Bullies Drool… Underdogs Rule

Isn’t it just like God to buck the system?

The first people to find out about the coming and resurrected Messiah were women!  God told Mary that she was going to conceive (Luke 1:26-ff) BEFORE He told Joseph that Mary had already conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-ff).  Later, the gospel accounts reveal that the first people to the tomb of Jesus on Resurrection Sunday were the women.  In fact, the women after seeing the empty tomb went to the apostles to tell them that Jesus had risen from the dead, and the apostles did not believe them!

In those days, in that part of the world, women did not carry much clout.  They couldn’t be trusted. They weren’t typically educated like the men; therefore, they were not viewed as intelligent.  Women were viewed as private property and little else.

Still, at two of the most crucial moments in history God the Father chose to encounter women first.  When Mary discovered that she would be the mother of Jesus she exclaimed the following in Luke 1:46-55:

My soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.

And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.

He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

In plain view of God’s mercy and impending plan, worship effervesced from deep within Mary’s heart.  This was no scripted worship.  It was soul-deep.

Mary’s praise quite simply stated that God has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.

To this point, Jesus Christ has not even been delivered as a baby, but Mary is already exclaiming that God has delivered His people.  Mary is speaking in terms of “already/not yet.”  This is a biblical/theological view that God’s deliverance has already occurred in His mind before it has actually occurred in time.

That’s why Bullies Drool & Underdogs Rule.  And God’s deliverance is not limited to women.  It is for ANYONE who sees themselves as weak and in need of salvation.

God’s spiritual enemies have already been vanquished in His mind.  The victory is won.  It is certain.  His mercy is for those who fear Him (reverence/trust) from generation to generation.  Though it may seem that the spiritual enemies of God have gained the ascendancy in our day, it is not so in the mind of God.  They ARE defeated.

And God will make that plain in His own time and in His own way.  William Cowper puts it best in his hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (Stanzas 3,4, & 6):

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Trust Him today.

 

 

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Splash-Overs of Heaven

ocean

Everyone suffers.  If you live long enough, even if you haven’t known great trouble in your life, you will at some point.

Since the beginning of time, people have tried to make sense out of suffering.  Some people discredit the existence of God (or at least the goodness of God) by propagating the belief that a good God would not allow “bad things to happen to good people.”  They say things like, “surely God cannot exist or if he does then he must not be good because of all of the unfettered suffering that runs throughout this planet.”

Others have tried to destroy the impact of suffering by re-framing it in life.  Gautama Buddha (the Buddha) did this by determining that “all of life is suffering” and the best way to deal with suffering is to follow the “eight-fold path.”  In it, the Buddha believed that one could eradicate suffering by working through this path to achieve wholesomeness or perfection in life.

Christianity, however, does not try to destroy suffering in this life.  Rather, the Scriptures are very clear about the reality of tribulation, but they promise that suffering can be shot-through with hope.  Jesus Himself stated:

“In this world you WILL have tribulation, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

In the letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul prays for Christians in order that they might SEE GOD smack dab in the heart of their lives–not just in suffering but certainly not divorced from it either.  He prays in chapter 1, verses 16-21:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ… may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule & authority & power & dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

This is not boot-strap theology.  This is not Paul saying, “come on, Christians, get it together!  Follow the path; then you’ll find good in everything.  You’ll eradicate all the bad in your life.”

No, Paul is praying to God that God would give Christians (followers of Christ) the Spirit of wisdom & revelation in the knowledge of Him–having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.   He is praying that God would do a work IN THEM that they could not do themselves.

When life gets impossible, we ALL have the tendency to become atheists–living through our pain as if God doesn’t exist.  But Paul is praying that God would give us eyes to see GOD THROUGHOUT ALL OF LIFE.

Joni Eareckson Tada has referred to this as seeing “splash-overs of heaven.”

In the verses above, Paul states that believers have an inheritance of glorious riches and that there is an immeasurable limit to the greatness of God’s power toward us.  Paul even says that this power is the same that God used when He raised Jesus from the dead!

And Paul prays that God would open our eyes NOW so that we might see evidence of our inheritance NOW!!  Paul is not talking about money; he is talking about spiritual blessing–true riches.  Joy in the midst of heartache.  Hope in the midst of darkness.  Flourishing in the midst of famine.

Interestingly, in verses 13-14 Paul refers to the Holy Spirit in our lives as “the guarantee of our inheritance until we take possession of it.” The word guarantee is a financial term which means “earnest money, a down payment, given in advance as a security that the whole will be paid afterwards.”

The Holy Spirit, who dwells in the lives of Christians IS a “splash-over of heaven” in the life of every Christian.  And His job is to enable you to see evidence of your eternal inheritance right now in your life!

Just like the ocean (which is limitless in its scope–we can’t see the end of it) crashes into the rocks and some of its spray lands on the rocks, the Holy Spirit helps the Christian to see RIGHT NOW evidences of his/her eternal inheritance that has already spilled over into life.  Evidence of eternal inheritance has already landed on the rocks of your life, Christian!

And Paul prays (my paraphrase), “O God, open their eyes that they may see proof of their inheritance NOW.  God, if they see splash-overs from heaven in their lives they can flourish in hope no matter what situations they find themselves in.”

This week is Thanksgiving.  My prayer for everyone is that God would open your eyes to see clear-cut evidence of your eternal inheritance spilling over into your life today.

If you are not a Christian, my prayer is that God would open your spiritual eyes to see your need for Him and that Jesus would satisfy the spiritual thirst you may be longing for…

Happy Thanksgiving,

Bo

Jesus > Banana Hands

Jesus probably didn’t look like much.

Those from His hometown certainly did not accept Him as the Messiah. They said of Him in Mark 6:2-4– “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”

In fact, Isaiah 53:2 which describes the coming Messiah says: “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (NLT).

It is kind of easy to understand why the Pharisees would not recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They (and we) had in their minds that the Messiah would arrive in a great display of power.

They were expecting Tony Robbins.  Robbins is nicknamed “Banana Hands” because of his HUGE hands.  He is 6’7″ and weighs 265 lbs.  He walks on hot coals; he works crowds into a frenzy with his energetic, motivational speeches.  He seeks to help people reach their full potential in life and to access their own “Personal Power.”

Jesus, simply was not that.  Jesus, was “just” a Man from Galilee who couldn’t possibly be the long-expected Messiah of the Jews.

Consequently, the Pharisees frequently tried to antagonize Jesus. They would seek to catch Him in some theological inconsistency. They accused Him of errors in interpreting the Law. However, Jesus was always wise. He always out-smarted His opponents. He always corrected their error and caused the truth of God’s Word to shine more brightly.

Consider Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees in Luke 17…

 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’
for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (within you).”
Luke 17:20-21

The Pharisees asked Jesus about the time of the Kingdom’s arrival.  Jesus emphatically said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed… the kingdom of God is in the midst of you…”  In other words, the Kingdom is not coming with tanks rolling down the street.  It is not coming with Stealth bombers flying overhead.  It is not coming with troops marching lockstep down the street.

It is coming silently but discernibly within PEOPLE.  Yes, it is true that Christ WILL return in a magnificent display of power at His Second Coming, but His kingdom IS coming through the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Not as the Pharisees expected)…

The apostle Paul talks about the effect of the Spirit’s work in the lives of Christians as fruit.  He says the following in Galatians 5:22-23:”the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Dr. Timothy Keller says the following about the above passage:

“Christian change is as gradual as a potato or a flower growing. Botanical growth you can never really see happen.  You can know it is happening.  Even with a child you can say, “I think you have grown.”  You can’t actually see them growing. It can only be measured.

In much the same way, a trial comes or a test comes suddenly into your life and you see how you respond to it and you think to yourself, “my goodness—a couple of years ago I could have never (been that patient) (or responded in that way)…”

Growth in the various fruit of the Spirit is gradual.  You can’t talk to a friend and say, “I discernibly feel more loving than I did 5 minutes ago.”  However, your friend might say to you, “you know, when I first met you 10 years ago you used to freak out about EVERYTHING, but you know what?  You are really exhibiting much more patience now.”

Much like we can’t visibly see fruit grow, we often have to wait several years to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  Therefore, as Keller states, “we have to be patient.”

However, Keller also states that Christian change is not only gradual, it is also inevitable.  True spiritual change is GOING to happen if the Holy Spirit indwells in your heart. 1 Peter 1:23 states: “you have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable–through the living and abiding word of God.”

Christian change is certain to happen because the seed of the word of God has made us alive.  God’s word will never die, but it will produce that for which He sends it our to do–bring gradual, inevitable growth in the life of every child of God.

On the surface of things, much like Jesus’ physical appearance, Christianity may not look like much.  There may be great struggles; there may be years when we will be tempted to “despise the day of small things”–very little noticeable change (Zechariah 4:10).  However, the Christian can be supremely confident that God will produce spiritual growth in his or her life.

Believing Is Seeing…

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Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

For we do not want you to be ignorant of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death…
2 Corinthians 1:8-9a

These two passages above appear to contradict one another, don’t they? Jesus says that those who follow Him will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. Yet the apostle Paul, who is probably the greatest example in history of someone who followed Jesus, stated that when he was in Asia carrying the gospel into unreached places he felt burdened beyond strength, as if he had received a death sentence.

Paul mentions in another place that he was at times “perplexed.” This word in the Greek language means: 1) to be without resources, to be in doubt, not to know which way to turn, to be at a loss with one’s self, not to know how to decide or what to do. There were times in Paul’s life & ministry when he didn’t know what to do and felt like he was going to die.

But didn’t Jesus say that if we follow Him we would not walk in darkness but would have the light of life??? If He is the light of the world, why do we sometimes feel like He has led us out in the middle of a hopeless desert and it is pitch black all around us?

Look at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:9b-10: But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. Here, Paul clearly states that there was a purpose behind his perplexity– to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

What you need to realize today is that though things do sometimes appear to be dark for us, Jesus truly IS the light of the world. All darkness in our lives is as the light of day to Him. Psalm 139:12 states:

Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

Jesus did not lie, and these Scriptures do not contradict one another. He IS the Light of the world. He sees EVERYTHING the same way, dark or light. Nothing is hidden from His sight, though sometimes He ALLOWS things to be hidden from ours—so that we will learn not to rely upon ourselves but upon GOD who raises the dead!

If you find yourself today in the midst of a dark perplexity, you’re following Jesus but you have no idea what He is up to in your life, hear the word of God from Isaiah 50:10:

Who among you fears the LORD,
Who obeys the voice of His Servant,
Who walks in darkness and has NO LIGHT?
Let him trust in the Name of the LORD
and RELY upon his GOD.

Faith is not a sight, nor sense, nor reason.  It is simply taking God at His Word. (Christmas Evans)

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Hold Your Horses

We are a nation of quitters.  Nowadays, when the going gets tough, the tough are hard to find.  Our society is “so advanced” that we no longer know what it means to delay gratification.  We literally have all of our desires “at our fingertips.”  Yet, while we glut our desires with ease, our souls are shriveling away.

Still, God remains determined to bring His people to maturity.  A few weeks ago, I preached a Sunday evening message entitled “Hold Your Horses” from Isaiah 30:15-18 and Isaiah 36:1-20. 

God’s people were in trouble (again) because they refused to allow God to solve their problems.  He told them in verses 15-16:

 For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
But you would not, And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”—
Therefore you shall flee!
And, “We will ride on swift horses”—
Therefore, those who pursue you shall be swift!

 God told Israel to trust Him and not in what they could see.  We typically think we can solve all of our problems without the Lord’s help, and He is frequently willing to let us try in order to show us the futility of our actions. “In quietness and confidence (in God) shall be our strength,” trusting in His time & His plan.  Yet, because we refuse God sometimes gives us over to futility to show us the error of our ways.  He sometimes allows our spiritual enemies to overtake us so that we will learn a lesson. God wants you to trust Him with your problems.  As a result, when you do not know what to do, the BEST thing you can do is DO NOT DO ANYTHING.  Sometimes you just have to “Stand still (wait) and let God move” (as the Isaacs sing).  The worst thing you can do is to run off looking for help in people, places, or things rather than God.

Of course, our pride, our fleshly minds, and the devil himself will seek to get you to look anywhere else but in God for your deliverance.  In Isaiah 36 the king of Assyria sent his messenger to tell Israel to not trust in God.  He said:

“Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria (king of Israel)! Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Do not listen to Hezekiah… Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

In the same way, Satan loves to scare people to death.  He always tries to rob God of His glory in the lives of His people by telling us, “don’t wait on the Lord; He can’t fix what you are going through.  You’ve got to get relief from this NOW; your problems are so great that the WORST thing you can do is to wait on God.”  However, that is exactly the BEST thing you can do!  You need to hand all of your problems to God. Isaiah 30:18 states:

 Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.

In America we rarely have to wait for ANYTHING.  If we’re lost, we can just consult our smart phones (cell phones) to tell us how to get back on the right road.  If we want to purchase something, the internet makes it possible for us to never leave the comforts of home.  Yet, God does not work that way, and He is trying to develop in His people a maturity level that most of us really don’t want.  Therefore, sometimes God waits on us to realize that it is really a blessing for us to wait for Him.  

Pastor Chuck Swindoll states: “God never forgets anything He promises–Never. God’s agenda continues to unfold right on schedule, even when there is not a shred of evidence that He remembers. Even when the most extreme events transpire and ‘life just doesn’t seem fair,’ God is there, carrying out His providential plan exactly as He pre-arranged it. He keeps His word.”

Sometimes you need to “Hold Your Horses” in order to see Him move powerfully in your life.  What is He asking you to wait for? 

Maybe a better question is what are you running from?

You will be blessed if you will wait!

Guilty As Charged?

Leading by example–a concept that sounds good on paper but is often difficult in execution. It is difficult because leading, especially in the Christian faith, requires the leader to follow someone else–namely Jesus.

Paul the apostle wrote a couple of swan song letters to his disciple Timothy as Paul was nearing his own death, and in these letters (1 & 2 Timothy) Paul instructs Timothy on many issues regarding church government and also Timothy’s own leadership as a pastor.

In 1Timothy 6:6-10 Paul instructs Timothy to keep himself from the “love of money,” saying that the love of money brings a snare and has the potential to destroy the lives of people. Consequently, Paul tells his young disciple to be content with having food and clothing, which are necessities. Notice that Paul does not say “money is the root of all evil” but “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” Timothy’s instruction is to watch out for this trap.

Then Paul (in verses 10-11) makes the following statement:

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

A quick survey of some key words in these verses reveal the following definitions:

Flee: — (to shun or avoid by flight) something abhorrent, esp. vices…

Pursue: — to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing

Righteousness: –the state of him who is as he ought to be (before sin entered the world at the Fall—Genesis 3)

Godliness: — piety towards God, living all of life Coram Deo—“before the face of God.”

Faith: –conviction of the truth, belief w/ the included idea of trust & holy fervour born of faith.

Love (‘agape’ love): — unconditional love, love that is purely a choice, not based upon anything meritorious in the receiving the love.

Steadfastness: — (in the Greek, literally to “endure under”) –endurance; especially as God enables the believer to “remain (endure) under” the challenges He allots in life.

Gentleness: — “gentle strength” It is a divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith.

Paul tells Timothy to “run away” from evil temptations and to “run towards (as to overtake)”: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.

These six words all defined Jesus’ earthly life, but they were especially on full display when He was dying on the Cross. Here is the ultimate righteous man (the state of Adam in his perfection as before the Fall)—Jesus, the second Adam, who has His face set like a flint toward the glory of God. He was the greatest example of living godliness Coram Deo—before the face of God and embracing suffering, not shrinking back—FULLY drinking the cup of the wrath of God against sin. Jesus was the greatest example of living faith ever seen. He was FULLY CONVICTED of the TRUTH to the point that He was willing to trust God all the way to death. He would say in another place, “Zeal for God’s house will literally consume Me” (John 2:17). It consumed Him to the point of death on the Cross. Yet, Jesus was not merely enduring the Cross; He was looking BEYOND it. In faith, Jesus knew what was said of Him in Psalm 16 which states:

10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Jesus, in full assurance of faith and for the JOY that was set before Him, endured the Cross. He KNEW that His heavenly Father would not abandon Him to the grave but would raise Him from the dead on the 3rd day.

And out of unconditional love (He became PERFECT through what He suffered-Hebrews 2:10) as He was on the Cross He was pure love, “agape” love, blessing those who cursed Him, forgiving those who railed against Him. Even for the Pharisees who smugly stood by ((finally getting what their hearts’ desired (the ones whom Jesus boldly refuted & constantly took to the theological woodshed) Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” There was no more debating, no more correcting or castigating–only love. On the Cross Jesus exuded pristine, life-giving, holy, unconditional love for His enemies.

Under this heavy weight of suffering Jesus was steadfast. He literally “endured under” the stress of the Cross, not only physically, & emotionally but also spiritually—suffering the abandonment of God’s smile and feeling FULLY the hammer blows of wrath in His heart for sin.

He BECAME sin; more specifically, He became a sin offering (2 Corinthians 5:21). Every ounce of His being wreaked before the nose of His heavenly Father–not b/c of His sin but because of yours & mine. Still, He endured under this impossible weight—when EVERYONE was telling Him to save Himself & to save others….

As He repeatedly resisted the temptation to call down “legions of angels” to come to His aid & rescue, He did not become bitter. As He constantly, moment-by-moment KILLED sinful temptations that nipped at His heals and His soul, He became more & more gentle, even to the greatest of sinners, exercising His sovereign prerogative to forgive a terrorist—one who was a major threat—they would not merely crucify a common criminal. The forgiven thief on the cross was most likely an insurrectionist to the government. To this man Jesus unconscionably stated: “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”

Here, the glory of God—the heaviness or weightiness of God’s love is most expressed. This is the kind of glory that when seen it causes us to shake our heads in wonder—AMAZED at its vastness and its grace-giving power.

And this is exactly what Paul is telling Timothy to run after.

Better yet, this is what God is telling each one of us to chase down with all of our hearts. He tells us to FIGHT for it (to fight our FLESH) AND TO TAKE HOLD OF THAT WHICH JESUS IN HIS FULLNESS TOOK HOLD OF AS WELL.

If you want to lead people to Jesus, you need to follow Jesus’ lead. No, we will never be perfect on this side of Heaven. However, if unbelievers and even rebels to the Cross are going to behold the power of the gospel to change them, they need to see that power lived out in the lives of those who profess to know Him.

Here’s a question for you to ponder:

If Christianity was made illegal tomorrow and you were brought before a court for the crime of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty of being a Christian?

Is Your God Too Small???

When I was in seminary I had a professor who told us about the time that he entered the school-wide tennis tournament several years earlier. The first year that he played in the tournament he finished in 19th place out of 21 entrants. He told us that he was by no means a great tennis player but he was no slouch. Still, he was certainly not happy with his result.

The next year, in training for the event, he took on a different practice strategy. He practiced as he usually did, but he also employed a new visualization technique. In the months leading up to the tournament for 5 minutes every day, he sat in a chair and held a tennis ball in his right hand and stared at the ball. He didn’t take his eyes off of the ball for a solid five minutes. He studied it. He turned the ball around in his hands. He focused ALL of his time and attention on it for 5 minutes.

Every. Single. Day.

When tournament time came around, his results were markedly different from the previous year. He finished in 3rd place overall with the about the same number of entrants as the year before. To what did he attribute his success? Staring at the tennis ball.

During the tournament he said that every time the ball was hit to him he said that it looked to be about the size of a beachball coming across the net at him. All of that focused attention had made the tennis ball appear much bigger than it was and he easily made it to the semifinals. (He lost in that round).

His point was this—the more you focus your attention on something, the bigger it gets in relation to everything else.

This is kind of how our faith in God can be. I say “kind of” because God is no tennis ball. He is not miniscule in comparison to everything else. He is the GREATEST Being alive. By Him all things were created. Isaiah 40:12—ff describes God’s vastness in poetic language:

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

A “span” is the distance between the tip of your thumb and the tip of your pinky. This is poetic language. It is using “anthropomorphic” (ascribing human attributes to God) language to describe the Creator of the ends of the earth. It is saying, in essence, that as vast as the universe is to us, to God the heavens are about the distance of a span—ridiculously insignificant. In short, God is bigger than we could ever imagine.

We can live all of our days without even seeing or thinking about His influence in our lives or in the world. We can tend to “feel” like either there is no God or if there is He certainly is not orchestrating all of history according to His design.

Yet, the Scriptures paint an entirely different picture of God. Look at Genesis 15:12-16, for example:

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:12-16

As Abram (later, Abraham) fell asleep a great darkness came upon him. God had surely given him a promise about Abram being the father of many nations, and Abram asked God how he would know that this would take place. God instructed Abram to prepare a sacrifice, and after he did as he was told & put the animals on the altar, birds of prey came down upon the pieces. Then he fell into the deep sleep & great darkness fell upon him. Abram was obedient to do what God asked him to do, but his obedience was met by an attempt to mar the work (the birds). Abram had to drive this threat away, and then the darkness fell before God did anything to assure Abram of His promise.

In the midst of the “dreadful & great darkness” God spoke to Abram. And the thing that He said revealed God’s ABSOLUTE, exhaustive foreknowledge of future events that would take place about 430 years later. He stated: “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.” God foretold the Exodus account of Moses from Egypt. God told Abram, in essence, “you want to know who I am and what I am going to do? Just know this, there will come a day when your descendants will be driven from the land, and they will be held captive for 400 years. However, afterward I am going to bring them out again in victory and deliver them back into the Promised Land.”

And the rest is history.

God did what He said He would do. He kept His promise. (Read the book of Exodus).

God is greater than we can imagine. The Bible clearly states that He has unfettered, exhaustive foreknowledge of ALL future events. He knows how everything is going to play out in history, and He, in fact, is orchestrating all events according to the counsel of His own will. Nothing slips through His fingers.

In 70 A.D. the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and Israel was conquered by the Romans and ceased to be a nation. For the next 1800+ years multiple world powers sought to control this land, but each eventually failed. God states in the Bible in multiple places that God has an inviolable covenant with this land. It does not matter what history has shown, God Himself has stated that He will ALWAYS be faithful to Israel. And He has been.

In his book The Last Times or Thoughts on Momentous Themes (published in 1856), author Joseph Sciss stated the following:

“That [Israel should be restored as a nation] seems like an impossibility. 1856, indeed. Some have no patience at all with such a theory or sneeringly ask, “what can be the object of such a restoration? What end is it to answer? What purpose can it serve? [Yet] it is enough to reply that our business is with the word of God and that if God has announced it is his purpose so to restore the Jewish nation, he certainly has adequate reasons to justify his purpose. The only question is whether God has said that he will restore the Jewish nation. For if he has said so, no reasonings of our can invalidate his promise or throw uncertainty onto his word.”

(In other words, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but the Word says it is going to happen and there I make my stand.)

Enter May 14, 1948—the date that Israel once again became an independent nation.

More than anything else in your life, you owe it to yourself to stare at this God. You owe it to yourself to be consumed with gazing upon His majesty, His authority, His sovereignty. It will transform everything in your life. He WILL become (over time) bigger & bigger than all of your current struggles and addictions, and if YOU WILL TRUST HIM, He will blow through your life in untold power, bringing His joy with Him.

Stare at Him though His Word, and watch Him grow in His influence in your life. You will not be sorry.

Father’s Day Meditation

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 57:15

 

Lord, the fact that when this was written & even today makes no difference at all.  You currently inhabit ETERNITY.  You stand outside time.  You are not “becoming” in the sense that you’re not trying to figure “all of this out” like we are.  You know.  You “will be who you will be” and yet you never change.  You are self-existent.  If you were hungry, you would not tell us.  Lord, this is a comfort.  Yet, we can “know” this truth & in our moments we don’t “know” it.  I am forever grateful for the fact that you are not ashamed to be called MY God.

 I am grateful for the long, dark night in which I discovered this Bible verse in my dorm room in seminary. You work w/ those who are faltering & guilty.  You provide refreshment when we “need” it, but you are never late.  Thank you God, that you have revived my heart & my spirit even when I was in the throes of sin.  You have been my champion in my life—never leaving nor forsaking.

God, you are inexhaustible LIGHT.  You ARE high & lifted up, but God, you condescend to the lowly.  Thank you.  I bless you for that.  You have not treated me as my sins deserve.  Lord, let me live & be a messenger to this kind of God—who is wealthy & wise beyond all comprehension, but You are welcoming & even running towards those who are AFRAID to lift their heads because of a crippling sense of their rebellion (Luke 18:9-14).

Thank you Father.   

Here’s What Following Jesus Looks Like…

This week, Alicia & I will be at the Moody Bible Institute Pastor’s Conference in Chicago, and I want to tell you the testimony of how this all occurred.

 A lady that works with Alicia’s mother was driving to work one day listening to Moody Radio in Chicago when she heard that Moody was giving away two tickets to the conference.  This lady knew that Alicia & I are in ministry and so she prayed, “Lord, I would love to win these tickets so that Bo & Alicia could go to the conference.” She won them!

 Alicia & I agreed to go, but we talked about where we would stay.  There were a couple of options available to us that we were debating, but then someone told Alicia they might have one other option.  That person did some checking, and the place where we are staying is at a couple’s home, LITERALLY right across the street from the conference!

 We knew that we were going to have to eat out for the week-which in downtown Chicago can get very expensive.  Yet, we thought, God has provided this much, surely He will help us make up the difference later.  Still, I prayed that God would provide for us.  This invitation to the conference came out of nowhere, and the housing was provided so I had been praying for the past couple of weeks that God would also provide for our meals.

On Sunday, Alicia had visited with her best friend Carrie, and as she was leaving Carrie slipped an envelope in her hand and said, “take this, but I must tell you the story.”  On Saturday, Carrie’s husband Vince was working outside and suddenly came into the house and said, “I have this overwhelming burden that we are supposed to give Alicia some money.”  Carrie thought it would pass, but on Sunday morning Vince said to her, “don’t forget to give Alicia that check when she gets here.”  The amount that they gave was more than enough for our meals for the week!!

The old saying is true, “Where He GUIDES, He PROVIDES.”  You cannot out-give God.  He is the sovereign God of this world.  He cares and will provide for EACH of His children who walk in obedience to Him.

Trust Him!!!!

Psalm 146

The LORD an Abundant Helper.

1Praise the LORD!
Praise the
LORD, O my soul!

2I will praise the LORD while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.

4His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.

5How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the L
ORD his God,

6Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;

7Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.

8The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;

9The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

10The LORD will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Of Elephants, Blind Men, & the Sovereign…

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking.

_______________

This is a feel-good story, written to communicate that EVERYONE is right and no one is wrong; we’re all just “different” and have our own perspectives on how we view “Truth.”

However, there is an even larger elephant in the room (or in this case, in the story) that the author does not take into account.  THE AUTHOR FAILS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT ONE PERSON TRULY KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT AN ENTIRE ELEPHANT LOOKS LIKE.

British theologian Lesslie Newbigin puts it this way:

In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked.  The story is told from the point of view of the wise man, who is not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it.  The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth.  But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite.  If the wise man were also blind, there would be no story.  What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp.  But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has.

As Tim Keller further clarifies:

To say, ‘Nobody can make universal truth claims.’  That is a universal truth claim.  ‘Nobody can see the whole truth.’  You couldn’t know that unless you think you see the whole truth.  And, therefore, you’re doing the very thing you say religious people shouldn’t do.

The point is this: Jesus Christ (in essence) said, “I CAN SEE THE ENTIRE ELEPHANT; I KNOW THE TRUTH.”  Actually, He said, “I AM the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life—NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME” (John 14:6)

Is this arrogance for Jesus to say this???  No, because Jesus always spoke the truth (it eventually got Him killed).  If Jesus thought being a “good person” were sufficient for someone to be saved, He would have told the rich young ruler—“you know—you’re right.  You are a pretty good person.  You get MOST of the 10 commandments right; you’ve got nothing to worry about concerning your salvation.”

Yet, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:21-22).  The rich young ruler was trying to show Jesus how “good” he was & therefore he “deserved” heaven, but Jesus fingered the man’s “true god”—his money.  Jesus was not about to let the man leave thinking, “whatever you believe, as long as you are sincere, then it is okay with God.”

The first commandment is: “You shall have no other gods before me.”  The man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  He wasn’t willing to die to himself, take up his cross & follow Jesus.  He thought he could “have his cake & eat it, too,” but Jesus wants to be KING and LORD of our lives—not just a casual buddy who winks at the false gods in our lives.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Jesus did not die & rise from the dead so that we would remain the same people as before He came into our lives.  He came to RADICALLY make us different people—ONCE DEAD PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING RESURRECTED LIVES IN THE POWER THAT HE SUPPLIES.

As much as we may want to embrace the TRUTH of the Blind Men & the Elephant story, we cannot do so without abandoning reason.  There is ONE truth, and Jesus says unequivocally that HE IS IT!