For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Cor 5:1)

In a few hours I am having surgery to repair an inguinal hernia.  Though it is not a major surgery, it is a reminder that our bodies are in decay and will one day succumb to “destruction.”  But the good news of the gospel is that though our “earthly home is destroyed” we have the promise of resurrection, “eternal in the heavens.”

The Apostle Paul is reminding the Corinthian church that the trajectory of our lives should be pointed to God, not the things of earth.  Though we can enjoy what God has created, God in His providence has subjected this world to decay because of sin, but with a promise; that promise includes a resurrection to eternal life.

Jesus reminded us of this when we trust in Him, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”  (John 11:25)   With this in mind, let us keep our eyes on things above, not on earthly things, knowing that our future is glorious and holds great promise.  Amen!

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The Love of Jesus

June 19, 2018

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

One of the most popular hymns these past 150 years is “Jesus loves me.”  “Jesus loves me this I know, because the Bible tells me so.”  It was written by Anna Bartlett Warner in 1860 for her niece, a little girl who was dying.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  It is a tremendous encouragement to know that God loves us.  In a world that is so often devoid of love, filled with conflict and absent in peace, God is there telling us, that He loves us.  Psalm 136 on more than 20 occasions tells us that “His love endures forever” and that “His steadfast love always goes before Him!”

But so often, because of life’s difficulties, we struggle to accept God’s declaration of love.   We see death, disease, injustice and evil, and perhaps we are tempted to think that God is absent from this world and maybe the Bible has it wrong.  If God tells us that He loves us in His word, than how do I know?

In Mark 8:1-10,  we have a curious statement by Jesus, before He performs an amazing miracle of feeding a multitude of people with a few fish and seven loaves.   Jesus said “I have compassion.”  And the world compassion here in the original language means to be so deeply moved that one has to act.  The actual word comes from the word inner bowels, which in the ancient world was considered the seat of love and pity.  It was a word that was used when someone was feeling so deeply about something that it would compel them to act upon it.

And so we have Jesus here declaring His love and compassion.  The reason for Jesus’ response is that He knew that crowd came from long distances to hear Him preach and receive healing, a crowd that after 3 days  had become hungry and had nothing to eat.  Because Jesus did not want to “send them away hungry, less they faint on the way,”   He had compassion.

There are several things we can learn from Mark 8:1-10 this week.   First we will see the love of Jesus declared.  Jesus simply said He had compassion.   He is not a God who sits far away or is unconcerned about our circumstances, but cares deeply for us.

Mark 8 also teaches us that His love is always demonstrated.  He is able to take care of us and provide, whether we are hungry, sick, lonely, hurting, impoverished or without purpose in life.   The Bible tells us that “He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.”   Most importantly, that love was demonstrated at the cross, when Jesus died for our sin.  God promises us if we believe in Him we would not perish in our sin, but have eternal life.

Finally, we will see that when we are willing to receive His love, we will always get up from the table satisfied.  there is one little detail in the text in Mark 8:8 that should encourage us, “they ate and were satisfied.”   This is good news.  In a world that offers so little satisfaction, Jesus in His love holds out His arms to us and says, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full or more abundantly.”

When we look at how the Bible describes Jesus, we find two aspects of His character that should lead us to a place of worship, amazement and wonder.  The first is Christ’s humility, the second is His power.  Jesus displayed both these qualities as both God and man.

Think about this:  God Himself, the Creator of the heavens and earth, the One who is all knowing, all powerful, and all present, humbled Himself and took on human flesh and the role of a servant.  Jesus walked in this world in sinless perfection, showing us God’s love at the cross, where He poured out His blood for our sins, all in perfect humility.

Isaiah 53 describes Jesus this way while He walked the earth, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, no beauty that we should desire Him, He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.”  This and so many other passages of the Bible show us that the God we worship is also the God of perfect humility.

The second characteristic of Jesus is His power.  Because He is God, there was never a disease He could not heal, a dead man He could not raise, a storm He could not calm, a crowd He could not feed, or a circumstance that laid beyond His control.    In Mark 7:31-37, when Jesus heals a deaf man who could barely speak we not only see His compassion, but His healing power.

Jesus did this for our benefit, that we may truly belief that He is the Son of God.  For if we are to accept Christ’s claims that He is the light of the world, the bread of life, the Good Shepherd, the living water, and the way, truth and life, than God understands we needed to see His power displayed.  Throughout the gospels, we see again and again how Jesus displayed His unlimited power as God over everything.

God knows we needed to see Jesus as humble and powerful that we may absolutely believe in Him.  And so throughout the gospels we see again and again, His display of His power and His life of humble service, that we may believe in Him.  And the great news of the gospel is this:  “to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

True Humility

May 29, 2018

The word of God is very clear on a simple truth, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   In Proverbs 18:12 we are reminded this way, “before honor there must be humility.”

There are literally dozens of Scripture that point us to embrace humility, but what is it?  Some falsely believe that humility is putting oneself down or not having a high regard for oneself.  Another wrong view of humility is an absence of desire for great things, accomplishment, or success.  Still others believe that if great things come your way, humility means to distance yourself from them.

But true humility has nothing to do with such ideas.  True humility is understanding what our true condition before God is.  True humility understands that everything I am and everything I have been created for is a gift from God and dependent on Him.  True humility understands that what is most important is what God thinks about me,

Andrew Murray, a great saint and prayer warrior who ran orphanages in 19th century England wrote a classic book called Humility.  Read his definition, “humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision who God is.”   A few paragraphs later he put it this way, “Humility is the displacement of self by the enthronement and exaltation of God.

In  Mark 7:24-30, we find a Gentile woman who had a huge problem on her hand.  Her daughter was demon possessed, which probably meant that her daughter was not only exhibiting behavior that was paramount to insanity, but also meant that she ran out of options on how to bring her little girl to a place of health and peace.   In short, she found herself in circumstances beyond her control.

She obviously heard about Jesus, His ability to heal and His power to cast out demons, and so she went to Him.  But there was a problem.  She was a Gentile.    Jesus points this out in the text in vs. 27 by reminding her that it wouldn’t be right for Him to help her.  But it was her humility that moved Jesus to a place of mercy and compassion.

She demonstrates this humility in her posture in vs. 25-26, when she begs and falls down.  She shows us her humility by acknowledging her true position before God as a Gentile.  She accept that before the Jew she was just a mere dog.  She shows her humility in vs. 28 by accepting her position before God and begs Jesus for the crumbs under the table.

This Syrophoenician woman teaches us something about true humility.  First, we see how she recognizes her bankrupt condition before God and acknowledges that only through God’s power, there is hope.  True humility sees our bankrupt condition as sinners before God and recognizes that only through Jesus we can find forgiveness and discover that truly that He is the way, the truth and the life.

Another truth we see in Mark 7 is that when we humble ourselves, God gives grace.  When we go to the Him in humility, acknowledging our true condition before Him as sinners, He always responds with mercy and compassion.   Jesus reminds us this way in John 6:37, “to all those the Father gives me…  I will never turn away.”   That is a great promise for all of mankind, but the condition we must approach God with is humility.  When we do that God gives grace and salvation and healing.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you. ”  (John 15:13-15)

This week as a nation we are called to remember those who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms as a nation.  Memorial Day should move us to be thankful as for the freedoms we enjoy that have come at such a great price.

When one man is willing to lay down his life for another, it demonstrates what sacrificial love looks like.   With that thought in mind, it is good for us to also remember that God the Father sacrificed His only Son.  It is Christ’s sacrifice and shed blood that also gives us freedom.  Freedom from sin, freedom from the judgment of God and freedom to know God and have eternal life.  God is a sacrificing loving God.

What moves us so deeply when we remember the willingness of a man to sacrifice Himself for another?  I believe it shows in part what real godly love looks like.  Real love is willing to sacrifice.  Real love gives.  Real love shows the heart of God, who “so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16)

As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, let us be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy as a nation and appreciate for the great sacrifices that have been paid by our armed forces.  Let us also remember Jesus and “run with endurance the race” that God set before us.  It is from Him we gain the inspiration to live a life of love and sacrifice.   Jesus, “ the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”  (Hebrews 12:3)

 Jesus reminds us  that “from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder…  All these evil things come from within.” (Mk 7:20-23)  So much of the ugliness of this world is because of man’s sinful heart.

The good news is that God has a remedy for the human heart.  It begins when we put our faith in Jesus.  The Bible teaches us that when we do that we are forgiven and our broken relationship with God is then restored.  This is what it means to be “born again,”  to receive new life with God.  But that is just the beginning.  After we receive this new life, God then indwells us with His Holy Spirit and begins to change us from the inside out.

As simple as God’s solution is for man sinful heart is, man over the centuries has in some ingenious ways worked around God’s solution through religion and has tried to remedy  our hearts through traditions and teaching based on man rather than God’s word.  In Mark 7:1-8 we see this, when the Pharisees and Scribes, the religious leaders of Jesus day, confronted Jesus and His disciples.   When they saw that Jesus and the disciples did not observe the man-made tradition of hand washing, which was based on their Talmudic tradition, rather than God’s word,  they believed that Jesus and the disciples were not right with God.

Jesus simply confronted their ignorance and hypocrisy with these words from Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:76-8)

Jesus’ point was simple enough:  their man-made traditions did little to bring them closer to God.  Their religion did not remedy the problem of their sinful hearts.  They were trying to change from the outside in.  Jesus let them know that is not the way God works.  God does not change us that way.  God begins with the heart and then changes us from the inside out.

Galatians 5:22-25 teaches us that when we receive Christ the Holy Spirit then begins to produce fruit in us, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.   Against such there is no law….  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”   And that is good news!

So let us remember that as we give ourselves over to God daily, reading His word, praying, spending time with Him, that it is “God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  (Phil 2:13)  And as He transforms us, He alone gets the glory!

 

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Ps 28:7)

As we come to Mother’s Day 2018, it is good for mom’s to remind themselves how much they need God’s strength of the task of mothering.  It is also good for men to remind themselves of how much energy and effort goes into such a unique call.

One reason that mothering is so challenging is that children are born with a sin nature and a unique ability to be selfish. (Romans 3:23)  Though every one of us is touched by the beauty and innocence of a new-born child, we know that innocence is only short-lived as they grow into toddlers with a selfish rebellious spirit.   Attach to their endless demands, there are many sleepless nights, feedings, and the constant changing of diapers.  No wonder that so many mothers of children are always on the brink of exhaustion.

A second reason that mothering can be messy are husbands and fathers.   Again, because of sin, there is a tendency for all men to be insensitive and selfish, if not entirely absent from the family.  Often men lack understanding on how difficult a mom’s job is.  I remember one missionary family, where the father of a new-born infant had his wife and child sleep in another room because they were “disturbing” his needed sleep.   Needless to say, I challenged this new dad to live out his call to follow Christ by learning to serve his wife as Christ served the church.  (Ephesians 5:25-33)

A third reason that mothering is messy is mom’s themselves.  They too struggle with sin and often many insecurities.  Instead of continually giving and serving, it is tempting to become angry, bitter and full of self-pity with the constant demands.  The only way a mom can stand against these temptations is to know that it is the Lord who is their strength.  Psalm 28:7 reminds us this way, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

A final reason that mothering is messy is that we live in a fallen world with a devil who is against us.  Scripture teaches us that the world’s system is against the things of God.  We are invited to not “love the world and the things of the world.”  (I John 2:15-17)   The world and the devil will often tell a mother that her true worth and value is not found in her call to raise her children, but in a successful career.  And while certainly both can be accomplished at the same time, it is important for a mother to remember that according to God’s word, one will last forever (mothering) while the other will one day pass away.

Yes mothering is the most challenging call of a woman’s life.  Yet despite the challenge I have never met a woman who has raised her children, regret the time, energy and devotion she has poured out into each child.  May God bless you moms this Mother’s Day and on behalf of many children and husbands, thank you for your faithfulness to God’s call on your life.