Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Looking for Jesus in Leviticus: the offering

The Word for today:
Leviticus 6:8-7:38
mark this: Leviticus 1:1-1:4
The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,
"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.
If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.
He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him."
Pictures of an offering are the earliest pictures of Jesus in the Bible.
In chapter one of Leviticus, the people were told to bring an animal, which was then sacrificed on the altar. These offerings are a continuation of the offerings we have already seen in the Bible's first book, Genesis.
In chapter 3 of Genesis, Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin with leaves, but they could not. So God killed an innocent animal in order to clothe them in its skins.
In the very next generation, God instructed Cain and Abel to bring an offering for sin. Abel brought what God required--a Lamb. But Cain brought produce that he had grown in the fields. Cain's offering--the works of his own hands--was not accepted by God.
Later in Genesis, God told Abraham to offer his son, Isaac. When Abraham obeyed, God saw his faith and stopped Abraham from slaying Isaac. Then God himself provided a ram for the sacrifice.
These pictures tell us that there is a price to be paid for sin: the wages of sin is death.
These pictures tell us that the blood of an innocent sacrifice will be the only acceptable offering.
These pictures tell us that the price will be unimaginably steep--so steep that only God can pay it.
These pictures tell us that when God sees our faith, he deflects the knife and visits our sins upon his own Son, instead.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

the narrow road is wide enough

The Word for today:
1 Timothy 2
mark this: 1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Scripture doesn’t make sense until you are lost. That is the concept Jesus chose for the topic sentence of the greatest speech ever spoken:
"Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” (Matthew 5:3 / GNT)
That is the fountainhead from which all understanding flows, so until you get there, you are spiritually nowhere.
And that’s why the Bible starts out with what is called “the law”—a bunch of rules that we, on our own, cannot consistently keep.
And that’s why Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (quoted above) did us the favor of ratcheting up God’s standards, making it obvious that they are impossible to reach:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
And that’s why the Bible says some odd things like this one:
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Romans 5:20)
Until we are stripped of any inkling of self-salvation, the cross of Jesus Christ – which offers help only to the helpless — offends our pride:
But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Gal 5:11)
(Here circumcision represents saving ourselves by keeping God’s rules, which would leave our spiritual pride intact. The offense of the cross is that we must look to another--to Jesus on the cross--because we are helpless to save ourselves.)
Somewhere--in the midst of all this brokenness, blood, and sin—lies the reason that God “permits bad things to happen to good people.”
Since only drowning men can see him, he sent the flood. He sent the Ten Commandments in order to increase the trespass (see Romans 5:20, above.). The grim reality is that when we pray for another’s salvation, we are inviting the torrent and the tide to sweep away any sense of security that person might have. Are you desperate enough to pray for that?
God is. He was so desperate to save us that he sent his one and only. If there had been any other way, you can bet that the genius of the universe would have done it that way. But there was not, so He could not.
The degree to which we approach his desperation is the degree to which we will understand the unique claims the Bible makes for Jesus Christ:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1Timothy 2:5)
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1John 5:12)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
God made a way for us to return to him, but it cost him everything he had. God the Father spent it all so that God the Son could pay it all. There was simply nothing left to build another road.
Jesus told us that the way would be narrow (1). But no one can say it’s not wide enough.
(1) Matthew 7:13-14

Monday, January 29, 2018

the chief of sinners

The Word for today:
1 Timothy 1
mark this: 1 Timothy 1:15 / NLT
This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I was the worst of them all.
I teach scripture by means of “pictures.” Technically called “types,” they are prophetic illustrations of the King, Jesus Christ, and of his Kingdom to come.
The lamb at Passover is prophetic of the coming Lamb of God. The blood on the doorposts is a prophecy of the cross. The hyssop which applies the blood of the lamb to the doorposts is a picture of faith. You get the picture.
Those are all types of the Redeemer, but is there a type of the redeemed? Is there a prototypical picture of those who are saved?
There sure is, but the “picture” is the “painter” himself!
The Apostle Paul, the voice behind a big chunk of the New Testament, is himself a picture of the church, boiled down to one man.
We alluded to this a few articles ago, when we wrote about Paul’s thorn in the flesh: (1)
Precisely what Paul's thorn in the flesh might have been is an enduring fascination among Bible commentators. I mean, you just aren't a real Bible commentator until you've weighed in on that issue!
Which is kind of odd, considering God didn't weigh in on it -- when he knew what it was, having caused it.
So Stand in the Rain is going to treat this issue with silence, like God did. We don't know what Paul's thorn in the flesh was -- and we don't care to, because that's the point!
Scripture's silence is as sure a mark of inspiration as its revelations are. Paul's particular "thorn" is not described in order that his consolations may avail for all to whom any thorn is given.
So in a very real sense, Paul's thorn in the flesh is whichever one you have.
Today we encounter another way in which Paul’s life and experiences are meant to be representative of all of us:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. (1Timothy 1:15/NIV)
Other versions translate this to say that Paul is the chief of sinners (NKJV), the foremost of sinners (NASB).
However you say it, what it means is that if ever there were a day when you thought you were the worst sinner ever, you were wrong. The logical conclusion is that if Jesus could save Paul—the worst -- then He can save anybody, even me. Paul himself, then, is the Bible’s prototypical proof that no person is beyond salvation.
We are about to embark on what are known as the Pastoral Epistles. They were written by Paul to two of his young converts—Timothy and Titus—who had followed him on many of his missionary journeys and whom he had established as pastors of churches.
As you read the Pastoral Epistles -- which are all about the church -- don’t lose sight of the fact that the teller himself is the living breathing picture of what the body of Christ should look like.
(1) see 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Sunday, January 28, 2018

it won't rhyme until the end

The Word for today:
Micah 7:7-20
mark this: Micah 5:2
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
Sometimes, when the whole truth is too much for me to understand (let alone express) I open my Bible to the shiny parts.
When Jerusalem--a man-sized city where prophets go to die--is too big for me, I slip away to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is a boy-sized city, where the Savior went to be born. So when I'm feeling more like a child of God than a man of God, that's where I go.
Bethlehem isn't very far from Jerusalem, just a few miles. I've often wondered whether Jesus could see the stable in Bethlehem from his cross atop Golgotha.
I wouldn't be surprised if he could. It would be just like God to bring them together at the end; because, right from the start, the stable and the cross rhymed in God's mind. I mean, where else could the Lamb of God be born but in a stable amongst shepherds? Certainly not in an inn!
When I escape to Bethlehem, I always start back here in Micah, where the Savior's birth is foretold:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. 
(Micah 5:2)
Then, in my imagination, I backtrack way over to "the east," to join the caravan of wise me. I want the whole shining experience! I gloat along the way, because I know what Micah said about Bethlehem, when all that the wise men knew, at first, was the prophecy of their countryman, Balaam:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. 
(Numbers 24:17)
So, I figure, the real wise man in this caravan is none other than me! Because the wise men follow the Balaam prophecy and the star all the way to Jerusalem, but then they have to stop and ask for further directions from there—which I (and Micah, of course) knew all along…
Jesus wasn't long in Bethlehem, maybe a year or two. Then an angel came and told Joseph that Herod would seek him out to destroy him.
That's when the Light left and the fears of all the years eclipsed Bethlehem's shining moment.
We know they were poor, because when Jesus was eight days old, they offered a few pigeons (1), which was what poor people brought to the Temple.
So we can assume that they had to sell the gold to pay for their escape to Egypt. That's a long, dark, and dangerous road, so they probably had to pay for protection, too. So there goes the frankincense, as well.
But remember when I said that God will rhyme -- every time-- the beginning with the end. Well, he does it again. Myrrh was a precious aromatic ointment, used as a perfume. Just a little dab would sweeten the situation.
But whenever a person died, all the myrrh that a household could muster was thickly applied to the body, to anoint it for burial.
The Bible doesn't really say so, but you just know that the poetic heart of God arranged it so that Mary never parted with the myrrh. She may as well have stored it in her heart, for all the good it would do anyone to try to steal it. It was the only baby "picture" she had left.
But when Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus took Jesus' body down from the cross, Mary knew what she had to do. The myrrh, after all those years, had found its purpose.
The sweetest rhyme in the whole story doesn’t come until the end.
(1) Luke 2:24

Saturday, January 27, 2018

what we want or what we need

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Micah 6:1- 7:6

(Oops.  Articles have been out of order for some days now.  Order will be restored over the next few days.)
Micah is a book all about wants and needs.
So is 7 Eleven. I want the donut, I need the milk, what will I choose?
(Please, anything but those off colored "hot dogs" that have been rotating on those off-colored rollers since the Clinton Administration.)
And the people of Micah's time, just like me in a convenient store, have a hard time distinguishing which is which. The humor begins towards the beginning of this book.
Micah has been given the Word of the Lord- exactly what the people need. But their appetites are inclined in a different direction.
"Do not prophesy," their prophets say. "Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us (1) ."
Who wants to hear bad news? Not me, and definitely the people of Micah's time. They preferred the sticking your fingers in your ears approach to anything that challenges their status quo.
How 'bout this zinger?
"If a liar and deceiver comes and says,`I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people (2)!"
This "prophet" and his "good news" would go over particularly well at college campuses and parking lot tailgates all over this nation. (He may actually be currently employed by Anheuser- Busch.)
Nope, folks who don't want to hear the truth rely on several vague notions that they will be somehow spared the consequences of their choices. They mutter to themselves things like this:
"Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us (3)."
Surely not them.
No, in this book of Micah, the people wanted a "get out of jail free card" so they could continue their own way, even if going that way was literally the road to Hell. But God, like any good parent, did not give them what they wanted, He gave them what they needed. What the people needed was a national kick to the pants. That kick came to them in the form of the Babylonians.
"You shall go to Babylon... (4)"
Not much fun- in fact this whole ordeal was full of death and suffering and pain. A temple razed, a proud nation humbled, God's own children cast out of their own Promised Land. But one thing can be said of this exile, it actually cured the Israelites of idolatry: "You will no longer bow down to the work of your hands (5)." Of all the areas where they fell short of afterwards, chasing after Baal or Molech or Asherah was no longer one of them. They took their national medicine, even if it were more bitter than vinegar, and it worked.
Times change, but people don't. The more I read about the people of Israel, the more I identify with them. How quickly we turn the Christian faith into a system to meet all our demands and wants. How quick we are to protest even God's truth when it becomes difficult. We know we need the meat and milk of the Word, but the competing Twinkies and Slurpees go down so much easier. Praise God that there is a way out!
We wanted a neat religious system that we controlled ourselves, instead what we got was the Untamable One who kicked our religious mumbo jumbo to the curb (6).
We wanted for God to leave us alone as we turned our back on Him, what we got was One who came to "seek and save the lost (7)."
We wanted a God who would say that our sin was no big deal, instead we what we got was One who told us it was such a big deal that only by His bloody sacrifice could we ever overcome it.
Thank God we don't always get what we want!
(1) Micah 2:6
(2) Micah 2:11
(3) Micah 3:11
(4) Micah 4:10
(5) Micah 5:13
(6) Matthew 21:12
(7) Luke 19:10

Friday, January 26, 2018

My Picture Bible

The Word for today:
Leviticus 4:1-6:7
My brother and I learned to read before we went to school, and here’s how…
Every week, my Dad left “the funny papers” (the comics section from the Sunday newspaper) on our kitchen table. Then throughout the week, as my brother and I ate breakfast, we would follow the exploits of Charlie Brown and Dennis the Menace and Beetle Bailey and Prince Valiant, before we could understand a single syllable of what was written.
My Dad hoped that those pictures would prime the pump, so to speak. And they sure did. Then, on Saturday morning, he would point to an arrangement of letters that looked like this:
Then he would point to the pictures of Snoopy and Ruff.
Without even knowing that we were reading, we began to understand that d-o-g meant the idea of an animal in general and that S-n-o-o-p-y and R-u-f-f meant particular, actual, real d-o-g-s, belonging to C-h-a-r-l-i-e and D-e-n-n-i-s, respectively!
And that’s exactly how God our Father teaches us the Word of God. In Leviticus (and throughout the Old Testament) he puts the pictures on the table, so to speak. Then, when we come to arrangements of letters that look like these--
or s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e,
or r-e-d-e-m-p-t-i-o-n,
or g-r-a-c-e,
--we “get it” because we’ve already seen what those words mean.
But, best of all, when those words turn into flesh, when r-e-d-e-m-p-t-i-o-n turns into the Redeemer, we know what “Jesus” means.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

how to spell “Jesus"

The Word for today:  Leviticus 2 and 3
Stand in the Rain loves Leviticus, and we hope you will too! But we know that, at first glance, Leviticus can seem intimidating and inaccessible. So we decided to address this undeserved reputation with two introductory articles. Yesterday, we likened Leviticus to an art gallery. Today, we liken Leviticus to an elementary reader! Tomorrow, we will move beyond introduction and dive headfirst into this treasured book.
Many people think of Leviticus as something best left to Bible scholars. They say it is too complex for the biblically inexperienced; that to understand Leviticus we need a thorough knowledge of the rest of the Bible.
Ironically, when we think that way, we’ve got it entirely backwards. The truth is that in order to begin to understand the rest of the Bible, we must first understand Leviticus.
Leviticus is elementary.
Leviticus is the Bible’s book of elements, of first principles. It is the Bible’s elementary school, not its graduate school!
The rest of the Word of God assumes, and depends upon, an understanding of the elements of Leviticus. So let’s put these elements on the table:
Holy (Distinct)
Those are the ABC’s of the Word of God. They’re the letters we need if we want to spell “Jesus.”
Leviticus isn’t for Bible know-it-alls. It’s for little ones like you, of little faith like me, who want to begin to know God.
So we’ll begin, together, tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

out of the movies and into the gallery

The Word for today:
Leviticus 1
Leviticus is famous as the book where people stopped reading the Bible! Armed, at the start of a new year, with their resolutions and their “Bible in a Year” bookmarks, they zoom right through Genesis:
Serpent, sin, and banishment;
Cain and Abel;
Noah’s ark;
The tower of Babel;
Abraham and Sarah and the Son of Promise;
Sodom and Gomorrah;
Jacob and Rachel and a stairway to the stars;
Joseph and his brothers.
They fly through Exodus:
Mortar, bricks, and taskmasters;
Baby Moses in the bulrushes;
The backside of the desert;
The burning bush and the of Name God;
Aaron’s rod and the magicians of Egypt;
The plagues;
The Passover;
The parting of the Red Sea;
Wilderness and manna;
Sinai and the Ten Commandments;
The golden calf;
The Tabernacle.
Then, with excitement and anticipation they turn the page, only to be met by--a burnt offering?
Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock--of the herd and of the flock. 'If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. (Leviticus 1:1-7)
Well, there were some slow sections in Exodus, too. So the reader keeps on going. He makes it all the way through the grain offering in chapter two, then the peace offering in chapter 3.
But by chapter 5 he starts to peek ahead to see if anything ever happens in Leviticus. Skimming the pages, he comes across some laws about leprosy, some cleansing rituals, and some dietary regulations. Then there’s something about feasts and the garments of the priests…
It can make the reader wonder whether the Holy Spirit, who got off to such an intriguing start in Genesis and Exodus, forgot how to tell the Story. And right there in the midst of Leviticus their Bible in a Year bookmarks get stuck, never to move again.
But do not fret, dear reader. Whenever the well-intentioned believer has gotten lost in Leviticus, it’s because he’s lost sight of Jesus.
He lost sight of Jesus because the straightforward narrative (plot and character) presentation of Genesis and Exodus shifts abruptly to the symbolic abstractions of Leviticus.
Whereas Genesis and Exodus are stories—in fact, movies—the reader, as he turns the page to Leviticus, enters a gallery of perpetually modern art.
The Symbolist paintings are here, and the Abstract Expressionists are there, the sculpture is over there, the Impressionists are down there, and further down the hall are the Cubists.
The pictures aren’t physically moving, like they are in Genesis and Exodus, but once the Bible student aesthetically enters into this gallery and stops expecting theater, then these portraits of Jesus can be as dramatic and as emotionally moving as any to be found in scripture.
So we invite you inside Leviticus, where the very first thing you will notice, of course, is a highly stylized abstraction of a cross.
This effect is achieved in part by the metaphorical usage of fire (1). Placed beneath the grates on the altar of sacrifice, the flames are representative of God, who is, both literally and allegorically, a consuming fire…
(1) see Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29; and Leviticus 1:7 (above)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

mark this

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 4
The last chapter of a person’s life can be counted on to provide perspective and reduce the whole to its essence. That’s why you’ll need your marker…
If your Bible has one of those groovy old-fashioned ribbon markers that are sewn right into the binding, and if you’re not marking anything in particular with it, then may I suggest that you park your marker right here in the last chapter of 2 Timothy.
Paul’s death is near and he senses it. Nearing the end of the road, he can now look back and see the whole parade. As he does, he distills it all into one immortal line:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
The presence of Christ is almost palpable here as he recalls that when he stood alone, he was not alone:
At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (2 Timothy 4:16-17)
Then, with a sweet flourish, as if he could gather all his years and tears in one cup, he pours them all out just to watch them go up in steam:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. (2 Timothy 4:6)
There is no more beautiful illustration in scripture than Paul’s “drink offering” as it ascends to Jesus. It was the perfect picture of the life he’d poured out in Jesus’ honor. It hearkens back to the offerings of Exodus and Leviticus, where wine was poured over the sacrifice on a brazen altar with fire underneath it. The wine would just evaporate and disappear, and all that was left was the Lamb.
Paul wanted to leave no trace of himself. His heart’s desire was that his life, when boiled down, was about nothing but Jesus. It was a gesture so lovely and so grand that it had to be his finale.
“2 Timothy 4.” Mark it in your mind if you don’t have a ribbon, because you’ll need to find your way back to this spot. You’ll turn here all the time, and when you do you’ll find just what you need.
When you need some perspective on the whole parade of life, you’ll find it here.
When you need someone to stand up for you, you’ll find your Defender here.
When you’re weary and ready to quit, you’ll find a fellow faith fighter here.
And when your life disappears like smoke, you’ll find -- standing there in your place, like he did at the cross — the one for whom your life stood.

Monday, January 22, 2018

I can see clearly now

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 3
mark this:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
and this:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Both Peter’s and Paul’s final thoughts—found in 2 Peter and 2 Timothy—emphasize the Word of God and the gospel.
When it came down to their final thoughts, these two great apostles did not emphasize prayer or good works or fellowship or worship. Their parting advice was to hold tenaciously to the Word of God (from whence all of those things will issue.)
I want to re-echo their sentiments today. Moreover, I want us to develop a biblical worldview—a habit of mind that places the Bible not only at center stage, but at the center of a far wider stage…
Because ultimately the Bible will not be thought of in the narrow way it is thought of now—as a religious book. The Bible will, ever more-and-moreso, come to be recognized as the lens through which all reality is to be comprehended, if it is to be comprehended at all.
By all reality I mean all of it. What we normally think of as secular—let’s say the stock market and the Super Bowl--can not be seen for what they are until they enter through the aperture of the Word of God.
That may sound crazy, but only because we have been trained to think that the stock market and the Super Bowl somehow occupy a sphere that is outside of scripture’s purview.
They are not. The Bible is as infinite as its author, as all-encompassing as He who IS; who is the all in all (1); who is the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End who has no beginning and no end.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus holds everything together:
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17/NIV, NASB, ESV)
The New King James Version says it in a way that permeates even deeper:
He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:17)
Without him factored in, no equation is relevant—on any topic whatsoever.
I have a great deal of respect for the intelligence of my readers. I don’t dumb down scripture and people who want it dumbed down soon stop reading Stand in the Rain. What I’m left with are some serious heads. So I want you to take your serious head and wrap it around a quote from Graeme Goldsworthy, an Aussie Bible commentator and a hero of mine. I will only help you with vocabulary: hermeneutical (I looked it up!) has to do with interpretation, as I’ve inserted. For all the rest you are on your own, so read slowly and gather as much as you can from what I consider the most all-encompassing paragraph of commentary that I have ever encountered:
The hermeneutical (interpretive) question about the whole Bible correlates with the question, ‘What do you think of Christ?’ … The hermeneutical (interpretive) center of the Bible is therefore Jesus in his being and in his saving acts – the Jesus of the gospel. … We can say that, while not all Scripture is the gospel, all Scripture is related to the gospel that is its centre. … The Bible makes a very radical idea inescapable: not only is the gospel the interpretive norm for the whole Bible, but there is an important sense in which Jesus Christ is the mediator of the meaning of everything that exists. In other words, the gospel is the hermeneutical (interpretive) norm for the whole of reality. --Graeme Goldsworthy, from "Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics"
I’m not smart enough to know what Jesus thinks of the stock market, or the Super Bowl, or Facebook, or the presidential primaries, or casinos, or the Constitution, or Mozart, or Mickey Mantle, or Mickey Mouse, or Dickens, or Dostoevsky.
But I am smart enough to know that until we relate all of the above to Him, we have untethered them from any meaning at all.
We as Christians may or may not be right on this issue or on that issue, but we are smart enough to know that until we filter everything through the Word of God, our ignorance on those issues is guaranteed.
We must—deliberately and proactively--cultivate a habit of mind that Jesus himself cultivated:
"I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge." (John 15:30)
Jesus enforced, for himself, a biblical worldview—an outlook that consults the Word of God on absolutely everything.
On our own, we see through a glass darkly (2). But scripture doesn’t. So let’s emulate Jesus' way of looking at things. We will never see what he sees until we look through the same lens.
(1) 1 Corinthians 15:28; (2) 1 Corinthians 13:12

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Remember Jesus Christ."

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 2
mark this:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. (2 Timothy 2:8-9)
2 Timothy is the last will and testament of Paul, with notes of sadness and triumph not found in other epistles. The dark cloud of apostasy is gathering in the background as Paul writes from a prison in Rome, where he is soon to be beheaded.
Paul is normally a man of guarded heart, but the dwindling days and his memories of Timothy combine to bring his guard down.
In a sort of spiritual relay race, he passes the torch to Timothy and challenges him to keep the flame burning:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6)
He reminds Timothy that defeat is not the norm for Christian living:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (1:7)
He exhorts him to unleash the truth.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)
Then he wraps everything he cherishes into a couple verses and leaves it all to Timothy:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. (2 Timothy 2:8-9)
Currency is just an agreement that one piece of paper is more valuable than another.
I don’t have a lot of money, and from what I gather, neither do most of you. Paul had none. But what he left Timothy was a Savior whom death cannot detain, and a Word that cannot be confined.
The Bible is a long letter, written to God’s children. I and billions like me have agreed that the paper it’s written on is literally more valuable to us than all of Warren Buffet’s billions of dollar bills and all his stock certificates. (I’ll gladly take a few billion off your hands, Warren--if you happen to be reading--but I’m not trading.) What Warren’s got is chicken feed next to what I’ve been given and what I can give.
If you leave to someone what God left to Paul and Paul left to you, then you will have bequeathed “currency” incalculable.
Take a check. Write Remember Jesus Christ.  Sign it. Hand it to someone or toss it in the air and let the wind deliver it.  Make someone very, very rich.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"But who do you say that I am?"

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 1
Yesterday, we looked at “doctrine” in general. Today we conclude with the specifics of sound biblical doctrine.

Paul thought sound doctrine was of ultimate importance.
He warns Timothy, repeatedly, that he must insist upon true doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy, the word “doctrine” appears 11 times. (1)
He warns Titus just as emphatically. In the three short chapters of the letter to Titus, “doctrine” shows up four times.
Jesus warned the disciples to "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” When they didn’t understand his figure of speech, he told them, plainly, that he was talking about doctrine:
Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:12)
In Matthew 13:33, in a one-sentence parable (which some commentators believe to be the key verse of Matthew, which is the key book of the Bible) Jesus illustrated how false doctrine would work its way into his kingdom:
Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33)
(Leaven in the Bible is a principle of evil. Unleavened bread can be seen as the Word of God, which is food for the child of God. When the woman in Matthew 13 mixed in leaven--unsound doctrine--then it makes the Bible palatable to the natural man. The true Word of God--unleavened bread--is unpalatable to the natural man.)
So what is sound doctrine?
Because Jesus is the issue (he’s the question and the answer) in the universe, crucial doctrine has to do, of course, with him:
"But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)
There is interpretive leeway in many biblical matters, but doctrine concerning the person (who he is) and work (what he has done) of Jesus Christ cannot be trifled with or compromised or watered down. Most good churches, somewhere on their websites, will list a statement of their doctrine. Boiled down to their essence, they look like this:
The person of Jesus Christ:
He is God, the eternal Son of the eternal Father. He divested Himself of heaven's glory, to become like one of us--born of woman, born under the law--so that he could take my place on a cross that I had earned. Seed of the woman, Son of Man, Son of Abraham, Son of Promise, Son of David, Son of a virgin named Mary, he was baptized in identification with us as we are baptized in identification with Him. Coming up out of the water, driven by the Spirit, he withstood temptation by wielding the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, against the devil in the wilderness. In the power of the Holy Spirit he lived a sinless life.
The work of Jesus Christ:
He personified the grace and truth of God. He performed miracles, the Creator with the means to direct his creation to his chosen ends. He set his face like flint for Jerusalem, where he died at the hands of secular government and organized religion for the sins of the world, then rose from the dead in accordance with--and in fulfillment of--scripture. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Of the increase of his kingdom and peace there will be no end.
That’s who He is, and upon this Rock we make our stand. We give no ground. We take no prisoners.
(1) word count taken from the New King James Version

Friday, January 19, 2018

Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The Word for today:
Titus 3
mark this: 1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
and this: Titus 2:1
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
Over time, words take on certain tinges and tints and overtones. “Doctrine,” for example, is considered to be a word tinged with narrowness, exclusivity, and fundamentalism.
To which I say, “Hallelujah! There’s still a word which means what it’s meant to mean!”
Doctrine is exclusive! It excludes error from creeping into our minds, just like walls keep the cold out of the house. Which is a good thing, unless you’ve got something against keeping warm.
Correct doctrine means that what you are taking from the Word of God are the things God meant when he said them.
False doctrine means that you are taking from the Word of God something other than what God meant when he said it!
Just because someone is quoting the Bible doesn’t mean he has your best interests at heart. The devil quoted Genesis 2:17 (to Eve) and Psalm 91 (to Jesus) in an attempt to topple the moral order of the universe.
Luke (author of Acts) said, in Acts 2:42, that the early church devoted themselves to just a few things:
1. the apostles’ doctrine
2. fellowship
3. the breaking of bread
4. prayer
Throughout his letters (sometimes in terms that make us wince) Paul insists upon none other than the apostles’ doctrine:
I wish the people who are bothering you (with doctrinal error) would go the whole way and castrate themselves! (Galatians 5:12)
He warns Timothy, repeatedly, that he must insist upon true doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy, the word “doctrine” appears 11 times. (1)
He warns Titus just as emphatically. In the three short chapters of the letter to Titus, “doctrine” shows up four times.
Jesus warned the disciples to "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” When they didn’t understand his figure of speech, he told them, plainly, that he was talking about doctrine:
Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6, 12)
In Matthew 13:33, in a one-sentence parable (which some commentators believe to be the key verse of Matthew, which is the key book of the Bible!) Jesus illustrated how false doctrine would work its way into his kingdom:
Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33)
(Leaven in the Bible is a principle of evil. Unleavened bread can be seen as the Word of God, which is food for the child of God. When the woman in Matthew 13 mixed in leaven--unsound doctrine--then it makes the Bible palatable to the natural man. The true Word of God--unleavened bread--is unpalatable to the natural man.)
So what is sound doctrine?
We'll boil sound doctrine down to its essence tomorrow. See you then.
(1) word count taken from the New King James Version