Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Something greater than the Temple is here."

The Word for today:
1 Kings 8:12-66
[The book of Hebrews in the New Testament develops the rich spiritual significance of the Tabernacle's design and furnishings. Why does Hebrews use the simple Tabernacle to illustrate these truths when it could have used the ornate Temple? We began to answer that question over the past two days, and will conclude our answer today.]
God proposed the Tabernacle:
(Artists' renderings; night and day views)--
Man proposed the Temple:
There was nothing wrong with the Temple. It was good. But God's idea--the Tabernacle--was great.
The Tabernacle (also known as the Tent of Meeting) was always in the midst of the nation Israel as they encamped and as they were on the move through the wilderness.
John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. "Dwelt," if literally translated, means "tabernacled" or "tented." Jesus is the tabernacle amongst us; our access to God.
In the same way, the Bible is like the tabernacle. It shows the Way for man to approach God. It’s portable, simple, and among us.
So the Word, the Word made flesh, and the Tabernacle--each were sent to be among us, showing us the Way to God.
Solomon, son of David, built a sumptuous palace, and lived in opulent splendor. But coming down the road, in a threadbare cloak, with calloused carpenter’s hands, the ultimate Son of David faced the religious leaders and told them,
Something greater than Solomon is here (1); something greater than the Temple is here (2).
Then he was gone. At the center of 12 sons of Israel as they walked down the road, he was a picture of the Tabernacle in the midst of the 12 tribes of Israel as they made their way through the wilderness. God was among them, on his way to Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, where he would build his Father's house with just 3 nails.
(1) Matthew 12:42; (2) Matthew 12:6

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

pack light

The Word for today:
1 Kings 7:13 -- 8:11
[The book of Hebrews in the New Testament develops the rich spiritual significance of the Tabernacle's design and furnishings. Why does Hebrews use the simple Tabernacle to illustrate these truths when it could have used the ornate Temple? We began to answer that question yesterday, and will continue our answer today.]
God proposed the Tabernacle. Man proposed the Temple.
The Tabernacle was a tent. The Temple was a building.
The Tabernacle was portable. The Temple was not.
There was nothing wrong with the Temple. It was good. But God's idea--the Tabernacle--was great.
Your relationship with God is ever-developing, ever-advancing. It's on the move.
Your relationship with God is one of response--he leads and we follow, wherever the Spirit might take us. The Tabernacle aptly depicts that responsiveness. It could be packed up and ready to go at a moment's notice, whenever the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (1).
But the Temple, affixed to the ground, cannot depict our "pilgrim's progress."
Moreover, Christianity itself is a movement. It is not an institution. It certainly is not a building.
Our relationships with God--individually and as a body--should be suffused with a sense of responsiveness, ever willing to pack up and go where the Spirit leads.
So listen for his directions. And pack light.
(1) Exodus 13:21-22

Monday, September 28, 2015

when beauty got in the way

The Word for today:
1 Kings 6:1 -- 7:12
[The book of Hebrews in the New Testament develops the rich spiritual significance of the tabernacle's design and furnishings. Why does Hebrews use the simple, portable tabernacle to illustrate these truths when it could have used the ornate Temple? We begin to answer that question today, and will continue our answer tomorrow.]
God proposed the Tabernacle. Man proposed the Temple.
The Tabernacle was simple. The Temple was ornate and complex.
There was nothing wrong with the Temple. It was good. But God's initial idea--the Tabernacle--was great.
The purpose, for both the Temple and the Tabernacle, was to illustrate that man's access to God was through sacrifice--ultimately the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But the very splendor of the Temple focused attention on itself. The wonderful truths it was meant to convey got lost amidst its ornate and breath-taking decor. Its own beauty hindered its purpose.
The Tabernacle, though exquisitely fashioned by Spirit-filled craftsmen, did not draw attention to itself. It showed us the way to God.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

leave no stone unturned

The Word for today: 1 Kings 5

mark these:
 1 Kings 5:17--
Costly, precious stones were hewn and set in place for the foundation of the temple.

1 Peter 2:6--
Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."

The Bible is sublime, sophisticated literature. Every poetic technique is employed to convey the character of God and his work of salvation.

So much of the Bible, so much about God, cannot be understood unless we enter into this poetic dimension.

But don't think of "poetry" as that smarmy, banal, insipid "roses are red violets are blue" stuff. Yuck! Biblical poetry conveys the power, majesty, bravery, humility, humor and love of Jesus.

Biblical poetry uses metaphor to convey God--who is spirit (1)--in concrete, physical terms that we can begin to understand. ("Metaphor" is when we describe one thing in terms of another.)

One of the metaphors the Bible uses to help us understand Jesus is "rock" or "stone." Throughout your Bible you will see Jesus described in this way.

The rock in the wilderness from which water gushed forth is Jesus. Says who? The Bible says so, in 1 Corinthians 10:4:
They all drank from the miraculous rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.

Why describe Jesus as a rock? What's a rock like? I leave that to you. Think about it; turn it over in your mind.

In our reading today, costly and precious stone is used for the foundation of the temple (2). That was real stone, but it also is a metaphor for Jesus, who is the foundation of our faith and salvation:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1Co 3:11)

We're also told that he's the stone the builders rejected, which became the cornerstone (3).

He's the Rock of our salvation! (4)

There are hundreds of metaphors, besides rock and stone, which the Bible uses to describe Jesus. Be on the lookout for them whenever you read your Bible. Leave no "stone" unturned.

(1) John 4:24; (2) 1 Kings 5:17; (3) 1 Peter 2:7; (4) Psalm 95:1

Saturday, September 26, 2015


The Word for today:
1 Kings 3 & 4
mark this: 1 Kings 3:5
If only God would promise to grant us wisdom, like he promised Solomon!
Well, he has:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (1)
So, go ahead, pray for wisdom. But before you do, prepare your prayer by contrasting Solomon with Jesus.
Solomon prayed for wisdom, and God commends him, because he could have prayed for riches, like many of us would if we were given Solomon's choices.
But what kind of wisdom did he pray for? He prayed for political wisdom. He wanted the ability to be a statesman. He wanted to know how to judge and rule over Israel and make great national decisions. He prayed for wisdom concerning his own kingdom.
He did not pray to fulfill his role in God's Kingdom. He did not pray for spiritual discernment. You can sense this lack of a spiritual dimension in Ecclesiastes. As practical wisdom for this life, Ecclesiastes is invaluable--and is rightfully included in scripture, because God is practical and wants us to maneuver successfully through the circumstances we face today. It is practical wisdom of the highest order, but it will not begin to convey anyone to the cross.
On the other hand, Jesus tells us to--
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (2) .
Jesus tells us to pray--
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (3)
Now, turn again to James 1:5:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
So ask--but be like Jesus and pray a bigger prayer. Pray for all-encompassing wisdom, Kingdom of God wisdom, spiritual wisdom.
Don't ask for just a sliver of wisdom, when you can ask for the whole pie. He wants you to have it all.
(1) James 1:5; (2) Matthew 6:33; (3) Matthew 6:10

Friday, September 25, 2015

the contender

The Word for today:
1 Kings 2
David came of age in the meadows and mountains, where he'd killed a bear and a lion in defense of his sheep. He'd been a fugitive, hunted by Saul and forced to hide in the caves and the desolate hills. As a man of war, his bravery and exploits were legendary in Israel.
But Solomon grew up in the royal palace, in soft circumstances, a child of privilege and preferential treatment. Jesus implied as much when he mentioned the florid splendor of the soft clothing worn by those in kings' palaces (1). And David found it necessary to urge Solomon to act like a man (2).
Solomon means "peace," and for a while peace and achievement and splendor marked his reign. But it was peace and prosperity won by another, by his father. He'd had it handed to him.
Jesus has handed us peace that surpasses understanding (3). We are rich, blessed with all spiritual blessings (4). But don't languish in your lavish inheritance like Solomon did, ending up with only the tarnished crown of a crumbling kingdom to give his son.
Jesus worked in the hot Galilean sun with heavy hammers, stone, boards, and beams. His hands were calloused, his shoulders strong. Upon leaving his home to wield the sword of the Spirit against all the power that spiritual darkness could bring to bear, he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he fasted and was tested. He gathered about him a band of simple, rugged men--commercial fisherman and tax collectors. They lived in the fields, with no place to lay their heads, until the Spirit impelled him to Jerusalem, there to carry the heavy wooden beams with which he built his Father's house.
I came late to this battle. I was never a young man in the faith. But to those of you who are, will you listen very carefully. What I'm about to say will cost you, it will exact its price. But the commendation of Jesus Christ awaits you, if you will...
Learn to fight; to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (5). Wield it powerfully in defense of the faith and in defense of the faithful.
Live sparely, training to run the race of faith (6).
Run to win (7). Finish the course that Solomon could not.
Our churches do not lack for mild-mannered Christians. What's needed are those who will earnestly contend for the faith (8). Be stalwart; a rock, a contender--by the Spirit that was in David; by the Jesus in you.

(1) Matthew 11:8 and Luke 12:27; (2)1 Kings 2:2; (3) Philippians 4:7; (4) Ephesians 1:3;(5) Ephesians 6:17; (6) 2 Timothy 4:7; (7) 1 Corinthians 9:23-27; (8) Jude 1:3

Thursday, September 24, 2015

6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

The Word for today:
1 Kings 1
We don't know what to make of Solomon, or what became of him.
Song of Solomon is sublime. Proverbs is wise. Ecclesiastes shows the man who wrote Proverbs and Song of Solomon as he unravels.
Things just seemed to preoccupy his heart. Then those preoccupations moved God from the center off to the side.
I like Solomon. I don't feel the kinship with him that I do with David, but I understand how a man, close to God, could one day wake up a rank idolater, given to indulgences, passions, preoccupations, and possessiveness of every kind. It's really a short step from here to there. For each of us, sin crouches at the door (Genesis 4:7).
We are all so close to letting side issues become central in our hearts. Solomon let sin build upon sin until God was crowded out of his heart. As far as we know, he didn't turn back.
Sad to say, but some Bible characters are examples in reverse. They teach us what not to be.
Bible expositors tell us that the Penitential Psalms are these:
6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.
The fundamental difference between David and Solomon are those 7 Psalms.
Get to know Solomon as we go through the Bible. Get to know him in 1 Kings, in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Get to know what made him tick, and get to know what caused him to come unglued.
Turn to scripture's greatest cry of repentance, Psalm 51. Write these numbers at the top of that page: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. Make David's pattern of repentance a pattern of your life as well.
Repentance turns the unbeliever to the cross, where he is born again, a new creation in Christ. Repentance turns the believer back to the cross, to the wellspring of his new life, to remind him what--and more importantly Whom--his new life is made of.
6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

it had to be you

The Word for today:
Psalm 72
mark this: Psalm 72:12-15
I teach year-long Bible classes. People kid me because I always name my classes. But I think long and carefully about the name for each new class. Each year the content varies, but the syllabus--see Luke 24:27-- is always the same: that the entire purpose of scripture's every word is the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1).
Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the process occurs when Christ, in the flesh, is at long last revealed; when the towering prophet, John the Baptist, points to Jesus, saying,
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
So this year we called our class "Behold." Then Shelley came up with a simple logo that we use for our class notebooks, website, and promotional materials:
It's the perfect visual for the process of elimination which the Bible uses to reveal the Messiah to Israel. The field is narrowed and narrowed and narrowed until finally--Behold!--there can be only one.
The scriptures, through name & genealogy, through prophecy and covenant and character and even curse, perform this ongoing process of elimination. The process leaves only one person who is qualified to be the Messiah/Christ. [Christ and Messiah are the same word in the Greek and Hebrew languages, respectively. "Christ," then, is not a name like "Smith" or "Jones." "Christ" is a title, like "King." It is helpful to refer, as the Bible often does, to "Christ Jesus," for that gives the proper relationship between his title, Christ, and his name, Jesus. It is even more helpful to refer to him as "Messiah Jesus." Referring to him in that way gives us a handle on the unique significance of his title and his name.]
The first verse of the New Testament is a list of names. To the disciplined and systematic Bible student there is nothing more thrilling than this--
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham
--because that line is the summation of the entire point of the Old Testament!
A name doesn't tell who I am as much as it tells who I am not. I am Franklyn Pfeil. Knowing that, you still don't know exactly who I am, because I can probably google a few more of 'me' (perish the thought!) But you know from my name that of the world's 7 billion people, there are very close to 7 billion that I am not! So, it's not what's in a name--it's what's not in a name.
Jesus called Himself Son of Man. In fact, it was his favorite self-reference. The title has bottomless depths of meaning. One thing it signifies is that he is in line to fulfill the "seed of the woman" prophecy in Genesis 3:15.
So who does that name eliminate? Couldn't "seed of the woman" or "Son of Man" be any person? Certainly, but "Son of Man" is the biggest eliminator of all--because it meant that the Messiah would be a human being, eliminating countless gazillions of angels and other spiritual entities.
He had to be a Son of Abraham, eliminating a significant percentage of the world's peoples (Gen. 18:18).
Of Abraham's sons, he had to come through Isaac, not Ishmael. So another great chunk of humanity is out of the picture.
Of Isaac's sons, he had to come through Jacob, not Esau.
Jacob was also called "Israel." "Israel," seen genealogically, is the small pool of people where Messiah could come from. That's all Israel is. Thus, with just a few names, we have gone from the nearly infinite number of possibilities in the universe to just a relative few--from a nation which was soon to be enslaved in Egypt.
And of the twelve tribes of Israel, Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). The concentric circles are getting smaller. The target is coming into view.
Of Judah's descendants, he would come through David (2 Sam .7). While Jesus' favorite self-reference, as mentioned, was "Son of Man," the people--the man and woman on the street--referred to Messiah as "Son of David." It was Son of David that the multitudes were looking for (Matthew 12:23; 21:9).
Even amongst David's sons there was further elimination: he would not come through the line of Solomon, because of a curse on that branch of the family (see Jeremiah 22:30).
He would be born in a little town named Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
He would be born a designated number of years following the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (see Daniel 9)--which had been destroyed at the time of Israel's exile to Babylon.
Furthermore, he would calm the seas and heal the sick. (Isaiah, Psalms, etc.) [Please note that some of today's references are not exacting, because there are just so many of them! So when I say "Isaiah" or "Moses" or "Psalms" as a reference, that's the point!--the Bible is shot through with these references.]
He would offer himself as a sacrifice, paying the wages of sin not his own. (See Isaiah 53 and all of Leviticus and all of the Mosaic system of sacrifice). He would die by a means of death unknown at the time. Capital punishment in Israel was by stoning. They didn't have a name for whatever was going on in Psalm 22, but it was not stoning. It remained for the nation of Rome (not yet in existence at the time of the writing of Psalm 22) to invent what we now call crucifixion.
Himself without sin, death had no claim on him. So, three days later, he was alive again. (Psalm 16, Psalm 72:15, Hosea 6:2, Psalm 22:22, Jonah, the entire Old Testament...)
The Bible so obviously, so meticulously, so systematically whittles it down to just one: Jesus, of Nazareth of Galilee, circa 0 to 33 A.D.
Scripture placed a target on his back. The targeted one then carried his cross to Golgotha-- ground zero of the universe, of creation, time, space, and eternity; where the heart of the heart of God was revealed.
We don't know his birthday. We celebrate Christmas, but the Bible gives us no real indication of even the month of his birth.
What we do know is his deathday. The Lamb of God had to be offered on Passover. The Passover prophecy tell us precisely which day the great Messiah would suffer for our sins. But it tells us much more: it tells us there are 364 days when Messiah would not die, could not die.
Through covenant and genealogy, God boiled it down to a handful of people. Through prophecy, he boiled it down to a scant few years, a sliver in time. Through the system of sacrificial offerings, he boiled it down to 1/365th of the year. And then, through prophecy and the system of feasts, he said that the man who fulfilled all of the above would also fulfill the ultimate identifier: he would rise from the dead.
Psalm 72 shows what conditions will prevail when Messiah rules the earth:
He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And He shall live.
See that last line? That's the ultimate identifier--and the ultimate eliminator.
Because after the Bible's process of elimination established the identity of the unique Lamb of God, the Lamb of God shouldered a cross which eliminated your death.
Let's not skip the genealogies, or the Levitical sacrificial offerings, or the calendar of feasts, the construction of the tabernacle, the histories of kings and exiles, the so-called (by man, not by God) 'minor prophets.'
They are pictures of the great Giver, who is the great Eliminator--Messiah Jesus.
For he gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Worse Than Wide Right

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today:
Psalm 72
Growing up in Western New York, I am very accustomed to failure and disappointment. First the Buffalo Braves (NBA) left, then we lost Bethlehem Steel (20, 000 jobs), then there was that failed attempt to bring a Major League Baseball team here. Next there was Wide Right, three more Superbowl losses, finally then the Sabres chipped in with No Goal! For some reason, we cannot build a second Peace Bridge to Canada, we cannot develop our harbor, we cannot get a Bass Pro to come to town. My goodness, it took us 11 years to demolish the Aud! As the old saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style."
Today's Psalm is dedicated to one of the biggest failures in all of Scripture. Apart from Judas Iscariot, I don't know of a more tragic figure in all of human history. Not only did he make a complete shipwreck of his life, it was the misuse of all his immense talents, skills, gifts and wisdom that brought about his own destruction.
This psalm is really a prayer for & by King Solomon, and what a prayer it is. He is asking God to give the king and his kingdom righteousness, justice, peace, prosperity, protection, and a long lasting legacy. These are all good things. These are the kinds of prayers that we would pray for our own nation.
But when you consider Solomon's life, this prayer turns into a lament for all that could have been. Solomon had everything going for him (see Ecclesiastes 1 & 2).
God met personally with Solomon, and gave him riches, honor, long life and a wise and discerning heart(1 Kings 3:1-14). But Solomon, even after a very promising start, ended up a failure, far from God and everything this psalm speaks about.
He went from a wise judge(1 King 3:27) to losing all judgment when it came to his allegiances (1 Kings 11:3-6)
He experienced unparalleled peace and prosperity in Israel, but underlying all of this, his actions were setting the stage for Jeroboam to plot revolt(1 Kings 11:26) and ultimately plunge his kingdom into civil war.
He established a worldwide legacy for his wisdom (1 Kings 10) and yet could not pass on any of that wisdom to his own son and successor Rehoboam, who was one of the biggest boneheads in all the Bible (see 1 Kings 12)
He wrote some of the most wise and beautiful writings in all of human history (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) and then proceeded to break all his wise sayings and make a mockery of love. (Having 700 wives and 300 concubines will do that to a man.)
What Solomon needed was not more money or power or wisdom. What Solomon needed was a Savior. And through Jesus, this same psalm turns into a promise made and kept. This psalm, like the rest of the entire Scripture, is Messianic- all about Jesus Christ. This psalm gives us hope, because it introduces the One King who's judgments are perfect, who is the Prince of Peace, who has redeemed us by His precious blood, who has been granted all authority in Heaven and Earth.
He alone cannot fail. Today, would you go to him with all your failure and all you mistakes, and ask that He make "all things new" (Rev. 21:5)

Monday, September 21, 2015

this is your song

The Word for today:
Psalms 70 & 71
I cry at Psalm 88.
I take courage in Psalm 23.
I avert my eyes from Psalm 22.
I share the shame in Psalm 51.
I thirst in Psalm 63.
Having entered Psalm 91, I am held in its sway, unwilling to leave it.
All of creation sings Psalm 103 in flawless unison, in harmony so perfect as to be one voice.
Psalm 119--all 176 verses--is a long list of my priority. That's right, my single priority.
Psalm 139 is too personal for me to share.
I have an old Gideon Bible, an old KJV. Its cover came off, so cover and pages are now joined by a rubber band. I get a kick out of it, because much of the Bible back then, ten years ago, was uncharted territory. I don't know where I was or what I was up to, but in big letters next to Psalm 71, it says this:
"I love Psalm 71."
That's it. No explanation, just gushing love.
I run every day, no matter the month of the year or my season in life. I know a lot of runners. Many of them run with MP3's. Many of them listen to a pre-set selection as they run. Out of 5000 songs, they pick a dozen--the same dozen every day--and when the set is over, so is that day's run.
There are 150 Psalms. Every one of them is somebody's favorite song.
Listen to all of them, but it's OK to play favorites. Play 'em again and again and again. Play 'em 'til you run out of time.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

the face of God, with a job to do

The Word for today:
Psalms 66 & 67
mark these:
Psalm 67:1-2 --
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
2 Corinthians 4:6 --
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
What is a face? Is it something to just look at? Or does it have a job to do? Scripture tells us that a face has work to do. A face is like a projector (1); it shows us what's going on inside.
God wears his heart on his sleeve, so to speak. He makes his heart plain to see. We see God's heart in Jesus.
When God was sad, Jesus cried (2). When God was angry, Jesus blistered the opposition, cleared their polluted temple, and told them just what they could do with their pious pretense.
When God was happy, Jesus was overjoyed (3).
Jesus is the express image of God (4). What does that mean? It means that Jesus expresses God so that we can understand Him:
God made his face to shine upon us,
so that his way may be known on earth,
his saving power among all nations
The "incarnation"--when God the Son was born a man at Bethlehem--was God's expression of himself in terms we could understand. What better way to express your heart than to give it a face? And what better way to express your Word? So the Word of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us (6). We couldn't understand God's Word until he put it in human terms--Jesus.
Deep inside everyone who trusts in Jesus lives God himself--God the Spirit. But the people in your neighborhood and at your school can't see God except when they see another incarnation--the body of Christ, which is the church (7)--which is made up of you and me.
So you and I--the church--are the only Jesus they can see. We are the face of God. As the face of God, we've got a job to do:
Let your light so shine, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (8).
(1) see 2 Corinthians 4:6 (above); (2) John 11:35; (3) Luke 10:21; (4) Hebrews 1:3; (5) see Psalm 67:1-2 (above); (6) John 1:14; (7) Colossians 1:24; (8) Matthew 5:16

Saturday, September 19, 2015

shine, Jesus, shine--and sparkle!

The Word for today:
Psalms 64 & 65
mark these:
Psalm 65:5-7
Matthew 8:26 --
O God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves.
"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.
Yesterday, in Psalm 63, and the day before in Psalm 62, we saw a God we could cling to. We got up close and personal.
How deeply loving God is! My Savior, my Forgiver, sometimes even--dare I say it--my Friend; ever and always the Love of my life. There are moments in the Psalms where it's just the two of us:
God alone is my hope, my rock, my salvation;
my fortress, my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge (from Psalm 62:5-7).
Then turn the page and God is no longer on the personal level, but on the universal level--as the Lord of all creation, as Master over its elements,
God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves (from Psalm 65:5-7; see Matthew 8:26).
Find him today on every level you can: is he your Savior? Then make sure he's the Lord of your life as well. Do you cling to him? Then make sure you revere him as well.
The miner takes an uncut diamond from the earth. The jeweler cuts it at angles in order to create various planes called facets. Each of these many facets, when the diamond on a ring moves ever so slighty, will catch and reflect the light, so that the gem doesn't just shine but sparkles.
Jesus shines in each of his innumerable facets.
He shines on a personal level, when it's just me and him--as my Savior, my Healer, the Love of my life, my Teacher, my Friend...
He shines on the universal level--as the Lord of Creation, the Mighty Warrior, the Prince of Peace...
But it's when we get to know him as all of these--and all of these at once--that Jesus doesn't just shine, he sparkles!

Friday, September 18, 2015

this time, fall in love

The Word for today:
Psalm 63
mark this: Psalm 63:8--
My soul follows hard after thee. (KJV)
I've got this blog to write today, because I promised a lot of people that I'd keep after it.
But what do you say about Psalm 63--about love such as this? It's slightly unsettling to be in the presence of the relationship, the desire, in these lines. I feel like a third wheel, even a wee bit creepy and voyeuristic.
David thirsts, faints, beholds, praises, blesses, overtly expresses, and meditates. He is satisfied, he is joyful, he is upheld by the right hand of God.
He clings, he lingers, he follows hard after God.
This is the man after God's own heart (1).
I return, in the course of a year, many times to Psalm 63, to get a preview of where my relationship with Jesus is heading. I am not there yet, but I'm after it, and I'm closer than I was yesterday.
But we must leave this love story now. There's a time to read love stories, and there's a time to live out a love story of your own.
Everything in the Bible, and everything in creation, in history, in space, in time and in timelessness--all of it leads to the cross of Jesus Christ. And the reason for that cross was to restore the loving relationship with God that we were meant for, the kind we see in Psalm 63.
So here's the shortest Bible course ever taught:
God's heart was broken in the Garden, it bled on the cross, and was whole again in Psalm 63.
The Bible is about the heart of God. You and I and David are just following hard after.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that there is a bit--a little bit--about you and me in Scripture:
before the cross, we'd fallen in sin. After the cross, we fell in love.
So fall in love, and keep on falling.
(1) 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Harp Hero

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Psalm 62
Another great Psalm written by David, but don't forget the musical arranger to this brilliant composition, one Jeduthun. Remember that the ascription (the stuff before the first verse in many Psalms)is just as inspired as the rest of the Bible. This fellow Jeduthun is easily skipped over by the casual reader, but he is in there for a reason.
Today, a very popular video game is called Guitar Hero. It has sold millions of units and allows people (mainly teenage boys) to think that they are skilled at guitar when really all they are is skilled at rapid button pressing. Jeduthun was the original Guitar Hero er, I mean, Harp Hero. Only he actually had real talent. He is the musical composer of at least 3 Psalms (39, 62 & 77) and most likely more, as he was one of the "directors of music" that are not mentioned by name 38 times in the Psalms.
From 1st Chronicles, we learn that he was also named Ethan (6:4). He was a chief musician for King David, in charge of the trumpets and cymbals (16:41-42). We also a seer/prophet who used a harp to proclaim the word of the Lord (25:1-3). That is quite the resume. Furthermore, if you look up 2nd Chronicles 5, you will find that amazing account of the dedication of Solomon's Temple when the LORD God filled the entire place with His glory. And right there in verses 12 & 13, there's our friend Jeduthun, leading the trumpets, cymbals and voices as they worship the Living God.
What a beautiful illustration for us. We too sing and make music for a King. He, like David, does all the writing- the words are His. But in His mercy He allows us to sing His song in our own unique tune and arrangement. Every Christian has the joy and duty of being a modern day Jeduthun- sing loudly for Him!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

pour out your heart

The Word for today:
Psalms 61 & 62
mark this: Psalm 62:8--
Trust in him at all times;
Pour out your hearts to him.
Prayer is a personal thing, so keep it that way. Prayer is the working out of your relationship with God, so don't let it devolve into something mechanistic or contrived.
You've got a heart, and God's got a heart big enough to encompass everything that crosses your mind or your path. So pour it all out. Francois Fenelon, a 17th century theologian and poet, wrote some of the best advice on prayer that I have ever heard:
Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself as to others.
If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration, just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.