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 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 John

Redefining Success 

The friend who attends the Bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the Bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:29-30

I am redefining success on the basketball court. It used to be all about winning or losing which meant leaving the game either excited, discouraged, frustrated, or depressed, depending on the final score and how I played. My new definition is that just getting exercise is a “win,” but it’s a difficult transition because I’ve labored under the old mindset for a long time. I have to remind myself each game of my new way of looking at it. “It doesn’t matter that I missed that shot or that we are losing by 10; I’m playing, sweating, and running – I need nothing else to enjoy the game.”

The text quoted above is John the Baptist’s response to disciples who came to him with the news that his ministry was decreasing while someone else’s was getting bigger. “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan…well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” What they were really saying was something like this: “Do something! We’ve got to get the crowds back here because we’ve always baptized more people than anyone else. Let’s get some posters up, let’s interview the man on the street and find out why so many  are going elsewhere. Why not have a party with free pizza?”

Americans love results. Bigger is always better. Work hard and if it’s not producing, work harder. Results rule. John had a different definition of success in life: intimacy with God. He informed his disciples that his joy was not in the ministry, so it really didn’t matter whether it was getting bigger or smaller. His joy was in hearing the Bridegroom’s voice and in being His friend.

To be a friend of God and to respond to Him with joyful obedience when He speaks is the greatest thing you and I can do. It’s not about production, it’s about the relationship. The Westminster Confession states: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Remember to enjoy God today and you already have the win.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Ephesians, Isaiah, John, Matthew, Proverbs, Psalms

The Secret of the Lord

“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” Psalm 25:14

The margin of my Bible has “intimacy” as an alternate translation of “secret.” I believe that  a certain measure of the fear of the Lord is necessary for anyone to come to Christ. Proverbs says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) A revelation of God’s love for us in our weakness and immaturity is necessary to grow us up in our faith. (Ephesians 3:17-19) But I think to walk close to God’s Presence another level of the fear of the Lord is required. 

It says in Isaiah 11:3 that Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord. He experienced the secret promised by Psalm 25:14, enjoying the continual intimate friendship of His Father. He didn’t fear man, He didn’t fear death, He didn’t fear storms, He didn’t fear lack of supplies – He only feared God and cared only about obeying what the Father was saying. (John 5:19)

Maybe the idea of the fear of the Lord seems heavy to you. I think it was just the opposite for Jesus which was why He was able to say, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) He only had to please the Father to be a complete success. Paul said something similar to this: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent (from the body), to be pleasing to Him. 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 5:9-11a)  

Only one ambition! What a simple life, what an easy yoke, what a light burden. May God pour out the Spirit of the fear of the Lord on each of us and make it our delight for His glory.

Posted in 1Corinthians, John, Matthew, Philippians

Assurance of Victory

“No temptation (test) has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able but with the temptation (test) will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1Corinthians 10:13

 You and I can win every day, but to do so, we must begin by agreeing with God’s definition of what victory as a Christian looks like.

 First what it doesn’t look like.  Winning does not mean having no troubles, struggles, or issues to deal with.  Jesus said the wind and the waves will crash against every life (Matthew 7:24-27) and promised His disciples that they would have troubles in this world. (John 16:33)  He even warned us ahead of time to not be offended by this. (John 16:1-2)

 So what is victory, and how can I walk every day with assurance?  Instead of delivering us from life’s troubles, God promises to walk with us through them.  The same Greek word, “peirasmos,” is translated as temptation and test.  Which is right?  The same set of circumstances can easily be described as both a temptation and a test – Satan tempts to bring us down; God allows tests to purify and strengthen us.  God won’t always prevent a temptation, but in His faithfulness He will limit them, so that we can walk through our troubles with Him.  Tests invite us to draw near, so we will know the way He has provided for our escape even though “escape” may mean strength to endure through instead of a deliverance from.

 In school we need to pass tests to advance to the next grade and I think it’s the same in the kingdom.  God’s beloved children don’t get an identity of failure when they give into temptation but will just keep retaking the same test until we pass it.  We decide how long the process lasts. (Three weeks could end up being 40 years!)  He ultimately wants to build in each of us an assurance of victory that is able to say: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Posted in 2Corinthians, Daniel, Genesis, Hebrews, John, Matthew, Psalms

The Gifts of the Magi

“Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

As we think about Christmas let us reflect on the gifts given by the magi which speak to the Gift given by the Father to the human race. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2Corinthians 9:15)

  1. Gold – The gift given to kings. The magi didn’t come to worship one who would become king; they came to worship Him who was born king. This caste of wise men from the east were likely in the order of Daniel with access to his prophecies. Daniel gave the time Messiah would appear (see Daniel 9:24-27) and alluded to His Divine nature as well as His universal rule. “One like a son of man…was given power; all the peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
  2. Incense – The gift offered by priests. In the Old Covenant kings were from the tribe of Judah and the family of David; high priests came from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. But God’s promised Messiah would be both king and priest as was an obscure person in the Old Testament named Melchizedek. (Genesis 14:18) David prophesied about this new order of priesthood that meant there would have to be a new covenant: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
  3. Myrrh – The spice used for burial. Messiah would not only be the priest to offer sacrifice; He Himself would be the sacrifice. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The shepherds who were called to witness the birth were rabbinic shepherds whose job it was to watch over the lambs that would be sacrificed in the temple. On Christmas, God called them to watch over the Lamb that would replace all other sacrifices. “Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) Let’s remember the true wonder of Christmas is the One born for us.
Posted in Isaiah, John

The Christmas Light

“The people (Galilee of the Gentiles) who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them…For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on his shoulders; and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2; 6

We didn’t get the best looking Christmas tree one year. It wasn’t exactly a Charlie Brown tree, but it was kind of unshapely and rough looking. Our solution was to put an extra string of lights on it to take attention away from the tree and put it on the lights. It worked! When we turned  it on at night it rivaled any tree we ever had.

Our tree is like the human race – we need light. Our text refers to those in Galilee who will see a great light. What is the light? It turns out it will be a child, a son, who will be given to us. Oh, and by the way, this child will be called God in the flesh (Mighty God).

While Isaiah looks forward to the coming Messiah, John looks backward and sees something very similar. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In Him was life (zoe) and the life (zoe) was the light of men… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:1, 4; 14)

The Greek word for God’s kind of life is zoe. The zoe in Jesus was the light of men. In John 5:26 He says, “Just as the Father has life (zoe) in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life (zoe) in Himself.” Then Jesus goes on to say something amazing in John 10:10, “I came that they (us) may have life (zoe).”

Jesus came to light us up. We don’t look good or do much good when we’re walking in darkness. It’s time to forsake the darkness and turn on the great light that first appeared in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. It’s time to receive the light (John 1:12) and then learn how to live looking up, so the light can draw others who are trapped in darkness.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)