Friday, April 28, 2017

one answer to two big questions

What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
Psalm 89:48

Talk about wrestling with the big questions! This psalm was meant to be a song of worship and it asks two really big ones in one small verse. Imagine singing this one in church today! Probably not a big one for contemporary praise and worship Top 40! Of course we intuitively know the answers to the questions asked here. It's kind of a downer. Every generation knows the answers. The statistics on death are airtight. One out of every one person dies. That includes me. That includes the people that I love. It is a global constant.

Except for Jesus. Jesus died and rose again to give life. His life answers the second question. He can deliver our souls from the power of the grave. He can take away the anxiety over the big questions. He can make death not the end, but an entrance into eternal life. The good news of the gospel is that death has lost its sting.

O Lord Jesus,
Thank You that death no longer casts a long shadow over my soul! I will see it one day, as but a shadow in a valley. And You will pass through it with me. And I will be face to face with You. You have delivered my soul from death! Praise be to God!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

weak man

She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people.
Judges 14:17

Samson was such a weak man. He had been supernaturally gifted and called by God to lead Israel. He was Spirit powered with enormous physical strength, but his spiritual strength was virtually nil. He had a promising call of God to lead Israel out of oppression, but no self-control over his physical and sexual appetites, severely weakening his leadership. He was called to lead a nation, but was stuck on pleasing himself.

It took a week of whining from his new wife to show this weakness at its deepest. That must have been one bummer of a honeymoon, with Samson's bride crying every day, and then his big macho plans getting ruined by her at the end as she turned against him. In the end she married his best man. Samson's weakness humiliated him and made him the loser. Cue the trombone: "waah, waah, waaaaaah!"

God displayed His strength and still used such a weak man to save Israel. God kept His promises even though Samson failed his vows and lived so entirely selfishly. God supernaturally allowed selfish, psychotic Samson to wreck havoc among the Philistines. God will be true, even when we fail. He is strong when we are weak. He is right when we are wrong. He is God. We are not.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

from fear to astonishment

But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,
Mark 6:50b-51

Jesus always surprises, always does something new. The disciples lived with the constant display of the miraculous, so much so that every town they entered saw the sick healed and lives made whole again by Jesus. It had become their daily routine. There was no escaping the power of Jesus on display in His public ministry. Jesus healed and changed lives.

One evening a strange order was given by their Lord. He made the twelve leave Him with the crowd and cross over by boat to the other side of the lake. After dismissing the crowd, Jesus went to a hilltop to pray alone. High winds made the sailing difficult for the disciples, and at night, Jesus crossed over the lake by simply walking on the water. As the disciples in the darkness saw this ghostly figure move on the dark waves they cried out in fear.

This is where it gets surprising: Jesus simply ordered their fear away, got into their boat, and as the wind and waves ceased, they easily sailed to their destination. Astonished disciples had their fear turned to amazement at Jesus. Their Master had walked on waves and commanded winds. And He also willingly took boat rides with fearful people, calming them with His amazing presence. Jesus, if You will get in my wind-tossed boat, I will sit amazed at Your power to turn my fear to faith!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The bread and the cup proclaim

"Proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." That is the message we preach to make disciples of all nations. We must proclaim the gospel as Christians. And one very visible proclamation of this good news of eternal salvation is the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The church unifies around the centrality of the death of our Lord, remembering what He has done, and proclaiming it visibly, with the bread His body and the cup His shed blood. We remember all Jesus has done when we meet at His supper. And we proclaim the gospel as we remember Him together.

This symbolic meal refreshes our devotion to our Savior and to the gospel message. It calls us to very regularly celebrate His truth, His atonement of our sin, and His victory over death and hell. Those outside of us looking in on the celebration can see the gospel story and our respectful worship of our Savior at the Lord's supper. His table then becomes a means to preach His death. And when we celebrate it, we ought to make the gospel shine past any other part of the solemn ceremony.

When we take the bread in hand and drink the cup, we are affirming "Jesus died for me". And that gospel reminder should stir us to live for Him. It should motivate us to be deliberate in sharing His saving work with those around us. It should help make the church a people identified solely with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that truth, we are made alive anew. And that proclaimed message will bring life and hope to our world.

Monday, April 24, 2017

where righteousness and peace meet

You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
Psalm 85:2-3

This psalm of worship, written for the temple worship in Jerusalem was meant to call God's people to rejoice in their salvation solely provided by the great grace of God. It worships God for His saving deliverance. It acknowledges the need all people have to have sins atoned. It states clearly that the correct response of God to our sin is holy wrath and anger. It rejoices in the mercies of a forgiving God Who revives and restores His repentant people.

The reminders of God's willingness to display His steadfast love and faithfulness to us are precious truths. One of the most vivid poetic images of all the Bible is found in Psalm 85:10, where God so steadfastly shows His love for us that righteousness and peace kiss one another. And that kiss is known for us fully in Jesus. But God has always sought for us to know His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace. Our sin keeps us from these things. His forgiving mercies extend them to us in Christ.

O God of such grace,
I call out to You, knowing my need. I am a sinner who is only able to come beg for Your mercies and be free from Your righteous wrath because Your Son's death atoned my sin. You reached out and forgave the life-debt I owed. And in Jesus righteousness and peace kiss each other and extend their tender love to the forgiven sinner. Thank You, Lord!

Let me never undervalue this great mercy in Jesus. May I always worship You cognizant of my utter helplessness as a lost sinner and living in the new joy of forgiven new life. You have set me free from the law of sin and death. Gospel truth and love guide me. May I rest in that today.

Friday, April 21, 2017

fear, faith, and psychological operations

Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled.
Judges 7:20-21

With broken pottery, torches, and ram's horn trumpets, the 300 man "army" of Israel prevailed against an innumerable camp of Midianites and Amalekites. How did this happen? It happened by the work of God in a strategy that would only work if God fought for Israel. When Gideon drafted his army, 22,000 conscripts came to be trained for battle. God sent 12,000 back home for lack of courage. Then God sent all but 300 back home. And with this meager group, God routed the enemy of Israel, using the enemy's own fear as the most destructive and effective weapon.

God's strategy was novel surprise. By having Gideon attack at night (not a warfare tactic of that time), rousing the confused enemy from their tents in a panic, the fear and fog of war kicked into overdrive for the opponent. And Israel quickly dispatched the demoralized, fear-filled foe. The rulers were eventually captured, and the full victory took place in the most incredible way possible. The war stories would begin, "you aren't gonna believe this, but..." 

Thus God got the credit for the victory. His strategy, though totally unconventional, defeated the enemy.

So with Gideon as a faith-filled (yet sometimes tentative with uncertainty) trusting leader, Israel shook off an oppressor. God used Gideon, who trusted God even in his own faith struggles, to lead Israel to trust God fully. No way they would have won with that crazy strategy unless God was in it! And the faith of the nation, and of Gideon, was proven. God fought and His people were free. They only needed to trust in Him. Their faith despite their fear, was rewarded. The enemy's fear despite what seemed a certain strength, was their undoing. Do not fear. Only trust God. The God of Gideon's army reminds us of this.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

in control

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
Mark 5:35-36

The miracle that occurred for Jairus was notable for two reasons: First, it was one of the few episodes in the gospels where a Jewish religious leader exercises faith in Jesus. Secondly, it involved a physical resurrection from the dead. This was a powerful miracle given to a powerful person by a much more powerful Jesus. And Jesus is clearly in control through the entire episode.

They synagogue ruler Jarius, probably a notable Pharisee in the area, falls down at Jesus' feet in a posture of worship, begging Him to come heal his dying daughter. Jarius is clearly believing the unthinkable, to be a synagogue ruler and give credence to Jesus means only one thing... he believed Jesus to deserve that honor as one sent from God. His actions convey faith. Jesus is the object of that faith.

Then on the way to Jairus' house, in a large crowd, the woman with an issue of blood believes that by touching Jesus' robe she will be healed. She takes advantage of the press of the crowd to do so, and Jesus knows that healing power has left Him. He is in control, stops the crowd, and admonishes the woman for her faith, assuring her healing. He is in control even when nobody knows it. 

And finally, at Jarius' home with his now deceased daughter, Jesus is in control of life and death. He raises his daughter from death by a gentle grasp of her hand and a powerful command for her to arise. He is in control of death, bringing life again, hope again, joy again to hearts that believe in Him. Jesus has authority over us. He is greater than the rulers of humanity. He is greater than the afflictions of humanity. He is greater than the fear of death! Thank You, Jesus, for always being in control.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

all about the gospel

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:23

Paul's life was so defined and controlled by gospel proclamation that there was little else left in him for concentration. He focused exclusively on proclaiming the gospel in every category of his life. And it defined even his choice for exactly how he would live his life. Paul's was a gospel life. And just as the gospel is gracious news offered freely to anybody who would hear it, so Paul gave the gospel away with his choice of lifestyle.

Paul made a conscious decision to be both vocational as a tent maker for personal income and also a gospel preacher. He supported himself in Corinth so that no one could say they supported or enabled his preaching of the gospel. Simultaneously, Paul insists that those who proclaim the gospel exercise a legitimate claim to financial support from the church (1 Corinthians 9:14). But the relative immaturity of the church at Corinth made such a normal matter not expedient. Paul did not demand this right because he wanted the Corinthians to see him as gospel driven as they possibly could, so that in his preaching they would concentrate most on the message. In bypassing normal support, Paul made his lifestyle clearly all about the gospel.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

competing voices

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
Psalm 81:8

What does it mean when God has to insist on getting the attention of His people? It usually means they have strayed from Him and started listening to, and following, competing voices. This psalm uses the Exodus as a theme to call Israel back to worshiping Yahweh, the delivering God Who loves them. It promises renewed joy just like a celebration of a feast if the nation would turn to hear and follow again what God says.

Just as in Egypt God heard their cries and brought unbelievable deliverance, and just as in the wilderness He brought them through despite their sinful failures and rejections of Him, so with this psalm God again offered forgiveness, life and hope. He longs to nurture and to care for His people, to fill their wide open mouths with good food. He offers them abundant provision and good things. They need only listen and turn back to Him.

The harshest punishment God can lay on sinners is also found in this psalm. He will let those who reject Him have their stubborn heart's way. He will give them over to following their own counsel. It is a hard judgment to leave sinners alone as they careen toward certain doom, and even then God's heart cried out for Israel to return, to listen to Him, and to walk again in His ways.

I confess that like Israel I too can listen to competing voices. Often the loudest and most compelling rebel speech comes from my own heart. O God, forgive my wandering from You. I believe the good news, and repent from following what my will and those deadly siren songs compel me towards. I know Jesus, that You forgive my sin. I trust You. I know that You long to bless me with good things as I repent, believe, trust only in Your saving grace because I am clearly not good of my own efforts, and obey Your voice as You speak in Your word to my heart.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Not One Word

And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.
Joshua 23:14

Not one word
Of God's promises
Has ever failed
Or ever will
He keeps them
For His people
Always faithful
Always true

Not one word
Yet to come
Will ever fail
But will be
Given to us
Faithful for us
Loving Father
We praise You

Your Word promises
Your hand provides
Your love gives
Your will decides
We are blessed
We are favored
Always gracious
Merciful too

Friday, April 14, 2017

public acclaim

And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.
Mark 3:9-10

Very early in the gospel of Mark the public ministry of Jesus became enormous. The crowds that followed Jesus were extensive, so much so that Jesus had to take precautions against a mob mentality. Keep in mind, this was in a very rural setting, by the Sea of Galilee, and even here vast crowds of diverse people from all over, including people journeying from southern Judea and gentile areas like northern Tyre and Sidon, came to see and hear Jesus. His healing ministry pushed the crowds even bigger and with a desire to be closer to Him.

Jesus asked His disciples to have a boat ready for Him. This allowed two things to happen. First, it facilitated a way for all to see Him. We know from other gospel accounts the boat would be set just a few feet off shore and from it Jeus had a teaching platform from which everyone could see Him. It was sort of a floating pulpit. Secondly, when it came time to leave, the boat facilitated quick and easy transportation without a huge crowd following to slow things down.

As Mark tells it, this was Jesus at the heighth of His public ministry. The crowds love Him but only seem most attracted to His miracles. The disciples are still learning what it means to follow Him before He commissions them to preach the gospel and multiply His ministry. The conflict with the leaders of the Jews have been minimal, although the Pharisees are already plotting together against Him (see Mark 3:6).

These events will only continue to grow in Mark's gospel, until it all escalated in Jerusalem where Jesus was delivered over to those who hated Him. There He was mocked, beaten, rejected by those who once wanted miracles, scourged, and then crucified. Public acclaim became public shame... all to save sinners like me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

aggressive strategic countermeasures

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12

To win the battle for sexual purity one must be intentionally strategic. This verse is the opening thought to an extended apostolic admonition to avoid sexual immorality. Paul wrote this to the Corinthians because he has already addressed the horrible toleration of sin in that local church in chapter five. That situation arose from a lack of intentional purity. Now in chapter six the way to strategically address this underlying issue is explained. It had to begin with a change in thinking about sexuality that rejected the sinful cultural norms.

Two phrases set off by quotations in the ESV translation let us in on the attitudes Paul is correcting among the Corinthians. The first is found in the phrase "all things are lawful for me". The second is "food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food". "All things are lawful" was a misunderstanding of human choice. "Food for the stomach" was a misunderstanding of God's design.

Paul addresses our choices with the clear admonition to: 1) recognize not everything is helpful. Some standard culturally recommended choices are terribly counterproductive and very hurtful. 2) commit to not let anything become a controlling activity. Some things not moderated and monitored are dangerously addictive. 

Sexual immorality is a problem in both these ways. I only need to look at my own now heavily pornified culture to see the results. It too easily creeps into my own thoughts, forcing me to have an aggressively proactive strategy to guard my alone time and to make the best choices. And I have to do that in community, talking to others about my strategies. Silence is killer.

Sex is so deeply engrained in our very personhood yet so physically forged into us that it has a dreadful capacity to control us just like many physical experiences such as eating, activity, adventurous behaviors, and many enjoyable physical actions can do. The warning later in 1 Corinthians 6:18 is that we can through immorality sin against our own bodies in uniquely damaging ways. That is so true. I've got my scars. That is one more reason for aggressive strategic countermeasures. I deploy them around entertainment, activity choices, internet use, electronic devices, and my alone time. And I believe I always must do so, because not everything in this world is good, helpful, or useful for achieving real satisfication. I will only know that in Jesus. I will fight sin hard, because even a casual slip in attitude so easily enslaves. I will not be dominated by anything. Jesus is the King of my heart!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

a beautiful and terrible story

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:4

God's works are often most known in the stories of the lives of people who give testimony faithfully to others of God's love, care, forgiveness, and justice as known in His Word and in their lives. It is a story we should keep telling. It is a story that should be passed down in families and circles of relationships, particularly from one generation to another, lest we forget. These real life connections forge meaningful memories of the faithfulness and forgiveness of our God.

In the 78th psalm this opening reminder focuses on how God gave Israel the Law to draw them to Him. And the responsibility rested on each generation to pass on the Law to succeeding generations so that they would not forget God and would keep His commands.

The bulk of this psalm then turns to describing the horrible messes that came when the people did not do this, broke the covenant, and forgot God, turning instead to idols. The intervening judgments of God were necessary parts of the covenant story that the Lord used to draw His people back to repentance and obedience. God was faithful to forgive and heal as well as to judge sin. That was the story that needed to be passed on to each generation so that the people of God would faithfully guard their hearts, believe and obey God, and hold His Word dear.

So the story that I must pass on is both beautiful with God's grace and terrible with my sin. It is about life that I only have because of Christ, and joy that I find in His forgiving grace. It is about respecting God by fearing His Word's warnings, repenting of my sin, receiving His discipline, and trusting not in my actions but in the redemption I have through Christ's death and resurrection. And may the prayer of a favorite hymn of mine be my commitment to the story: "redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be til I die."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

bold vision, unwavering faith, decisive action

But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.
Joshua 14:8

The story of Caleb is a tale of tenacious, courageous faith. He trusted God with unwavering commitment even as all his contemporaries died from sinful lack of faith. He was 85 years of age when he entered Canaan with Israel. He fought alongside his sons and grandsons to see the inheritance come into fruition. He would not ever let his heart stray from following the Lord.

Four and a half decades earlier Caleb was in his prime, and he stood with Joshua before Moses urging the nation boldly to obey God and take the Promised Land. Even as ten other spies gave a bad, faithless, cowardly report that led the nation to reject God's gift, Caleb, along with Joshua, remained strong in faith. He wholly followed the Lord and it took nearly half a century for that faith to bear fruit. In the meantime he waited it out in the desert, planning for the day, knowing the portion of land he wanted to claim.

When the time came for Caleb to stake claim to his family's piece of the promise, he came to Joshua in brash faith. He asked for the hill country still fortified with cities filled with giants. He asked for the hardest task. Caleb would not waver in faith, and by the grace of God his strength for battle at 85 was as stable as his strength at 40, as he had already proven by his participation in the conquest thus far. Joshua blessed his friend Caleb by granting his request, and God blessed him by giving him the hill country fortresses of Hebron. Caleb's faith, fortitude, and bold requests were rewarded as the "Kiriath-Arba" (land of the giants) became his inheritance for his clan for all generations.

I have my own bold vision of taking "Kiriath-Arba" ahead of me for the next three years. I want to, if God wills it, see God do an amazing thing to complete a ministry vision... and though I have seen many bold things happen in ministry, this new request is for a thing I have never before experienced in ministry. And like Caleb, I believe it will only be known if my heart wholly follows the Lord. And so I take courage from an 85 year old fighter! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

new life - inside and out

"But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Mark 2:10-12

The power of Jesus over the worst affliction of humanity is shown for us in this account of the healing of the paralyzed man in Capernaum. There were five men with an unstoppable faith in Jesus that day. The paralyzed man wanted to see Jesus. And four friends found a way to literally break through the crowd to get him there. They broke through the roof of the house where Jesus had a crowd around Him and lowered their friend down to meet Jesus. He would never be the same after that.

Jesus saw not just a paralyzed man in need on that mat, but He saw great faith despite huge deficits. And Jesus chose to address the man's biggest paralysis first: his need for salvation from sin. Jesus matter-of-factly issues forgiveness to this man based on his faith and the faithfulness of his friends. This started to cause a stir among the few religious leaders in the room, so Jesus "backs up" His authority to forgive sinful paralysis by unilaterally healing the man's physical paralysis. And as the man got to his feet, pulled up his stretcher, and made his way out the door that once was his obstacle to Jesus, the healed man's new life was testimony to all the power of Jesus to heal body and soul as God can do.

The crowd has witnessed the new life-giving power of Jesus. No wonder they are amazed. No one has ever been able to do what Jesus just did... forgive sin without conditions, and heal broken people completely. The praises rang out to God as Jesus brought new life. And this still happens today as people come to Jesus and believe the gospel. They are given new life. They are no longer crippled by sin, but free to follow the commands of their Lord and Savior, walking in a new forgiven life!

Friday, April 7, 2017

wisdom from another world

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
1 Corinthians 3:19-20

Intelligence, insight, and wisdom are all highly valued personal attributes among people. But there is a vast difference in what the world system values in terms of mental acuity and what God rewards in us. Paul's point made to the boasting Corinthians was that their value systems were trending toward the wisdom of the world, which was sheer foolishness from God's perspective. To bring home his observations, Paul quotes from God's Word, first from Job, then from the ninety-fourth psalm.

Human wisdom is flawed by our deceived and deceitful depravity. Sin blinds us to the complete picture. Our default intelligence lacked holiness, so it is impossible to have the full insight, understanding, and knowledge that only God has. We are mentally and developmentally permanently handicapped by the effects of the Fall. Truly "God only knows". Ironically, Satan offered Adam and Eve a false offer of God's wisdom in the Garden when he said they would be as God after disobeying and eating the fruit. But by eating from the forbidden tree, humanity got sinful foolishness which we now pridefully consider to be great intelligence and wisdom. Warped by that sin, even our brightest thoughts, noblest of intentions, or most creative accomplishments as a society will all decay into futility when compared to our eternal, everlasting, all wise, infinitely brilliant, and holy Creator.

God has been giving us His wisdom ever since the Fall in an effort to redeem what sin has taken from us. God's Word, His revelation of His mind in scripture and in His Son can give us wisdom beyond our broken foolishness. Another world's wisdom, from eternity to eternity given to us in and by God, can free us from the inherent futility of this world's folly. But we must humbly believe, and take the time to read God's Word, trust only in the gospel His Son Jesus brought, so that we might be saved from our sin and our foolishness by following the wisdom of God in Christ.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

God of day and night

Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.
Psalm 74:16-17

I only need to look at the world around me to know that God is wise and in control. Day and night continue. The sun rises and sets. The moon and stars still shine at night. The earth makes its yearly circuit around the sun and with each solar tour the seasons cycle through. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter all go through their ceaseless unchanging patterns. There is rain and bright sun, snow and wind, heat and cool, and clouds and sunshine. 

Life goes on upon planet Earth just as God designed it to do and exactly how He has made it. All the tragedies and pain in the world of men (the theme repeated throughout Psalm 74) all must occur on the broader stage of a universe created by and controlled by God. The words of Asaph call us into perspective, that none of our experience is outside of God's sovereign care. He sees, He knows, He is in control.

Asaph wrote the words of this song of mourning after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. And with the house of God a smoldering ruin, confidence could still be had that a sovereign Creator Who governs the universe would deliver His people and hear their prayers. The God Who moves the stars in the heavens and keeps the earth in cosmic time with the seasons will never be caught off guard by any human action or atrocity. He is already always in action on our behalf.

Look to creation if your life seems chaotic. There you will find the wise God in control. And from there you can cultivate the faith to trust Him despite the human chaos. He is the God of day and night.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Twelve Stones from the River

When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.
Joshua 4:6b-7

Twelve stones from the Jordan
were pulled from its dry bed
to commerate a crossing
into the Promised Land
as the Ark of the Covenant
was carried on dry land
and God gave His people Israel
good blessings from His hand

Twelve stones from the Jordan
relocated to the crossing's shore
were meant to show a generation
yet to come, God's blessings sure
and teach a people that a faithful God
would do all for them and more
with miracles, provision, and deliverance
God's covenant love had much more in store

Twelves stones from the river
on the bankside piled high
served to give memorial praise
and answer the important question why
Israel was God's own people and nation
chosen in past generations gone by
to show the praises of a mighty God
Who delivered them home safe and dry

Monday, April 3, 2017

Servant King

And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1:7-8

The gospel of Mark has a very fast pace as we very quickly get to the story of Jesus. We are introduced to John the Baptizer who also very quickly introduces us to Jesus. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus comes to us in full ministry presentation as the Servant King. We are prepared for Someone great with John, and from Jesus' baptism in the next verse of chapter one, all the way to the end of the book, Jesus is busy ministering and serving. The pace never lets up as the gospel of Mark shows Jesus Who is busy because He came to serve and give His life for many (Mark 10:45).

The humility of John speaks to the majesty of the deity of Christ. That John knew he could not even touch the sandal laces of Jesus spoke to the powerful mission Jesus would serve. And even as John's expectation is set before us of a powerful presence in Jesus, the very first introduction of Jesus has Him humbly baptized by John in the Jordan River. And at that moment God the Father sets His approval on His Son, verifying John's testimony in a powerful way (Mark 1:11).

Even as Jesus begins His ministry after John's arrest, Jesus humbly preaches in Galilee a very similar message that builds upon John's: "Repent and believe the gospel". Jesus calls for repentance just like John but with a different emphasis. John preached repentance because a king was coming sent from God. Jesus called for repentance because the good news was that the time had come, God had sent His Son, and the kingdom was here (Mark 1:15).

The King had come to redeem, heal, and forgive. He humbled Himself to serve and to save. He was prophesied by John. He was approved by God the Father. He was tempted in the desert and did not sin. Angels ministered to Him. And Jesus boldly proclaimed the good news that His kingdom was near to those who would repent and believe Him.