Thursday, September 30, 2010

this is the night that the LORD hath made

The Word for today:
Psalms 117, 118

mark this:  Psalm 118:24
This is the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Note:   At Passover, the Jews observed unwavering ritual from generation to generation.  On this most holy night, three songs were sung--in this order: Psalm 115, 116, 118.

He knew what came next. He knew it was the last supper. It was Passover and the lamb had to die for the sins of the people.

He knew--from the testimony of the scriptures, from the testimony of prayer, and from the testimony of the great prophet, John the Baptist--that he was the Lamb that a million lambs had pointed to; that this was the Passover that 1500 Passovers had predicted; and that this was the Night, of all nights, that the Lord had made. And he sang so:
I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:17-24)
Then he was on his way:
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  (Matthew 26:30)


The Bible says we have eyes of the heart (1).  If we have eyes, then we can infer we have ears of the heart as well.

With the ears of my heart, I have heard him sing this Psalm. He sings it triumphantly, lustily, exultantly. He sings like David danced.

The Jewish day begins at sundown. Leaving the upper room, he stepped into dark streets.

And the evening and the morning were (2), on the Day the LORD hath made.

(1) Ephesians 1:18; (2) Genesis 1:5

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

love undying

The Word for today:
Psalm 116

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I beseech thee, save my life!"

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;

What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.

My Dad had a hard, even harsh exterior, but inside was the heart of a poet.

Poetic people may not look poetic on the outside, but somewhere inside "the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears." (1)

He never wrote, but when he put his guard down he could discern the sublime in a blade of grass.

My sons often train at the Cold Springs Cemetery. The hills there are perfect for that purpose. As they run through the hilly sections, I jog through the flats.

My Dad's grave is there. I don't like to view the site, and so I seldom do. But about a month ago, I made my way through the gravestones to a spot in the shadow of the evergreens, where the meadow meets a wooded hill.

It's a wide stone, with room left for the birth- and death-dates of others still living. I will be buried there, which I don't mind. But so will Shelley, which gives me thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. My Dad, the working class poet, has a Robert Louis Stevenson verse on his portion of the stone:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.  (2)
 It's not where I long to be, so after reading the verse, I jogged on.

As I did, a verse from another book came to my mind--the last verse from the book of Ephesians:
Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying.  (Ephesians 6:24)

When my sons and I got home, I told Shelley that's the verse I want on that stone.

But there's miles to go before I sleep (3), so before I do I intend to 'grave the Word of God on every heart with room left for the writing,

the way I just wrote it on yours.

(1) William Wordsworth, "Intimations of Immortality"; (2) Robert Louis Stevenson, "Requiem";  (3) Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the sun and the Son are offered alike

The Word for today:
Psalm 115

mark this:  Psalms 115:8
People who make idols will become like them, and so will those who trust them.

Psalm 115:8 teaches us that some people are going to become like their lifeless idols. 

At the same time, Romans 8:29 teaches us that others are going to be just like Jesus, predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

Is that fair?  In every way!  Because while there are different outcomes, a spiritual principle has been equally applied: We become what we believe in.

Some go to heaven and some go to hell.  Vastly different outcomes, but the same spiritual opportunity has been offered:
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. (John 3:16)

That most well-known Bible verse starts out with an all-inclusive statement.  It shows that God does not withhold salvation from anyone. 

But at whoever,  results begin to diverge.  Some of the whoever choose faith in Jesus; some of the whoever choose faith in else what.  The divergent blessings which result do not originate in the heart of God, but in the hearts of individual men.  Which Jesus goes on to explain in the next verses:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.  (John 3:17-18)

Let's look for further evidence of God's all-inclusiveness:
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.   (Matthew 5:44-45)

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b)


God holds his saving right hand out to all. But some do not reach out to take hold of his offer.  (That's what is meant when scripture speaks of receiving Jesus. See John 1:12)

Q. What do the sun, the rain, and Jesus have in common?
A. They are given alike to every man.

Q. Then why is Jesus different to different people?
A. He is received differently.

Some get tanned and some don't.  Some get saved and some don't.
But the sun and the Son are offered alike.

Monday, September 27, 2010

free Jesus!

The Word for today:
Psalms 113, 114

Psalm 113:5 is a rhetorical question:
Who is like the LORD our God?

A rhetorical question isn't really meant to be answered.  It's meant to make us think.

One reason that we have a hard time fathoming God is because we have no basis of comparison:
To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? (Isaiah 46:5)

We have no analogy.  We struggle to put God in terms we can understand.  And when we do, we inevitably diminish him.

Is God stronger than Mr. Universe?  The question is too silly to answer!  God made the universe, and Mr. Universe along with it!--
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?
He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power not one is missing.  (Isaiah 40:25-26)

There is no analogy or comparison.  So the only way to represent God is to send God himself:
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.  (Hebrews 1:1-3)

God is Spirit. (John 4:24)
Hebrews 1:3 (above) doesn't mean that Jesus was just a facsimile of God.  It means that Jesus is God in a form we can see.
God is Spirit and can't be seen.  But the Son, in his incarnation, can be seen.  (Incarnation is a big word for what happened at Christmas when God arrived in a body--the Word of God translated into terms we could perceive and understand.)

Thank God for Philip.  In response to his question, Jesus specifically taught on this subject:
(6) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
(8) Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
(9) Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."  (John 14:6-9)

(Note well:  The context of John 14:6 takes that famous verse--"the First Commandment of the Old Testament"--to a level far beyond its usual application.  We typically think of comes to the Father as an expression of transport--from here to heaven.  Seen in context, it is crucial that comes to the Father also be seen relationally:  no one comes to (an understanding of) the Father but by Jesus.
Warning:  "Likenesses" so misrepresent and diminish God that they are specifically prohibited in the Second Commandment.  While the warning there concerned engraved likenesses (images) we must be careful not to shrink God with our verbal expressions of him.  The only sufficient image is the express image (Hebrews 1:3/KJV) of God, which is God the Son.
Free Jesus!  Our thoughts and comparisons often confine him, and keep him penned in.  We must let him out of the confines we've constructed.)

God is love.  (1 John 4:8, 16)
The incarnation went way beyond the mere clothing of Spirit in a body we could see.  The things done in the body are incarnations as well.  For example, God is love, but we don't even know what love means.  It's just an arrangement of letters,
until the word love becomes flesh at the cross of Jesus Christ.  Love itself was incarnated there, translated into terms we could perceive and understand.

Poets, philosophers, teachers, and theologians grope and strain for words to express who God is and what he is like.  Inevitably, our words fall short.  But God's vocabulary is not confined.  He has the perfect Word,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

cause & effect

The Word for today: Psalm 111 & 112

Q: What do butter, blood, and strife have in common?

A: Proverbs 30:33
"For as churning the milk produces butter,and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife."

All three of these are effects- the by-products, the consequences.
All three of these are caused by other agents, not by themselves.
Hatred, dairy products and nosebleeds are all results.
There is another item you can add to that list- human righteousness.

Today we have two similar Psalms. They both open with a "Praise the Lord!"
They both employ much of the same words and wording.
They both are written describing a third person singular pronoun.
But the subject of each of these psalms is quite different:
In 111, the actions of our Righteous God are described.
In 112, the actions of a godly man are delineated.

But we err when we divorce these psalms from each other.
We err when we think that we, or anyone else for that matter can be a Psalm 112 person without a Psalm 111 God.

But that kind of thought is more common that you know.
After all, at the core of every man-made religion or even unbelief, is the idea that a person can be good in and of themselves. The Bible says otherwise.

Psalm 112 describes what we all should aim to be: God-fearing, upright, gracious, merciful, generous, just, unmovable, unafraid, steadfast.

Psalm 111
describes the greatness of God: full of splendor, majestic, righteous, eternal, gracious, merciful, provider, faithful, just, holy and awesome.

The key verse, the truth that links these two Psalms is found at 111:9.
"He provided redemption for His people"

Never forget what it cost God to make you right with Him- it was His very best, His Only Son Jesus. He is the only bridge, the only Way, the only Mediator.

And so what began as an observation now ends in a challenge.
We have no hope of being a Psalm 112 person unless we are recipients of all that God did in Psalm 111. Save yourself a lot of trouble by understanding this truth: "Apart from Me you can do nothing." (1) But remember also that God has done all of the wonders in Psalm 111 in order that ordinary people like you and me can live a Psalm 112 life for God's glory. After all, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (2)

(1) John 15:5
(2) Ephesians 2:10

Saturday, September 25, 2010

something greater than Solomon is here

The Word for today:
Psalm 110

mark this:  Psalm 110:1
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."

My favorite chapter in the Bible is Luke 24.  Because that's when scripture's greatest prophet teaches prophecy:

Two disciples, disheartened over Jesus' death and confused over reports of his resurrection, were walking down the road to Emmaus, a little village not too far from Jerusalem. 

When suddenly a "stranger" drew near and walked beside them.  (It was Jesus himself, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.)  Then the stranger proceeded to teach the greatest Bible lesson ever taught, to a "class" of two students.  What he taught them was this:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.   (Luke 24:27)

It wasn't the first time that Jesus had taught this lesson:
You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!  (John 5:39)

If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (John 5:46)

The Bible isn't just about Jesus.  The Bible is Jesus.  Or, to say it another way, Jesus is the embodiment of scripture:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  (John 1:1, 14)

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  (Matthew 5:17)

A sample of Jesus' teaching on the road to Emmaus is given when Jesus quotes Psalm 110:
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?" And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.  (Matthew 22:41-46)

It's a trick question which forces the Pharisees to face the inescapable truth: The only way for one person to be both David's son and David's Lord is to be both the Son of David and the Son of God.

So Psalm 110 couldn't be pointing to David's immediate son, Solomon.  It was pointing to someone greater.  Jesus had already provided that hint:
Behold, something greater than Solomon is here.  (Matthew 12:42)

Friday, September 24, 2010

"holier than God"

The Word for today:
Psalm 109

Note:  The imprecatory Psalms (Psalms 35: 52; 55; 58; 59; 79; 109; 137) are cries to God to avenge.  Today, Stand in the Rain will discuss the biblical precept that the moral nature of God will--indeed, must--confront evil.  It is helpful in discussions of the nature of God to remember that his name--YHWH (rendered LORD in your Bible)--means I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14).  God's actions are consistent with his character.  He lives up to no external standard, for his character IS what the moral standard IS.

Today's discussion is for mature audiences only.  The enactment of the nature of God--the I AM being what he is--is often a fearsome sight to human eyes. 

You've heard of those who think they are "holier-than-thou."

But for many, holier-than-thou is not enough.  They think they're holier than God.

People holier-than-thou don't like the way I talk.  People holier-than-God don't like the way God talks.  They insist that some Psalms, like Psalm 109, shouldn't be in the Bible.  They call them imprecatory Psalms, insinuating that by the time Jesus comes around, God had grown up to the point where he would never write something like Psalm 109 in his book.

Imprecatory Psalms call for vengeance against evil enemies.  The New Testament's teaching on vengeance is that we should not take it into our own hands:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves...  (Romans 12:19a)

But wait, there's more to that verse.  The reason we shouldn't take vengeance into our own hands is because it is left to the hand of God:
...but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." (Romans 12:19b)

The reason we are not to take vengeance lies in the fact that we are not to judge.  The reason we are not to judge lies in the fact that we are not always capable of making the right judgment.

The reason we are not always capable of making the right judgment lies in the fact that we don't have all the facts that need to be weighed.

But God has all the facts.  Which makes him capable of just judgment.

All-powerful and capable of determining true justice, God is culpable (negligent) if he doesn't enact (enforce) it.

Vengeance, when it is enacted by God, is a facet--a side--of justice.  It is the side of justice that evil is owed:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Romans 6:23). 

We must take the time to turn that over in our politically correct, holier-than-God minds.  For if we do not, we go further than the denial of a few imprecatory Psalms. 

If vengeance is not an expression of justice, then what, pray tell, was going on at the cross of Jesus Christ:
But it was the LORD's good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD's plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

If vengeance is not an expression of justice, then we must conclude that what the Father did to the Son at the cross was evil.

Which leaves us holier than God.

Go ahead.  You tell him first.  I'll wait for you here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Satan was forced to punt

The Word for today:
Psalm 108

mark this:  Psalm 108:13
Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies.

I got a kick out of watching the career of Tim Tebow, the great quarterback who twice led the University of Florida to the national collegiate championship.

Many say that Tebow was the greatest college football player ever.  I don't know about all of that, but I can say with authority that he was the greatest college player I ever watched. 

I can say it with such authority because Tebow is the only college football player I ever tuned in to watch.

It all started when I heard about this quarterback in Florida who painted Bible verses under his eyes.  I was intrigued.

The first time I saw him play, he wore "Phil. 4:13" painted in his school colors--orange and blue--just under his eyes where athletes apply blacking to reduce the glare of sun and lights.  That, of course, is shorthand for this:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

So, right away, I know I'm watching a brother.  And, brother, could that brother play!

Psalm 108 is David's prayer as he enters into battle.  The last line is David's version of Philippians 4:13:
Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies. (Psalms 108:13)

Though scripture doesn't recommend wearing Bible verses as warpaint, it comes close:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

The best place to write God's Word--even better than under your eyes or on your doorposts--is in the recesses of the heart:
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  (Psalms 119:11)

That's where Jesus stored God's Word when he entered into the great Battle in the Wilderness (1), where Satan tempted him to sin.  It wasn't just Satan vs. Jesus that day; it was also the word of the world vs. the Word of God. 

Three verses into the battle, gaining no ground, Satan was forced to punt.

(1) Matthew 4:1-11

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the winds and the waves don't believe me

The Word for today:
Psalm 107:33-43

mark this: Psalm 107:29
He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

We hear the word sovereign a lot.  Kings, throughout history, have claimed to be sovereign.  Closer to home, Indian tribes dispute taxation by claiming to be sovereign.

To be sovereign means to be in charge, in command, in control.  Ultimately, there is only one Sovereign.  We meet him here today:
He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Scholars search the scriptures, trying to ascertain when and where Jesus said he is God.  Their questions limit them, because it isn't a matter of When?  And it isn't a matter of Where?  The question should be How?--

How did Jesus pronounce and confirm that he is God?  He did it by demonstrating his ultimate sovereignty over creation:
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" (Matthew 8:23-27)

The disciples knew from scripture that God could calm the seas by his word alone.  We read it today in Psalm 107:24-30. 

Likewise, Psalm 65:7 refers to God as "the one who stilled the roaring of the the seas, the roaring of their waves.  God's sovereign power over the seas is also displayed in Psalm 89:9; Psalm 104:7; and Psalm 106:9.

Waters flow and cease to flow at God's command.  Thus the disciples understood that Jesus must be the Creator, God.  Their newfound understanding of Jesus became the unified testimony of the New Testament: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  (Colossians 1:16-17)

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. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  (Hebrews 1:1-3)

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:11)

There were times when Jesus verbally declared that he is God (1).  But better than that are the numerous times when Jesus demonstrates that he is God (2).

Because even I can say that I am God.  But the winds and the waves don't believe me.

(1) John 10:30-10:33; John 8:58; (2) an intentional demonstration of Jesus' deity is seen in Mark 2:6-12

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Let the redeemed say so!

The Word for today:
Psalm 107:1-32

mark this: Psalm 107:2
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.

I love Joan.

Joan's this clown at our church. Let me back up and start over again. Joan is a lady in our church who is a clown. I kid you not--a real clown with a big red nose and way-big shoes. She--as "Dr. Bubbles"--performs at birthday parties and other kids' events. As she does, she always manages to work a gospel message into the routine.

So I consider her a kindred spirit, and I kid her about it: "We're fools for Christ's sake (1), Joanie!"

"Maybe you are, Franklyn. But I'm a clown for Christ's sake!"

Joanie isn't just a great clown. She's also a world-class giver. She gave me a book on the Apostle Paul, for my studies. She gave me four huge full-color maps of Bible lands, for my Bible classes. She gave me a blue suede Buffalo Bills Stetson hat with a red feather, for the heck of it. (You read that right: a Buffalo Bills blue suede Stetson hat adorned with a red feather!) But best of all she gave me "The Christmas Bell."

I put my Christmas Bell in my Bible, right here at Psalm 107:2, where it says "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so."

Redeemed is a big Bible word which implies a purchase. The price was paid by Jesus:
You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold, but with precious blood of Christ. (2)

The price he paid purchased all the presents on the Christmas Bell. So whenever I get sad, or afraid, or discouraged, I go right to the Bell and do what Psalm 107:2 tells me to do--I say it right out loud:

I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15 )
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3:20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor 1:21-22 )
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28 )
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16). I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil. 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven ( Col 1:14). I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5)
I belong to God
Do you know
Who you are!

I hope you print the Bell and place it in your Bible, too. And I hope that, now and then, you "ring" it right out loud. Dr. Bubbles said it will always make you feel better, even on the days when the world knocks you down, or steps in your face, or slanders your name all over the place--or makes fun of your blue suede hat!

(1) 1 Corinthians 4:10; (2) see 1 Peter 1:18-19

Monday, September 20, 2010

are we related?

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 29

Scripture unfolds progressively.  It is always on the move.

There is faith on page 1 of your Bible, but as the pages turn, faith builds upon faith:
The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.  (Romans 1:17)

There is glory on page 1 of your Bible, but as the pages turn, glory builds upon glory:
We are being transformed from glory to glory.  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

There is relationship with God in the Old Testament, but as the pages turn, an ever closer relationship is revealed.

David called God the Father of Israel:
Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. (1 Chronicles 29:10/NKJV)

But David never addresses God as his personal father. In the Old Testament, God was not called the father of individuals.
That's because God isn't your father until you know his son.  Only faith in Jesus Christ makes a son:
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)

In the present realm, we are related through our father to our brother.  In the Kingdom of God, we are related through our brother to our Father,

or we aren't related to him at all.  There is no universal fatherhood because there is no universal brotherhood.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

When God Says No

The Word for today: 1 Chronicles 28
Mark this: 1 Chronicle 28:3

But God said to me, `You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.'

(For further study, read the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 7)

What a minute?
I thought this was a no-brainer.
Here's David's resume so far:

- Anointed by Samuel (1)
- Defeated Goliath (2)
- Refuses to kill Saul (3)
- Becomes King of Judah (4)
- Ends civil war & becomes King of all Israel (5)
- Conquers Jerusalem (6)
- Establishes peace in Israel (7)

Okay- so the logical next step in this sequence is for David to built a resting place for the Ark, a place more permanent for the worship of the LORD.
David finally has the political stability, the financial resources, the right location, the popular support, and most importantly, the heart to do this.
Even the prophet Nathan agrees- saying "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you." (8)

But wait just a minute- this is NOT what God has in mind, and He makes that clear to David through Nathan. Even though David demonstrates sound reasoning, great motives, and amazing commitment- even though this idea seems to be perfect, God gives it a red light.
The explanation is there, but its brief. There is no room for interpretation, just a flat out no.

Has that ever happened to you?
You had a brilliant idea for your life, your family, your ministry, or your church.
You had all your ducks lined up.
You were 100% committed.
It seemed so perfect that it had to work.

But then, for little or no apparent reason, God simply closes the door.
That is a hard pill to swallow. In fact, very often it can lead to more disappointment with God that even suffering or tragedy would. I think that anyone who has walked with God for any length of time has experienced that sense of disillusionment- the question then becomes, what am I going to do about it?

David certainly knew God's favor, but he also had more than his share of suffering, delay, and disappointment. I am sure that David was a bit stung by God's words here. But look at his attitude. There is no bitterness, no threats to cut off funding, no "If that's the way you want it, you can take this temple and shove it...." Instead, we see David do everything he can to make sure his son Solomon succeeds in the building of the Temple. He commissions, provides resources, opens up his personal treasury, contributes the blue-prints and challenges & encourages Solomon to "be strong & courageous. (9)"

My oh my, do we have a lot to learn from David. Do I have a lot to learn as well. The choice is- do I seek to become a petty dictator of my own little corner of the world, or do I listen instead to God and trust Him enough to tell me "No" even when I don't understand?

(1) 1 Sam 16:13
(2) 1 Sa. 17:49
(3) 1 Sa. 24:10
(4) 2 Sa. 2:4
(5) 2 Sa. 5:3
(6) 2 Sa 5:7
(7) 2 Sa 7:1
(8) 2 Sa. 7:3
(9) 1 Chr. 28:20

Saturday, September 18, 2010

the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

The Word for today:
1 Chronicle 25-27

Every now and then, Stand in the Rain takes an opportunity to answer important questions posed by our readers.  So today, as King David organizes the musicians (chapter 25); the gatekeepers and treasurers (chapter 26); the military divisions and tribal leaders (chapter 27), we will leave him to his bureaucratic tasks in order to answer a sincere objection voiced by an esteemed reader from Florida.

She wrote in reaction to the September 16th article ("Franklyn takes 'The Nora Test'" ) in which I stated that the fear of stricter judgment--which has been promised to Bible teachers in James 3:1--motivates me to get it right:
Stand in the Rain is published in six (or is it seven?) different venues every day. We have been entrusted by the LORD God to tell his story to many, many souls. Some of them are his children, and some of them are his children-in-the-making. Either way, the first thing we've got to do is get it right:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  (James 3:1)
To which our Facebook friend from Florida responded--
I don't believe that fear should ever be the reason, but another word I know fits..."faith."  Whatever the lesson was in this one, ya lost me at "fear."  Lovin' these posts, but the fear has no place in my faith.
The reader is faithfully extolling the forgiving graces of the LORD God.  The grace of God is the overarching truth of scripture.  At the same time, a whole-bible program like Stand in the Rain faces the challenge of  presenting what our courtroom oath refers to as the whole truth.  It is our task to teach every word of God over the course of scripture's 66 books, and to make certain that every word--springing, as they do, from the uncontradicted heart of God--harmonizes (or "rhymes") with every other.

If the reader will stay with us throughout this whole-Bible program, we will cover verses like this one:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Then we must show how that verse presents absolutely no contradiction with this one:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Each of us will give an accounting for his every word (Matthew 12:36).  But as a Bible teacher, I will give an accounting for His every word:
But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"  (Matthew 4:4)
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.  (Revelation 22:18-19)

Perfect love casts out fear (1), we are told.  And that is true.  But I am not at liberty to cast fear out of my Bible, where we are taught that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (2); where "the fear of the LORD," in its every instance, is a positive spiritual blessing.

God's heart is not divided against itself.  God's Word is not at odds with itself.  Grace and fear rhyme in scripture.  They are part of one another, in need of one another.

So much a part of one another that they meet and stand together in the words of a beloved hymn:

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
The truth, the whole truth, is that you can't have one without the other.

So help us, God.

(1) 1 John 4:18; (2) Proverbs 9:10

Friday, September 17, 2010

a heart in hard pursuit

"David" /  Michelangelo, 1504

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 23, 24

mark this: 1 Chronicles 23:1
So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.

The first day of school is always the same.  Shelley insists on taking pictures as our sons board the big yellow bus.  They are men now and in their eyes they are a little beyond all of that, but Moms don't see things from a purely rational perspective.

Just before the bus arrived and the pictures were taken, I gave them The Speech.  It's a short speech, blunt and direct.  It's meant to focus their attention on priorities.

The Speech has always been about priorities.  Whether it was spoken by your dad or by my dad or by the dads we've now become, the essence of The Speech has ever been the same. 

Shakespeare famously captured that essence in words spoken by Polonius to his son, Laertes, who is embarking for school in France:

Give thy thoughts no tongue
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.  (1)
I have great respect for Shakespeare, but my sons would never stand still for Polonius' speech.  Not because of the speech, but because Polonius was a fruitcake.

But they will listen to King David, because all men listen to David.  Something there is about King David that commands the attention of every man.

He's old now.  The young hero, the dashing soldier, the conquering king, the poet greater than Shakespeare to come--all of that behind him now.

But he remains the man after God's own heart (2), as we can hear in The Speech to Solomon:  
Now, my son, may the LORD be with you and give you success as you follow his instructions in building the Temple of the LORD your God. And may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the law of the LORD your God as you rule over Israel.  Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart! The LORD your God is with you.  Now seek the LORD your God with all your heart. (3)

Goliath, Saul, Abigail, Jonathan, Mephibosheth, Bathsheba, Uriah, Nathan, Absalom--all behind him now.  All distilled to a heart in hard pursuit of a heart.

(1) Hamlet, Act I, scene 3; (2) 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22 (3) see 1 Chronicles 22:11-19

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Franklyn takes "The Nora Test"

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 22:2-19

You've noted, as we've stood together in the rain, that the name 'Jesus' comes up quite a bit.  Jesus this and Jesus that; Jesus here and Jesus there; Jesus, Jesus everywhere. 

Don't you dare tell another soul, but because you've been such a faithful reader--every day for the last 446 days in a row--I've decided to tell you (and you alone) the reason why "Stand in the Rain" is your "all Jesus all the time" Bible study source.

The reason is fear.

Stand in the Rain is published in six (or is it seven?) different venues every day.  We have been entrusted by the LORD God to tell his story to many, many souls.  Some of them are his children, and some of them are his children-in-the-making.  Either way, the first thing we've got to do is get it right:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  (James 3:1)

Q.  How, then, can you be sure you're getting it right? 
A.  I take "The Nora Test!"
Q.  Who's Nora?

Nora is a legendary Bible student.  Nora has never gotten any significant Bible question wrong.  I will meet up with her again this Sunday, when (after a summer hiatus) I return to live classroom Bible teaching.

Whenever I ask the class a question, Nora shouts out "Jesus!"   The irony is that while it appears, at first glance, that I am quizzing Nora, it is actually quite the other way around.

You see, any good Bible lesson--any lesson worth the teaching--has one ultimate objective.  And any good Bible question--any question worth the asking--has one ultimate answer. So Nora's answer actually is a way of grading whether or not I'm getting it right. 

If the question I ask isn't answerable with "Jesus,"--if Nora's answer is "wrong"--then it's not Nora who is amiss, it is I.

Let's proceed, then, to apply The Nora Test to the section of scripture we find ourselves in today:

Franklyn:  David bought the threshing floor of Ornan and built an altar there.  What was to be sacrificed there?
Nora:  Jesus!

(1 Chronicles 21:18) Therefore, the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Heeding angelic direction, David purchases a particular threshing floor.  Thus the spot was chosen where the temple will be built by Solomon.  Located on Mt. Moriah, it is also the place where Abraham offered Isaac. On that same ridge is Golgotha, where Jesus will be crucified. Note that it was God who picked this place, which is later to become ground zero of the universe, the epicenter of space and time…

So Nora's answer is, of course, correct.  Which means that Franklyn got the question right!

Franklyn:  The LORD commanded the destroying angel to return his sword to its sheath.  The sword is not to strike the people, because God intends it for another target.  Name the intended target.
Nora:  Jesus!

(1 Chronicles 21:15)
And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the LORD looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

(1 Chronicles 21:26-27)
26 And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the LORD; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering.
27 So the LORD commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath.

Note verse 26: The sword of the destroying angel which was poised over Jerusalem is stayed by sacrifice. This sword, which the angel puts in its sheath, later will be thrust in Jesus' side on this very spot.

Thus Nora's answer is, again, correct.  Which means that Franklyn got the question right!

Franklyn:  It was not God's idea to build the Temple; it was David's idea.  Because God, all along, had a better idea, which was...
Nora:  Jesus!

(1 Chronicles 17:5-6) For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel until today, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wherever I have walked with all Israel, did I speak a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed My people, saying, Why have you not built Me a house of cedars?

(Revelation 21:3) And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

(Revelation 21:22; see John 4:20-24) And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

Jesus, as Nora correctly stated, is the Temple of God.  Which means that Franklyn got the lesson right!

The way I figure it, if you're on the right side of Nora, you're on the right side of God.  And if you're on the right side of God, you're standing with

Nora:  Jesus!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

go figure

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 21:1-22:1

mark this: 1 Chronicles 21:1-4
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, "Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number." But Joab said, "May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord's servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?" But the king's word prevailed against Joab.

There are numerous books and seminars about numbers in the Bible.

3 has meaning, we're told; 7 has meaning; 12 has meaning...

666 (of course) has great significance.  So we ponder its symbolic depths--until we find the footnote which tells us that 666 might be a mistranslation (1) of 616!  So how should one presume? 

I don't mean to make light of the subject.  I am certain that some numbers do have symbolic significance in scripture, but I am also certain that we can miss the great truths about numbers in the Bible while we are pondering minor mystical meanings.

Here are a few of those great truths--forests, if you will--that we can overlook while counting the individual trees:

1.  You can count on statistics or you can count on God, but not both.
David was calculating the numerical might of his army.  He was not depending on the wisdom and power of God.  Scripture tells us that if we are going to count, let's count on the LORD:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight."  (2)

2.  God's arithmetic is often upside down.
God will whittle down our statistical "advantage" until it becomes obvious that we can't win.  He culled the army of Gideon (3) from 32,00 to 10,000 to 300 (armed with pitchers and lanterns) so that Gideon would learn that victory is Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty (4).

Later in the Bible, in the greatest battle, God would pare the army of Israel down to just one:
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.  (5)

3.  With five loaves and two fish he fed 5000; twelve baskets of pieces were left over.  (6)
Calculate that, if you will.

4.  He accounts the righteousness of God to those who bring nothing more than faith to the equation:  He believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (7)
Go figure.

(1) see ESV and NASB text notes for Revelation 13:18; (2) Jeremiah 9:23-24; (3) Judges 7; (4) Zechariah 4:6; (5) Matthew 26:55-56; (6) Luke 9:12-17; (7) Genesis 15:6

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What becomes of sin?

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 18-20

This fateful line appears in 2 Samuel 11:1, serving as a preface to the tragic story of David's dalliance with Bathsheba:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

So when that same line resurfaces today (1 Chronicles 20:1) the careful reader braces for a retelling of David's sinful episode, which began when the restless king, from the roof of his palace, happened to observe a beautiful woman as she was bathing. The adultery which ensued gave rise to deception, murder, treason, incest, suicide, and civil war.

But Bathsheba never enters the picture in 1 Chronicles. Where is she? How did the most notorious sin since Eden disappear from scripture?

The answer, of course, is that it didn't disappear from the Word of God at all. Keep turning the pages and you'll see David and Bathsheba's sin again.  You'll see it right here:
He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ's cross. (Colossians 2:14)

Because of the figurative language in that verse, we picture a list of sins nailed to the cross, as if salvation were a paper transaction.  But the whole truth is that the record of our sins was canceled when Jesus became our sin, and he was nailed to the cross:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

What became of David's sin was Jesus. The sins directly engendered by David's adultery, along with a legion of proliferating consequences, would make it all the way to Jesus:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...  (Galatians 3:13)

There is no cover-up in the Bible.  There is no whitewash of David's sins--or ours.  Sin doesn't dematerialize into ethereal oblivion or escape into the philosophical domain. Sin's effects are visited upon the children (Exodus 34:7), multiplying and permutating over generations until--unless--they are visited upon the son of God.

Any sin that (due to its bearer's unbelief) is not put to death at the cross will continue, unabated, all the way to hell--there to perpetually "visit" the devil's children as ever more virulent permutations.

Monday, September 13, 2010

the target of time and space and scripture

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 17

As we read in 2 Samuel 7--and again today in 1 Chronicles 17--God promises that one of David's descendants will reign forever:
I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.   (1 Chronicles 17:10-12)

Bible scholars call this promise the Davidic Covenant.  The rest of the Bible now becomes the record of the fulfillment of this promise.

But that's not all.  Not only the rest of scripture, but the rest of history will align in fulfillment of this promise.

Recall, from Genesis 1, how the physical earth was formless and void.   Then God decreed its features--its lands and waters and and meadows and valleys and mountains.

In the same way, God decrees the shape of history when he pronounces the covenant with David.  Time will--it must--from this day forth bend itself to conform to this decree.

The Davidic Covenant is a remarkable statement.  It stands in the  long line of concentric promises which serve to place the bull's eye of scripture and history upon one Jesus of Nazareth. 

They were looking, longing for this targeted one. He was to be of the seed of the woman (1). He was to be from Abraham (2).  He was to come from the tribe of Judah (3).  Now we are told that He will be in the family of David. David is overwhelmed by the fact that the Messiah will be in his line.

At the utterance of this decree, time and space and scripture turn home, to their fulfillment in the house of the LORD.

(1) Genesis 3:15; (2) Genesis 12:3; (3) Genesis 49:10

Sunday, September 12, 2010

cut & paste

The Word for today: 1 Chronicles 16:7-43

The two functions that have revolutionized the publishing world also happen to be two of my favorite computer shortcuts- CTRL X (that's cut) and CTRL V (that's paste). The only button I hit more than those two is UNDO! Just imagine how difficult it would be to write/edit/publish anything (newspaper, book, magazine, a blog) without the ability to insert, delete and/or rearrange the text. You might as well use a typewriter!

In today's passage, we encounter a grand celebration as David, with all of Jerusalem beside him, rejoice in the fact that the Ark of the Covenant is brought to where it ought to be. Since the time of Eli (1 Samuel 4), the Ark had been everywhere but where it should have, and now the nation rejoices that it is finally restored. King David does lots of things to commemorate the occasion: dancing, leaping, praising God; there's multiple sacrifices and offerings, free food for everyone, its a big deal.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing that David does here, recorded only in Chronicles, is compose a "cut & paste" Psalm, for the occasion. Consider this:

1 Chronicles 16:8-22 = Psalm 105:1-15
1 Chronicles 16:23-33 = Psalm 96
1 Chronicles 16:34-36 = Psalm 106: 1, 47-48
Is as if he took a penknife, found a scroll of the Psalms, and pasted together this beauty of a passage, and then handed over the new composition for the Levites to sing.

Thomas Jefferson also tried this "cut & paste" approach. But being a non-believer, the results were quite different. Jefferson tried to put together, in chronological order, the life and teachings of Jesus- but without anything miraculous or spiritual. Any references or stories involving angels, demons, miracles or anything else that Jefferson did not particularly agree with, were cut out. All talk of Christ's divinity, of His uniqueness, of the Holy Spirit, of sin and salvation have been excised. The saddest part, is his book ends with a portion of Matthew 27:60- "There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed."

How convenient for Mr. Jefferson. A Jesus who was not the Son of God and did not rise from the dead also makes zero demands on his life. (So he's free to fool around with his slaves.)

That is how much of the world operates- desperately hoping that there is no god (or that god doesn't care), so they can do whatever they want.

But let's be honest with ourselves, because we as Christians can be guilty of the same type of "cut & paste" mentality as Jefferson. When we think that we can pick and chose what to believe or obey in the Bible, we are doing the exact same thing. We all need to make sure we never place ourselves above the Word- as James warned us (see James 4:11). It judges us, NEVER vice-versa.

But what about David? How is what he did different?
It couldn't be more the opposite.
What David did was not an act of editing, but an act of worship. He wasn't seeking to "correct" or "improve" what God had written, He was seeking to honor God.
God has given us a great treasure in His Word. The beauty of the Bible is that it rhymes with itself and each passage supports the rest of its passages.

So really there is just one Psalm, one Prophet, one Gospel, one Epistle, one voice (even though there are 66 books). We are free like David to use any combination of the Scripture to honor God. So go ahead, highlight, underline, take verses from all over- whatever stirs your soul- just remember that the entire thing applies to your life.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

doing the right thing in the wrong way--part 2

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 15:1-16:6

The ark of the covenant is one of the most all-encompassing symbols in scripture. Stand in the Rain previously (August 26, 2009) addressed the topic of the ark itself. Today we conclude what we began yesterday--the cautionary tale of Uzzah, who died as the ark was being transported to Jerusalem. 

mark this: 1 Chronicles 15:12-13
David said to them, "You are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule."

You know a lot of Johns, Williams, Michaels, and Roberts--but do you know any Uzzahs?

It's kind of a trick question, so here's the answer: You know hundreds of Uzzahs. The world is filled with them, billions of them.

Uzzah was a well-meaning person. You can bet that he was living an exemplary religious life, that in his own way he was reaching out for God.

In his own way.

The story of Uzzah is the story of many people who are doing the right things in the wrong way. Despite their good intentions they will never attain God's presence, because they fail to approach God in the way he prescribed.

There is no man-made way to reach God. There is only the God-made way.

God couldn't make another way. He had a lot of wood left, and he had a lot of nails left, but he had only one son. He could make a lot of crosses, but there's only one Jesus.

The story of Uzzah teaches us what that single cross means.
Without the forgiveness purchased at the cross, God's holy nature bursts forth and consumes sin:
Our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)

The story of Uzzah teaches us what repentance means.
 The essence of repentance is not about being "good"--Uzzah was being good when he died. Repentance is to agree with God to go his way, this way:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one gets to the Father but by me. (John 14:6)

Repentance, at its core, is to go God's Way, Jesus Christ.  It is nothing more, and nothing less.

Friday, September 10, 2010

doing the right thing in the wrong way--part 1

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 13, 14

The ark of the covenant is one of the most all-encompassing symbols in scripture. Stand in the Rain previously (August 26, 2009) addressed the topic of the ark itself. Over the next couple days, we will consider the story of Uzzah, who died as the ark was being transported to Jerusalem.

mark this: 1 Chronicles 13:9-10
And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.

You know a lot of Johns, Williams, Michaels, and Roberts--but do you know any Uzzahs?

It's kind of a trick question, so here's the answer:  You know hundreds of Uzzahs.  The world is filled with them, billions of them.

At first glance, Uzzah's story is perplexing and even disturbing.  The incident leaves David both angered and and frightened.

David wanted the ark brought to Jerusalem, so he gathered the people and created a kind of parade--a procession in honor of the ark.  Uzzah, driving the cart which carried the ark, reached out to steady the ark when the oxen stumbled.  As he reached out, the anger of the LORD burst forth and Uzzah died on the spot.

What is going on?

What's going on is a cautionary tale concerning our attempts to attain God's Presence.  (God did not live in the ark, but that is the place he designated as his meeting place with the people of Israel. His presence was there.) 

Uzzah took a well-meaning step towards the orbit of God's presence. He thought he was honoring God, even helping God.

But God was not to be approached in that way. To begin with, the ark should not have been on that cart. The ark was never to be carried on a wagon. It was to be borne on the shoulders of the sons of Kohath (Numbers 4:15).  And the ark did not need Uzzah to steady it.
Uzzah is a well-meaning person.  Chosen to assist in this important procession, you can bet that he was living an exemplary religious life, and that in his own way he was reaching out for God.

In his own way. 

The story of Uzzah is the story of many people who are doing a right thing in a wrong way.  Despite their good intentions they will never attain God's presence, because they fail to approach God in the way he prescribed,

through the door he died to open.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

reelin' in the years

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 12

The books of Chronicles cover the same ground--from Saul to Zedekiah--that was already covered in the books of Samuel and the books of Kings.  Why?

1.  Chronicles is told from a different point of view.
Let's say you and I ride the same train all the way from New York to San Francisco.  If I were to report my impressions of the trip and you were to report your impressions of the trip, would we be "covering the same ground?"  Yes we would, geographically speaking.  But in so many other ways our impressions might vastly differ.

The books of Samuel and Kings were told from man's point of view.  Chronicles, told from God's point of view, will present the reader with a different dimension.  In Kings the history of the nation is given from the standpoint of the throne; in Chronicles it is given from the standpoint of the altar.

2.  Chronicles places a different emphasis on events.
In Kings the royal palace is the center; in Chronicles the Temple is the center. Kings gives us the political history of the nation, while Chronicles gives the religious history.

3.  Chronicles is the interpretation of Kings. 
The editorial page of your newspaper comments on the same events which were reported on the front page. In just the same way, Chronicles provides a commentary on events we read about in Samuel and Kings.


The Bible often shifts between telescopic and microscopic views.  It will cover a wide expanse of material, then go back and minutely examine some part of the whole.  We first see this method employed in the Bible's opening chapters.  In Genesis, the second chapter lifts one thing--the creation of man--out of the six days of creation which are described in chapter one.  Later on, Deuteronomy ("the second law") interprets the law already spelled out in the previous books of Moses.

Could we personally profit from this biblical method of retrospection and clarification?  Would we benefit by backtracking over the years in order to look at them from God's point of view rather than the way we first saw them?

Looking back at life will very likely present a different picture.  Years that seemed, at the time, to be stuck in the doldrums now look like a period of quiet preparation, a preface to an exciting era which followed.  Years when door after door seemed to close now look like a guided tour towards a bigger door which opened to even greater opportunity.

Chronicles backtracks in order to see David's life from another point of view.  As it does, it offers us an invitation to do the same--to survey ground we've already covered, through eyes that see farther and deeper than our own.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

O Lord, I want to be in that number

The Word for today:
1 Chronicles 10, 11

mark this: 1 Chronicles 11:25
Behold, he was honored among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three.

Looking at the title for this article, it appears that I want to be a saint.

But I don't have to want that, silly.  I already am that.  Everyone who trusts and follows Jesus is a saint;  that's what saint means.

No, I want more.  I want to be counted amongst Jesus' mighty men.  Don't you?

The Kingdom of God is not going to be politically correct.  Everyone there will be a saint, and in that way on a kind of equal footing.  But beyond that, "equality" (our notion of it, anyway) will end.  Because there are going to be those who are marked out by God like the mighty men are marked out by David in today's reading.

This scriptural precept is unsettling to some.  But let's level with one another.  If we think that we are going to have the same reward as those being beheaded for their faith this very day--while we decide it's too much to help once a month with the 2 year olds in the nursery during Sunday service, thus ignoring the lady in charge of the nursery as she puts out one urgent appeal after another--then political "correctness" has warped our minds.

Some will be mighty men in the kingdom and some will not.  Some will be rewarded beyond salvation and some will not:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 
(1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

I watch my kids train to be champions.  Yesterday they both ran a fast 15 miles.  But somehow--maybe because salvation is a free gift; maybe because what we hear from our pulpits and teachers is "grace, grace, grace," and seldom about the battle for the kingdom--somehow we don't train to fight for the kingdom of God like a high school boy will train to gain a paltry medal or trophy.  Paul put it this way:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.                 (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

I want to be a mighty man.  I want to fight for Jesus like he fought for me.  I want to train to run, and run to win.  I want to carry the banner of the Kingdom into battle.  And I want you to come along with me.  I want you to join the battle, so here's how to enlist:

Call the lady who runs the nursery during the church service.  Tell her you're reporting for duty.

Begin right there.  God wants you to be in that number, when his mighty men come marching in.