Posted in John

The Key To Fruitfulness – Part Two

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” John 12:23-25

Yesterday we discussed the uncomfortable truth that the only way to real fruit in our lives is through death to self and covered dying to our plans and our property. Today I want to look at dying to our power and our popularity.

When Jesus tells His disciples that they will all forsake Him, Peter insists that he is willing to die even if the others fall away. Jesus then informs Peter that he will actually fall farther than all the others by denying Him three times before the cock crows.

After the resurrection, we can only imagine how ready they were to prove their faithfulness, but Jesus doesn’t allow them to minister until they’ve received power to be witnesses. The word witness in Greek is “martyras,” which is where we get our word martyr from, and it means to give witness by life or death. It was only after they received the Holy Spirit that they would have the power to stay loyal to Jesus even to the point of death. We’re not all called to be martyrs, but we are all called to die to our own ability to live the Christian life and embrace the power of the Holy Spirit.

The last important thing for us to die to is our desire to be liked. When the crowds following John the Baptist started to diminish, his disciples became concerned and brought this to his attention. His response: “I am the friend of the Bridegroom and my delight is to hear His voice. He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)

The best man is not trying to get the bride to like him. He’s been chosen by the groom and his desire is to serve him well. He wants the bride to love the bridegroom and recognizes that it doesn’t matter if the bride isn’t drawn to the best man – she’s not marrying him!

To be inordinately caught up with people liking us is to be flirting with the bride of Christ which is a serious betrayal of the Bridegroom. 2Corinthians 4:5 says, “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” We’re trying to make Jesus famous, not ourselves. Any other attitude will hinder fruitfulness.

Posted in John, Proverbs

The Key To Fruitfulness – Part One

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” John 12:23-25

Jesus speaks first about the necessity of His own death but then He alludes to the necessity of ours. If Jesus chooses to preserve His life, He can’t save us.  If we choose to live protecting ourselves, we can’t bear fruit as Christians. What does death to self look like?

First, we must die to our plans. Proverbs 16:9 says: “Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” We are not discouraged from making plans, but only from clinging to them. Make a plan, give it to God, and then plan on the original plan changing to conform to God’s purpose. If our identity is in our plan, we will find ourselves continually disappointed and disillusioned when they don’t work out exactly how we thought.

We began a Sunday night service several years ago because we were having to turn people away from overcrowded nurseries in the morning services. Our plan didn’t work because we couldn’t get families to change to Sunday night, so we ended up solving the Sunday morning problem in another way. But in the process, we recognized God had a different purpose for Sunday nights. It has become the service of choice for many who want more and appreciate the culture of waiting on God at the altar since no one has to pick up their kids. 

A second area we need to die to is our property or wealth. Jesus answered the rich young ruler’s question about eternal life by telling him to sell everything and give to the poor, and to then, follow Him. He went away sad because he owned much property (one translation: “had great wealth”). The Lord impressed on my wife during a retreat we took, that her great wealth was her children and their unmet needs were what was making her sad. Jesus invited her to really let go of her “great wealth” by giving her children completely to Him, so she could follow Him without sadness anymore.

What’s your great wealth? What’s holding you back from complete abandonment to God? The reason why God pries things out of our hands is so that we will be open to receive all He has for us. He is not against us owning property, but He insists that our property doesn’t own us!

Posted in 1Corinthians, Exodus, Matthew

Foreshadows of His Sacrifice

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians’” Exodus 6:6-7 

God’s plan from the beginning was to call out a people who would walk with Him in time and for all eternity. He knew before He made us about sin, so His plan all along was redemption – our walk with Him would only be on the terms of His first delivering us. The exodus from Egypt and the journey to the promised land foreshadow our redemption from sin and journey into the promised life we have in Christ. Today I want to reflect on the way Israel was delivered.

There were ten plagues that visited Egypt, but only the tenth set God’s people free.  The final plague was the death of the first-born male in every house throughout the land unless each home did what God commanded the Israelites to do. Every family was to find a male lamb a year old that had no blemish (Exodus 12:5) and sacrifice it on the 14th day of the month (Exodus 12:6) which was to be their first month from now on. (The Israelites call the month: “Nisan.”) Then they were to apply the blood of the lamb to the top and sides of their doors and were to eat the lamb so they would have strength for their journey. That night the final plague would come, but every home that was covered by the blood of the lamb would be passed over. (Exodus 12:13)

On the Friday before Passover in 33 AD, Jesus of Nazareth was inspected early in the morning by Pilate’s court. He was found to be innocent and without blemish. Even his accuser declared him innocent when he gave back the money he received from betraying him. (Matthew 27:4)

That afternoon, just as the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple, Jesus died on the cross. John the Baptist had said: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Paul says that “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1Corinthians 5:7)

Posted in Genesis, John


“Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22:2

Genesis promises redemption both by what God says to Abraham, “in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3) and by events that foreshadow His bigger plan.

First, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham which means, “Father of many nations.” Abraham foreshadows what the Father in heaven will do when He takes His Son, His only Son, and sacrifices Him for our salvation.

Isaac foreshadows Jesus, the only beloved Son of God. He goes up a mountain in the region of Moriah (Calvary is one of the mounts in this region) with wood on his back placed there by his father. (Genesis 22:6) When he asks, “Where is the lamb for sacrifice,” Abraham responds, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” (Genesis 22:7-8) When Abraham lifts the knife to kill his son, an angel stops him, and Abraham then sees a male lamb in a thicket caught by its horns. As that lamb was sacrificed, I can almost see tears in the eyes of the heavenly Father who knows His Son will be the Lamb He provides for the sins of the world.

After this powerful foreshadowing of Calvary, Abraham sends his servant back to his relatives in Haran to get a bride for his son. This unnamed servant represents the Holy Spirit who will be sent back to earth to prepare a bride for the Son of God. The servant brings a small sampling of wealth in his invitation to Rebekah, explaining that his abundantly wealthy master has left everything to his son. (Genesis 25:36) Jesus says, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:15)

Rebekah foreshadows us. The servant asked Abraham, “What if the woman will not come back with me?” Abraham said, “if she refuses, you will be released from my oath.” (Genesis 25:41) The Holy Spirit has authority to invite but not to force. When the servant explains that the invitation is urgent and that he will leave the next morning with or without her, her family asks Rebekah, “Will you go with this man?” (Genesis 25:58) Rebekah then leaves all security she has in her circumstances and goes with this servant on a journey that will end in her being the bride of the father’s only son. Amazingly, nothing less than this happens when we genuinely answer the Spirit’s call today.

Posted in Colossians, Galatians, Hebrews

The Old Self

“But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:8-10

One day  my wife gave me her strong opinion on my favorite apparel, “I don’t want you to wear those sweaters any more. They make you look old.” She continued with conviction: “In fact, one day they’re just not going to be in your closet anymore.”

I love sweaters and especially my sweaters. They all fit me perfectly and most were birthday or Christmas presents because my family knows I love to wear them. What’s worse is that all of these sweaters were in my winter starting line-up of what to wear to work. They were practically part of me.

Hebrews 12:1 talks about easily besetting sins that need to be put off or they will hinder us in our race. Each of us have different easily besetting or comfortable sins. Think of them as sweaters in your closet – there’s one called lust, another anger, there’s hatred and slander, lying, filthy talk, and addiction; and then, of course, there’s pride. Often there’s one that fits so well it seems like it’s part of us.

The problem with these sweaters is they make us look like the old self. It’s confusing to the world when we claim to be Christians but don’t look like Christians. Why didn’t Alice just remove those sweaters from my closet? She didn’t want to violate relationship. If she removed the sweaters against my will, I might resent it. She gave her opinion but left them there, so that ultimately it would be my choice. God does the same with our old self. Paul is writing to Christians when he says to take off the old self and put on the new. God won’t do it for us.

Alice bought me new clothes to wear. She didn’t just tell me to put off the old; she purchased new clothes that she likes on me. Jesus has done the same. Here are some of the clothes available for the new self to put on: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Jesus bought these clothes with His own blood so we could be and look, new in Him.

Every day we need to look in our closet, reject the old self and put on the new. It will get easier and easier in this life, and in eternity, those sweaters won’t even be there anymore!

Posted in 1Timothy, Hebrews, Job, John

The Mediator

“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” Job 9:32-35

The longing of Job was for a mediator. Someone who could stand in the gap between him and God. Someone who could remove God’s judgment and then place one hand on God and one on him to bring them together. This longing, which is also the need of all human beings, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Jesus was God, the eternal Son. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1; 14) Jesus was and is fully God. When the Jews asked Him if He had seen Abraham, He replied, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58) This is a clear reference to God’s Name in the Old Testament.

But Jesus was also a man. Hebrews 5:9 says that Jesus was “made perfect.” How could God be anything less than perfect? He was always perfect as God, but to become the perfect mediator He had to become a human being. “Once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest.” (Hebrews 5:9) As our priest He offered the perfect sacrifice for sins, Himself. He needed to be God because He had to take the place of the whole human race; and He had to be man because it was man who had sinned. This sacrifice removed God’s wrath from all humanity and transformed God’s throne into a place of grace instead of judgment. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Jesus Christ – fully God and fully man. We don’t have to understand the mystery of who He is to believe and worship. “There is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 2:5)

Posted in John, Mark, Philippians

Embracing the Cross

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” Mark 8:34-35

Sometimes people refer to their difficulties as, “their cross to bear”, and assume that they’re bearing it just by going through the trouble. But the cross, to be a cross like our Lord’s, is something you must take up and bear of your own free will. Jesus said about His life, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” (John 10:18)

You and I don’t choose the trouble that comes to us in various forms, but we do choose how we will deal with it. When we grumble, complain, blame, and get frustrated, angry, or depressed it’s evidence that we are still very much on the throne of our lives.  God’s inviting us to embrace suffering like Jesus did, knowing that this identification will lead to knowing Him more intimately, and result in a deeper faith in us. (See Philippians 3:10)

Francois de Fenelon, one of the great spiritual leaders of the 17th century, gave this wisdom to a struggling disciple:

“I am sorry to hear of your troubles, but I am sure you realize that you must carry the cross with Christ in this life. Soon enough there will come a time when you will no longer suffer. You will reign with God and He will wipe away your tears with His own hand. In His presence, pain and sighing will forever flee away.

So while you have the opportunity to experience difficult trials, do not lose the slightest opportunity to embrace the cross. Learn to suffer in humility and in peace. Your deep self-love makes the cross too heavy to bear. Learn to suffer with simplicity and a heart full of love. If you do you will not only be happy in spite of the cross, but because of it. Love is pleased to suffer for the Well-Beloved. The cross which conforms you into His image is a consoling bond of love between you and Him.” (100 Days in the Secret Place; page 21)

Posted in Colossians, Hebrews, Isaiah

Living from God’s Presence 

“There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…” Hebrews 4:9-11

At the beginning of 2015, I felt the Lord highlight this Scripture with a stream of thoughts about its application in my life. I’m a list person, so God seems to speak to me in lists!

  1. I want you to do less and accomplish more.
  2. I want you to speak less and say more.
  3. I want you to rationalize less and risk more.

I am still unpacking exactly how to live these three phrases out, but I’d love to give a few thoughts on each one that may serve to inspire your journey as well.

  1. “Do less and accomplish more.” This was a call to stop striving in my own power usually motivated by the fear of not being good enough. Jesus was good enough and He is our Sabbath rest. In the Old Covenant they rested on a day; in the New Covenant we are called to rest in a Person. (Colossians 2:16-17) Remember: God can accomplish more in a moment than man, apart from God, can accomplish in a lifetime.
  2. “Speak less and say more.” Our life’s posture should be listening before speaking. Many words of our own will dilute the power of a few words inspired by God. Isaiah 50:4 is a goal for me: “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen…” We live in a culture that is worn out by many words. One “word” that is actually from God has the power to sustain the weary.
  3. “Rationalize less and risk more.” We are living as the beloved, not as those trying to earn love. This is a safe place. Yet the kingdom can only advance by acts of faith, so someone has to step out of their comfort zone and take a risk when they feel God might be speaking. We were created to live hosting His Presence. The more we practice living out of this place, the better we will be at it and the more of the beauty and power of heaven will be released on earth through regular people like you and me.
Posted in Luke

Encountering Jesus 

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other: ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” Luke 24:31-32

It was resurrection day but these two disciples were sad and discouraged because they didn’t yet believe. It took an encounter, a revelation, for them to truly believe Jesus was alive and the Savior of the world.

A few years ago I was in Belize when I experienced this truth first hand in the life of a young mom. She asked for prayer at the end of the service and told me the problem was her right wrist. A bone had come out of joint and she was very limited in the use of her arm because there was a lot of pain if she twisted it to the left or right. I laid my hands on it and prayed a very short prayer releasing God’s healing presence in Jesus Name. I asked her to test it and when she did, she found she could move it back and forth more easily but said there was still some pain. I prayed another short prayer and tears began to flow down her cheeks.

“The pain is gone,” she said as she demonstrated full movement of her hands and wrist by twisting them to the right and left. We also prayed that the bone which was sticking up would go back down but nothing additional happened.

This woman (who gave me permission to share her story) works in the kitchen for the missionaries we were visiting so a few days later during breakfast I asked her to tell the story of what happened. She told me that after she became pregnant, a year earlier, the father of her baby was abusive and had twisted her arm in a way that the bone was moved out of joint but she never went to the doctor. She had just lived with the pain and restricted mobility.

The first time I prayed for her she said she felt pain go out of her fingertips. The second time we prayed she felt the rest of the pain leave and knew she was healed.

“The reason for the tears was that I always wanted to believe God was real. When my wrist was healed I knew it for sure.” She told me that when she woke up the next morning the bone was back in place as well and then showed me that both wrists now looked the same.

God encountered this precious young woman in a way that she would forever know it was Him. He is risen!

Posted in Galatians

Stand Firm

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, therefore, in your freedom and don’t become enslaved again to a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

When I was 44 I started having back pain I couldn’t get rid of. I complained about it, prayed about it, and had others pray for it, yet it persisted. My wife told me to go to the chiropractor several times, so eventually I humbled myself and went.

The chiropractor made an adjustment to my back that I could never have performed myself. I literally heard something snap in my back and felt something move into place that had been out of alignment. I was thankful and ready to leave, but the doctor wasn’t done. He told me to stop carrying a wallet in my back pocket and gave me a list of exercises to start doing so my back would stay in place.

How intrusive! I just wanted to feel better; I wasn’t looking for a new lifestyle, so I ignored his instructions and went on with my life. The problem was that my back started hurting again in a few weeks, and I had to return. I didn’t want him to know I disobeyed his instructions, so I left my wallet in my coat pocket before going in to see him.

After the appointment, I realized I had a decision to make. I could either spend my life going back for adjustments or change my lifestyle. Today, I use a money clip and have a regimen of exercises I do every morning for my back. I haven’t needed an adjustment in years.

God loves us so much He sent Jesus to die on the cross to free us from our sins. Only Jesus can make the adjustment in our lives that aligns us in a right relationship with God, and if we fall back into sin, He is more than willing to forgive us and put us back into alignment. But God has something more for us. He wants us to learn how to live in alignment and not have to be constantly repenting. He wants us to stand firm in the freedom He has won for us and never live in bondage again.

The world is too proud to come to Jesus for an adjustment. The church is often too apathetic to make lifestyle changes that would allow us to walk every day in the freedom Christ died for. Let’s shake off unbelief and apathy; let’s purpose to get free, and then to live free, for God’s glory and our good.