And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
It is not about us. How often have you heard this said, and wondered what it means? There are seasons when, in some senses, it has been about you. God loves us and simply wants the best for us. Psalm 35:27 says, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
The truth is, we also want you to be whole so that you are optimally equipped to serve God’s purposes on earth. He wants our healed hurt to be a source of healing for others. 2 Corinthians 1 makes it clear that we comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves have received. The Message puts it this way:
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father...
…but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands. Isaiah 5:12
What is it that causes people to “perish” or go into “captivity”? The answer that is usually given: “lack of vision” or “lack of understanding.” This, however, is only part of the story. We have to ask, “What is it that they did not have knowledge about?” To understand this better we have to read the beginning of the chapter. It talks about a people who are socially and economically sophisticated: they have mansions, expand their businesses, know their wines and are music connoisseurs. But they don’t really know God, are unjust and unrighteous.
Therefore my people will go into exile…
Most teaching tends to emphasize what comes after the “therefore”—lack of vision or understanding—rather than what comes before the “therefore.” The big issue is this: having...
The calendar has clicked over on a new year and, not surprisingly, your problems have not magically disappeared and your dreams have not been fulfilled (unless you dreamed to live another day, perhaps). In between now and when things come to fruition is the waiting and I find that waiting reveals more about who I am than does moments of fulfillment. Put more simply, how I wait speaks to who I am. Paul told his protégé, Titus:
“For the grace of God… trains us… while we wait”
I remember years ago David Wilkinson (the Prayer of Jabez author) saying that he sinned when he felt uncomfortable so he learned to ask the Holy Spirit to comfort him, and this usually happened quickly when he consciously asked for comfort. Having to wait can cause discomfort, and when I am discomforted I can look for distractions: I look at YouTube (NFL Highlights, sailing, prophetic words, music… not necessarily bad stuff) or Facebook or Instagram. I find a...
till I entered the sanctuary of God
Do you ever lack an understanding of the bigger context of life? Do you think your life is worse than others? Do you wonder why you have a hard time and those who don’t know God do fine? Asaph had the same challenge, and in Psalm 73 as he gives us a good reason to do “scorecarding,” to measure…but it has to be in the right context.
Although he is in a bad place personally, he knows enough about God to start with the general truth. “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” This is as true as “God loves everyone.” It is true, but it lacks the personal touch. “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped…” What follows is verse after verse of bad news for Asaph and good news for the rich. Finally, he arrives at the middle of this song and says, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me,...
Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I'm an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
And Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now; I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.”
Somewhere we have warmed to the notion that a skeptical response is a godly response. “Let me think it over... I am not sure I get it... could this be God?”, or the old favorite, “I'll pray about it.” In Luke chapter 1, we have two different responses to God. Zachariah wasn't about to have the wool pulled over his eyes, and so Gabriel had to clear the fog. “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won't believe me...” Said another way, 'Hey, Zach, this is Big Gabe who's talking to you... a real, live angel. Listen up!'
Mary's response was different. “Yes... I am ready to serve.”
What was the difference between them? Zachariah had probably...
For the last seven years I have co-hosted The Kingdom Summit with my friend, Ben Akabueze and this year it was all virtual. One of our speakers, Dr. Tom Dooley, commented that the incidence of Covid-19 in Africa, which is much lower than predicted, is due partly to the fact that Africa does not shovel its elderly into old age homes. Many of Africa’s senior citizens live in multi-generational units. Now, I have often said “God is a multi-____ god” but have not fully thought through the implications on our health. The God of the Bible is inclusive: Multi-Nation, -Ethnic, -Gender, -Tongue, -Profession, -Tribe, -Generation. There are exceptions: God is adamant that He is the One True God (three-in-one, actually) and that there is only one way to God, Jesus Christ.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
That said, broad swaths of scripture have multigenerational...
Not that I accept human testimony…
How and what we perform is driven by whom we have in the audience of our minds, holding our scorecard. Jesus knew the Father so well that He played for an audience of One. Contrast the dialogue we have in our minds with the statements of Jesus:
I’ve done pretty well... “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.”
Even if I say so myself… “There is another who testifies in my favor.”
It is public knowledge that he is on the XYZ Most Successful list… “Not that I accept human testimony…”
My portfolio speaks for me… “For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”
Our speaker tonight is a famous businessperson / athlete / movie star / whatever who just found Jesus last month… “I do not accept praise from men…”
We believe God…...
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way, say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you.’ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Isaiah 35:3-6, Matthew 11:3-5
Often as I prepare for and look back on a business venture, I remember Christ’s response to the “Are you the real thing?” question asked by John the Baptist. John had put in a fair effort for the kingdom. He had run his race, and it ended in a prison. Now he wanted some assurance that the effort he invested was not misguided. Jesus gives this pregnant reply.
Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what's going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
“I know that power has gone out from me.”
“Don’t bother the teacher any more.”
They laughed at him… but he took her by the hand and said,
“My child, get up!” Luke 8:40-56
A funny thing happened on the way to Jairus’ house. Jesus is on a mission to heal a sick twelve year old, the only daughter of an important person. Dad is distraught, Jesus is responding to the 911 call. If you were Jesus you might be thinking, “I can handle this… stay focused.” But then there is the jostle of the crowd, and all of a sudden Jesus feels power go out of him. He knows that interruptions can be divine interjections, so he pauses to address the situation… during which time the patient dies. The young girl, that is.
Three things emerge from this passage. First, Jesus was feeling differently. His team was feeling the pressing, moving throng, crowding and almost crushing Jesus. He was feeling the touch of faith and...
Be careful, be calm, and don’t be afraid. Isaiah 7:4
King Ahaz had reason to be concerned. Three armies were colluding against him. It seemed that the fall of his city was inevitable. Scripture says that he and his companion’s hearts were melting within them. God sent the prophet Isaiah to meet him and explain that the three armies would not prevail. Then he gave this command: “Be careful, be calm, and don’t be afraid.”
When we are “out doing something for God” we are focused; we are desperate for God to do transformative things. But once a particular mission is completed, it is easy to let one’s guard down thinking the battle is over. Problems we have held at bay for weeks now stare us in the face. This is no less true for me than for you. So after a recent Venture this same word was spoken to me. “Be careful, be calm, and don‘t be afraid.” I wondered why the prophet started...