A Promise

I don’t think that I’ve ever marked the verse as a “promise” before, but this morning it seemed not only appropriate, but so comforting. In this post- quarantine, mid-pandemic season, when leaving our homes seems to be the right thing to do even though the indicators are that the virus is surging, this promise in the midst of this glorious psalm is the balm needed this morning to quiet what can be, from time to time, a disquieted soul.

. . . in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

(Psalm 139:16b ESV)

There’s a book. A book in heaven. Jehovah, the Creator’s book. And in that book there is written the days that were formed for me. Every one of them. Written in that book in heaven before I breathed my first breath on earth.

Days penned for me by the One who formed me. Who knit me together in my mother’s womb. Who made me. My frame was not hidden from Him then, nor is He unaware of it now.

In fact, far from winding me up and setting me loose, He searches me and knows me. Knows when I sit down, knows when I stand up. Acquainted with all my ways. Behind me, before me. His hand upon me. Where shall I go that His Spirit is not with me? Short answer: nowhere.

I’m not out of sight, out of mind. Rather, He thinks of me. The Almighty God of heaven and earth has thoughts concerning me. Precious thoughts. Thoughts, which if I could count them, would be more than counting all the sand on all the beaches in the world.

Because there is a book. A book in heaven. Where there is written, everyone one of them, the days that were formed for me.

And I am confident that what God ordains, and what God begins, God finishes.

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

(Philippians 1:6 ESV)

The LORD has begun a good work. At first, manifest in His workmanship through natural birth, by which I was fearfully and wonderfully made. And then, His workmanship through supernatural rebirth, where I was “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that [I] should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

(Psalm 139:6 ESV)

And this morning, such knowledge is a promise for me. A fresh promise. A soul quieting promise. A courage renewing promise. An unfailing promise.

A reminder of His abundant grace. Another reason to give Him all the glory.

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When Did He Become the Lord?

That the two words “popped” wasn’t just my imagination this morning. That such a very common phrase jumped off the page demanded some attention, some follow up. Exactly why, I’m not sure. But chew on the words I must. Chew on them I did. And I think, at least in part, just for the purpose of simply asking the question, “When did He become the Lord?”

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

(Luke 10:1 EV)

The Lord. Those are the words that popped. And the thought comes to mind, when did Luke start referring to Jesus as the Lord? I haven’t noticed it before. Is this the first time? Nope. But it is only the third time so far in this “orderly account” (Lk. 1:3) written by the meticulous Doctor Luke.

It’s not the third time the phrase is found in Luke’s gospel, not at all. You find “the Lord” frequently in Luke 1 and 2 and the narrative concerning the birth of a child in Bethlehem to a virgin of Nazareth. Angels of the Lord appear on a number of occasions. The Lord is praised and magnified for the Christ to come.

And then, in the desert, when tempted by Satan, the man Jesus stands firm when He tells the devil to get behind Him, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve'” (Lk. 4:8).

Later, Jesus reads from the scroll to inaugurate His public ministry and asserts, “The Spirit of the Lord” is upon Me (Lk. 4:18). The truth of which is evidenced later as He punctuates His proclamation of the kingdom with signs and wonders as “the power of the Lord was with Him to heal” (5:18).

But I read Luke 10 this morning and I notice that Luke refers to Jesus Himself as the Lord. And I think to myself, “Self, is this the first time Luke does this?” Short answer, no.

First time, it looks like, is back in Nain when Jesus comes across a funeral procession of a young man, the only son of a grieving widow. And Luke records, “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her” (Lk. 7:13). The next time is when Luke tells us about John the Baptist who, from prison, sends two of his disciples to “the Lord, saying, ‘Are You the one who is to come?” (Lk. 7:19).

The shift has been subtle. Though it was clear from the beginning, that the babe born in the city of David, come to save His people, was “Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11), up to this point He has mostly been referred to as Jesus or, simply, He. But beginning in chapter 7, and now in chapter 10, Luke starts to refer to Jesus functionally as the Lord. And, it seems, referring to Jesus as the Lord will only increase as Luke continues to chronicle His life, death, and resurrection.

Maybe just some fun facts. But more than Bible trivia. Because the question is an important question. “When did He become the Lord?”

For sure we want to own Him as Savior. Come to rescue us from sin and death. The Lamb of God who paid the price in full. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

And to be equally sure, that He is Jesus the son of Mary and the Son of God is something we also embrace. Immanuel, God with us. Come in flesh. Friend of sinners. Able to sympathize fully with His people’s experience, yet without sin. Qualified and able to be our High Priest, forever making intercession for us.

But when did He become the Lord? The kurios. The Owner. The Master. The One to whom I belong. The One I acknowledge as having the right and power to call the shots for my life.

I own Him as Christ for He is the Anointed. God’s promised Servant to rescue His people.

I call Him Jesus, the God-man, born into our human experience. Come to call His sheep. Come to care for His flock. Come as the good Shepherd.

But this morning I’m reminded that “The Lord is my shepherd”, come to lead His sheep. And that, I have been bought with a price. I’m no longer my own. Instead, I am His. And He is the Lord.

Oh that, when it comes to my life, He might be the Lord of all.

By His grace. For His glory.

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At Work in You

The gospel found severe opposition at Thessalonica. After Paul proclaimed the good news there and presented the evidence that Jesus was the Christ, though persuading some of the Jews and a “great many of the devout Greeks”, the Jewish religious leaders of the city turned on Paul and the new church with a violent ferocity, driving Paul and Co. out of the city (Acts 17:1-7). Later, writing to the Thessalonian church, referring to such persecution, Paul would contend that not only was it displeasing to God but it was also in “opposition to all mankind” (1Th. 2:15).

In opposition to all mankind. Really? All mankind? Was Paul using hyperbole to make a point? Or was he speaking literally?

Noodle on it a bit and you realize that opposition to the gospel really is an affront to all mankind. That to hinder its proclamation is to hinder the salvation it can bring to those who have ears to hear (1Th. 2:16). For the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Thus, to restrict the word of God is to restrict the work of God. To impede the proclamation is to impede the power. And that, because God has ordained that it is the word of God which does the work of God.

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

(1Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)

Believers, it is the word of God which is at work in you. Chew on that for a bit.

Mere hyperbole again? Just Christian-ese? Or, a true statement? Fact. The way it is. The way it works.

That our Bibles are not the words of men, but really the word of God. Not mere literature, but a living and active two-edged sword able to work at a heart and soul level (Heb. 4:12). Not just a text for how to live, but the final word on how to have life and have life abundantly. Not just a compilation of to do’s and to don’ts, but a revelation able to transform us through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). And that, because it is the word of God at work in you.

If we really believed that, would it be hard to “find time” to read our Bibles? I’m thinking not. Unless, of course, we aren’t really all that interested in God doing His work in us. Instead, we’ve settled for the economy plan when it comes to salvation — enough of the word to get saved but not enough to get sanctified. Enough of the good news to avoid hell, but not enough to live for heaven.

But once you experience the living dynamic of the word at work in you; once you realize there is an encounter of the divine kind available, on demand, as you open your Bible and engage the Third Person of the Holy Trinity in the heaven-sent miracles of illumination and revelation; once you’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, you can’t help but say, “Please Sir, I want some more!”

The word of God is the work of God in us as believers. It is, literally, the energeo, the energy of God. The operative power of the Omnipotent in lives of mortals who have been redeemed for immortality.

Let us receive the Word. Let us desire the Word. Let us engage every form of opposition which would restrict the intake of the power of God for salvation.

For it is the word of God which is at work in you.

A foundational blessing by His grace alone. The transforming reality which seeks to live for His glory alone.

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Be Strong and Do It

Paul writes to the Ephesians that we are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). If that’s true (spoiler alert: it is . . . ), then I’m guessing that every believer, at some point in their lives, and likely at several points in their lives, find themselves in Solomon’s situation — with a task at hand that God has called us to do.

Maybe nothing as ambitious as converting massive amounts of gold, silver, brass, and timber into a physical structure fit for the glory of God to dwell (though we are all involved in a similar building program under another Master Builder. See Eph. 2:22). But each of us, throughout our lives, are presented with things that God wants us to do. And, at least sometimes, those things seem beyond our to-doing.

My guess, is that right now, most of us have something on our Spirit-led to do list that we know, deep down, God wants us to tackle. Whether personal improvement; stepping out in faith; exiting our comfort zone for a season; taking on a challenging piece of work for the kingdom; leading others in kingdom work; or something else, each of us has some good work before us, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in it. True for me, at least. I’m guessing true for others as well.

That’s why I’m thinking the Spirit has me chewing on some words of encouragement spoken by David to his son Solomon as he hands him the plans for the temple.

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Be careful now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.”

(1Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV)

Be strong and do it! That was David’s bottom line for his son. But he didn’t get to the bottom line before laying out some important pre-req’s.

Know God intimately. Serve God wholeheartedly. Seek God persistently. Be careful and take the work seriously. And then, be strong and do it.

I’m thinking that the good works prepared for us by God, beyond accomplishing something for God, are as much designed to increase our working knowledge and dependence on God. That whatever work He has called us to do for Him, it’s designed with a second set of blueprints of the work He wants to do in us.

A set of blueprints compelling us to grow in the knowledge of the God we serve, and to serve faithfully the God we know. Plans beyond what we think we’re capable of doing so that it drives us to seek His presence and power. Designed so that we realize, with fresh awe and wonder, that God really has chosen to partner with us to make His glory known, in some manner, through us. And in all this, blueprints requiring us, at some point, to just be strong and do it.

Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.”

(1Chronicles 28:20 ESV)

To undertake the work of God is to rely on the power of God. To walk through the dynamic of faith quenching fear is to experience the presence of God. And to see the work finished, by His power and through His presence, is to see fulfilled the promise of God.

So, dear saint, be strong and do it.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Whatever the LORD Pleases

Hovering over a verse in Psalm 135 this morning. Actually, not so much hovering as I am using it as a springboard. Noodling on a truth well known, but thinking of some its implications that may too easily be taken for granted.

Psalm 135 is a call to praise the LORD. A song beckoning its singers to sing to the LORD. And, as is common in such songs, the fuel for the fire of worship is a blend of who our God is and what our God has done. He is good; He is great; He is above all gods. He is the God in their midst who sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh; who struck down the firstborn of Egypt; who gave them the land of Canaan as a heritage; who promises to vindicate His people. In light of who He is, recalling all that He has done, how can you not but praise the LORD!?!

But here’s the attribute of God that, in particular, I’m chewing on this morning:

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

(Psalm 135:6 ESV)

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does. All that Yahweh delights in, He determines to make so. If He takes pleasure in it, He performs it. Perhaps not surprising. Probably what you’d expect from an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, sovereign God. That whatever He pleases, He does.

But my meditation this morning is not so much focused on the fact that He does what He pleases, but more centered on some of the things He pleases that He does.

Balaam, the rogue prophet for hire, learned quickly “that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel” (Num. 24:1). What others might intend for their destruction, God was delighted to turn for their blessing. So Balaam, hired to curse Israel, blesses them three times. For whatever the LORD pleases, He does.

Samuel was confident that, though Israel had forsaken God’s direct rule over them and instead wanted a king like the other nations, the LORD would not forsake Israel. How come? “It has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself.” (1Sam. 12:22). God would work with His people’s propensity to “lean unto their own understanding” and would not only give them a king, but would promise them a kingly line through which a King of Kings would come to redeem them. Because God delighted in the thought of such an inheritance. And, whatever the LORD pleases, He does.

But God’s pleasures extend beyond nations. It focuses too on individuals. Paul would testify that the great God of Israel had determined to set him apart before he was born, calling him by grace, because the LORD “was pleased to reveal His Son to me” (Gal. 1:15-16). Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus because God, in plans determined before the foundation of the world, desired it. And guess what? Whatever the LORD pleases, He does.

And, just as it pleased God to make the way of eternal redemption known to the faithful apostle, He continues to make it known to individuals today. And that, through the apparent folly of the story of a Man of Galilee who died on a Roman cross 2,000 years ago. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1Cor. 1:21). And rescue and redeem people for eternity, through the gospel, He has. For whatever the LORD pleases, He does.

And what pleasure of the LORD secured such a wondrous salvation? What delight was necessary for the redeeming of souls for His glory?

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

(Isaiah 53:10 ESV)

It was the will of the LORD. Same original word as pleases in Psalm 135. It “pleased the LORD to bruise Him” (NKJV). It was God’s pleasure to make His Son who knew no sin to be sin for us. It was God’s delight to demand through Him the wages for our sin. Not that the Father was pleased to forsake His Son, but that He was pleased to redeem, even at great cost, a people. And whatever the LORD pleases, He does.

Oh, how He loves you and me,
Oh how He loves you and me.
He gave his life, what more could He give?
Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how He loves me; Oh, how He loves you and me.

Jesus to Calvary did go,
His love for sinners to show.
What He did there brought hope from despair.
Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how He loves me; Oh, how He loves you and me.

Copyright: 1975 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does. Oh yes, He does!

By His abundant grace. For His eternal glory.

Amen?

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A Blessing Within Reach

Who doesn’t want a blessing? Who isn’t looking for good things to come their way, especially in difficult times? I’m guessing no one. But I’m also wondering this morning if sometimes we fail to realize the source of blessing which, as the people of God, is perhaps most within reach.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

(Psalm 133:1-3 ESV)

Songwriter’s subject? Brothers, and sisters, dwelling in unity. People of the same tribe hanging together in harmony. Those in relationship with one another, because of their relationship to Another One, who remain in oneness.

What’s true about the subject?

It’s good and pleasant. It’s becoming and delightful. It rings of how things were meant to be. Men and women never wired to be alone. God declared of all He created, “It is good.” So too, is unity among His creation. And how often have we come away from time with others in our spiritual family and declared of our time together, “The fellowship was sweet!”

And speaking of sweet, it’s like the oil used to consecrate those who would enter the holy of holies. As the oil, picturing the Spirit of God, was poured on those called to be priests, it’s covering spoke of consecration, a setting apart. But it’s sweet, fragrant aroma would also declare an invocation, a calling to a task. That together, the people of God were to pursue what it practically looks like to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27).

As such, it’s also like the dew that would fall on the holy hill. Living water, almost imperceptible yet widely spread, which refreshes. An unending supply. A key component allowing good soil to bear much fruit.

And finally, it’s where the Lord has commanded the blessing. Whether “there” is referring specifically to Zion, or “there” is the place where unity is experienced, I don’t think the meaning is much changed. Where brothers and sisters dwell in unity, where the anointing fragrance of oneness is present, where the renewing dew of Hermon is falling, there God has commanded the blessing, life evermore.

Read it and weep! God commands His blessing where God’s people are together in unity! A blessing is right there within our grasp.

But I weep somewhat this morning, because of how many of us have relegated “dwelling in unity” to an hour or two once a week. And even then, spending most of that time shoulder to shoulder in a church service, rather than face to face in interactive fellowship. Having abandoned the hospitality afforded by our homes while settling only for the services we consume in our sanctuaries.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all about gathering on the Lord’s day as the church for corporate worship and edification. I’m a fan. I’m sold on it’s importance. But I’m also noticing how many are longing to again be with their brothers and sisters in Christ and lament they are unable to because the doors to the church building haven’t yet opened. Failing to even consider that, as quarantines are lifted, and safe practices are suggested, they can know the blessing the LORD has commanded, even now, by dwelling with one another in their own homes.

The early church, day by day, attended the temple together AND broke bread in their homes (Acts 2:46). They worshiped God and then they fellowshipped with one another. And in those homes, if I’m picking up what the songwriter’s laying down, it was sweet. It was anointed. It was refreshing. It was a blessing.

Oh, that the church might rediscover the blessing that is right under our noses. The blessing of not just being in unity, but of being together in unity. That, while we wait for church buildings to open, believers would open their own buildings and would redisover the lost jewel of hospitality.

For there the LORD has commanded the blessing.

And who doesn’t want a blessing?

Because of grace. For His glory.

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Justice and Equity to All

I know that often, when it comes to Bible reading, our filters factor in to what catches our attention. Whether it’s what’s going on in our lives as individuals, or in our gospel community as a church body, or in our community at large and the current events reported in the news cycles, what’s front and center in our minds when we’re not reading the Bible, can be a pretty powerful funnel through which the living and active word is received when we are reading our Bibles.

But that’s not to say that what hits our radar isn’t still of the Spirit. To be sure, we need to be aware of personal bias, but not to the exclusion of any consideration that the events around us can make ready “good soil” for what God wants to sow within us.

So, that’s why I’m thinking a somewhat obscure verse in 1Chronicles pops off the page this morning. Because of the events of the past several weeks around me AND, because I trust the Spirit of God is continuing His lifelong work of sanctification in me. Thus, this morning I’m chewing on justice and equity to all.

So David reigned over all Israel, and he administered justice and equity to all his people.

(1Chronicles 18:14 ESV)

David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Not a perfect man, yet a persistent pursuer of God. Not all his actions were upright, but his fear of God was unwavering. Throughout his life, not a faultless man, nevertheless a repentant man (Ps. 51) and a forgiven man (Ps. 103:1-5, 11-12). So, I’m thinking, when David was at the top of his game, he was a model for what a man of God, and a leader under God, should look like. And when David reigned at the top of his game, he administered justice and equity to all his people.

Lot of talk about justice and equity these days. For me and many in my circles, at least, talk that seems to have found “ears to hear.” To be honest, in the past I would have paid little attention and waited for things to settle down and wanted things just to move on. But this time it’s different. And I’ve found myself wrestling with the relationship between the gospel and justice and equity to all. Not sure I have answers, but convinced it’s a question worth noodling on.

So this morning what hits me is, if David was a man after God’s own heart, and if, when David was at the top of his game and God was actively present in the affairs of his kingdom, he administered justice and equity to all, then, shouldn’t justice and equity be the model for kingdoms of earth influenced by the kingdom of heaven? I’m thinkin . . .

While in my past I have had opportunity to share the gospel in minimum security prisons, and to serve meals along with a message in downtown missions, if I’m honest with myself, I think I’ve had a position, if not explicitly at least implicitly, that “the gospel” and “social justice” are somehow on opposite ends of a continuum. But recently I’ve been increasingly challenged to think about the relationship between the gospel and justice and equity to all.

To be sure, this is a decaying and dark world. It needs the good news of the gospel. But beyond the message, how is the good news manifest by those who are to be salt and light to this decaying and dark world? How are glimpses of the “Thy kingdom come” to be reflected through the ambassadors of that kingdom who are here now?

Our God is a just God. Our God is a God of equity and impartiality. What’s more, all people bear the Imago Dei, as all people are created in the image of God. So, as ambassadors of the good news which rescues from sin and restores the Imago Dei, what part does being advocates of justice and equity to all come into play?

Honestly again, don’t have many answers. But becoming more and more convinced these are some of the right questions to be working through.

Convinced because of encounters of the divine kind, like this morning’s, where an obscure verse in 1Chronicles pops off the page. Aware there might be some bias because the topic is front and center these days, but also sensing it’s because of the resident Teacher within me who is ever present, and ever active in the work of transformation through the renewing of the mind.

This too, evidence of the grace of God. This too, only for the glory of God.

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Walk in That

Don’t know that I have a lot to say this morning. Don’t know that I should if I’m meditating on the quieted soul. After all, the songwriter’s picture of a weaned child isn’t that of a wailing child. A baby at rest in their mother’s arms isn’t a baby up in arms. A calm soul is a quiet soul.

Not because everything around is calm and quiet. And not because we’re not to thoughtfully engage in such things as pandemics, politics, and problems that have long haunted the land. But because, as the songwriter reminds me, we are not to walk in them.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

(Psalm 131:1-3 ESV)

Occupy. That’s the word I wonder about this morning. I do not occupy myself with things too great for me.

Not sure how I feel about other translations. CSB and NASB say “I do not get involved with.” NIV and NKJV, “I do not concern myself with.” Peterson cuts to the chase, “I haven’t meddled where I have no business” (MSG). But literally it reads “Nor have I walked in great things” (YLT).

I don’t think the songwriter is advocating an “ignorance is bliss” approach to the big things of life. But that we don’t live our lives consumed by things which are simply beyond us.

Maybe the clue is in the opening words of the song, a lifted up heart and eyes that are raised up. That, while ignorance is not the way, neither is arrogance. While being uninformed is not what’s advocated here, neither is a know-it-all attitude. That for the big issues of life — like suffering, like injustice, like what it means for the kingdom to come — at the end of the day, we don’t walk in them with arrogance that agitates. With pride that ultimately is unproductive. But we know rest amidst the troublesome, too big things of life because we know where, ultimately, our help comes from.

At some point, probably sooner than later, we need to calm ourselves, rest in the Father’s arms, and hope in the LORD.

And how’s that possible? Psalm 130 gives a clue.

O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.

(Psalm 130:7 ESV)

Steadfast love. Plentiful redemption. The character of God. The promise of God.

Isn’t that what I need to occupy myself with? Aren’t those the truths I need to walk in? I’m thinkin . . .

Isn’t that the context that corrals the anxiety fueled by unanswerable questions? The bearings that point us in the right direction when we feel things are out of control. The greater truths which allow us to be thoughtful but not obsessed? The remembrance that compels us to humble ourselves even as we exalt our God? I’m thinkin’ that too . . .

Okay, so maybe I have more to say than I first thought. But now it’s time to calm the soul. To quiet the spirit. To hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. And to walk in that.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Not the Opposite

Jesus and His disciples sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which, writes Luke, “is opposite Galilee” (Luke 8:26). The region of the Gerasenes was “over against” the land of Galilee. And as I hover over this passage in Luke I’m thinking about how it’s “other sided-ness” was more than just a physical characteristic.

The man who met Jesus was opposite as well. The man was naked and lived among the dead (8:27), but Jesus was clothed in power (Lk. 3:22, Lk. 24:49) and was the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). He recognized Jesus as the one and only Son of the Most High (8:28), but Jesus called him out as the many, who went by the name Legion and possessed the man, demons deserving of the abyss below (8:30-31). Legion had little regard for life, whether human or otherwise (8:32), but Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).

But perhaps the most stark contrast is how, after being delivered by Jesus, the man stood, or rather sat, opposite to the others of the Gerasenes.

Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So He got into the boat and returned.

(Luke 8:35-37 ESV)

The man formally known as Legion, sat at the feet of Jesus. The man who once lived in lifeless darkness, now was drawn to the light as he tasted of life to the full. He who once was naked and wretched, was now clothed with a robe of righteousness. He who had been an unwilling slave to the underworld, was now a willing servant in the kingdom of heaven.

He was clothed. He was in his right mind. And so, he sat at the feet of Jesus. Opposite to those who were once his countrymen.

His countrymen stood at a distance. For they were out of their minds, seized with great fear. Whether because they didn’t know how to process the miracle of a possessed man healed, or because they were all too capable of adding up the impact to their economy if more of their livelihood were to be driven to destruction in the lake (8:32-33), we don’t know. But they were not in a right mind and so, they wanted Jesus to leave.

The country of the Gerasenes was opposite Galilee. So, while the many of the Gerasenes would send away the Son of God, the one who had been delivered by the Man of Galilee would sit at His feet. While those living for swine would seek distance from the Savior, the one delivered from darkness “begged that he might be with Him” (8:38).

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

(Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

O’ to be clothed, in our right minds, and at the feet of Jesus . . . and not the opposite.

What redemption! What reconciliation! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Trophies of God’s grace. Only for God’s glory.

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Seeing How We Hear

As I hover over this six word command to obey, it impresses me as being a pretty weighty charge by Jesus to His disciples. Foundational for their growth as followers of Christ. Insightful as to a spiritual dynamic that dictates there’s no such thing as “good enough” in the kingdom. And it all comes down to seeing how we hear.

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” ~ Jesus

(Luke 8:18 ESV)

Jesus is “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Lk. 8:1). And when the crowd about him peaks, He tells them a parable (Lk. 8:4-8). A story about a sower, some seed, and four different outcomes. He concludes the story with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

He then let’s His disciples in on the meaning of the mysterious tale (Lk. 8:9-15). How come? Because, Jesus says, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God.”

The seed is the presented word of God. It is the served up secrets of the kingdom.

And, the four scenarios presented are hearing scenarios. In the first, the word is heard, but because it falls on hardened ground, it’s easily removed. Or, the seed is heard, but because it falls on shallow ground and has no root, in times of testing it falls away. Or, perhaps most tragic, the seed is heard, takes root, but bears no fruit because it is “choked out by the cares and riches and pleasures of life.” Finally, in the best case scenario, the seed finds good soil in “those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

Same seed. Very different outcomes. Take care then how you hear.

Literally, “see how you hear.” Look at how you listen. Discern how you’re detecting. Pay attention to how you prepare, participate, and process. ‘Cause it’s a big deal! The secrets of the kingdom are at stake! The fruit of the kingdom is dependent upon it. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

And, as I noodle on it, here’s what really gets me. It’s not like you can opt to stop hearing at some point because you feel like you’ve borne enough fruit. Not like you can say I’ve heard enough, I’ve grown enough, I’ll just settle for where I am at.

“. . . for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

If good soil is allowed to become untilled hard ground; if good soil is allowed to erode and becomes shallow; if good soil isn’t tended and the weeds of the world are allowed to grow unchecked, then it’s not as if what was already harvested from what was once good soil will just stay in the barn. The deposits don’t just sit and gain interest. No, says Jesus, instead what he thinks he has will be taken away. To no longer have ears to hear is to atrophy. To not see how you hear is to risk going blind.

To us who are disciples of Christ, provision has been made to know the secrets of the kingdom. And those secrets come in the form of seed, the word of God. And ours is to listen — carefully, committedly, constantly.

Seeing how we hear. That we might bear fruit with patience.

By His grace. For His glory.

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