The Word

A small group of men with whom I fellowship regularly got around to the subject of how God “speaks” to us. All of us were in agreement that none of us had heard that “still small voice”; not even a loud one for that matter. I noted that I have often cut short my morning quiet time with the Lord to run an errand or work at some chore. Devotion read – check; Scripture read – check; Prayers said – check; Wait for God to speak – OOPS. . .
I have noted in the past that God speaks to us in many ways. He speaks to me most directly through His Holy Word. I wish more people understood and appreciated the connect between our Creator King and The Word that He has given us that we may understand Him. When we open our Bibles we have all of what God wanted His creation to know about Himself in our hands. Let’s re-read what John wrote about  the Word.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
(John 1:1-5)
John parallels the opening courses of Genesis – “In the beginning…”, so we may understand that The Word preceded creation. Just as God is eternal so is His Word eternal. The next thing that grabs our attention is that The Word is not just the simple Greek word ‘logos’, but that this particular logos is a Person with a title of The Word. The scripture says “He was with God…”, and “Through Him all things were made…” (see also Psalm 33:6), and “In Him was life”.
So God works His creative magic through The Word, and then gives life through The Word.
Then in a most beautiful, and inspiring, and revealing verse, John shares the miracle. The Word who was God, and of Whom God the Father had spoken many times in the OT, “became flesh and dwelt among us…”. (Gen 15:1, 4; Ex. 9:20-21; Num. 3:51; 1 Sam 15:10; 2 Sam 7:4; etc.) How fabulous – how exciting is that?? Jesus Christ, the Messiah is the fulfillment of the scriptures! In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the Disciples, ”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17) He was saying He had come to satisfy, to execute, to complete what had been written. Jesus was proclaiming that He was the point, the meaning and substance of the scriptures – of The Holy Word.
There have been some lame attempts to add The Word as a fourth Godhead. The Apostle John specifically identifies The Word as “the only begotten of the Father” (Jn. 1:14) and John the Baptist testified “…that this is the Son of God.” (Jn. 1:34)
God, of course, speaks to us in other ways too. I have received His holy counsel through pastors, teachers, and Christian friends. He has guided me by His Holy Spirit with insight and discernment.
He has spoken to me through words in worship songs and hymns. I will be speaking to a group of men at a weekend Via de Cristo retreat soon and the lead-in music I chose is the old favorite, Great is Thy Faithfulness. I chose that hymn because for weeks the single verse “All I have needed Thou hand has provided” has buffeted my brain. Day and night the verse reminds me of the Source of all that I have; my health, wealth, circle of loved ones, His mercy, His grace, His love – everything I have needed – His hand has provided. I am reminded that the words I will speak, the efficiency of my delivery, and the affect upon my audience is all by His provision and to His glory.
Still He speaks to us most directly through His Word.  If we are to believe the scriptures we must affirm that as you open the Book you take God by His hand, look into His face, and say to Him, ‘Here I am Lord, teach me’. Your pastor, your Bible School teacher, or small group leader can only reveal the tips of many icebergs. To know God requires spending time with Him in His Word. He will guide your study into the areas you are most in need of. There are bits and pieces of Him on every page – sometimes profound – sometimes obscure. When He is profound – by all means, listen. When He seems obscure – dig!! He has provided all He wants us to know about Him in His Word.

Be blessed!!

Believing

A pastor once was preaching and he made the statement:  "GOD SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT, THAT SETTLES IT!"

A little girl in the congregation raised her hand and when acknowledged she said, "Pastor, you're wrong!"

The surprised Pastor said, "What do you mean?  Why am I wrong?"

The girl answered, "Pastor, if God said it, then that settles it, whether you believe it or not!"

What do you believe about God, and what about all the promises we find in the Bible – do we believe, really believe that all these promises are true and real and that we can apply or appropriate them for ourselves? There is only one answer. . .yes we can!

There are passages in the Bible some people find hard to believe. . .the story just isn't logical, so they have tried to justify it with their own interpretation. I can understand that. From a logical perspective many of the Biblical stories are impossible – beginning with the story of creation, which confounds our scientific knowledge, and people living 800-900 years, and a bush that burns yet isn't consumed, and a million people walking on dry land through the Red Sea, and twelve foot thick walls (Jericho) come down because men marched around and then shouted. . .it's all just too much for our logical, educated minds to accept. It's hard to accept because we cannot grasp the might and majesty of our God.

We go about our day, we work, we eat, we play with our children, we watch TV, but we don't ever see a burning bush. We pray for relief from some calamity, malady, or affliction, and sometimes we see those prayers answered. . .and then Satan whispers, "Was that God? Or was that just a coincidence???" And we listen, and then there's doubt. Did God really promise that He will never leave me or forsake me??

To believe in ALL God's promises we must first believe in His Holy Word – the Bible. If you don't believe that "all scripture is God breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16) and that "prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God…" (2 Peter 1:20-21), then of course you have no foundation for believing anything written in the scriptures.

Jesus said our faith must be as that of a little child. Children have much less trouble believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. They believe because we have told them so. Little children are much more receptive to the words "Jesus loves me, this I know, 'cause the Bible tells me so". It is only as we mature, get educated, and allow our faith to be filtered by worldly logic and teaching that doubts in scripture come creeping in. It took me a few years to unlearn worldly views and to have confidence in what the Bible says – regardless of how illogical or impractical or even nonsensical it may appear to that world view. God said it – that's good enough for me.

As a Biblical teacher it is sometimes my sad duty to say that "I don't know why ____________". If God wants us to know something – He makes it clear to us. He has made it plain that we aren't to know – or understand – everything about our lives nor everything about His thoughts. (Is. 55:8-9; 1 Cor. 2:9) I often have to remind myself that while study of the scriptures is an imperative from God (2 Pet. 3:18) there is no verse or passage that says I must understand all that is written in His book.

So which of the promises of the Bible can we appropriate? How about Jeremiah 29:11?  It says God has a plan for me to prosper. Should I interpret that to mean I will get rich if I believe in Him? I think not…read the whole passage in context. God is promising the Jewish exiles in Babylon that He will return them to Jerusalem where His plan is that they will prosper. But even for the exiles prosperity doesn't equate with monetary wealth. So am I saying that verse is no more applicable for our lives than the parting of the Red Sea – certainly not!!

When God caused Jeremiah to write down these words for all eternity, surely He was not just conveying a sweet story for our entertainment. The lesson is that God does have a plan for all His children to prosper – to have hope and a future. But our prosperity is in Him; our future is our adoption by Him into His kingdom. Verses 12-14 define conditions for the promise – that we pray to Him, that we seek Him. Many of God's promises are conditional on our submission to Him, our obedience to His Holy Word, and our acknowledgement and confession of Christ's work on Calvary.

There are also unconditional promises, the one over-riding one of which is, "The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:8) Jesus confirmed this with His promise, "…and I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20) The opening words of John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world". The world – that's you and me, all of us. There's no provision, no caveat, no conditions – God so loved the world. We are loved by God, like it or not, and that's a promise you can believe.

Believe in that one promise of His love and the rest just kinda fall in line.
Read also "Because God Has Said".
 

They Will Do Greater Things

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

This verse has been a most troublesome and controversial one for many Christians; troublesome because of our not fully understanding the power of the Holy Spirit within us,  and controversial because so many Biblical scholars and commentators either denied or misrepresented the simple text, in particular claiming the "greater works" had to be quantitative – never qualitative. May I note here that I do not recall ever having heard this issue addressed from the pulpit of my church nor any I have visited.

Their claims are that through mass media we may evangelize to greater audiences than Jesus ever did and perhaps reach out to greater numbers of people to feed and clothe, and by the invention of modern medicines we might heal greater numbers of the sick, but we certainly could never walk on water, or bring the dead out of their graves, or restore a leper's disfigured body.

This passage from John's Gospel comes from what is called the "Upper Room Discourse", which encompasses chapters 13 through 17. The 'Last Supper' has been finished and Jesus now speaks words of comfort to the Apostles as He has once again told them that He "will be with you only a little longer." The lights must have begin to come on because we read that Peter, Phillip, Thomas, and John all have questions of 'where He is going' and 'why they cannot follow'.

He tells them to 'love one another' as He has loved them, and 'do not let your hearts be troubled', to 'trust God' as they have trusted Him, and finally that His work on Earth would not cease because they would continue it – but not only they – for the Scripture states that, "anyone who has faith in Me will do the works I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these." The works are the miracles referred to in the preceding verse (Jn. 14:11)

So what is the take-away here? There are several issues at play. First we recognize that 'if' we are doing any greater works is it by the power of the Holy Spirit – not of ourselves. Secondly we must acknowledge the qualifier – the caveat – "anyone who has faith in Me". In this same discourse Jesus says "apart from Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). And finally we must get up off our couches and go out to do what Christ has called us to do (Matt. 28:19 and Acts 1:8)

We do acknowledge our limitations. We are not all gifted as some of the great preachers and teachers like Spurgeon, Meyer, Moody, Graham or a host of others. We may cry out that ' evangelizing is not our "Spiritual Gift" but Christ didn't limit the Great Commission to those with the Gift of evangelizing, or teaching, or preaching. The marching orders are for all people of faith.

A great lesson from Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well is that He brought the message of salvation to a single solitary person. We cannot all speak to a great congregation of seekers, but we can carry Christ's message of redemption to an individual – our neighbor, our co-worker, the clerk at the market. Our message may not be in the form and substance of a great sermon, and we may not be able to explain many of the confusing and obscure passages in the Bible, but we can tell "our story" of how Christ changed our lives and the peace and comfort we experience daily as we follow His lead, of how He does answer our prayers, and how His church, our Christian family, rallies round us when times get tough. We can witness to His faithfulness, His goodness, His forgivness and His great love.

We should follow D L Moody's stated practice of not allowing a single day to pass without seeking to use some opportunity, given by God, to proclaim His majesty. Such should be part of each morning prayer; "Oh Lord, I pray you put some lost soul in my path today that I might introduce him to You, that I might truly be that 'salt and light' you demand of me." Is not adding just one single new convert to His Kingdom not a miracle in itself?

So the question remains; Can you and I perform miracles – even greater ones than Jesus did?" I say yes, yes we can – both quantitive and qualitive. For me there is no ambiguity in the scripture, nor can it be mis-interpreted. Our role in this endeavor is to submit ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit, to never quench His power by our doubts, and to step up and make ourselves available to carry out whatever mission we are called to. And if He chooses to use us in performing a miracle – well that is His part. He is God, and just because He indwells our feeble frames He is none-the-less omnipotent. It is as He told the Apostle Paul, "…my power is made perfect in weakness"

Here I Am; Send Me

"Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Such were the words of Isaiah in answer to God's call, yet we must anticipate the trepidation with which he responds, for he has just recognized his own unrighteousness in view of that of the Lord God.

Likewise as Joshua is given charge of leading the Israelites into the promised land upon Moses' death, he too must have accepted this role with many misgivings and much foreboding. The Scriptures tell us that Joshua was encouraged by both men and God regarding his responsibility. Joshua is told to be strong and courageous by Moses as he passes to reins of leadership (Deut. 31:7), and then the same phrase is repeated by the Lord FOUR times (Deut. 31:23; Joshua 1:6,7 and 9) and finally again by the people he would lead (Jsh. 1:18).

Answering the Lord's call is never a whimsical decision. I recall most vividly being called to lead a men's leadership/discipleship class some years ago, and how unworthy I thought myself to that responsibility. I prayed for direction, asked friends to pray and it was only after some wise counsel that I answered the call.

The counsel was this. . .yes you may be weak, but in recognizing and acknowledging your weakness, God is strong – and it is only then that He can use you. I came to understand that I would not be the teacher – that work is done by the Holy Spirit. My only contribution was to be His instrument.

I remember upon graduating that first class I was presented with a shirt with the title "Instructor" emblazoned across the chest. I knew better and shared with those in attendance that I had not been the instructor – God had. I had merely been a facilitator. I was neither wise enough nor knowledgable enough to teach God's principles, His morals, and His Holy Word.

In the ensuing years of leading those classes I did improve my 'teaching' skills, but that was no more than we are called to do as we hone the particular skills of our Spiritual gifts. There were even times when I found myself being taught by the students I proposed to lead.

I do believe my first Spiritual Gift is teaching, but let us look again at how we receive these Gifts. In enumerating some of the Gifts in 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7)

How many times had I read that passage before the lighs came on? Paul is saying that the Gifts are not worked "by" us but "through" us. We are not using the Gift of XXXX – that work is the Holy Spirit working through us. The Gift is the 'manifestation of the Holy Spirit' as He exerts Himself – as He labors in that mode which we term a Spiritual Gift.

Now think on that for a minute or two. . .God, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, is using your God given talents, your experiences, your passions, and your character to glorify Himself. All these things He designed in you at birth, (Psalm 139:13-14), He now puts to use for His glory. There is nothing in this world that thrills me more than to know God is using me for His glory!! 

How many have been called to a ministry, a chore, or a role within the church and refused thinking they were unqualified in some way or another? God did not call the mighty Charleston Heston to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He called a weak-willed, mealy-mouth, fugitive to lead them. What did Moses know about leading a nation of slaves through the desert to an unknown destination? And yet, unqualified – even grossly so – as Moses was, this was God's choice so that He would be glorified.

When we answer God's call to ministry – it is not for our glory. God is glorified in that the church is served, and that the members see how He can use even the least of us. Perhaps they can then say, "If he [you] can do ______ then I can step up and do something."

I pray you will shrug off your doubts and say "Here I am LORD. Send me!"

Burning Your Candle

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
 Edith Wharton (American Novelist and short-story writer, 1862-1937)

I would rethink that quote to, "As we mirror the light of our Lord, His light is multiplied". In Proverbs we read: "The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord. . ." (Prov. 20:27 NKJV)

In speaking to His disciples Jesus said that we are the 'light of the world', (Matt. 5:14-16), and yet He proclaimed that He is 'the light of the world'. (John 8:12) How do we reconcile the two verses?

I think we must first recognize that Jesus wasn't speaking to His small select group of apostles, but to a crowd of people (see Matt. 7:28). So it wasn't an anointed group He referred to as light of the world but all those in attendance. Secondly we would understand that the entire crowd had to be believers, for to be asked to abide by all He was demanding in His Sermon on the Mount would have been folly and foolishness to an unbeliever – just as it is today.

For our many years of walking in the world we were an unlit candle – complete with wick. But God in His wisdom and grace has now touched our wick with the flame of His light and our candle now burns. Certainly not all candles burn equally bright – Paul teaches us that God has granted us a 'measure of faith', (Romans 12:3 NKJV), and that we must grow that faith, (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:20; Col 1:9-11; 2:6-7). So too some of our candles burn brighter than others.

In summation we may then conclude that as we surrender to our Lord Jesus and are supernaturally filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, we also supernaturally, become salt and light.

Jesus went on to say that we are not to hide our light – in fact He says our light cannot be hidden – just as you cannot block out the lights of a city on a hill. If we are truly committed Christians our light cannot be hidden – it is as visible as the nose on our face.

Speaking of John the Baptist's light, Jesus noted  that his "was a lamp that burned and gave light. . ." (John 5:35). So let us now address the burning of our light.

Burning is not an option. The ambition to be a shining light is universal, but not everyone is ready to suffer the consequences of being a burning light. I think of Stephen who faced his accusers with God's truth, of Paul who suffered relentless beatings and jailing as he founded churches across Asia and Europe, and of latter day saints like Martin Luther, Madam Guyon, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

In the western world we seldom are threatened by having our light shine. But there are readers here among our subscribers in China, India, Liberia and elsewhere that are surely braver than I, who shine their lights in an oh-so-dark world. Would I, could I be so brave? Surely, I confess, such is not near the top of my prayers.

There is a price to pay for the right to give the true light of life. That price is yourself. All of your ambition, all of your resources, all of your intellect, and your passion must be directed to a brighter burning lamp.

But just as there is a price there is also a reward for being that brighter lamp. From my own experiences – my years of teaching and discipling men in the church, counseling those in distress, and authoring these pages – I am rewarded by the knowledge that in my weakness, in my incompetence, and my ignorance, God has chosen to use my meager lamp to bring His Light of the World message of forgiveness and salvation. And that my friends, is no small reward.

May I challenge you to be a brighter light. Our God has touched your wick with His mighty flame. What will you do with that light you now emit? Not all are called to be Paul or Stephen or Billy Graham. Sometimes our light seems so dim as if it struggles to brighten a foggy night. Those lights may serve in a soup kitchen or visit the old and infirm. They may teach a children's Sunday School class or volunteer in any number of roles for their church and their community. Scripture does not reveal that a brighter light is more honored or rewarded by God, only that we burn as brightly as we can, that we might to aspire to emit a 'Moses-glow', and as we burn our candles down to the very wick's end, God's Holy light surely shines all the brighter and He is glorified!