Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Big Catch

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I have no cute stories or analogies to this devotional. I feel like the scripture speaks for itself and I felt compelled to share with you this sense of urgency and challenge God has somewhat laid upon my heart. It stems from the passage found in Luke 5:

“Jesus Calls His First Disciples
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. “ NIV

I feel like this passage of scripture has this continuum created within it. You can portion the passage, separating it sequentially, which leads up to an unexpected climax. One minute Christ is on shore with a group of people; then he moves to a boat just off the shore. Shortly after, he asks for the boat to be moved into a deeper area of the Lake and asks his disciples to cast their nets. Somewhat reluctantly, they obey and discover that they have just captured an unbelievable amount of fish—so much that the two boats begin to sink! Then they just leave it: leave it all and follow Christ. Curtain closes. Ha! My interest is not so much the miracle performed in capturing fish but rather the process that Christ took to call his disciples and how Luke described the experience differently than the other four gospel authors.

First. Christ was preaching by the Sea of Galilee and then he gets into Simon’s boat and preaches from there just beyond where he was standing before. Why? Why couldn’t Christ have just stayed on shore? Why Simon’s boat? I am not claiming to be a scholar at this portion of scripture but I do find the symbolism fascinating! There are other passages of scripture dealing with boats and faith: walking on water and the encounters of storms. I love it! I don’t even know what Christ preached on that day but just the fact that he positioned himself on a boat makes me think that he was preaching on a subject of faith, trust and dependence on the Lord. Maybe it was symbolizing “going” or “working” too since it was a mode of transportation and a form of trade. I feel like Christ was also preparing their hearts for a revelation, a miracle and even a test of obedience to what he spoke on. Are you in a season where Christ is preaching to you? Think about where you are at in life: you may not be encountering challenges or high risk involvement in advancing the Gospel, but rather sitting and listening to the Lord and growing in knowledge of his Word. It says that he was preaching to the crowd on “the word of God.” So maybe you’re at this point in life.

Second. Christ proceeds to ask Simon to move the boat further out into a deeper area. Again, I can’t help but be completely fascinated with the symbolizing represented just in the movement of the boat. He also asks Simon to cast out his net. Notice how hesitant Simon is in casting out his net because earlier in that same day, they had attempted and failed to catch anything. Eventually, he obeys and BAM! He witnesses a miracle in catching probably the largest amount of fish ever on record for the Sea of Galilee. He totally would have won an award, maybe a trophy or a life time supply of tarter sauce—who knows! The amount of fish filled two boats causing them both to sink. Simon recognizes how his slow response to Christ made him realize how sinful of a man he really was! He feels so incredibly unworthy of being in Christ’s presence. Miracles whether large or small reciprocate change and impact a life in so many different ways!
Ok, stop for a second and look at this point of the passage. Are you in this place? Has God now called you into a deeper area of life. “Deeper” may be to a different location, a new job, a new school, a new church, or area of mission. You’re not totally comfortable with the position you’re in but you know you’re suppose to be there and Christ is asking you to go even a step further by casting out a net: your net maybe starting a conversation; participating in some event; giving time, energy, resources to something or someone or maybe even sacrificing something so dear to your heart. You may look at Christ with exhausted or fearful eyes because you just do not see how anything good could come of you following through with what he has asked you to do. But because of what God’s Word says and the Holy Spirit’s nudge upon your heart, you follow through and discover a miracle has just taken place! Although it may have been considered a huge risk for failure, you are pleasantly surprised when a blessing comes from it! Are you floating in deep water with Christ right now? Do you recognize who you are in the presence of thee most Holy God?

Third. After this miracle has occurred it seems like our story has come to it’s ultimate climax but then it is cut short with a bit of a “cliff hanger.” Christ asks these men to walk away from it! To leave the fish and follow him. I was visiting with a dear friend of mine about this passage and he said “Think of the wealth those men could have had from that catch!” Or the lifetime supply of free tarter sauce right? Haha, Ok. Lame. But really! They would have been taken care of for a long time with that amount of fish. But I think they realized that there was more to obtain than the miracle---the miracle giver himself. So often we pray and pray for a miracle in life and discover when that prayer is answered or the miracle does occur, there is still this sense of wanting more. Not only that, but I think these disciples saw first hand the kind of Rabbi they were invited to join was unlike any other Rabbi they had ever seen or heard of and so when the opportunity came—they couldn’t help but follow him. These men knew that there was something different about Christ and that he was going to accomplish more than any other man. They may have also had some background knowledge on a coming Messiah and realized---this is what we have been waiting for and we need to go.

Are you at this point of the passage? Have you just been blessed immensely or witnessed a miracle but now have been challenged further to surrender it all and leave it at the foot of the cross? Maybe Christ isn’t asking you to totally get up and walk away from what you’re doing but is still asking for a form of surrender. Maybe Christ is asking you to walk away from a high-paying job for a job that will allow you to reach more people; maybe God is asking you to walk away from a relationship that is not glorifying Him; maybe God is asking you to totally change course in your life and calling you to a radically different life---whatever is going on, I suggest you apply what the disciples did and follow. It’s scary—but you cannot help but follow Christ.

I just want to pray through this scripture for you and myself. I am so, so challenged by it and don’t completely understand it and feel like it’s a passage that a lot of people can glean from. Let’s pray:
“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so so much for this passage of scripture and the calling of your disciples. Wow! God we stand back in amazement as to how you orchestrated in your Word, the calling of your disciples. Lord we recognize your unique ability to see exactly where your children are at and how you draw them closer to you. God we thank you for the miracles you perform in our lives whether large or small and we recognize that a miracle or a blessing runs so much deeper than answering a prayer or fulfilling a need. We discover Lord that we desire you: the Miracle Giver. Lord I pray for those that are on the shore listening to you preach the Word; these people may not completely understand who you are or maybe they do but they don’t understand an aspect of who you are and so they are simply learning more about you—almost in a season of waiting and direction. Second, Lord we pray for those who you have called into deeper waters. Lord we pray that they would be quick to cast their nets. You have prepared them well for whatever task you desire them to do. God we pray that they would respond to the answer to prayer or the miracle in such a way that it brings recognition to your holiness, your faithfulness and your deep love and desire for them to know you more. And God, we pray for those who have been challenged to walk away from an opportunity whether relationally, financially, or an advancement in a career and to follow you to another place of mission: to be your disciple. Although it may appear that we are losing everything to follow you Lord, I pray that you would stir within our hearts a sense of peace that our surrender is not in vain but rather a simple response to something far greater than ourselves which leads to spending eternity basking in your glory. Continue to teach us what this passage looks like in each of our lives and apply what your Word says. We love you and desire you desperately Lord. Amen.”

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Made Known

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Do you ever feel like you’re nothing but a face in the crowd; just a spectator? All the college bowl games are fast approaching with the super bowl coming not too far behind and it always amazes me when you’re watching those games on TV and see you see these walls of people encircling the field. My brother recently went to a Vikings game and he was describing what he was wearing and said, “I’ll try and wave if the camera comes on me!” HA! You can imagine how difficult that would have been to see him in such a large crowd of purple-clothed people with the chance of a camera never coming even remotely close to his seating section.

In life, we may feel like just a spectator amongst the mass universe we live in. Louie Giglio is well known for his amazing sermons pointing out how our sun is just one among millions of other stars that are brighter, bigger and even more spectacular. With that being said, It’s easy to associate a feeling of insignificance, and rightfully so! We are but mere humans created to roam the earth for 80-90 years (if that); working and toiling at whatever jobs are available for us to do and matches our giftings, forming relationships with other humans and living for but a breath of span in time—right? To a degree yes! We’re nothing special—depending on what we are compared to: in comparison to a rock, we are complex and magnificently-made creatures but in comparison to God we are the lowest of lows, not worthy

Throughout all of the Old Testament God revealed and made himself known to various people in a variety of different ways. I thought it would be neat to give a highlight of each book in the Old Testament relating to God’s revelation to people. I hope you get the point by the end that God did not just show up in the New Testament but that he most certainly revealed himself to many different people throughout all scripture. If you don’t see it, I’m sorry—come see me because not going to lie, this is a tedious feat to pull off going through each Book---yet absolutely fascinating! I also ask for patience and grace as I attempt to do this because I am most certainly not an Old Testament scholar: there are several, ok many books that I just have a brief understanding but hopefully this is will help me review them and spur me (us) onto further studies! Enjoy:

In Genesis, God obviously made himself known to Adam and Eve as well as all creation when he formed the earth from “formless, empty, darkness.” In Exodus, God made himself known particularly to Moses as well as the Israelites by delivering them from captivity: he spoke to Moses in a burning bush, parted the red sea and performed many significant miracles. In Leviticus, God continued to make himself known to the Israelites as they were in route to the Promise Land. He also created several laws and regulations for different offerings. The Book of Numbers describes how God made himself known still to Moses and Aaron and at one point, through a consuming fire that removes part of the outskirts of their camp (Num.11). In Deuteronomy, God continues to reveal himself to Moses, Aaron and other leaders of the Israelites. Even in their disobedience, the Israelites are fully aware of God’s presence whether in the form of discipline or in deliverance from His anger. God reveals to Moses the Ten Commandments and makes promises to the Israelites of victory over the inhabitants of the Promise Land. Moses passes on and Joshua takes the position as leader of the Israelites. Joshua describes God being made known through the victory over many Kings. In Judges, God makes himself known through continual deliverance in battles with other tribes. God reveals himself in the book of Ruth by taking a widowed, godly-woman, Ruth (go figure!) and Boaz, an upright man of God and together in marriage established the beginning genealogies of David (Obed, was the son of Jesse). First and Second Samuel God makes himself known to people such as Hannah, Samuel, and eventually, David. We all know that David was known to be a “man after God’s own heart.” We read countless passages of David interacting with God throughout this book as well as the main author of the book of Psalm. First and Second Kings share stories of remarkable encounters people, particularly Kings have with God whether they recognize Him or not—He makes himself known. The story of the Prophet Elijah outrunning a chariot in 1 Kings 18 is one of my favorite passages of scripture: how do you suppose he managed to do that? The verse says that “the power of the Lord came upon Elijah,” so he just tucked his cloak and off he went! Just think how much damage I could have done running for SDSU if I would have had the Lord come upon me during track! HA! Ok—bringing it back.

Moving into the First and Second Chronicles; 1 Chronicles is loaded with names upon names of individuals with specific lineages: It’s somewhat overwhelming to look at these lists of people and realize that each of them had a role, big or small, in accomplishing God’s purpose and will. After the genealogies, we get into the story of King David’s reign—again, his story is well-known and saturated with stories of God’s revelations to David personally or regarding Him as a King of Israel. Solomon’s story begins at the tailend of 1 Chronicles and into 2 Chronicles. As David’s son, Solomon was said to be “highly exalted by the Lord” above any other king Israel had up to this point in time. We also are aware that Solomon was blessed immensely with immeasurable wisdom from the Lord: He also wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes describing how even though wisdom is a wonderful gift to possess, that it is meaningless!

A highlight in the Book of Ezra is a passage that describes the priest’s desire and his leading role in having the Exiles confess of their unfaithfulness to the Lord by marrying women from other tribes. In a prayer he describes how the Lord has been gracious to them by not punishing more than what they had been because of the wrongful act. Much of Nehemiah deals with the rebuilding of a wall in Jerusalem. The wall has opposition but eventually is built and it says that people surrounding the area were astounded and realized that no one would be able to complete such a task without the help of the LORD. The story of Queen Esther is described in none other than the book of Esther. She along with Mordecai end up being true heroes for their people by saving them from being destroyed by Haman. God chose to use and reveal his power through Esther by giving her such a highly esteemed position.

The book of Job is one that makes your heart sink: it starts out great but by the end your heart just aches for the relief of trials that Job encounters. The book however, is a crucial story describing God’s sovereignty amidst great adversity in a man’s life and how God gave Job the ability to remain faithful even when everything was taken away from him! Are you still with me? We are getting there! Is it not great though to just take a few moments and go through these great passages of scripture? As described earlier, much of the book of Psalms is written by David and his passionate pursuit for His own heart! David writes very beautifully and extensively about God’s character throughout the Psalms. God reveals himself in Proverbs through very simple and basic commands of everyday living. It gives guidance on how to walk upright before the Lord and how to recognize folly when you see it. Touching just briefly on Ecclesiasties, as described earlier in relation to King Solomon, this book truly proves the point that so much of our humanly lives are littered with obtaining vanities. God revealed to Solomon that there is more to life than all that this earthly life has to offer.

Song of Solomon, to me, is considered nothing shy of a glimpse into the love God has for his people. Although the entire book is basically poems written back and forth between a man and a women, you cannot help but see God’s unbelievable passion for those he loves and his desire to be a part of their lives. The book of Isaiah has quickly become a book that I reference quite often because it is FULL of passages of scripture describing God’s faithfulness to his people as well as the foundational promises of the coming of Christ. Similarly, God uses the prophet Jeremiah to proclaim the need of Israel’s repentance and glimpses of the coming Messiah. Lamentations is a lot like Job; your heart somewhat drops to the floor after reading it because it is a book about great sorrow. However, amidst the sorrow, God uses the author to proclaim his mercy and faithfulness: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness!” (3:22-23)

God used the book of Ezekiel to describe how the prophet Ezekiel worked with people in the middle of a crisis; spurring them onto pursuing holiness even in trial. Daniel is a remarkable book in the sense that God reveals himself BIG time through Daniel. Whether Daniel is in the Lions den, refusing to eat the King’s meat or discerning dreams, God revealed himself greatly through such a simple man. I feel like Hosea is somewhat of a sequal to Song of Solomon in the sense that it reveals greatly God’s concern and love for his bride even though she is incredibly unfaithful. God chooses to reveal himself through Hosea by giving him the ability to love an unfaithful woman. Joel is another book involving a prophet that lives during difficult times in leading people to repentance and endurance of waiting for an “outpouring of the spirit,” (2:28-32). In Amos, the Israelites are really looking for some relief from their eniemies and are waiting for the day of the Lord to bring justice. Amos describes judgment that will come to much of the disobedient people of Israel but also the hope of restoration of those who have ‘fallen.’ Obadiah, although brief describes what is to come with judgment as well as his future reign after restoring his people. Oh Jonah! ( Can you tell I am starting to get a little loopy—just a few more books left, pace yourself!) The book of Jonah is a remarkable story of a man who is disobedient yet God shows remarkable mercy in the most unusual way possible! It is truly a story of the revealation of God’s compassion on people even when they are disobedient. Micah is a book that cannot describe the coming of Christ any better as a “Shepherd-King,” Nahum relates to Jonah in describing the destruction of Nineveh which could easily represent God’s immense power and judgement that has, is currently and even more so, will take place in the future. God and Habakkuk (either said Hab-a-cook, or Habab-kuk—whatever most easily rolls of your tongue) dialogue throughout the entire book. God confirms his sovereignty to him and his desire for the righteousness to live by faith. Zephaniah deals greatly with the coming of the Day of the Lord. The ESV commentary on the theme of Haggai describes the theme of “The restoration of the Lord’s house by the people of God will meditate God’s presence.” Zechariah is a book revealing more prophecy of what is to come and God continues to give snapshots into the coming of the good shepherd. DRUMROLL PLEASE! Malachi is a book on a “wake-up call to renew the covenant of fidelity” (ESV commentary) and is indeed the last book in the Old Testament (not necessarily chronologically leading up to Christ but a conclusion to the books of prophecy).

HA, now what? Well, the entire purpose behind this ginormous review of the Old Testament was to build the crescendo of the coming of Christ. As you can see, God made himself known throughout all of scripture but it wasn’t until He revealed Himself through Christ that WE could be made known because of the opportunity to “hide our lives with Christ.” God knew that although he had revealed himself very plainly and deliberately throughout Old Testament times, with many of those people he described obtaining righteousness through faith (they had faith and hope in the coming Messiah). However God knew that he needed to make himself known by being made into flesh; dwelling among people to form a much deeper relationship than ever before. John 1:18 describes this : No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” And later on in John 15:15, Christ says this about being made known: “15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” And even more so, Christ describes how he will make US KNOWN to his Father through him in John 17:25- 26

“25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[a] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Isn’t that a beautiful piece of scripture? It’s a portion of scripture when Jesus is praying for various groups of believers. Passages in Ephesians touch on this as well in explaining how the Law and prophetic word of the Old Testament maybe mysterious at first but is finally made known through the coming of Christ, his death and resurrection.

Lastly, 1 John 3 describes what is to come in Christ’s second coming:

“1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

Cling to the truth that those of us who have surrendered our lives to Christ and claim him to be both Lord and Savior, are currently known as children of God---however, when Christ returns we will be known as something else—something like Christ because we will see him as he truly is! How wonderful it is to be made known! We are not just faces in the crowd, rather distinctly made known by our God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Live in the light of being made known!

Monday, December 20, 2010


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There is something to behold in watching the sun as it bursts forth from the horizon on a frigid, winter morning. The Midwestern landscape that I grew up on is generally blanketed with snow and is quickly transformed into a sea of crystals, reflecting the sun’s rays in all directions. Even though the air is brisk and causing shivers the moment you step out the door, when the sun rises it is as though you can relax and allow the beams to cut through the frozen air and warm you.

You maybe living in a cold, wintry darkness right now: unsure of what this life is for and what it’s all about. You have had some unforeseen events happen in your life leaving you empty and aching for a sense of restoration or wholeness. You may just be lost, unsure of who you are and how you ended up at this point in life. Sometimes the realization of this can cause immense sorrow causing you to panic. Darkness is often associated with sin like in Psalm143:3 where David says this:

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.”

Whether you actually sinned or you were acted upon by someone else’s sin, it leaves you in the darkness feeling as though you are dwelling with the dead. Darkness covers sin easily and then creates a suffocating atmosphere that continually reminds you of the act of sin committed. But when the sun brings its first rays of light into the darkness, it is as though it the light moves darkness out of the way until only light surrounds you.

The Darkness Turns to Light

19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 8:19-9:2

Isaiah 60
The Glory of Zion
1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

As scripture passages continue to describe God’s light and his glory revealed through light, it as though it crescendos to a moment in time that we are celebrating now:

John 1
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Those of you who are overwhelmed with darkness: do you see verse 5? Do you see what it says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” There is hope! The hope comes from Jesus Christ, God’s SON that came into this world as a means to pierce the darkness by BEING pierced. No matter how long or how dark you may feel, when light comes, it completely removes darkness. In the same way, Christ came to take away the sins of the entire world. He knew you were trapped in darkness, chained to darkness and so God brought forth his Son to deliver you. He desires for you to dwell in the light with him by accepting his offering of grace through an abiding relationship with Him. Leave your relationship with darkness and allow a new one to be formed with the SON.

One final thought, I was driving to church this past Sunday listening to one of my favorite bands, Remedy Drive. I love Christmas music, but I needed a break so I popped in the CD “Daylight,” by Remedy Drive and discovered that, although it may not have jingle bells in the background it can most definitely associate itself with the coming of the Christ. In fact, I think the shepherds could have been jamming out to it in anticipation to see Jesus. It doesn’t have to stop at Christmas though: do you realize that we are now back into a position of waiting for the Messiah to return? Christ came to save the world and He is coming again to take those of us who are his for eternity. I encourage you to put yourself in the place of people who are anticipating the coming of the Christ child only now, when he comes again, he won’t be found in a quiet manager; instead, Jesus Christ will return in all His glory.
Eden Restored
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 22:1-5

I wanted to include the video of the song by Remedy Drive and the lyrics. A quick plug for the band, their music is generally centered on this topic of the second coming of Christ which is rare in today’s music realm. I really appreciate the message they give during their concerts and hope that if they tour near you, go and be encouraged by the message of the second coming of the SON.

Has everything you've counted on
Left you right here with no warning
Have your dreams become invisible
Wait with me dear till the morning
Light will make the night burnout

Hold on - daylight is coming
Daylight is coming to break the dawn
Daylight is coming

The brightest stars are falling down
Is hope lost in the black skies
The darkness must precede the dawn
Hold on till the sunrise
Light will make your night fade out

Monday, December 13, 2010

Powerful Grace

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You hear stories everyday of people who have performed heroically in moments before disaster strikes. The following day, newspaper headlines may read: “Man Saves Elderly Woman from Bus;” “Son Rescues Father by Lifting Tractor Up;” “Child Outsmarts House Robber.” When asked the famous question, “How’d you do it?” the hero often humbly and somewhat puzzled replies, “Something just came over me—I couldn’t help it! I just knew what I needed to do.” Science would tell you it’s an adrenaline rush; hormones influx in the body causing the heart rate to increase and blood vessels to dilate preparing the body for a quick response and perform an action that appears impossible. Physically it makes sense that the body would respond like that due to physiological factors, like hormones however, mentally--even though it may be considered ‘physical,’ there has to be more to the response. Who in their right mind would risk their life for another person?

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul is often writing from a jail cell or in chains. In a letter to the church of Colossae, he explains his purpose and ministry to the church (1:24-29). He says that he rejoices in sufferings for the sake of the church. His desire was to “proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” The he says something that somewhat stands-out as a key component to his reasoning of rejoicing in the midst of such opposition: “For this, I toil, struggling with all HIS energy that HE powerfully works within me.” (vs.29). Did you see the emphasis on “His” and “He?” Do you see how Paul did attribute his energy to some ‘adrenaline rush,’ or some surreal human level of love for others—he gave all of the credit for his energy to Christ. Yes, God may work through whomever he desires and He has designed the body to have remarkable reflexes but there is something much more powerful moving inside Paul than mere chemicals—the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says this:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good….All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
In this text, the spiritual gifts include gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working with miracles, prophecy, the ability to distinguish the spirits, gifts of speaking in tongue and interpretation: not your everyday gifts. Notice a similar tribute to God as the giver of these gifts: “There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The manifestation of the Spirit with the gifts being ‘empowered’ by the same Spirit is referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit of the Triune God. These spiritual gifts are also spoken of in Acts when the Church is first being established. The gifts were most certainly displayed among the disciples and apostles. Acts 4 says this:

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And continuing on picking up at verse 31, after praying…

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
I love, love, love verse 33: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy person among them.”

Do you see that? Not only was power working among the apostles to perform miracles but GRACE. In fact, grace is what moved them to give to those who were needy around them.

With all this said, we are entering into a season of giving. You have a shopping list a mile long of gifts that you plan to get for people you care about—and maybe a few you don’t really care but it’s “part of the season,” right? Before you add another trinket, gismo or gadget to that list, could you do me a favor? Do you think you could sit down and think of all the people that have hurt you in the past—day, week, month, year, decade, lifetime: I know, I picture you squirming already as I type this, but do it anyways. Ok, having those individuals in your mind—feelings are starting to erupt ever-so slightly in your heart and it is as though needles are starting to jab into it growing stronger and stronger with every recognition of the person’s name. Here we go: disaster is upon us-- that bus is drawing closer to that little old lady; picture your father sinking under the tires of the tractor or the sudden realization that a robber has just entered your home: how do you react? What are you going to respond in the moment you are challenged not with a bus, not with a tractor or a robber: how do you respond with the challenge to forgive? The Bible is pretty clear on this: John 13 says this:

“12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Whose feet did Christ wash? His disciples right? What are the names of those disciples? Peter…John…James…Philip…Andrew…Bartholomew…Matthew…Thomas… James son of Alphaeus…Simon who was called the Zealot….Judas son of James….and ….Who? Come again? Judas? Oh yah, and Judas Iscariot. What did Judas do to Christ? He became a traitor—he sold information to the police for the life of our Beloved Christ and yet, Christ not only washed his feet, but died for him. They say “timing is everything,” and if that is a true statement, then there is significance in the verse that says: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us since therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:7-9). While we were yet sinners---while we were passing coins—committing adultery with the world, Christ died for us.

Later on this theme of grace is interwoven back in on the topic of “Death in Adam, Life in Christ” in saying this: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Romans 5:14-15).

Running out into the street in front of a bus to save an innocent, old lady may appear to be much easier than forgiving someone who has wronged you. But if you would only recognize the death sentence your own sin gave Christ; the power of God’s grace in the light of it and the work of the Holy Spirit in your own life ---you may end up surprising yourself this Christmas when you give the gift of grace to someone on your ‘naughty list.’

Remember that dirty feet were washed by the unblemished yet soon to be scarred hands of Christ.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Come, Let Us Adore Him

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Come, Let Us Adore Him

Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;
Oh, come, let us adore Him, oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
Oh, sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

“Oh Come All Ye Faithful” is one of my most favorite Christmas hymns. It is a song that reminds us of how joyful we are to be in exalting the Lord for sending His son, Jesus Christ. In Luke 2 where this song has it’s origins, the Shepherds encounter the angels glorifying God in announcing the coming of Jesus. The shepherds say to one another following the surprise visit “Come, let us go and see what the Lord has told us.” After adoring the little Savior in tattered cloth, it says that the Shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard. Ha! I picture the shepherds running off into the evening doing those “side kicks” in the air with inexpressible joy with the fact that they had just seen the face of the Word made flesh!

My prayer for you as you sing this hymn in preparation of Christmas Day, that you do what it says. The title of the hymn can be cut into three sections: “Come.” Jesus Christ invites everyone to “Come follow me,” in countless passages in the New Testament. If you have not accepted Christ as both Lord and Savior of your life: I encourage you to drop what you’re doing; stop living this life for yourself, working for your salvation by ‘being good’ and surrender it all to Christ. Second, “Let us” is plural! The phrase “let us” appears to imply a group of people you’re among. Once you’ve surrendered your life to Christ, you are no longer a lonely out-cast, rather you are a part of the body of Christ! Ah! What a blessing it is to be a part of the family of God; to serve the Lord alongside brothers and sisters; to run alongside and battle sin that so easily entangles us. Are you making an effort to be a part of a group of people that are striving after Christ? Take a moment and reflect if you would be a part of a “let us,” in this chorus.

Lastly, “Adore Him.” Adore. Adore means to worship or honor; to regard with loving admiration and devotion. Oh how it is my hearts plea that you would join me in simply admiring our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross. How do you think you would have reacted if you were one of the Shepherds visiting the Christ child? I do not think anything would be able to destroy the gaze I would have upon the face of Christ. I think I would be so fixated on the eyes of my precious Lord Jesus and stare into them knowing that He, even as a tiny baby, has enough power to calm the seas; to cause the earth to tremble with merely an utter of His voice and to conquer sin and death. Take a moment and truly adore Christ today—and everyday from here on out.