Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Where have I heard that voice before? --part 1

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 2
Over the next couple days, I’m going to write about the concepts of voice and influence.
But first, in order to consider scriptural voices, I’m going to have to hush up and let you listen to them. Today, therefore, I'll quote two of the most remarkable passages in scripture, then steal silently away.
First you will be reading Hannah’s Prayer from 1 Samuel 2. Then you will be reading Mary’s Song from Luke 1. If you read them slowly and carefully, the second reading will sound like an echo of the first! More importantly, and wondrously, you will wonder --as you read both passages --“Where have I heard that voice before?”
Tomorrow, I’ll bring my voice back to chime in on that.
Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.
The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.
The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers." (Luke 1:46-55)

Monday, June 29, 2015

the hinges and the Door

The Word for today:
1 Samuel 1
The only person in the Old Testament who was at one and the same time a prophet (1 Samuel 3:20) a priest (1 Samuel 7:9) and a judge (1 Samuel 7:6, 15).
God revealed himself to Samuel by the Word of God. God is not revealing (adding to) but He is illuminating his Word today by his Spirit, that we might come to know him.
The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. (3:21)
From the time he was a small child, Samuel was devoted to God's service, and later in life he became a great leader, moving his people from leadership by judges to rule by a king. He anointed both Saul and David as kings.
Like John the Baptist, Samuel was a great transitional figure, a hinge between two ages. Like John, he identified and proclaimed the man after God's own heart. (1 Sam. 13:14)
Hinges and the Door.
While Samuel and John the Baptist are hinges, connecting eras and dispensations and testaments, Jesus Christ is the ultimate transitional figure; the only mediator between God and men, life and death, heaven and hell, darkness and light, justice and mercy, truth and grace. The Door, he is the difference between what your life was and what it is. (1)
I went through the Door from hopelessness to hope, from pointlessness to purpose.
You went through the Door from ________________to __________________.

(1) See John 10:9 and 1 Timothy 2:5.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

don’t leave your best dress in the closet

The Word for today:
Ruth 4
Every now and then we come across a Bible verse that stands for something much larger than what it seems to be saying. One of those verses is Ruth 3:3:
Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes…
The verse can stand as the picture of every sinner who comes to Jesus:
1. Wash yourself.
First we are forgiven at the cross: The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). But the process of salvation has just begun…
2. Anoint yourself.
Then we are anointed by the Holy Spirit. Anointed is a biblical word which denotes the person and work of the Holy Spirit, who comes upon all believers to empower and teach them:
But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20/ESV)
Another version says it this way:
But you have had the Holy Spirit poured out on you by Christ, and so all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:20/GNT)
The reason you and I can understand the Bible is not because of our superior intellects. It is a direct result of the empowering Holy Spirit:
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1Corinthians 2:10-16)
As the mind of Christ develops within us, the "outside" changes too. This is expressed in the third part of Ruth 3:3:
3. Put on your best clothes.
Galatians 3:27 tells us that we have put on Christ:
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
At the moment we were forgiven by the blood and empowered by the
Spirit, we also received the "robe" of Christ-righteousness:
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)
Many believers stop at #1. They consider themselves "washed," but that's about it. So they live as if they were nothing more than forgiven criminals.
But God has changed us all the way from the inside out. He has empowered us with His Spirit and transformed us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). So...
Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

a preview of the Redeemer

The Word for today:
Ruth 3
Our reading schedule gave us only two days in the book of Ruth. But we could not begin to do justice to this great romance in such a short time. Therefore we borrowed some time from our next book (1 Samuel) and extended Ruth to four days.
And with so much truth and beauty to convey, we developed a study guide that covers more ground than our customary single-themed articles ever could.
Part 1 and part 2 are pre-requisite to today’s study.
Boaz is a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer. The kinsman redeemer did not act—he did not have to act—by statute of the law. He was, you see, in love…
"The LORD bless him!" Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. "He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." She added, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers." (Ruth 2:20; cf. Exodus 6:6; Isaiah 59:20; Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7)
If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. (Lev. 25:25)`
If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien living among you or to a member of the alien's clan, he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in his clan may redeem him. (Lev. 25:47-49)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14)
Christ the Kinsman-Redeemer was willing and able to pay the price for our sin.
The redeemer must be a “near kinsman”…so Christ had to be “born of woman, born under the law” to redeem us.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4-5)
The redeemer must be “able to redeem”…he must be “good for” the price of payment:
Which of you convicts Me of sin? (John 8:46)
Ruth enters into a new life.
But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." (Ruth 1:16-17)
It is our responsibility to claim the Kinsman-Redeemer, and His covering robe of righteousness.
Just as Ruth claims Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer, we must claim Christ. Christ can’t claim us—just as Boaz could not claim her. If you love Christ, tell him you do!
And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. (3:9)
We can rest, for Christ will finish the work of redemption:
Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day. (3:18; cf. John 19:30)
The kinsman who will not redeem represents the law, which cannot redeem us:
Then the next of kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (4:6)
The Redeemer takes a bride…
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife. (4:9-10)
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7; cf. Eph. 5:25)
The Redeemer takes a Gentile bride…
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:28-29; cf. Matthew 8:11; Eph. 2:11-18)
"I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
(The sheepfold is the Jewish people. Here Jesus told the fold that He would bring in non-Jews as well to form a new all-encompassing family, the church.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

handfuls of purpose

The Word for today:
Ruth 2
And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: And let fall also some of the handfuls on purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not." (Ruth 2:15-16)
In some of the darkest days in the Bible, in the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab (Ruth 1:1).
One of this man's sons married a local girl named Ruth. When both the man and his sons died, Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, returned to Bethlehem upon hearing that the famine in the land of Judah had ended.
There a wealthy man named Boaz falls in love (at first sight!) when he "happens" to see Ruth, who went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters and, as it turned out, found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz (Ruth 2:3).
In the book of Ruth, the Bible reader knows that Boaz told his workers to let fall also some of the handfuls (of grain) of purpose for her (2:16 KJV), so that Ruth will be able to gather enough to sustain herself and Naomi. But Ruth does not know that Boaz is deliberately providing for her in this way, behind the scenes. She must have thought that the workers weren't harvesting very carefully!
This story illustrates a concept known as God's providence (1). The invisible, providing, protecting hand of the LORD is behind every word and circumstance in the book of Ruth.
Very often we, like Ruth in the fields, do not realize the provision God makes for us. We might attribute our circumstances to chance or happenstance, and fail to see the guiding and sustaining hand of God in our lives.
The conditions of Ruth's life--the hunger, untimely death, and poverty--made it particularly difficult for her to see that all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28).
Later, when Boaz and Ruth are married, Ruth's fallen estate is restored, and a family -- life -- is restored to that which was dead. Once she had been in Adam (represented in the story by her first husband.) Now she is joined to her Redeemer, Christ (represented by Boaz):
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).
How could Ruth know, when she "happened" upon Boaz' field, that the handful of purpose would fall to us as well--for from their marriage would proceed a great-grandson, King David. Out of David's line would come the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
Out of that wheat field, out of that 'chance' meeting, came the Bread of Life (John 6:48), God's provision for our lives, now and forever:
And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:23-24).
Because He loves us, God decreed that the wheat should fall for us, on purpose.
(1) see Genesis 22:13-14

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What does he see in me?

The Word for today:
Ruth 1
The book of Ruth is a literary and spiritual gem.
It is, first of all, a love story. We would do well to transfer that phrase to the Bible itself, so let’s do it:
The Bible is, first of all, a love story. The day the Bible student comes to that understanding is the day he begins to understand his Bible.
Our reading schedule has given us only two days in the book of Ruth. We can’t begin do justice to this great romance in such a short time. Therefore we are going to borrow some time from our next book (1 Samuel) and extend Ruth to four days.
With so much truth and beauty to convey, we have developed a study guide that will touch upon many more of Ruth’s important topics than four of our customary single-themed articles ever could. We trust that you will bring your heart to these matters. If you do, your mind will gladly tag along.
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab… (Ruth 1:1)
Out of the dark period of the judges comes the love story of redemption. It is an unwavering Biblical principle that darkness gives way to light:
And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…and God said, Let there be light… and the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:2,3,5)
Ruth’s striking faithfulness stands in contrast to the dark backdrop of faithlessness in the days when the judges ruled.
Time frame. (cf. Matt. 1:5-6; Joshua 6:25; Heb. 11:31)
Boaz is the son of Rahab, the prostitute in Joshua (and a charter member of the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11.) Boaz and Ruth are the great-grandparents of King David.
Bethlehem (“house of bread”) is a small, nondescript village 5 miles south of Jerusalem. But it is one of the most significant locations in the Bible:
Jacob’s wife Rachel died there, giving birth to Benjamin. (Gen. 35:18-19)
Ruth and Boaz met there and became parents in the line of the Messiah.
David, their great-grandson, was born there. (1 Sam. 16:1)
Micah the prophet predicted that the Messiah would be born there. (Micah 5:2)
Matthew 2 and Luke 2 record the Christmas story, when the prophecy was fulfilled.
Salvation is a love affair…
We love him because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were by the law, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:20-21).
In Ruth we see a man who is a kinsman-redeemer, but he doesn’t have to act in that capacity. Another, closer kinsman had the opportunity to take action, but he turned it down. He did not care for Ruth, but Boaz loved her. That made all the difference. God did not have to redeem us. If He did not, He would still be a just and holy God. But He loved us.
Boaz is a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer. The kinsman redeemer did not act—he did not have to act—by statute of the law. He was, you see, in love…
The unsearchable heart of love… (What does He see in me?)
Then she fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? (2:10)
“What does he see in me?” is the wrong question -- for the answer is not in us, but in Him:
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

displaying the pearls -- part 3

The Word for today:
1 Peter 5
“Why do you believe in Jesus?”
Someday (if it hasn't been asked already) somebody is going to ask you that question. When they ask it, you will know whether they are sincerely wondering about your faith, or whether they are picking a fight.
If they are just looking for an argument, don’t waste your breath. Jesus said not to throw your pearls before swine (1). So, keep your pearls in your pocket.
But if the question is sincere, we should be ready to display our pearls, so to speak:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
A couple days ago, in part 1, we used some whimsical examples to arrive at this serious conclusion:
“Believers are often less prepared to answer questions and objections about our faith in Jesus than real estate salespeople are prepared for the objections they face. So we hope to see you tomorrow, when we’ll offer some specific ways that we can be prepared.”
Yesterday, in part 2, we prepared to respond with our heads:
1. Be able to tell the Good News.
2. Do not leave Jesus on the cross!
3. Point to prophecy (pre-cross)
4. Point to history (post-resurrection)
5. Point to the differences Jesus has made in you.
Today we bring our testimonies to a grand finale, as we reach into our hearts to…
6. Display your pearls.
This part of your testimony is unique, known only to you, so I cannot specifically direct you. But I can leave you with a few examples of what “pearls” might look like.
First, an example from my own heart…
I’m a storyteller who spent his life looking and listening for the Story that, I was certain, just had to be out there…somewhere, if only I could find it. So for the longest time I looked and listened, but nothing that I read or heard could fill my heart. Years and years of fruitless searching left me so discouraged that I began to think that maybe the Story had never been told. But I kept going until, one day, I found it hiding in plain sight, in a book that had always been there on my shelf.
It seems I had to read every story in the world to find the one so good it has to be true; the one so good and true that my heart's too small to contain it all.
That's the "pearl" my life has formed. Yours, of course, will look a bit different. My pearl formed around what happened in my life, but I've heard of pearls that formed around what didn’t happen! I know a man whose relationship with God coalesced around a sentiment he'd first heard in a rock 'n roll song!--
”God only knows what I'd be without you.” (2)
Finally, from the heart of Connie Jo (a Stand in the Rain reader from a state far, far away) comes a distillation of every “pearl” ever formed. In response to part 1 of this article, she wrote via Facebook:
“It’s because I'm in LOVE with Him. That’s why I believe :)”
Connie’s pearl of great price is the essence of all our testimonies. So if you’ve got many pearls but you can’t decide which to display, show ‘em that one!
And if you haven’t formed a pearl yet, you can borrow Connie’s for a while, until you’ve got one to call your own. Believe me, she won't mind, even if you never give it back.
(1) Matthew 7:6
(2) “God Only Knows,” by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher from “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, 1966.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

displaying the pearls -- part 2

The Word for today:
1 Peter 4:7-19
“Why do you believe in Jesus?”
Someday (if it hasn't been asked already) somebody is going to ask you that question. When they ask it, you will know whether they are sincerely wondering about your faith, or whether they are picking a fight.
If they are just looking for an argument, don’t waste your breath. Jesus said not to throw your pearls before swine (1). So, keep your pearls in your pocket.
But if the question is sincere, we should be ready to display our pearls, so to speak:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Yesterday, we used some whimsical examples to arrive at this serious conclusion:
“Believers are often less prepared to answer questions and objections about our faith in Jesus than real estate salespeople are prepared for the objections they face. So we hope to see you tomorrow, when we’ll offer specific ways that we can be prepared.”
Well, tomorrow has arrived, so let’s get prepared:
1. Be able to tell the Good News.
The Good News (the gospel) of Jesus Christ is that God Himself died in our place in order to save us from the eternal consequences of sin.
We, ourselves, must understand what happened at the cross in order to express it to others. Then we should condense our understanding to a phrase which communicates the cross to a sincere seeker. In order to condense the cross, I use the title of the old song, “Jesus Paid it All.” Using that phrase, I can explain the salvation purchased at the cross by the blood of Christ. Others might prefer the phrase “Jesus took my place,” or “He got what I deserve.”
2. Do not leave Jesus on the cross!
After Jesus died for our sins, God powerfully and visually proclaimed that the plan worked! The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that the cross was not just a “nice try” by a nice guy. The resurrection means that the cross was God’s great victory over evil and sin and death.
3. Point to prophecy (pre-cross)
The Bible clearly told the Story before it happened. So equip yourself with prophetic scriptures that you can point to. Nearly 1000 years before it happened, Psalm 22 described the cross through the Savior’s eyes. Nearly 700 years before it happened, Isaiah 53 described the cross through the eyes of those who were being saved.
The cross happened exactly as the Bible foretold. Prophecy shows us that the cross is not only historically verified, but pre-historically verified!
4. Point to history (post-resurrection)
While prophecy (history written before history happened) proves the cross, the resurrection is proved by its undeniable historical after-effects.
The radical changes wrought in the lives of a little band of previously fearful men (who had each deserted Jesus on the night he was captured and tried) can only be explained by the fact that they were men who had witnessed an astounding miracle! The resurrection that the disciples proclaimed was verified by their radically altered lives--lives that turned the entire world on its ear.
Each of the disciples died for his fearless testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their faith swept the world and is -- to this day, far and away -- the world’s predominant influence.
5. Point to the differences Jesus has made in you.
It is right here that many believers tend to get moralistic. That would be a mistake. Don’t tell the sinner that you cuss less, drink less, and hardly ever chase skirts anymore. Those were your problems, not their’s.
Or we tend to get religious, telling about our church or our prayer or our scripture study. But those kinds of changes do not persuade the seeker. He does not notice — or need, or want -- your personal halo.
Instead, tell them (as 1 Peter 3:15 advises) of the new-found hope in your heart: that the future seems a little brighter; that there really is a Somewhere just over the rainbow; that you’re not alone anymore; and that you look forward to the future instead of fearing it.
Tomorrow, in part 3, we’ll bring our testimonies to a grand finale, when we display our pearls.
(1) Matthew 7:6

Monday, June 22, 2015

displaying the pearls -- part 1

The Word for today:
1 Peter 3:13-4:6
“Why do you believe in Jesus?”
Someday (if it hasn't been asked already) somebody is going to ask you that question. When they ask it, you will know whether they are sincerely wondering about your faith, or whether they are picking a fight.
If they are just looking for an argument, don’t waste your breath. Jesus said not to throw your pearls before swine (1). So, keep your pearls in your pocket.
But if the question is sincere, we should be ready to display our pearls, so to speak:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
For a brief period in my life, I sold real estate. The broker who owned the real estate company was, in his own field, a good teacher.
He gave us a list of the most common questions and objections we would hear from clients and customers. Then we practiced effective answers and counter-objections.
The broker would always play the role of the customer. He might play the customer at an open house who was more than ready to buy, then suddenly gets cold feet in the parking lot of the real estate office. In that case, we’d practice a specific routine called the “Parking Lot Bail Out Counter.” We were expected to memorize the script and be able to put it to use at a moment’s notice.
We had to memorize other routines as well, each of them tailored to counter another specific objection. The routines had colorful titles that made them memorable. Among them were the “Tip of the Iceberg” technique; the “Safe Island;” “No Way Jose;” “Reduce to the Ridiculous;” “The Seller Might Die;” “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lease (Just Drop Off the Key, Lee);” “Miss Apprehension;” and “The Terminal Turnaround.”
Funny thing was, they worked. Almost every sale I made was because the broker taught me when and how to deploy those counter-objections.
What isn’t very funny is that believers are often less prepared to answer questions and objections about our faith in Jesus than real estate salespeople are prepared for the objections they face.
So we hope to see you tomorrow, when we’ll offer some specific ways that we can be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
(1) Matthew 7:6

Sunday, June 21, 2015

the best translation of the Bible

The Word for today:
1 Peter 3:1-12
The story is told of a little boy who is watching a ventriloquist perform. Willingly suspending his disbelief (as kids do) he imagines the dummy is alive. Moreover, he wants to bring the dummy home so they can play together.
The boy perceives the ventriloquist to be the dummy’s father, so he waits until the performance is over, then goes backstage and asks the ventriloquist if his new friend can come over to play. The ventriloquist tries to change the subject, but the little boy keeps on asking. Hemming and hawing, the ventriloquist doesn’t know what to do.
Then the boy walks over to the box where the dummy is laying. “I tried to ask your Dad if you can come over and play, but he wouldn’t say. So I’ll have to ask you—“
To which the exasperated ventriloquist finally replied to the boy, “Kid, I don’t know how else to tell you this, but he just talks. He doesn’t do anything.”
So many of us are like that dummy. We talk the Bible but don’t live biblically.  We usually mean well, but because our words are not consistently translated into action, our testimonies are not taken seriously. We become nothing more than verbal pests to be avoided.
I’m guilty of that kind of pestering — of words that are not authenticated by my life. So on behalf of others like me, I propose a new motto: "Be doers of the Word and not sayers only."
Let’s listen as Peter proposes the same thing, exhorting wives to let their actions speak so loudly that they won’t have to say a single word!---
In the same way you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God's word, your conduct will win them over to believe. It will not be necessary for you to say a word. (1 Peter 3:1)
I, and most of us, would be far more persuasive about the power of the gospel if we were more like those wives and less like that dummy.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

something in the way He moves

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37
The Word for today:
1 Peter 2:18-25
1 Peter is written to God's elect, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Which pretty much leaves you and me out of the picture, right?
Wrong.  Election is a concept that, like so many other biblical concepts, is bigger than our heads. I have never met a person or read a theologian who could wrap his head around election and free will, simultaneously.
But somehow I know that both God’s election and man’s free will are absolutely true. Morever, the one does not contradict the other.
I can’t explain them, or analyze them, or argue about them. But I can, from the Word of God, illustrate that they work, in the real world, in seamless tandem.
The illustration comes from the story of Gideon in the book of Judges:
But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go." So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place."
(Judges 7:4-7)
I'm going to point to the facts, then I'm going to leave you to find them in the passage directly above.
If you do, you will conclude that God’s election and man’s free will are simultaneously in effect in the passage. You will never be able to "prove" this conclusion (as one proves a geometric theorem) but do not worry, for your inability to intellectually prove or defend election and free will puts you in the company of the greatest theologians who have ever lived--for they couldn’t either.
But more important than finding yourself in the company of theologians is that you will find yourself in the company of those chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, to whom 1 Peter was written.
Here then, are the facts.  If you bring these facts to the story about Gideon (above), the “contradictions" will melt away…
God chose 300 men. (Fact)
But how did he choose them? By letting each man use his free will. (Fact)
So election and free will cannot be understood through debate and analysis, but in real life it works out that way. (Fact)
You can come to Jesus if you want to:  "All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and he that comes to me I will in no wise cast out (1)." (Fact)
If you don’t come to Jesus, you weren’t elected. (Fact)
If you do come to Him (here’s the Good News) you were elected. (Fact)
Just because we can't explain something does not mean it's not true.  Just because we can't explain election and free will does not mean they are not simultaneously and absolutely true.
Together, they are the inexplicable something in the way God moves.
(1) John 6:37

Friday, June 19, 2015

the last arrow

Stand in the Rain is down to the final 3 weeks of our 3-year schedule.
In the days we have left, we are going to scour the archives for articles we meant to publish but never did because they were too long, or too strong, or too far gone. If we find any that touch upon our remaining books (1 Peter, Ruth, and the first half of 1 Samuel) we intend to deploy them.
We want to leave nothing in reserve. We want to be found with Sword unsheathed and no arrow left in the quiver.
The Word for today:
1 Peter 2:4-17
"Look, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and priceless cornerstone, and whoever believes in him will never be put to shame."
So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone..."

(1 Peter 2:6-7)
"Like a Rolling Stone"
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)
The Bible is one big song, or psalm. The song is held together by repeated images, technically called "types," which are pictures of things to come.
Teaching with types is the primary teaching method of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, the movie comes out before the book! Junior- and senior-high students "watch the movie" instead of reading the book, then write a "book report," because the movie is easier to understand (and takes a lot less time). The Holy Spirit "shows the movie" first, filling the Old Testament with people, places, objects, and actions which serve to make it easier for us to understand the concepts of the New Testament, especially the concepts concerning the heart and character of God--the heart and character which brought Him to the cross.
'Types' can be people. Isaac, the miracle baby promised to Abraham and his wife Sarah (who was long past child-bearing age) typifies Jesus Christ, who was also supernaturally born.
Isaac was the son of promise. God promised Abraham that through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed (Genesis 26:4; cf. Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham and Isaac.
'Types' can be objects or things. The wood that Isaac carried to his own sacrifice foreshadows the cross that Jesus would carry to Golgotha.
'Types' can be actions. God told Abraham to bring Isaac to be sacrificed. Abraham obeyed. Then God stopped him, telling Abraham that God would Himself provide the sacrifice. Later, God not only provided a sacrifice but was, Himself, the sacrifice.
Some 'types' are 'types in contrast': Ishmael was Abraham's son born to the slave-girl Hagar. In contrast to Isaac, Ishmael is "the son of the flesh." Together, these two sons depict the New Testament concept that naturally, on our own, we are slaves to sin. But supernaturally, by faith in God's Son of Promise, we are set free from sin and death (see Romans 9). Jesus Christ emphasized this concept, telling the religious Pharisee Nicodemus that "You must be born again. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
Types, then, foreshadow the character and work of Jesus Christ. A trick question that serves to help the Bible student understand the concept of types is--
In approximately what year did Passover occur?
The Bible student reflexively thinks in terms of "B.C.," thousands of years before Christ, in the time of Moses and the Exodus. But an understanding of the typology of Scripture gives us the correct answer: the passover in Exodus is only the copy and shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5). Our real Passover was at the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7) in approximately 33 A.D. The blood on the posts and lintels of the doors in Egypt were the faint whisper, for a relatively few Hebrews, of the blood on the post and crosspiece where hung the Lamb without blemish--the Door to eternal life for all nations, for all time (John 10:9).
These types echo and re-echo throughout the Bible, pointing to Jesus. Every story whispers His name. The types, which are actually the Bible's most sophisticated and meaningful prophecies -- deep calling to deep -- become more emphatic, more pronounced, until the echo is overtaken by the original -- the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world -- in a dizzying timelessness.
These repeated motifs become the refrain, the chorus, of one big song. The Bible is arranged--composed--with the types as the repetitive elements tying the whole together. The Bible is not arranged chronologically. It is not arranged thematically. The Bible is arranged symphonically.
For the last ten years of my life, very nearly every available moment has been consumed with teaching (or preparing to teach) the Bible. I can't give any meaningful accounting of the rate of success and/or failure, for the Bible teaches the folly and danger of measuring a work of the Spirit, which I believe every Christian ministry to be.
But one night in late June, I had my most gratifying moment. A small crew of hardcore Bible students, some of them on their second or third trip with me through the 66 books of the Bible, had gathered on a Thursday night--a night so mild, so lush and gorgeous that any "sane" person would have opted out of Bible study in order to enjoy the weather. But this crew, insane in the Spirit, were there when I started to trot through another of the types. This one happened to be the motif of the rock: starting with the rock that was smitten, from which life-giving water flowed (Exodus); to the stone the builders rejected which became the capstone of the arch (Psalms/1 Peter); to the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands, which crushed the prideful institutions of man (Daniel); to the stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for unbelievers (Isaiah/Romans/1 Peter); which same stone is the foundation of the church, upon which the wise man builds his house (1 Corinthians/Matthew).
As I was spieling through this very abridged rock chorus, I could see in their eyes that they "got it," that they knew the Chorus and so were well on their way to learning the whole Song! They were following after the Rock of their salvation (Psalm 95:1) as He rolled through scripture--their steppingstone out of the valley of the shadow and into the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springeth out of the earth, through clear shining after rain (Psalm 23/2 Samuel 23).