Furnished and ready

All of time is divided into two distinct sections: 1) before Jesus came and offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins; and 2) after His crucifixion and resurrection. This division was not an afterthought. It’s not as if God said, “I’ve made this wonderful creation and, now that man messed it up, I need to think of something else.” As mysterious as it may seem, this sequence of events began at creation and continues to this very day for you and me.

Even knowing that man’s rejection of God was destined and a salvation plan was already in place, I was still surprised to read one particular passage from Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for His betrayal, torture, death, and resurrection. Take a look at Mark 14: 12-15.

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

I highlighted the phrase that demanded my attention. I see two layers to its meaning. First, Jesus knew what was coming (the true Passover with Him serving as the sacrificial lamb) and continued in His perfect obedience to the Father. The millennia since creation had pointed directly to this moment in time. The event was “furnished and ready.” The actors in this grand play had already rehearsed their roles (the betraying Judas, the accusing Pharisees, the frightened apostles). The stage was set (Pilate in his judgement seat, the cross on Golgotha, the soon-to-be-filled/soon-to-be-empty tomb). Jesus was prepared for the final act of His ministry on the earthly stage.

Second, with this event our salvation was also “furnished and ready”. All we need to do is enter into God’s love through the acceptance of Jesus’ payment for our sins. Repent today. Prepare and submit your heart. Invite Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and Savior. Praise God!

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In/dependence

I’m a father. My son is 18 and my daughter is 16. They are great kids and I love them. Like their father, however, they are not perfect (both are far better than me at that age, however — 18 year old Tony was a real piece of work). They do not always listen to me. In fact, they sometimes defy me. They are not belligerent, thank heavens, but they do sometimes decide that their way is better.

It’s painful to watch my children choose what I know will harm them, either now or later. My deepest response is neither disappointment nor anger (although I have brought the thunder on both of them at different times). What I really feel is love. Period. I don’t want to see them hurt, but I must also let them make their own decisions if they are to grow and mature. I will always be there to pick them up should they fall.

A fundamental aspect of parenting is growing your child from complete dependence as an infant to independence as a young adult. It is a journey filled with bumps and bruises, but also celebrations and joy. Some laughter, some tears.

My experience in raising two children has taught me a lot about my relationship with God. I am His child, after all. So are you, my friend.

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:15-17

Ironically, it’s been in my hardest parenting moments that I’ve learned the most about being a child to God. I have defied Him as well. I have said, “my way, not yours” and then asked Him to bless (or at least forgive me for) my selfish plans. Through my feelings of love toward my children during their disobedience, I’ve learned that God is neither mad at me nor wagging His finger in disapproval. He is always beside me, always trying to protect me from what He knows will harm me.

I’ve learned something else, though. It’s paradoxical.

  • My job as dad is to grow my children from dependence to independence.
  • God’s task with me is to gently, patiently, gracefully transform me from independence to dependence.

You see, I was born sinful. I was born to choose me over God. I have been bred over millennia to worship me, not God. My birth day battle cry was “Independence or die!”, tiny fists clenched and jaw set in bitter resolve.

Slowly — oh so painfully, frustratingly slowly — I am learning a new cry. It’s one I give from my knees with open hands, sometimes in defeat, always in worship. It is “Abba, Father, your way, not mine.”

Peace, child. Live in dependence.

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The greatest thing

I’ve been a Christian, a believer and follower of Christ Jesus, for a long time. My story began when I was just a boy with a Billy Graham crusade on network television (my mom made me watch). Pastor Graham extended the invitation to a new life in Jesus and I accepted right there in my living room.

The decades in between have been quite a journey. There have been exhilarating mountain peaks and deep dark valleys. I’ve been good, I’ve been bad. I’ve served God and I’ve served myself. I’ve learned a few things.

  • I tried to live a religion about performance. However, like Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome, I quickly learned that: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)”
  • I tried to live a religion based on rules. I can be comfortable with rules; I know where I stand. They are also impersonal and tend to point out my failures, rather than my successes. I needed more.
  • I’ve observed that God is faithful. He does not change. He will never leave me. He will always love me. Jesus Himself told us: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28)” When I face difficult times, I repeat that line over and over: no one and nothing will snatch me from His hand.

This is what I’m learning right now. While a faithful God that is consistent and provides us with guidelines for staying out of trouble and loves us unconditionally is VERY GOOD, it is not the entire story. Our God is bigger. Our God is a Creator. He brings new life and this new life is unexpected and unpredictable! [1] It’s the greatest thing I’ve discovered about God so far.

A relationship with God is truly a journey. I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to join Him in it. I wonder what will happen next…

  1. Peterson, E.H., 2017, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Chapter 3, Waterbrook, Colorado Springs, CO.

 

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Love/give

You’ve probably heard this scripture. It’s kind of a big deal.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Because God is love (1 John 4:8) it makes sense that we should learn about love from Him. Let’s take another look at this key verse from John’s Gospel.

For God so loved the world that he gave

How did God demonstrate His love for us? God loved, so He gave. What did He give? He gave that which was most precious to Him. He gave that which would cost Him the most.

How should we love? I think we should model God’s love for us. We should give and we should give what we cherish the most. Perhaps it is our time. Perhaps it is our attention. I’m going to offer an option from my own experience.

I think we should give our will. I’m suggesting that your will is what stands between you and daily, selfless love. Your will is what insists “me first” and “what I want”. I think that will is at the heart of pride. Let look at Isaiah 14:12-15. It describes the fall of Satan.

12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.

He states “I will” five times in his heart. His “will for self” separated him from God and got the former worship leader thrown down from Heaven. To grow closer to God, to love God, therefore, must mean giving up your will and embracing obedience.

What about loving those around us? I think love works the same way with your spouse, your children, your friend, your co-worker… When I set aside my will with my wife and seek to hear and serve her, I love her the best. When I set aside my will with my children and seek to hear and serve them, I love them the best.

Give it a try. Because you love, give…

 

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MacGyver faith

MacGyver was a popular television series that aired between 1985 and 1992. In each episode Angus MacGyver used his broad knowledge of the physical sciences to overcome impossible odds. Each show included the same three ingredients.

  1. MacGyver helped someone who had no one else to rescue them.
  2. He used whatever was available to solve the problem at hand. He was never defeated by seemingly inadequate resources.
  3. He put himself in harm’s way to protect those in danger.

MacGyver was a weekly hero who loved science and routinely ignited explosions using household products. What more could I want?

Here’s the real story, though…

You can put your faith in One much more heroic than MacGyver. God is there to rescue you as soon as you call on Him. He uses the small and insignificant to overcome the powerful. He will give you everything you need to carry out His salvation work. He sent His son to die in your place. He will never leave you and will always love you.

My prayer for us is that we exercise MacGyver faith. I pray that we persist beyond all odds in believing, that we place unreasonable trust in our Creator and Deliverer. Put your life in God’s hands and watch the explosions! Amen.

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Help!

If you’re human, you’ve found yourself in a position where you needed help. Sometimes it is practical (my car battery is dead and I need a jump). Other times it is immediate (my daughter is exhibiting meningitis symptoms). In some cases, it is less concrete. It is fear that grips you in the dark of night, it is regret over a wrong you cannot right, it is frustration rooted in a missed opportunity. It is raw, overwhelming grief over the loss of a loved one. It is hopelessness.

Allow me to offer you this.

Elohim Ozer Li = God My Helper

Say it out loud. El-oh-heem Oh-zeer Lie. God My Helper.

David understood God’s nature as Elohim Ozer Li. He called to God when he needed help. Read Psalm 54:4.

Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Though your situation may seem bleak, rescue is certain. Turn to Elohim Ozer Li. He is your help. My prayer for us today is a posture of worship that enables us to exercise big faith in the one true God. This faith will acknowledge God’s sovereignty over every situation. I pray that we turn to God, and nothing else, for our help in these times of despair. Amen.

 

 

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A spatial dilemma: Who goes first?

The Bible offers many examples of “God going before” His people, including you and me.

Deuteronomy 31:8
“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Isaiah 45:2
“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.”

Exodus 13:21
The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

Deuteronomy 1:30
‘The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,”

As I study these verses, it seems to me that:

  1. God is encouraging us to see Him this way (going before us)
  2. there is special significance in this spatial relationship.

Think about this… if God goes before you, then who is leading? Is it you or God who is going first? I think that God is teaching us that we can trust in His faithfulness, His goodness, but that we must assume the correct position. We must follow Him if we are to remain safely in His care.

The logical question, then, is how do I remain in a “following” posture? The answer is, simply, obedience. God gave us His word to show us how to follow Him; the word lights our way (Psalm 119:105). Read Matthew 5-7 to see what Jesus has to say about the practical aspects of daily following God.

One name used to describe this “going before” characteristic of God is Jehovah Jireh: the Lord will provide. David called on God to go before Him when he was pursued by Saul (Psalm 59:10). He knew that God would deliver him from this unjust enemy.

Like David, though, I often look to my own desires and strength to guide me. This mindset has preceded the greatest failures in my life. Just as David pursued Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), I have chased idols that I thought would satisfy and protect me. Spoiler alert: they fail you every time.

My prayer for us today is that we maintain a “God goes before” life. I pray that we live in obedience, that we find perfect congruence between God’s word and our desires, which enables us to conquer fear and uncertainty through complete faith in our loving Father. Amen!

 

 

 

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