Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More Than What Meets The Eye

I will set my glory among the nations; all the nations shall see my judgment which I have executed, and my hand which I have laid upon them.
Ezekiel 39:21

Jewish scholars teach that scriptures have several levels of meanings beyond their literal translation. Proverbs 25:2 states, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” God hides nuggets of truth in plain sight. As kings and priests, we get to go treasure hunting.

The passage in Ezekiel refers to a future battle between the nation of Israel and its enemies. I think there could be more here than what’s on the surface. God said His glory would be set among the nations. When Jesus, who is the glory of God, was here, Rome was in power. Its dominion spanned countries and cultures. In the midst of Rome’s imperial sprawl, God’s glory in the form of His Son moved in and took up residence. Before He returned to Heaven, Jesus gave His glory to believers. Anywhere a follower of Jesus resides, God’s glory abides.

“All nations shall see my judgment which I have executed.” The bible is the best selling book of all times. The story of the Cross and God’s love for man has been widely distributed. “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. The good news of God’s forgiveness, although highly distributed, is still unknown to many. This will change. Revelation 1:7 explains how this can happen. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” Sometime in the future Jesus will return. All will see the one who bore the punishment of all sins and fulfilled God’s righteous judgment of mankind’s behavior.

To help convince Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves, Egypt experienced ten plagues. Initially everyone suffered. God then isolated Goshen, home to the slaves, and made it a plague-free zone. Revelation describes a similar scenario. Earth will experience horrific tragedies but at some point God’s hand will overshadow those who believe in Him and they’ll be spared. Just like Egypt, a distinction will be made and be evident for all to see.

God’s primary objective is reconciliation with man. Before Adam and Eve sinned, the plan was in place to win us back. Throughout time God strategically places His glory via those who know Him personally. Our responsibility as Christians is let the light of the world, Jesus, out. His glory will dispel the darkness that obscures the truth of God’s love for all. Shine on!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ready....Or Not

Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. Luke 21:14-15

It’s important to know what you believe and why. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to be ready to respond to questions about our hope in Christ. Peter seems to contradict Jesus’ statement in Luke 21. Is it either/or? No it’s yes and amen.

Confused? How can it be both? It’s easy; it’s new math-God’s style. One plus one equals one. Let me explain.

No one wants to wake up some morning to discover that all they’ve hinged their eternal hopes on is a sham. Who likes being duped? When it comes to where you’ll go after you die you need to do your homework. This test isn’t multiple choice; its pass/fail. Being wrong is catastrophic.

We need to be able to share our faith in a manner the inquirer can understand. Jesus said we don’t need to meditate or pre-plan our responses. If not, how then do we answer such questions? We prepare, but we let Holy Spirit determine what we say. The following illustration will clarify what I mean.

Our pastor shared a recent encounter he’d had with another believer. He casually mentioned that he prayed to God about situations. From out of nowhere came an attack. Who, specifically, did he pray to? How did he address God? This individual wasn’t curious, they were hostile. Unless my pastor prayed correctly, which coincidentally was their method, he was going to hell!

As this person rattled on, several scriptures refuting their positions came to my pastor’s mind. Holy Spirit had a different approach however; be quiet and smile. What kind of response was that? In this situation it was the best kind.

Sharing our faith isn’t spewing pre-programmed scripts off the tip of our tongues mindlessly. Anyone’s who’s encountered door-to-door visitors who share memorized lines knows this doesn’t work. God wants us prepared to speak but dependent on Him to direct the conversation. In my pastor’s case the best thing to do was to smile and say nothing.

Without a word my pastor spoke volumes about his faith. He was an example of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. He could have delivered a scriptural smack down. Totally vindicated, he would have missed God completely.
Bottom line, prepare and then wait on God for direction. His course of action and response may not be what you’d expect but it will be the right one. Ready…or not? It’s yes and amen!

p.s On a personal note, last night I got to see a proof copy of Relief Notes. I submitted four stories for this anthology and all were accepted. The finished product should be available in a few weeks. Thanks to all my readers for your support and encouragement. You gave me the confidence to step outside the safe borders of my blog and because I did, I’ll now be a published author.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

When Pigs Flew...Sort Of

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Matthew 8:34

Jesus’ arrival prompted an unusual response from the townsfolk. They asked him to leave. What did He do to become a persona non grata in their eyes?

After a hair raising boat ride on the Galilean sea, Jesus and the disciples landed in the area of Gadara. Their ship had been caught in a storm so severe the boat almost capsized. Jesus would have slept through the whole ordeal except twelve panic stricken men interrupted His nap. They feared for their lives. He called their faith little, not non-existent, then rebuked the torrent. Immediately calm was restored.

Two demon possessed men constituted the Welcome Wagon for that region. Dangerous and violent, no one could pass by them without suffering serious harm. Immediately they questioned the Lord’s intentions. Did He come to torture and afflict them? The demons recognized Jesus and feared their fate in the hands of God. Could the storm at sea have been a pre-emptive strike to prevent Jesus’ arrival? Hmmmm.

With the wind knock out of their sails, so to speak, the demons ask God for a favor! It was a forgone conclusion that they would have to leave. Would Jesus allow them to occupy a nearby herd of pigs? He commanded them, “Go.” For a brief moment the crazy pigs were airborne. In true demonic fashion that ruins everything it touches, the herd dropped like a rock into the sea and drowned. When the residents learned the swine’s fate and that the two mad men were healed they reacted quickly. “Get out of town,” was their response.

Gadara was home to a large Gentile population. It’s very possible that the owner of the herd wasn’t Jewish. The fact that two previously demon-possessed, insane men were now in their right minds was overshadowed by the loss of the of swine. Were the pigs too high a price to pay for the restoration of the men?

Suppose those had been your herd. Through no fault of your own, your livelihood just evaporated. How would you respond to the sight of the two healed men? Would you be angry and upset? Their gain was your loss.

I’d like to think that if that were me, I’d be happy for them. Their restoration should be more important that my loss of income. Honestly, I’m not sure that would be my first reaction. I’d want to know, “What about me? Who’s gonna compensate me?” Shallow, but true.

The bible never indicates that Jesus or anyone else reimbursed the owner for the dead animals. Like the man whose roof was torn open to allow a crippled man to get to Jesus, the cost of someone’s redemption was borne by another individual. If you had owned those pigs, how would you have felt?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

No Rain? No Problem!

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty or even one hundred times. 
Mark 4:8

I’ve read this passage and heard sermons preached about it so many times I’ve lost count. Recently I discovered a key missing ingredient – rain. How did the seeds sprout and produce without water? Does this bit of information help us with our walk with God? What can we learn here?

First, the man in the parable is a farmer. I’ve grown vegetables in the past, but that didn’t make me a farmer. Farmers depend on the harvest for their livelihood. Fully invested in their endeavor, a farmer doesn’t try planting just to see if it will work. He’s all in and committed for the long haul.

Farmers today have equipment that precisely plants seeds. In Jesus’ day the broadcast method was used. Seeds were scattered, a handful at a time, as the farmer walked his field. The seeds landed in all types of places, not just the prepared ground. How does this apply to us and what does the absence of rain have to do with it?

Jesus said the seeds represented God’s word. The farmer is someone who completely relies on God for his needs. Totally committed, he plants God’s word in all types of situations. He’s not trying God’s word as an experiment; he’s convinced it will work.

The soil is the farmer’s life, his heart. It’s the composite of experiences that’s made him who he is. Some parts are rich and ready to produce. Others are hard, stony and need more cultivation. In the natural, a lack rain reduces or destroys the harvest. Irrigation systems help, but nothing beats rain.

Jesus never mentioned rain in this parable. It’s possible the farmer experienced drought conditions. Nevertheless, all wasn’t lost. Some seeds took root and produced thirty, sixty and even one hundred fold results. Sound impossible? Genesis 26:12 tells us that Isaac planted during a famine and reaped a harvest of hundred fold.

Christians all face tough times. If we take the posture of the farmer in the Mark’s parable and sow God’s word, those seeds can produce a bountiful return even in times of difficulty. Supernaturally a harvest can spring forth under impossible conditions. If you’re in a dry spell, sow God’s word as if your life depends on it, because it does. Like Isaac you’ll reap unbelievable results. Don’t quit!