Saturday, October 31, 2015

let the light speak for itself

The Word for today:
John 9
mark this: John 9:5 --
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
My Dad died 25 years ago.
It seemed to me that he was forever fixing something. He'd be fixing his car, his boat, the house, the house next door, or my bike. And when he did, I always had to tag along, carrying the toolbox.
He'd be underneath the car and a hand would stick out: "Six-inch Crescent," he'd say; or "Phillips, medium." So I'd find that tool in the box and place it in his hand.
Sometimes we'd be working in the cellar or the garage and he'd say, "Get out of my light." Then I'd move aside so he could see.
"Light" in the Bible is never self-generated. It comes from outside ourselves. It comes via God's Word. In fact, God speaks light:
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
Light is one of the Bible's master images. As a physical reality or a spiritual symbol, light is at the heart of such central biblical themes as creation, providence, judgment, redemption and sanctification.
There's a verse in the Bible which carries light from eternity past to eternity future--at the speed of light:
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
I'll see you tomorrow. I'm going to step aside now, and let the light speak for itself:
God created light. He lives in light:
Genesis 1:3-5
2 Corinthians 4:6
1 Timothy 6:15-16
Jesus Christ is the true light of the world:
2 Samuel 22:29
Psalm 18:28; Psalm 27:1
Isaiah 9:2
John 1:1-9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46
1 John 1:5-7
God's Word is a light for our lives:
Psalm 119:105; Psalm 119:129-131
As Christians, we are a light to the world. Our words and actions are to shine out God's truth to the world:
Isaiah 42:6
Matthew 5:14-16
Luke 8:16
Acts 13:47
Ephesians 5:8-11

Friday, October 30, 2015

before Abraham was, I AM

The Word for today:
John 8:30-59
mark this: John 8:57-58 --
Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"
Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
God's name--"I AM"--takes no object, because the completion lies in itself.
Let's say I come up to you and say, "I am." You'll be waiting for the rest of the phrase, because when I say, "I am," it begs the question: You are what?
But God is the self-existent one, complete in himself.
If the grammatical isn't dramatic for you--if that discussion of the objective and subjective doesn't grab you, that's alright. We'll move on.
God has a lot of names in the Bible, but his most complete, all-encompassing name--which Jesus evokes in John 8:58--is spelled 'YHWH' in the Hebrew language. (The Hebrews left out vowels in order to save space and parchment, so exactly what the vowels were has been lost to us.)
The name "I AM" is derived from the Hebrew verb 'hayah,' which means "to be." It was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, when God appeared in the burning bush. Notice that 'hayah' is the same, whether it's read forward or backward. The future and the past are undifferentiated in the "Am."
Q. Wow! That is out there! But I've never seen "YHWH" in my Bible.
A. That's because the Jews would not write it or say it, for fear of breaking the third commandment. So they wrote it in a form called the tetragrammaton: "YHWH." It is rendered as "LORD" in most English Bibles, in all capitals.
Q. This is too much to remember.
A. It is. The name of God is a vast subject. What you should remember going forward are two things:
1. In John 8:58, Jesus claims to be God. He states his claim in the clearest terms possible, the highest terms that language affords--invoking the very name of God. There were no words available to him by which he could state his claim any more forcefully or certainly. The Pharisees clearly understood Jesus' statement to be a declaration of His deity. They took up stones to kill Him, because they considered it blasphemy to even say YHWH, let alone claim to be YHWH.
By using the present tense "I Am" in speaking of existence more than 2000 years earlier--before Abraham--he is claiming a transcendence over time that could only be true of God.
2. Remember the burning bush! God revealed his name --"I AM" / "Jehovah" / "YHWH" / "LORD"--when he appeared as a burning bush. Exodus 3:2 tells us the bush was burning but it was not consumed.
Know your elements: fire is an image of judgment in scripture. This bush, under judgment yet remaining alive, is one of the most complete pictures of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ in all of scripture.
The Bible student who can link "I AM" to the burning bush, and the burning bush to the cross, is beginning to hear the "Symphony of Scripture!"

Thursday, October 29, 2015

just you and Jesus and the rocks

The Word for today:
John 7:53 to 8:29
mark this: John 8:9 --
But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
In chapter 8 of the book of John a woman’s sin catches up to her. I recall the day my sin caught up to me. Maybe your sin hasn’t caught you yet, but it’s gaining.
The punishment to be administered was death.
Jesus strode forward, alone, to face down the mob. He positioned himself between the woman and her accusers. Stooping down, he wrote on the ground. An old Pharisee relaxed his grip on the rock he held.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The rock fell from the old Pharisee’s hand. Head down, he walked away.
Jesus looked up. His eyes met the eyes of each of the remaining accusers. Then he wrote some more...
When Jesus Christ wrote in the sand -— his only recorded instance of writing -- it was very likely a re-enactment of the finger of God upon the tablets of the law (1), reminding the accusers of their own adultery. Some have even speculated upon the damning specificity of the law in this regard, and have imagined what Jesus wrote were names in the sand; names like "Sue from Beersheba, Beth in Jericho, Barb from Bethlehem, Jane from Bethany…"
When he had finished writing, he stood up. There remained only Jesus, the woman, and the hundreds of rocks.
That's a picture of the cross. At the cross, Jesus will stand between death and the sinner, to shield her from the rocks.
If the story of the cross ever gets away from you, return to John chapter 8. And stay there for a minute or two,
just you and Jesus and the rocks.
(1) see Exodus 31:18

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

a Pharisee, born again

The Word for today:
John 7:25-52
Pharisees are the bad guys of the New Testament.
They were legalists who piled extra traditions on top of God's laws. They cared more about Sabbath law than about the people whom the Sabbath laws were supposed to benefit. When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees from that time forth sought to have Jesus put to death.
Jesus gave an illustration of a Pharisee's proud prayer and the humble prayer of a "low-life" tax collector--and said the tax collector, not the Pharisee, would be justified in God's eyes. Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs, full of dead men's bones (1).
'Pharisee' in our day has come to mean a person who cares more about rules than about people; a person who is more intent on academic knowledge of the Bible than real-world application of biblical principles.
I've got a little bit of Pharisee in me. Maybe you do, too. Paul, the writer of most of the epistles, was a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee (2). He was actively trying to shake free of the influence.
In the gospel of John, we briefly meet another Pharisee. We meet him in chapters 3, 7, and 19. His name is Nicodemus.
He is a polished, accomplished, and honored spiritual leader. He is a renowned teacher of Israel, on a national scale. But Jesus has to walk him, by the hand, through the basic plan of salvation in chapter three: You must be born again (3).
We don't think Nicodemus came to faith that night in chapter 3. And when we meet him here in chapter 7, we still don't think he's born again. But as he pleads with his fellow Pharisees for fairness in their judgment of Jesus, there's a hint that the seed Jesus planted in chapter three is alive and germinating.
When we meet him again in chapter 19, the one who must be born again is born again! The light broke through (see John 19:39) for Nicodemus where it breaks through for all of us who are born again--at the cross of Jesus Christ.
When you tell a person about Jesus, don't get tangled up in philosophy, or religion, or evolution, or existentialism. Turn discussions and debates to the cross--how he died to save us; and that he rose again and wants to save everyone, to make their broken lives brand new.
When you tell people about Jesus, remember Nicodemus. He was a Bible expert; he lived a moral life; he was highly educated and respected. He'd even met Jesus Christ face to face.
But only the cross could change his mind.
(1) Matthew 23:27; (2) Acts 23:6; (3) John 3:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

like cuddling up to the sun

The Word for today:  John 7:1-24
mark this: John 7:7 --
The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.
How could anybody hate Jesus?
The way Jesus is presented in our culture and even in many of our evangelical "Bible-based" churches would certainly make you wonder.
The single reason for Bible reading and study is to get to know God. All else--service, love, prayer, self-transformation, world transformation--springs from our relationship with God.
The Bible, through its revelation of Jesus Christ, has the only complete picture of God:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (1)
"In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." What does that mean? It means that the language God speaks is "Jesus." Let me say it again: the language God speaks is "Jesus." Jesus is the way God communicates Himself to us. That's why Jesus is called the Word of God.
We speak English. We can't understand a person speaking Chinese. And we can't understand God unless we are fluent in "Jesus."
We've been told that Jesus is the Light of the world. Isn't that sweet. The way that's presented to us 99% of the time, all we want to do is cuddle up to Him.
But here's the flip side of the Light of the world:
The world hates Christ because he is the Light of the world, revealing sin.
Cuddling up to that Light would be like cuddling up to the sun.
Hollywood won't present that Light. Most of our churches won't present that Light. They depict the Light as a candle, maybe a flashlight. No one ever got seriously burned by a candle or a flashlight. And no one was ever saved by one of them, either.
Many of you, in order to learn the complete language of God, will have to break free of the limitations imposed by your culture, your family, your church, and your century.
Learn to speak in real, biblical "Jesus." Think in "Jesus," pray in "Jesus." But when you do, beware--because then the world won't like you either:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2)
So, how could anybody hate Jesus? Because he is the Light of the world.
(1) Hebrews 1:1-3; (2) 2 Timothy 3:12

Monday, October 26, 2015

the crowds start to dwindle

The Word for today:
John 6:41-71
mark this: John 6:66 --
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
The world loves Jesus the great philosopher and teacher. They love Jesus the moral genius. They might even believe that a man so connected with God could perform the miracles Jesus performed.
But the world will not follow Jesus to the cross.
In today's passage of scripture, Jesus explains that without receiving his sacrifice at the cross--graphically portrayed as eating his flesh and drinking his blood--we are spiritually dead, separated from God:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
Jesus knew that many in the crowds did not believe in him as Messiah and Son of God. These false disciples followed the popular Jesus. They loved his personality. They were in awe of his miracles. But His teaching concerning the cross offended:
So from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
Our pride is offended by the cross (1)--by the notion that we can't make it without God, without His sacrifice on the cross. In our pride, we want to believe that we can live independently of God. Jesus said we can't, and the crowds started to dwindle.
If you have never gone to the cross of Jesus Christ, then you can do one of two things right now:
You can walk away. Many have.
Or you can place your sins in a big bundle, go to the cross of Jesus Christ, and exchange your bundle for the righteousness of God (2).
I don't know what's in your bundle. It's none of my business. I just know that if you choose to walk away and face judgment on your own, you will pay the wages of sin, which is death (3). But should you choose to take your sins to the cross, Jesus Christ will pay the wages of sin for you.
If we've never met, I hope to see you at the cross. I'll be the one with just about the biggest bundle there.
(1) Galatians 5:11; (2) 2 Corinthians 5:21; (3) Romans 6:23; (4) Deuteronomy 30:19

Sunday, October 25, 2015


The Word for today:
John 6:22-40
John 6:28-29
Some Bible verses are so crucial that we should pause there before going on. They should be underlined, highlighted, memorized, and meditated upon.
The Psalms contain a mysterious word: 'selah.' (It is pronounced "see-lah," with the stress on the first syllable.)
No one is exactly sure what it meant, but our best guess is that it meant 'stop, look, and listen.' It followed a thought which demanded reflection. So 'selah' signaled that the musicians were to play an instrumental interlude with no singing, in order to let the idea and emotion sink in.
One such Bible passage is before us today: John 6:28-29.
Faith? Works?
If ever you get confused about the fundamentals of your New Testament, go to John 6:28-29:
Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
You will hear a lot of discussion in the Bible about faith and works. Are we saved by our faith or by our works? The answer is here. We are saved by our faith in the work of Jesus Christ--who fulfilled the law by living a sinless life, then paid the penalty our sins deserve when he died on the cross. When he rose from the dead, it was proof that He'd done it! He'd defeated death by his sinless sacrifice.
We are saved by our faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Selah.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

God's Recycling Plan

(by Pastor Joe)
John 6:12
Chapter six is not only a pivotal passage in the Gospel of John, it is one of my personal favorites. And in these first dozen verses or so we get a glimpse of God's own recycling plan. The verse that leaps out to me is the twelfth and particularly the sentence: "Let nothing be wasted." After an awesome miracle where 10,000+ were fed, this command comes directly from Jesus. It seems a bit odd at first, until we look at it in the bigger scheme.
Jesus is not giving advice on how to preserve food in pre- Tupperware times. These baskets were not the ancient equivalent of doggy bags. Jesus is sharing a key lesson about how He operates. He is a recycler.
The word that is translated as "be wasted" is the exact same word we find in a much more famous verse- John 3:16. " For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not PERISH but have eternal life." God's desire is that nothing and no one perish, be lost, be wasted, be destroyed. (See 2 Peter 2 :9)
This verse here is a small reminder that all of the broken, unwanted, left over people are valued by God. None are to be left behind. It also shows us that God can use and redeem all of the broken, unwanted, left over parts of our lives for His glory. He is the God who counts our tears (Psalm 56:8). He can redeem and recycle even the most painful mistakes and wounds of our lives because nothing is wasted with God.

Friday, October 23, 2015

the Bible Jesus read

The Word for today:
John 5:30-47
mark this: John 5:39 --
You study the Scriptures, because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And these very Scriptures speak about me!
Sometimes, an idea can be so obvious that it escapes our notice. We're going to look at something like that today. Here goes:
Jesus never read the New Testament.
Paul never read the New Testament.
Peter never read the New Testament.
John never read the New Testament.
Luke never read the New Testament.
Earth-shattering information, right? Actually, it is.
Today, in John 5:39, Jesus tells the Pharisees--
You study the Scriptures, because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And these very Scriptures speak about me!
Then Jesus goes on to say--
If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?
In the gospel of Luke, after Jesus' resurrection, he told his followers that--
Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled (1).
(At that time, the phrase "Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms" meant "all of scripture.")
The clearest, most concise expression of the gospel in the Bible was written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
He was buried;
He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
It is important to understand that, for Paul, "according to the Scriptures" meant 'in accordance with the Old Testament'-- because there was no New Testament when Paul wrote those words.
Paul also tells us that all the prophets testify about Jesus. (2)
John, in his gospel, wrote that when Philip found Nathanael, he told him, "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth." (3)
Peter wrote that the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, telling in advance about the sufferings of Christ and about the glory that would follow (4).
Here's how the Bible is set up:
The Old Testament is made up of "pictures" of Jesus--so people would recognize Him when, one day, he'd be coming down the road.
In the New Testament the "pictures" come to life, the Word is made flesh--Jesus!
So look for Jesus in Genesis; then look for Jesus in Joshua, Judges, Job, Jeremiah, Joel, and Jonah.
That's the best approach to Bible study--according to Jesus, Paul, Peter, Luke, and John.
(1) Luke 24:44; (2) Acts 10:43; (3) John 1:45; (4) 1 Peter 1:11

Thursday, October 22, 2015

skip the seminar; hang out at the well

The Word for today:
John 4:27-54
What was Jesus like? I mean, if you happened to meet him, what was he like?
Chapter four gives us a glimpse.
Pretend you're the woman at the well in Samaria.
A man approaches. He asks for a drink. He strikes up a conversation.
This is nothing out of the ordinary today, but it was revolutionary on the day Jesus met her. A Middle Eastern man would never speak to a woman in public. And no Jew would converse with any "half-breed" Samaritan. And no man of God would ever speak to a person of disreputable reputation. But Jesus, speaking to the woman at the well, did all three.
And he was nice. But he wasn't playing nice. He listed her sins. He told her she didn't have a clue about spiritual matters.
And he said crazy things about living water. But he wasn't crazy. Not at all.
He even told her that he was unique in all the world. She'd no doubt heard that line before. He was what she'd been waiting for. She'd heard that one, too. But he was humble, even simple, as he said such grand things.
Jesus was able to stay right on an edge between things that seem contradictory.
He revered God, while holding established religion in contempt.
Authority, bureaucracy, status quo, tradition, conventional thinking, and established institutions were under threat when Jesus came to town. Yet he was respectful, even gentle. Children and puppies knew they were safe, while money changers fled the scene.
When he fed 15,000 people, food materialized as he thought about it. But on a personal level, he knew hunger, thirst, and weariness.
I should be teaching you all about Jesus the evangelist, who converts the two most opposite people in the world--Nicodemus, the renowned religious expert in chapter 3; and the notorious woman at the well in chapter 4.
They held a seminar once at a neighboring church, something about a thorough analysis of the evangelistic techniques of Jesus as demonstrated in John chapters 3 and 4. That kind of thing makes me so sad.
Because it's the inexpressible about Jesus, the things between the lines--his unconquerable bravery, his uncontainable joy, his broken heart--that save and sustain us.
Skip the seminar and go to the well, just you and Jesus.
You'll find that he's funny, sometimes. He can be trusted, always. He keeps a secret, forever. He stores your tears, each one, in a bottle (1). Then he fills your cup with living water.
(1) Psalm 56:8

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

the reunion of heart and head

The Word for today:
John 3:22-36
Not long ago, I went to the monthly men's breakfast at a nearby church. The pastor spoke about the purpose of the Word of God:
"The purpose of reading the Bible is not information, but transformation."
When we read, he said, "We should ask ourselves--
What is this saying?
What does this mean?
How does this apply to me today?"
I tend to be an academic head. I can be three cross-references over that-a-way before I even know it. Certainly there is nothing but right with mining deeply for the treasures of God's Word. But, from one to another, let me say to all you academic heads out there--
How does this apply to us today?
When I got home from the men's breakfast, I turned on the computer to write tomorrow's Stand in the Rain blog. I looked at the reading schedule for the day: John 3:22-36. I turned to the bookshelf beside me and reached for my big, trusty New American Standard Bible, center-column-referenced. At verse 23: Now John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim..., I was already in the back of the Bible, in the maps, looking for Aenon near Salim.
God made the head and the heart. They are to be seamless, of a single piece. Emotional so-called Christianity turns my stomach, if it is not accompanied by a deep and systematic study of God's precious Word. I know no one--no not one--who neglects systematic Bible study and knows Jesus well.
And I know no one--no not one--who studies scripture but disdains to practice it, who knows Jesus well. In fact, the Bible shows us a group of such men: the Pharisees. Enough said.
The trick is not to stop being emotional. Be ever more emotional! But make sure you are using your head as well as your heart.
The trick is not to stop being academic. Be ever more academic! But make sure you are using your heart as well.
So, with the breakfast's lesson still sounding in my ears, I placed my heavily referenced Bible back on the shelf. I reached for a little pocket Testament. There'd be no cross references in there.
Listening for direction, I heard John the Baptist say, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." So I purposed in my heart to live that way today.
Then I closed my little Testament and reached for my Bible atlas. I found where Aenon near Salim was.
Then I closed my atlas and began to write this blog, my heart now reunited with my head.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

some verses should get more TV time

The Word for today:
John 2:23 -- 3:21
John 3:16 is the Bible's most famous verse. In fact, people who don't know the words of John 3:16 know the reference: "John 3:16," seen in stadiums and arenas, on TV screens all over the place. Most people, at the very least, have the vague sense that it's biblical.
But let's forget John 3:16 for a while in order to concentrate on its context, the verses surrounding it which frame its meaning.
In 3:14-15 we hear Jesus the Teacher, again using pictures from the Old Testament -- as he did in chapter one -- to demonstrate the way to salvation:
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
Jesus is referring to Numbers 21:8-9, when God told Moses to fasten a bronze serpent to a pole--and that the people should look to it, in order to escape a plague.
Q. But isn't a snake a symbol of evil?
A. Yes.
Q. So we look at a symbol of evil and we are saved?
A. No. We are looking at a picture of Jesus on the cross.
Q. I'm confused. Jesus isn't evil!
A. Listen very carefully to 2 Corinthians 5:21:
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Jesus on the pole (the cross) became sin for us. So the snake in Numbers 21 is a picture of the exchange which saved my soul. He became my sin and I became his righteousness.
Q. That's wild!
A. That's the plan. Jesus--see 3:16--is God's plan. Nothing else would do.
Let's move to John 3:17 for further context:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Q. So the Bible says Jesus will not condemn!
A. It certainly does. But carefully note the next verse in your Bible:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Q. 'Condemned already'?
A. Right. And Jesus won't waste words condemning what is already condemned. Therefore, a person does not have to reject Jesus Christ to be lost. He is lost already, because he is a sinner.
Q. So John 3:14-18 shows that God condemned Himself so we could be with him.
A. Not only with him, but like him.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Do I Even Know You?

(by Pastor Joe)
John 2:24-25
"But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man."
Have you ever thought that you have a pretty good idea about who someone was, only to find out that you really had no idea. It is a rather disconcerting feeling. In the past year or so I have felt utterly bewildered at least three times as people who I had known to be one way, revealed that they were, in reality, much different, and not always in a good way.
The truth is that deep down inside of every one of us there is a secret place that the rest of the world does not see. Often we don't even show it to our closest friends and family members. Sometimes we can even fool ourselves.
This verse in John reminds me of another classic- Jeremiah 17:9:
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"
Who can indeed? Jesus Christ walked and talked and ministered in a world full of double talk and self-deception, a world of flattery and false motives, a world where the same people could cry "Hosanna" one day and "Crucify!" the next. The calendar has changed since then, but the basic nature of man, deceiving one another and being deceived, remains. This verse, among others, shows how Jesus rejected operating along those lines. His life and his message would never be reduced to manipulation or propaganda. He would never be subject to any man's agenda- only that of His Heavenly Father's.
But not only does he know what is in us, he never lets that very damning information stop him from loving us anyways. That is what is different about Jesus Christ. He knows all and loves in spite of it. He knows the deepest and darkest parts of every human soul. He knows what we won't share with others. What we don't even admit to ourselves. He knows.
He is the only one who put his command to love his enemies (Matthew 5:44) into action before they even were enemies. He loved Peter despite the fact that he knew Peter would deny him. He loved Judas, even thought he knew the greed and betrayal inside of Judas' heart would lead to his crucifixion. He "demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

washwater into wine

The Word for today:
John 2:1-22
mark this: John 2:6-11 --
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons...
...This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
One of the major prophecies concerning Jesus is from Genesis 49:10:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
(The scepter was a rod denoting sovereign authority. This prophecy tells us that the ultimate King must come from the tribe of Judah.)
And the prophecy continues into the next verse, Genesis 49:11:
Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey's colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
Some of the statements in the Bible require an understanding of the customs at the time they were written. So let's look at Genesis 49:11 in light of the customs of the day.
A donkey would never be tied to a grapevine, because there would soon be no grapes left! But the donkey in this prophecy is tied to the choicest vine. What a waste of the finest grapes.
And not only that, but this king to come through the line of Judah will do another unheard-of thing: he would wash his clothes in wine!
What is going on with all this waste?
What's going on isn't waste. It is a description of a new day, a day of God's superabundant provision--a day when the choicest grapes will be so common that we'll tie the donkey to the vine; a day when wine will be as common as washwater.
But was there ever a day when wine was as washwater?
The day arrived in John chapter 2, when Jesus turned 6 casks--each holding 20 to 30 gallons of washwater--into the choicest wine.
The disciples knew what they were seeing. They knew its prophetic significance. It was an unmistakable pronouncement to His disciples that here was the promised King.
God's superabundant provision during His first coming would be the blood of the Son of God, symbolized from Melchizedek to the Lord's Supper by wine. It would wash our sins away.
At Jesus' Second Coming--during the Millennial reign yet to come--God's superabundance will be literally fulfilled, when the choicest wine will be as common as washwater.
Jesus' orchestration of His first miracle drew from the past, projected into the future, and centered on the cross--while harmonizing the poetic, prophetic, literal, symbolic, and redemptive notes of scripture.
An engagement gift to His Bride, it is the poetry of blood and wine, a love song so exquisite that it can only be divine.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

we are climbing Jacob's Ladder

The Word for today:
John 1:35-51
mark these:
John 1:51 --
"I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Genesis 28:12 --
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!
The Bible student should be on the lookout for all the pictures of Jesus that are in the Bible!
No, these aren't pictures of his face--no one knows what he looked like, because God hasn't shown us that.
But pictures of his heart, his work, his character, his life, his cross, his death, his resurrection, his kingdom--pictures of these are strewn throughout your Bible.
Yesterday, when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and exclaimed, Behold, the Lamb of God (1), he was teaching us that the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament was but a picture of Jesus, who would take our sins upon himself, dying in our place.
Today, Jesus points to the well-known Old Testament story about Jacob's ladder (2). In Genesis we are told that Jacob dreamed of a ladder which stretched from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it.
Jesus teaches us in John 1:51 that he is Jacob's ladder. He is the connection between man and God; the commerce between heaven and earth will be upon him. The transaction at the cross, and the ongoing transaction in prayer are through him. He is the covenant; he's where the deal goes down.
Here in John chapter 1 we hear from two great Bible teachers, Jesus and John the Baptist.  Both of them use the pictures God provides in the Old Testament to show us the Bible's deepest truths.
When we begin to see that the Lamb is Jesus, that Jacob's Ladder is Jesus, that the Old Testament is one picture of Jesus after another -- then we are climbing higher, higher.
(1) John 1:29; (2) John 1:51, referring to Genesis 28:12.

Friday, October 16, 2015

at the door to the cross

The Word for today:
John 1:19-34
mark this: John 1:29 --
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29 is the crucial point at which major themes of the Old Testament reach their fulfillment. Each of these themes pointed to the Messiah who would come to deliver the people. In this verse, John the Baptist ecstatically exclaims, "Look! He's here!"
The prophet in the Old Testament served two major functions:
He pronounced judgment on the people's sins.
He pointed to a chosen servant of God who would deliver the people.
The prophets can be confusing, because in the very same breath they seem to speak of God's judgment and His mercy. How can that be? Only the cross--where God Himself took the judgment for sin in order to forgive the people--could explain these seemingly contradictory themes of the prophets.
The sacrificial system--the shedding of the blood of another to atone for the sins of the people--is the very heart of the Mosaic system, the system of law God described to Moses, as recorded in the first five books of the Bible.
The priest in the Old Testament must be from the tribe of Levi. He inspected the lambs which each family brought to the Temple to be sacrificed. He literally stood at the door and blocked the entrance of any unqualified lamb. It had to be flawless, or it was not a worthy sacrifice.
Faith in the Old Testament is the basis of relationship with God. Abraham was told to bring his son Isaac to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah--the very ridge where the temple and the cross would later stand. Isaac, looking around as he trudged up the hill, carrying the wood to be used for the burnt offering, asked the question which would reverberate all the way to the cross:
"Father, behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
Abraham answered with faith--a trust in God, which was the only possible way out:
"My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering." (1)
So we come all the way through the Old Testament, all the way to John 1:29:
We hear the great prophet, John the Baptist, denouncing the people's sins. Baptizing with water, he told them of One to come, who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.
We hear the voice of a priest: not only was John a prophet, but as a member of the tribe of Levi, he was priest as well. He had known Jesus since before both of them were born! (2) He had watched Jesus grow up.
Now, 30 years later, this prophet with no tolerance for sin; this priest with the highest standards of purity, stood at the door between the people and the altar of sacrifice. He inspected the offering--the Lamb which God had provided--and he pronounced it spotless, without blemish, qualified to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The grand and sweeping themes of the Old Testament converge in this verse. Don't just mark it in your Bible. Treasure this one in your heart. You're at the door to the cross.
(1) Genesis 22:7-8; (2) Luke 1:44

Thursday, October 15, 2015

deep calls unto deep in its native tongue

The Word for today:
John 1: 1-18
I clearly remember the meeting on the day we thought up the simple concept of "Stand in the Rain." In fact, the concept is so simple it thought itself up: a three-year Bible reading program, with daily readings alternating between Old and New Testaments, accompanied by a daily blog to promote and teach it. The plan was simple, strong, true. We saw that it was good. We committed to it. The meeting was over.
But walking down the short hall from the meeting room to my desk, a moment of panic crossed my mind: "John, chapter 1. How on God's green earth do you blog John chapter 1?" Because John chapter 1 packs more meaning onto the page it occupies than any other page in all of recorded writing.
Well, John chapter 1 is here now. Where to begin?
Maybe I should write about the three beginnings in the Bible: in John, Genesis, and Mark--in that order.
Maybe introduce the concept of the logos--the Word.
How about noting the light of Genesis 1:3 which echoes in John 1:4. Or was it the light from John 1:4 which echoes in Genesis?
Or the unbridled pure power of our rebirth and resurrection in 1:12?
Or the incarnation--the Word made flesh and now amongst us--in 1:14?
Or how about grace upon grace?
Faced with my own limitations, unworthy to render meager comment, I've decided to get out of the way, and listen as deep calls unto deep in its native tongue:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

adopt a Bible character today

The Word for today:
1 Kings 22
Micaiah is an absolutely wonderful character! He is cut from the very same cloth as Elijah--standing alone, facing down hundreds of prophets by himself. His sharp irony and caustic satire cut through the fog of lies that every other so-called prophet is spewing.
But we don't hear much about Micaiah. Why?
I think it's because we pay too much attention to the traditions of men. Everyone hears about certain Bible characters. You know the list.
But what about Micaiah? He is complex, fearless, with a personality and a style of speaking unlike anyone in the Bible.
But have Max Lucado, Dr. David Jeremiah, John Eldredge, Beth Moore, Chip Ingram--and whoever else happens to be on the top ten Christian bestseller list at a given moment--have any of them featured Micaiah? I honestly don't know.
But I know he has a place in my favorite Book. And I know he rubs people the wrong way because he won't compromise. I know that one of the political sycophants who called himself a prophet punched him in the face for telling the truth. I know that didn't faze Micaiah in the least.
I know he has a place in my heart. I find courage in his uncompromised word of the LORD. I take delight in his cutting-edge personality.
Others come to mind--big in my Bible but left off the bestseller book list--as I write this. In 2 Chronicles 20, a soaring faith is voiced by and through a man named Jahaziel (1), who rallied a nation in biblical times and has rallied individual souls ever since. I know a hundred people who can quote his faith-building lines in scripture. But no one--and I'm including myself--knows his name without looking it up.
Pastor Joe joins us regularly on this blog and possesses a rare devotion--an absolute love affair--with the Word of God. Together, a month or so ago when we were blogging our way through 2 Samuel, we were taken away--captivated--by the story of Mephibosheth (2). He is not a minor character by any means, but he is so much a picture of you and me and our relationship with our gracious God that he should be at the tip of every Bible student's tongue.
As you read, make your own list of Bible friends. Look for characters who don't seem to be on everyone else's list. Make the soaring faith of Jahaziel, the razor-sharp truth of Micaiah, and the glad-to-be-alive-in-the-King's-house gratitude of Mephibosheth part of your Bible--the Bible you carry in your heart.
Make your Bible your Bible by adopting a stray character or two today. Then draw from their inspiring faith, or their simple gratitude, or their fearless purpose.
(1) 2 Chronicles 20:14-17; (2) see 2 Samuel 4:4 and 2 Samuel chapter 9