Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Heavens Declare God’s Glory

Psalm 19: 1 -4a (NIV): 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

The majesty of nature tells us there is a God. His creation proves that he exists and that he is powerful and creative. David, who wrote this Psalm, would lie out under the stars at night, and would see the sun on its course each day. He could see that something – or someone – big must have created all of this.
    We know more now than we did in David’s day about the cosmos. We know that the stars we can see with the naked eye are only the stars that belong to our galaxy, and there may be billions of galaxies. It boggles the mind. But amazingly, the more we discover, the bigger God gets. The more we discover, the more we realize that the universe must have had a creator.  The laws of physics continue to astound and mystify us. The heavens declare the glory or God.
    And everyone can see it. Some choose not to. Some refuse to believe in God, but everyone can see the sky, and the sky tells us there is a God. It doesn’t matter where you live or what language you speak, you know from looking up that there is a creator. (And yes, Helen Keller knew that God existed even though she couldn’t see or hear!) Paul says no one has the excuse of not believing in God because everyone can see and feel and hear and taste the handiwork of his creation (Romans 1:20).
    Psalm 14 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” And why would someone deny that God exists with all this evidence around us? Because their hearts are sinful and they don’t want God or anyone else telling them how to live their lives.
    David goes on to say in this Psalm that God’s Word is perfect and will make us wise and give us joy. God’s laws are more precious than gold and sweeter than honey, he says. He realizes that he is a sinner but asks God to keep him from temptation. Then he says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jesus, The Master of Nature

John 6: 16 – 22 (NIV): 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. 22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone.

    John continues to build his case that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. This is a familiar account in Scripture. Matthew and Mark also tell it. In Matthew, Peter walks out onto the water with Jesus, but John is emphasizing the proof of Jesus’ supernatural powers. He tells us that the whole crowd (that Jesus had fed earlier) saw that he crossed the lake without entering a boat. He had walked across. Only a god can do that. Only God can be the Messiah.
    When Jesus appeared, the disciples were terrified. Often we are terrified when God intervenes in our lives, but he assured them it was ok. It was he. It was “I am”. Sure enough, by his will, the storm subsided and the boat zipped safely to the other shore. Don’t be afraid when God is at work in your life. Don’t fear when he appears in your storms. He is always up to something good, even if we don’t see it at the time.
    Jesus is the master of nature. He can control winds and waves and storms and physics. He is supernatural. He can tell it to rain or stop the rain. Does he micromanage every raindrop? I can’t say, but Jesus said God is aware of every single sparrow. So why doesn’t he stop fires and earthquakes and tornadoes and droughts? We must remember we live in a fallen world and evil happens. Just like cancer and heart disease. But no one dies without God’s permission. Nothing happens outside of his permission and sovereignty. I’m no more equipped to understand all of this than Job was. But this I know: God is in control and he is the master of nature. Sometimes he calms the storm and sometimes he chooses to let it rage and calms the child instead.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jesus, The Master of Quantity

John 6: 5 – 13 (NIV): 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9 "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" 10 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Jesus had compassion on the huge crowd that had come out into the wilderness to hear and see him. He wanted to feed them, but there was no way he and his disciples could afford such a feast. But Jesus is supernatural. He is the master of quantity. He can take a crumb and turn it into a banquet. He is the God of more than enough. Notice there were 12 baskets of bread left-over after everyone had eaten his fill.
    The boy had five barley loaves and two small fish. This was a typical meal for a poor person. It wasn’t even wheat bread. But he gave it all to Jesus. If we will give him what we have, he will do the rest. God is more interested in our availability than our ability.
    This was a sacrifice for the boy, he gave up his supper, but Jesus turned his sacrifice into something great. We all have something we can bring to God; some talent or ability or gift. When we make a sacrifice to God we are showing him that we love him and that he is most important in our lives.
    Not only this, but we are never too young or old or rich or poor to be used of God. He can use us no matter where we find ourselves. And there is no greater joy than to allow God to use us for his purposes and for his Kingdom. It is a blessing to be a blessing to others. Give yourself to God and feel the joy that brings.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jesus, the Master of Time

John 5: 1 – 9 (NIV): 1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." 8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9a At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

John continues to build his case that Jesus is the Messiah. This is the third sign to prove that Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be. Here, Jesus heals a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. That’s a long time, but it was especially long then since the average lifespan wasn’t much more than this.
    The man had no idea who Jesus was, he was just hoping Jesus would help him into the pool. But he would have been disappointed if he had been the first into the water – God doesn’t operate that way. This was clearly a local superstition.  He had tried his whole life to find healing in something that was never going to work.
    Jesus healed him on the spot. It doesn’t matter how long you have suffered, God can still heal you. It doesn’t matter how long you have been away from God, he will still welcome you back. Jesus created time. He is the master of time. To him a thousand years is like a day. The man had suffered a long time, but compared to eternity, it was less than a second.
    We become stressed when we believe everything must happen right now, but faith reassures us that everything will happen in God’s timing. If we will trust him and his perfect timing, we will exchange the stress in our lives for the peace that he alone can give.  Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Crucified With Christ

Galatians 2: 20-21 (NIV): 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Paul wrote this letter to combat a heresy that had come into the church there: that Christians were obligated to follow the Jewish law along with believing in Christ. Paul had brought the gospel to Galatia on a missionary journey, but someone had come behind him and told the new church that Christians must continue to follow the Jewish law in order to be right with God.
    Paul said no. He wrote to explain that faith in Christ alone saves us – there is nothing to add to that. We are saved by grace. If we could work our way to heaven by following the law, then why did Jesus have to die? God would never have allowed Jesus to die if that wasn’t the only way we could be righteous.
    So, do Christians have to follow the Old Testament laws in order to be right with God? The Civil and Ceremonial laws were given to the Jewish people. They came to an end when Jesus died and rose again. Remember how the curtain in the temple tore when Jesus was on the cross? That was to symbolize that now we can all enter into God’s presence. Peter saw a vision in Acts 10 letting him know it was okay to eat all foods. And Jesus became the one and only sacrifice that atones for our sins. The sacrificial system had come to completion.
    The Moral laws still stand however. These include the Ten Commandments and God’s edicts that we love one another. We follow these laws because we love God, not to earn salvation. We do these things to please God, but, because of Jesus, we do not lose our standing with God if we fail. Jesus has set us free from that fear and bondage.
    Paul said he had died to himself and now he lived by faith in Christ. He was free to please God and dead to the sins that enslaved him. He was a new person. He had been born again.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Running the Race Set Before Us

Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (NIV): 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

When a passage begins with the word, “therefore”, we need to look back to see what it’s there for. In this case, he is referring to the faith hall of fame we find in Chapter 11; the men and women of old who lived by faith and took God at his word. Now, those heroes of the faith are cheering us on as we live our own lives – as we run the race that God has placed before us.
    The great “cloud” of witnesses is a metaphor for Olympic grandstands full of cheering people, encouraging us to win the race we find ourselves in. God has given each of us our own unique race. We each have a life to live. So we must throw off anything that hinders us from running to win. This is anything that comes between us and God. And we must not let sin entangle our feet and trip us up. Sin causes us to be losers in our own race.
    It is interesting that the word for “race” in this passage is “agon” in the Greek. This is where we get our English word, “agony”. It’s not that our lives are sure to be full of pain and hardship, it’s just that we will face challenges we will need to overcome in order to win our race.  We will need to have self-discipline as we strain ahead toward victory.
    The key to winning our race, then, is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Becoming more and more like him is the goal of our faith. And he will give us the power we need to run and win the race. He gave us our faith and he will see us through. If we will keep our eyes on him and not be distracted by all that is happening around us, we can be winners. We can live victorious lives, full of joy and purpose.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jesus - The Master of Distance

John 4: 56 – 51 (NIV): 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." 49 The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50 Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.

This royal official was a Roman who was in King Herod’s court. His country, Rome, had conquered Israel, yet he found himself at the feet of Jesus, begging for help because his son was about to die.
    Our success, wealth, and position in life goes out the window when we are desperate. He humbled himself before Jesus. When we humble ourselves, we are in position for God to bless us. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
    The man assumed Jesus had to go to the house, 20 miles away, to heal his son, but Jesus showed that he is the master of distance – he simply willed that the son be better and he was. We can pray for our loved ones who are far away and know that God’s presence is wherever they are and he can answer our prayers. Not only this, but we can never be too far away from God to come back. His Spirit finds and reaches us wherever we are.
    And the father showed tremendous faith by taking Jesus at his word. He believed it when Jesus said his son would live, and headed home. When we believe, then we will see what God is doing. That’s what faith is. We live by faith, not by sight, Paul says. Humble yourself before God, believe what he says, and take him at his word.