Posted in 2Corinthians, Hebrews, John

Honoring the Son 

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:22-24

Honor means to give esteem, respect, and to place a high value on someone. Do you honor the Son? Does your life bring honor to His Name? To truly honor Jesus we must honor His position as our Judge, honor His word as the final authority in our lives, and honor His work as the only way to eternal life.

All judgment has been given to the Son. This means that at the end of our lives only One opinion of our thoughts, words, and deeds will matter, and that is the Son’s. Paul defines living in view of Christ’s judgment of our lives as the fear of the Lord: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…” (2Corinthians 5:10-11) We honor Him by acknowledging His right to judge us.

In our text Jesus talks about the importance of hearing and believing His word. In fact, in John 12:48 He says that He won’t personally judge us but will only judge us by the word He has spoken. He has made His sayings known to the human race through the Bible. We cannot honor the Son without honoring His word.

The One who sent Jesus, the Father, sent Him to die on the cross so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) In fact, the reason the Father gave the Son the right to judge the human race was that He became a Son of man. (John 5:27) He is the only One worthy to open the scroll which brings the final day of the Lord because He was the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 5:9) We honor His work on the cross when we put our trust in Christ for our salvation and trust Him for every need we have in this life. Because of His work, Hebrews 4:16 says we can come with confidence to a throne of grace whenever we have something we need help with. We aren’t bothering God when we ask, we’re actually honoring Christ’s work.

Posted in Genesis, Hebrews

Shake To Wake

“’Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…” Hebrews 12:26-28

Have you ever been driving along and before you know it you realize that drowsiness is beginning to overtake you? Immediately you become awake and fear grips you because of the possible consequences of falling asleep at the wheel. Not only would you and anyone in your car be at risk, but also innocent people in other cars who hadn’t fallen asleep. When I know I’m a bit sleep deprived on a long trip I make sure that I’ve got caffeine and somebody to talk to who keeps me properly alert.

God is shaking America right now. We have gone our own way and done our own thing, yet He is calling out to us. I don’t believe He is shaking us to punish us as much as He is shaking us to wake us up. Some people feel like God would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if He didn’t send His wrath on America. I disagree. Scripture is clear that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because of how evil the worldly people were, but because God couldn’t find a remnant of His people to preserve it. As Abraham sought God’s face for mercy, the Lord promised him that if He could find a remnant of just ten, He would spare the whole city. (Genesis 18:32)

Well God has a huge remnant in America; people that love God, serve God, and seek God day in and day out. His heart is for this remnant to wake up from the spiritual sleeping pills this culture has given us through compromise and idolatry. As Hebrews says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Posted in 1Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Hebrews, Romans

Walking in the Spirit

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1Corinthians 2:14-16

Beware of one facet of the carnal nature in you Scripture calls, “the natural man.” The natural man wants to believe and obey only what he understands completely. He won’t do anything until he knows that he won’t look stupid or foolish in front of others, therefore our natural man is incapable of living by faith and cannot please God. (See Hebrews 11:6; Romans 8:8)

It is easy to be born of the Spirit at some point in the past, but not walk in the Spirit today. When that happens we are miserable as Christians, kind of like fish out of water. Our proper habitat is the spirit realm, so when we go back to living like those in the world we become spiritually choked.

Signs of a Christian living in the natural man include anxiety, joylessness, cynicism, discouragement, and feeling spiritually drained all the time.  The answer is not complicated; put off the old man and walk in the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:22-23; Galatians 5:25) Start by asking God to forgive you for trying to live the Christian life by the natural man, then remember that your rightful breath is the Holy Spirit, your proper food is the Word of God, and your sure hope for eternity is heaven no matter what happens down here. You have only God to please, so it doesn’t matter whether others approve of you or not.

The language of the Spirit does not contradict our minds, but it does transcend it. His many ways of whispering to us must be spiritually appraised, so we must stay alert to the spirit realm. God is in charge of planning, protecting, providing, and guiding.  We are in charge of trusting and obeying. It’s a nice arrangement when we do our part and don’t question His!

Posted in Hebrews

Treadmarks

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God … Imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

I was late for a pastor’s cluster being held at a nearby church, so when the way into the parking lot was blocked by cones, I decided to drive around them even though it meant going over the grass. No one was watching, I thought, but as soon as I had maneuvered my vehicle to the other side of the cones, the worst possible person appeared in the parking lot as if by magic. It was a maintenance person from the church who was a friend of mine from the past. I rolled down the window and told him how sorry I was for ignoring his cones. He was genuinely upset.

“Do you know what happens when people sneak around the cones?” he asked.  Not waiting for my reply he continued, “It leaves tread marks in the grass that encourages others to do the same thing. How are we supposed to get people to do the right thing when even the leaders don’t do it?”

I told him how sorry I was and asked his forgiveness which he gave (I think). After he left I just sat in the car and let God deal with me. This small event was a picture of my life at the time. I had become very busy running from one meeting to another; meetings at church, meetings with family, meetings at school, meetings with pastors… I didn’t seem to be able to stop. What was being cheated was my private time with God where I don’t prepare sermons or plan anything, but only worship and enjoy Jesus for His own sake. I still prayed, because I needed God to help me with all of my responsibilities, but I had lost the first love, that delight that finds its reward in who God is and not in what He can do for me.

No one else noticed except my wife and the Holy Spirit. I could continue on in this way and fool most people, but it was clear to me that if I did it would lead to more and more compromise in private that would leave tread marks which others would certainly follow. But I had a choice. It wasn’t too late to stop, I felt the Holy Spirit say. I just needed to acknowledge my sin and seek a new passion for God.

What about you? Are you leaving treadmarks of compromise that pave the wrong path for those following you? It’s not too late to repent and give a better example.

Posted in Hebrews, Leviticus, Romans

The Sacrifice Answered by Fire

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

At one convention I went to the theme was, “Altared,” with a verse from Leviticus 6:12 on never letting the fire go out on the altar. Each speaker brought up the theme and gave reflections on what it looked like to have the fire of God’s presence burning in the altar of our hearts.

One speaker asked us to consider what comes into our minds when we hear the word “worship.” Then he suggested some possible answers: a too short or too long time of singing before a sermon, hymns or choruses, singing that is too fast or too slow, a key too high or low to sing in, or maybe even the graphics that are now behind the words of songs because of modern technology.

Then he talked about the Bible’s version of worship which he said was more PG 13. Worship in the Bible always involved something dying. From Abel’s sacrifice to animals required for sacrifice in the tabernacle and the temple; Jews knew that there must be a death to satisfy the holiness of God who said the wages of sin was death. After the sacrifice God required was given, God Himself would answer by fire. The priests didn’t need matches.

Elijah said the God who answers by fire, He is God. When the Holy Spirit came after the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, there was a tongue of fire that rested on each head. Truly our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and wants to baptize us in His purifying fire so we can easily live for Him.

So here’s the problem. The only offering that is answered by fire is death. If we try to give God a partial offering instead of making ourselves living sacrifices, we won’t have His fire in our hearts. We will end up with a powerless version of Christianity that looks and acts just like the world. It sounds kind of like the American church today, doesn’t it?

In view of His mercy, let’s give Him what He died for by offering ourselves as living sacrifices for His glory and our good.

Posted in Hebrews, Isaiah, Psalms

Laying a Solid Foundation

“Let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works…” Hebrews 6:1

On August 1, 2007 a bridge in Minneapolis that crossed the Mississippi river collapsed killing 13 and injuring 145. The irony was that work was being done on the bridge at the time of the collapse; but it was the wrong work. One article summed up the types of things that were being done: “The construction taking place in the weeks prior to the collapse included replacing lighting, and guard rails. At the time of the collapse, four of the eight lanes were closed for resurfacing.” Because the foundational work was left undone, all the other work proved to be in vain. This is how it is in a Christianity that lacks repentance. It doesn’t matter how much we do, if we haven’t really repented and aren’t living a life of repentance, all our works are dead in God’s sight.

Hebrews 3:7-8; 3:15 and 4:7 all say the same thing: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” Repentance is not possible until God speaks to us. He can speak through His word as we read it, or through a preacher at church, or by a dream or vision in the night, or through an honest friend, or in difficult circumstances.  God has lots of ways to speak to us when He wants to get our attention.

When God speaks we need to agree with Him. David said, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak.” (Psalm 51:4) When we agree with what God says we justify Him; when we defend ourselves by making excuses for what we did, we justify ourselves. Hardening your heart toward God can actually mean softening your heart toward you by giving yourself unwarranted and unsanctified mercy for evil you have said, thought, or done. “It wasn’t that bad,” “he had it coming,” “I only spoke the truth,” “I was tired,” “Yeah, but she did that wrong thing first,” are just a few excuses that quickly come into our hearts when we seek to justify ourselves.

Let’s not live resurfacing the bridge when what it needs is foundation work. Rather, let’s each take time to seek our hearts and fully repent. Isaiah 30:15 gives the blessing that will result, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Posted in Hebrews, John, Romans

The Purpose of Pruning

“Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2

When we lived in Montevideo, MN we had some friends that decided they were going to surprise us while we were away at a conference by working on our yard. Included in their work was the pruning of our front bushes. When I first saw them I was shocked. Our once large, robust bushes looked like they were little, puny twigs stuck in the ground that were about to die. Fortunately one of the women saw my concern and assured me that this was actually a good thing, and that the pruning process was important for the bush. I took her word for it, but still thought that anyone passing by in the near future would be very unimpressed with our bushes.

Jesus said that if we please God by bearing fruit, God will prune us back, so that we will eventually bear more fruit. God always sees things from His eternal perspective. He sees our pain, but He still does what is best for the long term with, what seems to us, little regard for our short term comfort. As human beings we usually consider short term comfort before long term benefit, and can easily be offended that God doesn’t see it our way. “If God truly loved people then He would…” Our own ideas of what God’s love should look like can easily rob us of faith.

God’s end is to transform us into the image of His glorious Son. (Romans 8:29) He is firm in His purpose, so our lives will be a lot easier if we agree with His plan and try to work with it instead of resisting it. Hebrews 12:5 gives the two wrong responses to the pruning process called the Lord’s discipline:

  1. Don’t take it lightly – embrace God’s dealings with you and respond quickly. Blowing off conviction will only lead to God bringing the correction at a later time and usually in a bigger way. 
  2.  Don’t become discouraged – when life is hard we often conclude that God is angry with us or is somehow not pleased. Don’t jump to conclusions! Check your conscience, and if everything is clear then just trust that the God who delights in you is doing a little pruning so that your long term joy will be maximized. 

Part of God’s plan is that we supply comfort to each other while they are being pruned. Let’s be sensitive, gentle, and loving to people who are going through difficulties knowing full well that we may need comfort from them tomorrow.

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 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.