Monthly Archives: December 2013

One Among Many – The Uniqueness of Christ

John 14:5  “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I hate most is not knowing where I am going, and not knowing how I am going to get there.  It gives me that little queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach until I know that I have for sure arrived at my destination.  Even when I am in an unfamiliar building, (you know when you have those quick, turn left five times, go upstairs, turn right, turn left twice, and it’s the 9th door on the right, kind of directions), I don’t like walking around attempting to find where I need to be.  I would rather just know, you know?  It’s even worse when I am in a city or area I’ve never been in and I have to find somebody’s house or conference or something and suddenly my GPS app on my phone just doesn’t want to work.

I can imagine this is how Thomas must have felt when he was listening to Jesus as He was talking to His disciples at the last meal He would share with them.  Jesus had already washed their feet, spoke of service, predicted that one of them would betray Him, given them a commandment to love one another so the world would know whose they were, and had said that Peter would deny him.  All that information and in the midst of it, He told them that He would be leaving, and they could not follow Him directly, but later on they could.  Can you see the question marks in the disciples heads? Or the worry building in their hearts?  Jesus did.

14:1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.

And, this is where Thomas comes in.  “What??  We know where You’re going? Okay, tell me this, Lord, if we don’t know the destination, how can we know the way?” Jesus’ response is straight to the point, yet so revealing of who He is and how different He is compared to any other religious leader/prophet of any other religion.  14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The disciples had been in the presence of the Way for 3 years, and they couldn’t see it for themselves, so Jesus had to spell it out for them.  Jesus is unique in the fact that He is not telling the disciples (and us) to follow His ways, and they will lead to God.  He is saying that He is the Way to God.  How is that so? “7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

I am envious of those people who seem to have an internal compass.  You know those people who have that innate ability to tell you what direction you point to even if you have blindfolded them, walked them into an unfamiliar place, and spun them in circle 20 times.  It takes me a bit to get my bearings, and sometimes I get into a building I can’t tell you which way is north if my life depended on it.  I am not the worst – I could tell you stories of some that I know that have gotten lost in Russellville even after living here for a little while.   I can usually manage to navigate with a map or a GPS, but when left to my own devices, I am lost.  When we are hiking, Selby amazes me because he can figure out where we need to be by how the trail is marked, or by the fact we should be following  a creek or something like that.  We went recently to listen to Tim Ernst, a nature photographer, speak about a recent project.  We were chatting with him afterwards, he was talking about a similar concept, following the lay of the land because of a river – it’s  natural to him. But, he said that he always wants a GPS when he is in flat land down in Southern Arkansas because it’s unfamiliar territory for him – he would be lost without it.

The fact the Jesus is the Way is comforting.  I already have the Way within me because I have already accepted Him.  I already have an internal Eternal GPS, you see.  I don’t have to worry that I will get lost, because I am not left to my own devices.  I am not expected to do it on my own, because He has already done it for me.  That “preparing a place” He was talking about was His death on the cross and then conquering that death in 3 days.  If Christ had a way He had just expected us to follow, it would be about us trying to do our best to follow the path laid out for us like so many other religions are built.  If it were a path to follow in life, it would be so easy for us to get off that path, to wander, to not reach our destination.  How would you measure if you followed it correctly?  The wonderful thing about Jesus – is that just recognizing Him as the Way, understanding Him as the Truth, and accepting Him as the Life – is what makes Christ so different, so perfect in our lives in comparison to anything else out there.  It’s not what we do, not about how we follow a path – It’s who He is and what He has done and what He continues to do through His Spirit.

Jesus spoke about how to live and how to love after He was gone.  The disciples and we are not left to figure out how to do that on our own.  Before Jesus left, He gave a promise and yet another encouragement that I think we should hold dear still today in the midst of turmoil.  “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

We have the Way within us because of our acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord, and we have the Spirit to guide us in the ways of Christ, to help us to discern and to glean from the Word those things we might not otherwise, to gain peace that passes all understanding.  These things we have because of our relationship with Christ, not because  we are on some quest to gain some higher realm.  No list of good works that we do could ever measure up to what He had already done for us.  What we do may make us look good on the outside, but only what Christ did makes us look good on the inside. We know that our position with Christ is secure because of His Grace – because He takes what is broken and makes it beautiful.  What a wonderful picture and what a relief (no queasiness) that I don’t have to do it on my own…and it makes me wonder why I don’t tell more people about what He’s done for me…

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The Bible – How did we get it and why do we need it?

This week we will be looking at the way that God gave us His Word.  The Bible was authored by approximately 40 human authors, but as the Scripture tells us it really has one Author that breathed the words into the people who gave us the Bible as we know it today.  2 Timothy 3:16a says “All Scripture is breathed out by God”.   The word that Paul used in the Greek is theopneustos or literally God-breathed.  Not just inspiration as some of our English translation poorly represent.  Inspiration conveys the idea that the words of the authors came from themselves, only by some stimulation of some sort by God.  No, the idea that we get from Scripture is that the Word of God came from Himself – the human authors, like Paul, were vessels in which God chose to reveal those words.  He used their individual personalities and situations and geographies to work through them to speak His voice, His teaching, His Word to His people – to the world.

The passage in 2 Timothy also tells us why we need the Word of God.

3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”.

We often times just wish that we would be given just a simple list of dos and don’ts – A Christian’s Guide to a Perfect Life.  But that is not what the Bible is.  The Word of God is the story of God’s love for us unfolded from Creation, and then ends with what is to come in Revelation.  It tells us of how we as man rejected His love, and then we see throughout the Bible God’s plan of redemption that comes as a babe in Jesus Christ.  His perfect life is an example of how we should strive to live, and then He came to show us how to die and then live again.  Paul’s writings point to Christ over and over, and give us practical ways to live a holy Christian life with Christ as our center.  We can glean wisdom from Proverbs, learn how to pray and praise God from Psalms, we see the prophecies of Christ’s coming from the Prophets, take hold of so many promises of God in the Old Testament, and learn from the lives of all of the different people of all throughout the Bible.  The Word of God is profitable for teaching.

Reproof or rebuke – not something we really like to think about that much, right?  I don’t know about you, but I never really much liked when I got in trouble with my parents or a teacher at school, even when it was something minor like talking too loudly in class or whatever. Your errors are pointed out.  But rebuke when it comes from God?  Sounds a little more severe, doesn’t it?  But Proverbs says otherwise 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights”.  God disciplines us because He loves us.

I also had a thought about correction when I read this verse.   We have a Husky named Juneau. If you don’t know anything about Huskies – know 2 things – they are extremely smart and extremely headstrong.  At least ours is.  We decided early on we wanted to do some obedience training with Juneau, because we knew that it might be a challenge to train her on our own.  The trainer that we went to introduced us to the concept of a correction collar.  It is chain collar that loops together and cinches around the neck when pulled taut.  Some might call it a “choke” collar, but it doesn’t actually choke unless Juneau pulls against it too hard.  The concept is that when you are giving a correction to the dog, you give a quick snap of the leash – the collar pulls tight around the neck as well as producing a metal on metal sound to catch the dog’s attention.  We even pulled it tight quickly around our own arms to see what it would feel like.  It didn’t hurt, but we did notice the quick snap, and I am sure the sound close to her ears would be a quick reminder that she was not doing what she was supposed to be.  We chose this method because we knew that she being the breed she was, we would need some way to get her attention, especially if there was a situation in which she was in danger.  We may not wear the Word of God around our neck, but we do wear it in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), so that we can avoid sinning.  We can wear it as correction, not as a choking mechanism by not pulling against it at every turn.

We have it for training in righteousness.  We can be headstrong thinking that we have the best recipe for holy living.  But in reality, we have already been given the best instructions, and we have been given the Holy Spirit in order to determine how to carry out those instructions in our daily life to fulfill God’s will for our lives.  God intends for us to grow in righteousness, and that is one reason why He gave us His Word.  So that His headstrong little children would grow closer to Him.

When we are children, we are complete in Him – we get the concept from other passages also, not just this one (Col 2:10-15).  But, knowing that we have the Holy Spirit within us, and the God-breathed Word behind us, does that not give you a new sense of power?  This passage says “equipped for every good work”.  This thought that the righteousness that can only come from God is going to filter down into our lives though the reading of His Word and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our lives become the good that God needs us to do on this earth. He is not going to leave us ill-equipped.  He would not leave us to do the things He needs done through our own meager resources.  He is a Great God who does mighty things so that we know that it is He and only He that is accomplishing them.

Just look at our Bible today – a book that was written over a span of 1500 years, over 40 different authors, 66 books, different locations over 3 continents.  We have more copies of manuscripts than books like the Iliad, and in most cases, those manuscripts have rare minor variants that do not affect the doctrine of Scripture or of our Christian faith.  How else would our Bible come together without the intervention of a mighty God?  And now so many of us have multiple copies in our homes or even apps on our phones that we can switch versions at the drop of a hat.  But, just how much do you treasure the Word of God? Do you look forward to reading the Bible?  Do you say like the Psalmist “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (119:103)  Sometimes I think we may take for granted what the Bible is – the very Words of God given to us through people He chose to be His vessels to deliver His message to His people.  Now we can be vessels to continue to deliver the message of the Gospel to the world we live in.

What better way to start but by sharing the Christmas story with someone – have you ever wondered why if one reason we celebrate Christmas is to have an excuse to witness to someone?  The world needs to know that the Baby Jesus was the Gift given by God – because one day He became the Crucified Jesus and 3 days later He became the Risen Jesus.  One day He will be the Returning Jesus.  Are you ready?  Is your family ready?  (Part of our family just got ready, I am so happy for you Mike!! (a.k.a China Mike : ))) Are your friends ready?  Is the cashier at Wal-Mart ready?  I admit that I am just as lacking as the next person, but I am praying that God gives me the boldness to be better…He did say that He would equip us, right?

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The Glory of God

In Christian circles we talk about the glory of God.  We talk about His glory in the sense of something of honor, or we may tend to think of a great light as in Luke 2:9 “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” Or we talk about doing things for the glory of God.  But what is the glory of God?

The following is a quote from John Piper about the glory of God:

“What is it? I believe the glory of God is the going public of his infinite worth. I define the holiness of God as the infinite value of God, the infinite intrinsic worth of God. And when that goes public in creation, the heavens are telling the glory of God, and human beings are manifesting his glory, because we’re created in his image, and we’re trusting his promises so that we make him look gloriously trustworthy.

The public display of the infinite beauty and worth of God is what I mean by “glory,” and I base that partly on Isaiah 6, where the seraphim say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of his—” and you would expect them to say “holiness” and they say “glory.” They’re ascribing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of his—” and when that goes public in the earth and fills it, you call it “glory.”

So God’s glory is the radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections.”

I really love how Piper has laid out the concept of God’s glory in this quote.  The idea of God’s glory is defined as His holiness, infinite worth, and perfection on display for the world to see.  And we can be a part of that.  We are called to be a part of that.  Not that the world will point to us to say “look at what Becca did”, or “look at what ‘enter your name here’ did”, but that the world will perk up and say “look at what God did”.  And for some it will be a realization that there is a God at all.

In Exodus 33, Moses begged for God’s presence to remain with Israel.  After God promised to do so, Moses boldly asked “Please, let me see Your glory”(v.18).  What a request!  But God graciously allowed him to see the tail end of His glory, because it was all Moses could bear.  Even that encounter rendered Moses a human torch with the amount of glory that he absorbed by just being near it.  He glowed so much that the Israelites were afraid, and he had to wear a veil to cover his face when he came down from the mountain.  They missed out because of their fear.  Many Jews missed out again on seeing God’s glory manifested in Jesus while He was here on earth. They just did not understand who He was or refused to see it.  Many still do.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:15″ Even to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts,”.  But Paul also gave hope to those he was writing to and to those we encounter today: 16 “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”

Moses had begged God for His presence to remain with His people.  Under the new covenant, we have the privilege of knowing that God’s presence remains with us always because the Holy Spirit resides in our hearts 17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” We have freedom because we know He is always with us, that His redemption has covered us.  So why is it that we ask for His presence in our worship services, to feel His presence in our midst?  Are we like Moses asking to see His glory?  I think when we do ask, we may need to take a step back and prepare our hearts.  Ask ourselves if we are truly ready for the radiance of His holiness to be revealed to us.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t ask…I am just saying that we be truly ready when we do.  I think if we as a body of Christ followers were heart ready (not perfect, not going to happen), He would reveal Himself and His glory in a way that He has never done before – like He did Moses.  We may not end up like human flashlights, but I do believe we would be crazy-bright Christ-lights to shine into a world of darkness.  One in which veiling our faces is just not an option.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16) Go shine your light.

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