Thursday, January 18, 2018

get away / can’t get away

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:13-14

After hearing about the execution of John the Baptist reported by John’s own disciples, Jesus wanted some time away from the crowds. He boarded a fishing boat for a destination away from the towns and villages of Galilee. He wanted to simply strategically retreat, to have a sabbath of sorts from the demands of the crowd, no doubt to personally process what had occurred with his cousin, John. He got to take the boat ride, but that was all.

The press of ministry was always around Jesus. The crowds managed to be right there on shore waiting for Jesus in the remote part of the lake. He was met by more ministry. His get away turned into a long commute to even more ministry. The need for His teaching, compassion, and healing was such that it was always there.

How did Jesus respond when He wanted to get away but could not get away? His heart had compassion. He went from the brief respite of a boat ride right back into the demanding care of countless crowds of people who needed His love and He responded to them with His love. He spent the day caring for them and even miraculously feeding those that He could not escape, who in their haste to see Him did not even think to pack a lunch. And then after sending them back home healed and filled, Jesus ascended a mountain to pray alone (Matthew 14:23). He served in love when He could not get away. But then Jesus found a way to still spend time, solitary and reflective, in prayer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

wondrous love

Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
Psalm 17:7

There is an old folk hymn dating from the early 19th century that captures the longing of Psalm 17:7. I love playing it on the dulcimer as it has a haunting minor scale tune perfect for the acoustic drone of an Appalachian acoustical instrument. Nobody really knows who wrote the lyrics so there are a few variations in the various published versions, making it all the more enigmatic. The words fill me with worship right now...

What wondrous love is this,
O my soul! O my soul!
What wondrous love is this!
O my soul!
What wondrous love is this!
That caused the Lord of bliss!
To send this precious peace,
To my soul, to my soul!
To send this precious peace
To my soul!

When I was sinking down,
Sinking down, sinking down;
When I was sinking down
Sinking down
When I was sinking down,
Beneath God's righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown
For my soul, for my soul!
Christ laid aside his crown
For my soul!

Ye winged seraphs fly,
Bear the news, bear the news!
Ye winged seraphs fly
Bear the news!--
Ye winged seraphs fly,
like comets through the sky,
fill vast eternity!
With the news, with the news!
Fill vast eternity
With the news!

Ye friends of Zion's king,
join his praise, join his praise;
Ye friends of Zion's king,
join his praise;
Ye friends of Zion's king,
with hearts and voices sing,
and strike each tuneful string
in his praise, in his praise!
and strike each tuneful string
in his praise!

To God and to the Lamb,
I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
I will sing--
To God and to the Lamb,
who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme,
I will sing, I will sing!
while millions join the theme,
I will sing!

And while from death I'm free,
I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
And while from death I'm free,
I'll sing on.
and while from death I'm free,
I'll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity
I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
and through eternity
I'll sing on.

Lord Jesus, Your wondrous love fills my heart with longing for You this morning. Amen.

Fernando Ortega’s recording (slightly different lyrics) of What Wondrous Love is This
Click Here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

sojourners and promises

Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place.
Genesis 50:12-13

For every one of the lifetimes of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), the Promised Land was a cemetary... it was their final bodily destination, but never a permanent home. They were all sojourners, nomads of faith, trusting in promises much bigger than their own lives. And the firmest part of those promises that God made, ended for them in a tomb.

As Jacob’s sons faithfully obeyed their father’s wishes to be buried in the field cave east of Mamre, a sort of mini-preview of the Exodus for Egypt was played out in the funeral procession. They carried the embalmed body of their father up from Egypt. The Canaanites know that something is going on of significance. They once again lay claim to their ancestral burial plot before returning back to Egypt, but certainly not home to Egypt.

Thus, all the twelve tribes of Israel knew that Egypt was not the home that God had promised them. They knew that Canaan was their true home. And later, as Joseph lay on his death bed, he instructed his family to carry his bones from Egypt when the day came for them to go back home to Canaan. All of them were sojourners, waiting still for God’s promise, and looking to Him for a better country.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Jesus can be known.

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Matthew 11:4-6

If you want to figure out what Jesus is all about, just look at what He said and did. That was the advice Jesus gave the disciples of John the Baptist when they came to Him sent by John with a question about the identity of Jesus. He instructed them to just listen and watch and report back to John. They would bear witness that Jesus did what only God could do. He healed by His own authority, He raised the dead back to life, and He preached a gospel of repentance to the people.

Jesus lived a life that invited questions and investigation. He provided ample evidence of His mission to save the world from sin. He invited those wanting to know Him to listen to His words, see His works, and believe His good news. He still invites people to do the same, and thanks to the clarity and reliability of the New Testament documents, we can indeed see Him as He is. We get an accurate picture of Jesus, rooted in human history, challenging us to believe Him today so our lives can be in wonder of His works and transformed by His power.

Lord Jesus,
Your words and actions show me a complete Savior today. Thank You for making Yourself known, for living a life filled with miracles of Your love, for preaching good news, calling disciples to Yourself, and saving Your people from their sins by Your death and resurrection! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

beyond oppression and lies

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
Psalm 12:5

God will keep His true word to His faithful people. Psalm 12 is a lament, where David decries the way in which flattery and lies have advanced the wicked, oppressing the neediest people in the process. David had plenty of occasions in his life to know this firsthand. While on the run from Saul, he managed to gather broken and displaced warriors in the cave of Abdullam (see 1 Samuel 22, 2 Samuel 23). He knew by experience just how the poor were plundered and he heard the groans of the needy.

During several episodes of his life, David longed for safety. So these words coming back to David from the Lord are a personal comfort, answering David’s lament with the sure Word of God. The psalm ends in confident assurance in God’s words gaining victory over the flattering lies of sinful oppressors.

God’s Word is pure (Psalm 12:6). God keeps His promises as He protects His people (Psalm 12:7). This helps us live in a world surrounded by a society that rejects God and exalts what is wrong (Psalm 12:8). Our hope in God’s faithfulness in His Word will help us to survive the lies and oppression around us. God rises against it. God protects His people even as they are misused and exploited. God will bring justice with truth to prevail. This has already happened because Jesus endured the worst lies, died at the hands of flatterers, groaned in His suffering need, and rose again to bring us to the safety for which we long!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

beyond the evil in us

And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
Genesis 37:11

Jealousy led Joseph’s brothers to a conspiracy that would last a generation. They wanted to murder their brother whom they hated due to their jealousy, but instead they betrayed their own family at multiple levels. Jealousy led them to mock their own brother and father when they stripped Joseph of the robe their own father had given to him. Jealousy led them to calloused hearts. They casually sat down to eat right after consigning their brother to died in the wilderness of neglect and starvation. Jealousy led them to lie to their own father after they had pocketed money for selling Joseph as a slave. Jealousy led them to accept that their own father would believe Joseph dead as they watched their father mourn, having no pity on his pain. And jealousy hid all this for decades as a dark family secret.

But God worked despite all this sinful family dysfunction. God used the results of Jacob’s favoritism born out of polygamy to eventually place Joseph in the position to redeem the family from death. God showed Joseph as much in his youthful dreams. God used the jealous actions of Israel’s sons for the good of Joseph, to place him in the right place at the right time to save not only Jacob’s family, but to feed the entire Middle East during a very severe famine.

God is sovereign over human action. The scale of the Joseph story is breathtaking. His holy purposes succeed even as our sinful hearts work against what is right. He will use attempted murder to save countless lives. He will use our lives to reveal His providences. He will turn slaves into bosses and prisoners into prime ministers so that His will is done. God is greater than our evil, and that is true hope for a broken world.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

You Can Make Me Clean

And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Matthew 8:2-3

I am broken
diseased by sin
an outcast
unable to enter in
But You, Lord, if You will it, can make me clean.

Falling before You
aware of my failure
kneeling sinner
before my Savior
I ask You, Lord, to make me clean.

You are holy
yet in compassion
You reach out
with gracious action
You are willing, Lord, to make me clean.

I the leper
spots unseen
am now healed
by Jesus made clean
As you willed it, Lord, You made me clean!

Now I’m grateful
made whole again
I rise in worship
praising You among men
Only Jesus can make us clean!