Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Spirit of God at Work on Mount Everest.

Romans 8 is the Magnum Opus of Scripture. It is the richest, most encouraging chapter of the Bible. It is the apex of holy writ. Indeed, rare air is breathed on this mount.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, DaVinci's Mona Lisa and Beethoven's 5th pale in comparison to this great work.

And it is the Spirit of God Who we find intricately woven throughout the fiber of this powerful passage.

Verse one should put a smile on every believer's face. This verse should quicken our hearts, put pep in our steps and lift our spirits.  "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

When we see the word "therefore," we must always check the previous thought. What we find in the entirety of the 7th chapter of Romans is... So Much Frustration!

Imagine, the greatest Christian to ever lace up his sandals is conflicted to the point of abject frustration. "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

And on the heels of this declarative exasperation we find a powerful resolution...Rom 8:1 "No More Condemnation!"

Volumes could be written regarding Romans 8 without ever stepping on the toes of other authors’ comments. But here is my brief musing concerning the Spirit of God's presence in the chapter and in the life of the believer. 

We believers are:
*Spirit led, vs 1, 14
*Spirit emancipated, vs 2
*Spiritually minded, vss 4-7
*Spirit indwelt, vs 9
*Spirit quickened, vss 10-11
*Spirit adopted, vs 15-17
*Spirit assisted, vs 26
*Spirit interceded, vs 27
*Spirit sealed, vss 33-39

Isn't that encouraging? My heart is racing. My lungs are filled with the rarified Himalayan air of the Bible’s highest mount.

Thank you, Spirit of the Lord, for filling this chapter and for doing a great work in me and my fellow believers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blessed Christian Greetings

1Co 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
1Co 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
1Co 1:3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1Co 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

Paul was so gracious in his salutations to the brethren of various churches. Here, he bestows wishes of God's grace, peace and enrichment upon the Corinthian believers.

But what is easily overlooked is that another brother accompanies Paul in this Apostolic blessing, Sosthenes.

This saint is worthy of some consideration. That blessed brother's name "Sosthenes" means "safe strength. And, there is much in a name. Read what Jamison Faucett Brown has to say about this man's Christian history...

Associated by Paul with himself in the inscription, either in modesty, Sosthenes being his inferior [Chrysostom], or in order that the name of a “brother” of note in Corinth (Acts 18:17) might give weight to his Epistle and might show, in opposition to his detractors that he was supported by leading brethren. Gallio had driven the Jews who accused Paul from the judgment-seat. The Greek mob, who disliked Jews, took the opportunity then of beating Sosthenes the ruler of the Jewish synagogue, while Gallio looked on and refused to interfere, being secretly pleased that the mob should second his own contempt for the Jews. Paul probably at this time had showed sympathy for an adversary in distress, which issued in the conversion of the latter. So Crispus also, the previous chief ruler of the synagogue had been converted. Saul the persecutor turned into Paul the apostle, and Sosthenes the leader in persecution against that apostle, were two trophies of divine grace that, side by side, would appeal with double power to the Church at Corinth [Birks].

May the lot of us believers rise to the level of our brother Sosthenes. Might others find in us a safe strength. May we be counted worthy of the title, "Trophies of Grace."

Friday, May 18, 2018

More Than a Brother.

John 7:5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.

Imagine, growing up in the same household with Jesus, witnessing a perfect sibling, never disobedient, never mean, never unkind, intolerant of sin and mischief and yet forgiving, obedient to parents, helpful to others, skilled in carpentry, proficient in the Scriptures, loving to all, respectful of others, deeply spiritual, constant in prayer, happy in spirit, content in life, joyful in setbacks, victorious in spirit, and yet, two of His brothers never bothered to believe in Him!

Messiahs show up in other families. You never expect them to sleep in your bedroom or eat your mother's matzah. You don't suspect that God in the flesh changed your diaper or wiped your snotty nose. You can't believe, like your sisters have, or a couple of your brothers did, that your babysitter, though He never left you, nor forsook you, is the Almighty.

I mean, how can you expect to be wearing Hand-me-downs from the One Who wore robes of righteousness?

God is good, God is great! But really, how could these two boys suspect that they were thanking their own brother for their food when they bowed at the supper table?

And so, they went on throughout their lives rejecting the notion that their Brother could double as their Savior. They were so close to the Tree of Life, the Branch, the True Vine, that they couldn't see the forest of His divinity.

And that reminds me of kids who grow up in church, teething on the back of the pew in front of them, turning their Sunday school classrooms into chaos, occupying the van's back seat on the way to youth camps and teen activities. And they never come into a personal, vital relationship with the One they have casually known all their life.

It makes me think of the seminary student whose Bible has become his textbook. The wonderful words of life are, at worst mere mistranslations, or spiritualized allegories or, at best, memory verses.

I also consider the minister who serves the Lord via Bible study, sermon prep, hospital and shut in visitation, but ceases to grow in his relationship with his Redeemer.

As with His siblings, Jesus is our elder Brother. He is always there for us, caring for us, loving us, wishing for a deeper relationship than blood siblings. He desires that we be best friends, sticking closer than brothers. He offers to be our fortress, our sanctuary, our advocate, our prayer-hearing, miracle-working, saving, healing, encouraging God.

Can you look beyond the familiarity of a familial relationship and believe that the God of glory is in your home, your room and wants to dwell in your heart by faith?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Nanny Nanny Boo Boo"

Wine is a Mocker

Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Wine (in snarky mocking tone):
"Jesus drank wine."
"Just a glass or so every day with supper is okay."
"As long as it's in moderation."
"Jesus turned the water into wine."
"Oh, you tee-totalers!"
"Paul told Timothy to drink wine."
"It's sophisticated to drink wine."
"A fine red wine with a thick juicy steak can't be beat!"
"But the Bible says wine is a medicine, a sedative, a joy, a gift from God...drink up!"
"The alcohol will cook out."

23:31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

Wine (with condescending tone): "You stupid wino!!!"

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Gods and Goats

Acts 14:18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

Oh what a difference a verse makes!

In verse 18, Paul and Barnabas are doing all they can to dissuade the Lystrans from cutting up a calf as a sacrifice and doing obescence to them.

The city was divided, those who chose to maintain their paganism and those, both Jews and Gentiles, who received the message of the Gospel and believed.

But just one verse later, the apostle's detractors were present in force to silence these Gospel preachers once and for all. The Judaizers persuaded the pagans to pummel Paul with stones, thus sending him on to glory, resulting in the original version of "90 Minutes on Heaven."

One moment, they were the gods, the next, the goats. Oh how fickle people can be! Paul desired neither the calf nor the cuts, the sacrifice nor the stones. He only desired free course in doing the work of God.

Believer, soul-winner, preacher, missionary, can you relate?? It seems, in our work, we go from preaching to a receptive crowd to being confronted by some curmudgeon about our use of a Greek word.

One day we are winning a few souls for the kingdom, the next, we are called on the carpet for choosing the wrong color of carpet.

On the one hand, we rejoice in a miraculously answered prayer and on the other, Satan is buffeting us with a thorn in the flesh.

One side of the coin has us rejoicing in worship, the flip side has us stewing over a difficult budget.

And the rollercoaster never ends until we behold the Lord face to face.