual sin. What he did once--in the matter of Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba--the Kings of Babylon and Egypt were doing every weekend.

And when David fell, he got up; he confessed his sin to God, and asked for cleansing in order to follow after God's heart (2) once again. God takes great delight in seeing us get back up again:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand (3).

The parable of the prodigal son illustrates the heart of David. The prodigal son fell into sin, but he got back up and returned to his father's house:
I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son (4).

Hearing his confession, His Father ran to greet him, and made it a point to confirm that the prodigal was ever his son:
Bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found (5).

Jesus once demonstrated his authority to forgive sins by commanding a paralytic, brought in on a stretcher, to Rise, and walk (6). Not only did he give him the command, but he gave him the power to do it!

And so the man rose; forgiven by God, restored.

So walk like David. Live a life which pleases God, like David did. But when you fall, by the blood of Jesus which purchased God's authority to forgive sin--

Rise, and walk.

(1) 1 Kings 3:14; 8:25; 9:4; (2) 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22; (3) Psalm 37:23-24; (4) Luke 15:18-19; (5) Luke 15:23-24; (6) Luke 5:23; (7)see Psalm 63:8 and Acts 13:22.