Posted in 2Chronicles, 2Corinthians, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, John, Luke

The Best Wine

“You have saved the best wine for last.” John 2:10

I am convinced that God has saved the best of His Spirit for those who are older. I’m not an expert on wine, but I know that the older it is, the more valuable it becomes.

Paul said we are renewed in our spirits “day by day” and that we are being transformed “from glory to glory.” (See 2Corinthians 3-4) The picture here is of ever increasing glory as we grow older in the Lord.

Think about it: The temptations that were so strong in youth no longer grip us when we age, and the youthful pride we often had in our own strength no longer deceives us. As we age, we become better positioned to lose our life for Jesus so that we can find our life in Jesus.

It’s not that the Holy Spirit (wine is compared to the Holy Spirit in a number of places in the New Testament) gets better over time, but simply that less of His outpouring is wasted because of the wisdom gained by walking with God for many years. But only if we grow older in the right way.

There will always be a temptation of getting stuck in the past. In Luke 6:39 Jesus says, “But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is good enough,’ they say.” This warning is about how our past experiences with the Holy Spirit can prevent us from entering into the fresh thing the Spirit wants to do.

Solomon warns us to not “long for the good old days.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) God says in Isaiah, “Do not dwell on the past; it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) Dwelling on the past, even the glorious past, will keep us from perceiving the new thing God is doing.

It seems that if we believe our best spiritual days are behind us, then they are. But just think about some of the past giants of faith: Moses was 80 when he led the people of God out of Egypt, Daniel was well into his eighties when he was delivered from the lion’s den, and Anna was 84 when she prophesied about Jesus. (Luke 2:37) God is searching for people to show Himself strong through (2Chronicles 16:9) no matter what their age. So why not you? Why not us?

Posted in 2Samuel, Revelation

A Place at the Table

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

Jesus isn’t inviting us to a one-time experience, but to an ongoing relationship. Amazingly, we’re not the only ones who eat when we come to His table. Jesus also eats with us.  The longing of His heart for fellowship with us is satisfied when we open our hearts and take our place at the feast He has prepared.

In 2Samuel 9 we have the story of Mephibosheth. He was king Saul’s grandson and Jonathan’s son. David sought him out because he wanted to show kindness to one of Jonathan’s descendants in order to honor the covenant of friendship he had made with him.

When Mephibosheth was brought before David, he was afraid for his life because it was customary for a new king to wipe out all the descendants of the king he replaced. (2Samuel 19:28) But mercy, not judgment, was in David’s heart. He gave Mephibosheth all the property Saul had previously owned, making him a wealthy man, but he wanted to do something more than just give him property. David wanted to have an ongoing relationship with him so he gave him a place at his dinner table as if he was one of his own sons. (2Samuel 9:11)

Redemption doesn’t just give us immediate access to the wealth of heaven, it gives us a place at the King’s table. However, just because there was always a place set for Mephibosheth doesn’t mean he always came to meals, just like God doesn’t force us to take the place He’s made for us to have fellowship with Jesus.

The church in Laodicea had said in its heart, “I need nothing.” They were living as Christians apart from intimacy with Christ and had become spiritually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17) Jesus was pursuing their fellowship and was ready to restore spiritual riches, eye salve and garments of white to remove their shame, but they had to respond to His knocking.

He was inviting them to a meal, but not just one meal; the invitation was to start taking their place at the table for all the meals. Physically we need to eat regularly and this is a picture of our ongoing need of daily fellowship with our Savior.

Jesus is still knocking today, have you taken your place at His table?

Posted in Galatians, Genesis

Heaven’s Laugh

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:6-7

The joy Sarah experienced when she had Isaac (Isaac means “laughter”) would be shared by others when she told them the story. She was barren, Abraham was too old, and she had given up on having children long ago. People would laugh for joy because this child was tangible evidence of three things:

  1. God is alive. Because of the circumstances, this was clearly a miracle that only a living God could do.
  2. God is good. Life can be harsh and frustrating, but this child was a desire fulfilled that gave Sarah, and anyone who would hear about it, a taste of how good God is.
  3. God is gracious. Sarah had tried to have a child her own way through Hagar, and then laughed cynically when she heard God’s promise of her having a child. (Genesis 18:12) When she was asked why she had laughed, she lied because she was afraid. Yet God did the miracle anyway! God does wonderful things, not because of our great faith, but in spite of our imperfect faith.

What does this have to do with us? Everything. “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28)  The God who owed us nothing but death, gave us eternal life. The one who was heading to hell is now on the path to heaven.  The life that was degenerating in isolation is now regenerating through adoption into God’s own family, by the Spirit of life.

We are the miracles that should bring heaven’s laugh into this dark, cynical world. God loves us and Jesus died for us!  Don’t forget to laugh today at how wonderful these simple truths are.

Posted in 1Peter, Galatians

Waiting on God

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time, casting all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:6-10

The language of the New Testament has two different words for time. One of them, “chronos,” corresponds to our word for time in definition, but the second, “kairos,” has no one English word to define it. “Kairos” is translated in a number of ways: “the right time;” “the proper time;” “an opportune time;” or as it is in the text above, “in due time.” All of these have the same basic meaning: “in God’s time.”

God has His own time for things. He does plan to lift us up, answer us, promote us, provide for us, and heal us in His time, but there is a time of testing that often comes before which requires us to wait on God. The text above gives us important clues of how to wait.

  1. Wait on God with humility. “Under God’s mighty hand” references God’s power. His face is who He is; His hand refers to His ability to act. God is able to do what you need Him to do. To wait humbly we must cast our anxiety about our situation on Him and leave it there. Let go, and let God!
  2. Wait on God with confidence. God cares for us. He loves us even when in our minds we question why He doesn’t remove the present suffering.  It’s at this point of waiting that the enemy roars in our ears accusations against God to undermine our faith. Remember: the loudest voice in your head is often not the truest one.
  3. Wait on God with perseverance. When we are suffering there is a great temptation to give up on God and take matters into our own hands. If we persevere, God Himself will use the waiting period before the kairos to make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.” “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
Posted in 1John

Staying Free from Idolatry

“Dear children, guard yourselves from idols.” 1John 5:21

I received a phone call while I was pastoring in Minnesota from a third grader.

“Pastor Tom, this is Taylor, and I need to talk to you.”

In all my years of ministry, I had never been called by a little kid and had rarely heard such urgency in anyone’s voice.  Then his mom came on the phone to set up a time when she could bring Taylor in for a meeting. What could this possibly be about, I wondered. Has he been abused? Is he having nightmares? Why couldn’t it wait until Sunday, or why couldn’t he just talk to his parents about it?

The next day, Taylor and his mom arrived at the appointed time and he opened his heart to me. “I love a video game more than I love Jesus,” was what he finally got off his chest. “It’s what I think about in the morning when I wake up and it’s what I think about when I go to bed. I used to think about Jesus, but now it’s this game. What should I do?”

I knew I needed to be careful. His tender conscience could easily have been convinced that all video games are wrong and that he should never play one again. It also would have been easy to minimize an experience he was having, where the Holy Spirit was making him aware that nothing should be more important than God. I ended up saying something like this:

“Taylor, there’s nothing wrong with playing video games; God wants little boys to have fun and excitement. But it’s also important to keep God first, and to not have idols. Why don’t we ask God to forgive you for putting this game before Him, and then you take a time of fasting from the game. After that, you could try playing it again, and we’ll see if God doesn’t break the hold it’s having on you now.”

He thought that was great and we had a time of prayer where he poured out his young heart to Jesus and asked His forgiveness. 

The Apostle John tells us to guard ourselves from idols. An idol is anything you regularly look to as a source of comfort and motivation that’s not God; something that takes God’s place. It can be a person, an addiction, money, work, looks, education, television, and yes, it could even be a video game. We need to guard ourselves from even good things that become too central in our lives.

Posted in 1Timothy, 2Peter, Genesis, Hebrews, John, Revelation

The Tree of Eternal Life

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” Genesis 3:5

After the enemy questioned the Word of God by asking Eve, “Did God really say that,” he questioned the character of God. In the text above it’s as if he’s saying, “God is holding out on you and doesn’t have your best interests in mind.” Once Eve took this bait, she could justify taking matters into her own hands to accomplish what was “best” for her. Instead of trusting God, she became suspicious of Him, and disaster followed. Is anything different today?

The irony of the attack quoted above is that God was offering Adam and Eve something only He possessed,  but it could only be found in the other tree; the tree of life. We find out in Genesis 3:22 that this tree would more appropriately be called the tree of eternal life because whoever ate its fruit would “live forever.” Adam and Eve were being offered, in the fruit of this tree, the very life of God who “alone possesses immortality.” (1Timothy 6:16)

Today God is offering eternal life again through another tree; the cross. His purpose is not to restore us to the state of Adam and Eve before they fell, but to give us the eternal life they never embraced. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What will happen to those who don’t come to the cross and eat of the life only Jesus can give? They will outlive their bodies and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and then be cast into hell to pay for their sins against humanity. (Revelation 20:11-15)  After that they will be destroyed in hell (Matthew 10:28), be consumed by its fire (Hebrews 10:27), and perish like the beasts (2Peter 2:12) when they experience the second death of the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Let’s trust God’s heart for us and receive the eternal life He died for us to have!

Posted in John, Mark

John’s Secret

“One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask Him which one He means.’ Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’” John 13:23-24

Chris Gore (one of the leaders at Bethel in Redding, CA) has a little booklet called, “John’s Secret”, where he contrasts the foundation of John’s faith with the foundation of Peter’s faith. Peter was mostly concerned with how much he loved Jesus, while John’s focus was how much Jesus loved him.

At the last supper Peter declared that “even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” (Mark 14:29) He was sure of his love for Jesus but ended up denying Christ three times and didn’t believe even when he saw the empty tomb.

Peter was sure of his love for Jesus, but John was sure of Jesus’ love for him. All through his gospel, John, the great apostle and prophet, chooses to refer to himself only as, “the disciple Jesus loved.” John was the only disciple that remained at the foot of the cross, and when he saw the empty tomb, he believed. (John 20:8)

The faith and relationship Peter worked so hard for came very naturally to John. We see Peter deferring to John’s relationship in the text above when Jesus had revealed that someone would betray Him. And in John 21 after Peter is told by Jesus how he was going to die, his only response was, “Lord, and what about this man (John)?” Jesus’ answer to him strikes right at the heart of Peter’s competitive, striving spirit. “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:21-22)

I’ve taken John’s secret to heart. I’ve gotten into the habit of reminding myself that Jesus loves me. When I wake up, usually the first thing I say to myself is: “Jesus, You love  me. I am Your beloved, favored, child.” This may sound simplistic but it has had a profound effect on my relationship with God. Maybe you should try it, Beloved?

Posted in Ephesians, John, Matthew, Revelation

The Mysterious Bride

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” Matthew 22:2

In this parable a king (God the Father) is having a wedding feast for his son (Jesus), and his people (the human race) are invited to attend. The first invited (the Jewish race) reject the invitation which leads to their judgment (Matthew 22:7), yet this leads to others being invited (the Gentiles), both good and bad, but even then, “many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

What is unclear is who the son is marrying. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells another parable about a coming wedding feast and this time the people being described are in the wedding party. There are ten bridesmaids who are waiting with the bride (who is not mentioned in the parable) for the bridegroom’s party to come and take them to the wedding feast. If it was an honor to be invited by the king to a wedding feast for his son, it is a greater honor to be in the wedding party. But we are still left with the question: Who exactly is Jesus marrying?

Finally we have a definitive answer in Ephesians 5:31-32: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” You and I aren’t just invited to the wedding; we aren’t just part of the bridal party; we are called to be the bride! Our invitation is actually a proposal from God. No wonder John wrote, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

Yet when Paul writes the words, “…and the two…,” he is saying that Jesus is one – the Bridegroom, and the church is the other one – the bride. You and I aren’t called to be brides, but to be part of the bride. No wonder Jesus prayed that the Father would make us one! (John 17:21) Individually we are sons and daughters, but we are only the bride together. One bride – there isn’t a young bride and an old bride; there isn’t a black bride, a Latino bride, and a white bride; there isn’t a male bride and a female bride; there isn’t a rich bride and a poor bride; and there aren’t Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Charismatic brides. There is only one bride which is why pleasing God must involve us letting go of our prejudices, and learning to love and accept one another in Christ.

Jesus is calling, inviting, knocking, and yes, even proposing to you. Will you refuse the One who gave His life for you, or will you respond by giving Him all of your heart?

Posted in Jeremiah, John

Drinking the Spirit

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit…” John 7:37-39

The words Bilbo spoke in The Lord of the Rings came to me several years ago: “I am like too little butter scraped over too much bread.” Running, ministering, doing… all on fumes. I’d been like a cell phone that is beeping to tell you it’s low on power. I told myself it needed to be charged but maybe I could make one more call before I lost power? Recharging takes time and sometimes we feel like we don’t have any to spare.

How about you? Do you need a drink from the fountain of living water? Have you learned how to survive even while you’ve got signs everywhere that there is nothing in the tank?

Jesus invites me and you to come to Him again for a fresh drink of the Holy Spirit. How do we drink of the Spirit?

  1. Recognize that there is a difference between actually drinking of the Spirit and only believing in drinking, reading about drinking, or talking about drinking. (If any of these constituted drinking, I would be continually renewed.)
  2. To drink I must own my need to drink and bring that thirst to Christ Himself. Oftentimes we bring our thirst to the empty pleasures of this world that turn out to be cisterns that are leaking. (Jeremiah 2:13) We get a small emotional renewal up front but in the end we become even more weary.
  3. To drink I must believe in the abundant grace of God and that He has created me for intimacy.  He died so that sin could not keep me from Him, and He lives to help me drink of His Spirit who He knows I need.
  4. To drink I must make time. Bilbo got away. The cell phone must be plugged in for a while and be unavailable to carry around for a time.

But what about all the people who “need” me? If you take serious time for renewal you may touch fewer people, but God will be able to touch more. And in the end, people really need God, not you, anyway.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Hebrews, James, Revelation, Romans

The Disabled List

“Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13

The author of Hebrews is writing about how to respond to hardships in life. All hardship, he says, is part of God’s discipline or training, to grow us up. (Hebrews 12:7) Yet the very hardship that was designed by God for our healing can end up hurting us if we respond in the wrong way. We need to strengthen ourselves and stay on the straight path in these trying times, or we are in danger of ending up on the disabled list.

What makes us weak in hardship are the lies of the enemy. A few verses earlier we are warned to not be discouraged by discipline, or to take it as a sign of God’s rejection. God loves us and His discipline is actually a sign of His acceptance. (Hebrews 12:4-5)

A great danger in 21st century America  is the belief that God’s chief end for us is to be happy right now, so anything difficult must be prayed away or rebuked as being from the devil. God wants us to be healthy, not just happy, and sometimes that means He allows things in our lives that we wouldn’t choose for ourselves. Even if the devil initiated the difficulties because he hates us, God will use them for our good if we’ll trust Him. (2Corinthians 12:7-9; Revelation 2:10)

Because of this, James tells us we should rejoice when we face various trials because God’s end is that we would become complete in Him, lacking nothing. All we have to do is allow patience (our patience with God) to finish its work. (James 1:2-4)

Are you in a time of difficulty? It is easy to be offended and wander away from God. Strengthen yourself right now by embracing the truth. God loves you and this present difficulty is only going to make you better if you just hang in there. Choose to trust in God’s love and rejoice in His wisdom even when you can’t figure out how something so hard can work for your good. (Romans 8:28)