Saturday, December 10, 2011


“And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to [David].  And he became captain over them” (1 Sam. 22:2).

“Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest….” (Matt. 11:28).

The kingdom of Jesus has its origins in rejection, in being ostracized and marginalized.  Jesus was buried in a cave “outside the camp”—without religious acceptance or social standing—just as David was driven to the cave at Adullam, dogged by rumors of treason and disgrace.  Adullam means, “rest” or “refuge.”  We come to Jesus burdened by stress, debt, or disillusionment; we are disenfranchised; we lack status or privilege; we are not the world’s best or brightest; we may be looked down on or treated dismissively (1 Cor. 1:26-28).  But we come, and we find a place with Jesus.  He doesn’t throw us out of consider us second class.  He accepts us, gives us refuge from whatever past we have left, and forms us into a society.  We no longer need to be burdened by our bad rep, our most embarrassing moment, our poor business sense, or the crushing failures that have made us give up on the world.  Jesus loves us.  His love gives us rest from all these things.  
Jesus is one of us.  He is the original reject (1 Peter 2:4, 5).  He is not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb. 2:11).  He becomes captain over us.  He claims us as His own.  A captain and his soldiers are a unit.  They have a common life and identity.  We have a common life and identity with Jesus, from which He doesn’t shrink but embraces without reservation or secret misgivings.  

“…and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who's in Charge Here?

“As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established.  Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” (1 Sam. 20:31)

            Who will be in charge?  Who will rule?  This is the question put to us by this verse.  This exchange happens between Saul and Jonathon, Saul’s son and presumptive heir to the throne.  They both understand that kingship is at stake yet have responded in entirely different ways: Saul sought David’s life while Jonathon loved David as himself (1 Sam. 18:1). 
            Galatians 5:17 says, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict….”  We can see this conflict embodied in Saul and David: Saul illustrates the sinful nature, that which rejects God’s word and refuses to yield control even when shown that God has anointed and given rule to another.  David shows us to whom God has given that rule—Christ, the Son of David.  Saul and David co-existed for a time, David fighting on Saul’s behalf and gaining victories for him.  The enmity was latent, unknown to either, until it became a question of who would be king.  Then conflict came exploding into the open, Saul flying into sudden, murderous rages.  Our flesh, too, may co-exist with Christ peaceably enough, as long as Jesus is a benefit and helps us overcome those things we are willing to let Him conquer.  But should Jesus make any gesture toward actually ruling us, we unravel and plunge into ugly reactions as we storm to hold onto what was never ours.
            It is a fearful thing to read about Saul and to see Saul within.  How can such an intractable, God-hating enemy as self ever be unseated?  There is hope in Saul’s very words to Jonathon: “As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established.”  Saul thought he was pronouncing a death sentence on David but it was actually on himself and the rule of self symbolized by him.  For Hebrews says, “Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him….” (Heb. 7:24, 25).  As long as Jesus lives—and He lives forever—neither self nor its rule can be established.  Even if it appears Jesus has been run out of town—as when Saul hunted David—He will eventually bring us under His government through the power of His indestructible life (Heb. 7:16).

Sunday, November 06, 2011

An Oldie But a Goodie

I decided to repost this:

Household Jesus

Ephesians chapter one confronts us with One who existed before creation, who encompasses every spiritual blessing, in whom God consummated all times, places, and realms. When considering such a cosmic Christ, it is tempting to wonder how relevant He is to our daily lives. But the real question is: How relevant are we to God? That Christ is the beginning and end must deeply affect us. God will never be relevant to us until we realize that there is no relevance outside of Him.
           As Paul shares, he seems to run out of breath. No words in any language can encompass the One He has seen by revelation. Is our own vision of Christ so breathtaking? Or are we more interested in a small Jesus that mostly helps us live our own lives but doesn’t take us captive to His vision and purpose? The Old Testament speaks of “household gods,” idols set up in a small shrine in the home. If one wished to rearrange the furniture or move to another house, the gods could be picked up and placed where one wished. They were at the disposal of the family who owned them, and their purpose was to ensure the health and prosperity of the household. This is probably the sort of Jesus many want and have—a Jesus that stays in His place, that we can take wherever we wish, whose purpose centers on us, on our plans and desires. Whatever can be said about this household Jesus, we cannot say it is the Jesus of the New Testament. For the Jesus of the New Testament—the One who is before all things, in whom all things hold together—says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me?” (Col. 1:17; Isaiah 66:1, 2). Anyone who has encountered Christ as He is understands they will occupy a place in His house, that He is free to pick them up and take them wherever He wishes, that their life exists for His purpose and desires.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Full of Glory

Below is an excerpt from a booklet about Ezekiel that I'm almost done with.
The popular view of heaven as part utopia, part family reunion, is not entirely unbiblical.  But it tends to make personal wish fulfillment the focus of salvation instead of Christ.  In fact, we could go so far as to say that for some, Christ is little more than the means by which their wishes will be fulfilled in the afterlife.  Heaven is also presented as a reward for good behavior, a place where we are finally free from suffering.  In the world to come, we will be freed from all forms of suffering caused by the effects of sin in this fallen world (Rev. 21:4).  But we will not be freed from glory, from the self-sacrificing, other-centered fellowship that is the divine nature.  Participating in the divine nature IS salvation (2 Peter 1:4).  If we haven’t had self-motivation eradicated but have only behaved until our desires are finally gratified in heaven, from what have we been saved?  By contrast, God has much more in mind than simply rewarding us.  He wants all things to be full of glory, to be permeated by that selfless inter-relating—“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). 
            What do we mean when we talk of all things being full of glory?  Let’s put it this way: imagine a world where every last thing is Christ: every river, every stone, every blade of grass.  This is something like what Ezekiel’s third vision shows us.  Christ is the temple, the altar, and the offering. He is the priest presenting the offering, He is the sacrificial flesh eaten by those who minister.  He is the land and each inheritance marked out.  He is the 12 tribes and the nation of Israel.  His Spirit is the river that makes everything live as it flows past trees of all kinds, which trees He is.  “Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11).  There is nothing in what Ezekiel sees that is not Christ.  And this is where God has placed us.  This is the One into whom we have been baptized (1 Cor. 1:30, 12:13).  Despite the conditions through which we sojourn, despite the lack of Christ we see around us and in us every day, God would have us know that our reality, the place where we live and move and have our being, is precisely this place where there is nothing but Christ, where Christ is the elemental composition of everything, where He is the length, the height, the breadth, and the depth (Eph. 3:18).

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Excerpt from "Micah: Who Is Like Yah?"

I just finished a booklet about Micah & posted the link on the right.  Below is an excerpt.


           The name Micah means, “Who is like Yah?”  Micah’s prophecy shows how God’s grace abounds in Christ and utterly swallows up sin, death, and Satan.  Yah is short for Yahweh, the name of God meaning, “I Am” (Exodus 3:14).  Jesus is the living image and fulfillment of this name of God, in all its significance—“I am [the Messiah],” “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” “I am the true vine,” “I am a king,” “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”[1]  In these and similar statements, Jesus shows that He brings this name of God to completion in endless ways.  In view of God’s great salvation through Christ, we can only answer that there is no one like Yah—no one as majestic in holiness, as awesome in glory, or working such wonders as the death and resurrection of Jesus (Ex. 15:11).

[1] John 4:25-26, 6:35, 8:12, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1, 18:37; Rev. 22:13.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Sufficiency of Our Passover Lamb

The following is an excerpt from a booklet I'm working on entitled, "Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord."

            Ezekiel received his final vision of glory on the 10th day of the first month (Ezek. 40:1).  This was a significant day because it was the day faithful Israelites would select a lamb for Passover (Ex. 12:2, 3).  For four days they would feed and care for the lamb, then sacrifice it, apply its blood to their houses, and eat its roasted flesh with bitter herbs (Ex. 12:6-8).           
As we have said, the Lord called Ezekiel to minister to the captives in Babylon.  By giving Ezekiel this third vision at the beginning of Passover, the Lord wasn’t promising a new exodus from Babylon.  Instead, He was pledging that the first exodus from Egypt was sufficient.  Their deliverance, their setting apart as a peculiar nation, their covenantal joining to Him—none of it had changed in God’s mind.  The Passover Lamb was still the only salvation Israel would ever need, as complete and efficacious as the day they left Egypt.  Because of the lamb, and not Israel’s faithfulness, they would be restored to the temple, the city, and the land from which they were exiled. 
            For us, the death of our Passover Lamb, Jesus, is the only deliverance we will ever need (1 Cor. 5:7, 8).  His death joined us to God through a new covenant in His blood.  If we find that we have wandered from God, if we find ourselves in some sort of captivity because we have followed the self-preferring of the fallen nature, we don’t need a new deliverance.  We need only remember that the deliverance wrought through the cross is as effective and sufficient today as it ever was.  Because of Christ, none of God’s thoughts toward us have changed.  His love is constant. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 5:16). 

Friday, August 05, 2011

Excerpt from "Haggai: Feast"

This blog now has links to booklets I have written.  The following is an excerpt from "Haggai: Feast," which is part of a collection called "The Spirit of Prophecy."

Go Up!

The Lord’s aim in sending Haggai was not merely to criticize His people but to lead them in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3).  To that end, He instructed them: “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored” (Hag. 1:8).  To end the famine of self-interest, the people needed to put the honor of the Lord and of His house first.
We too must “go up” and fellowship with God.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God….  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3).  If Christians want to find the fullness of life Jesus promised, we must put aside our “houses,” our wills, our purposes, and come to the feast above—the communion table of Christ.  As we sit with Him, He will transform our captive thinking by renewing our minds, and we will no longer conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2).  Instead, we will give ourselves up because we are eating, and drinking, and internalizing the Person who gave Himself for the life of the world (John 6:51-53). 
            As the Lord gives Himself in us, we participate in His ministry to His bride: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).  We do not go up for ourselves, for our own spiritual development.  We go up so that we can give ourselves up to build the Lord’s house.  Many of us who are dissatisfied with our own lives also complain that the church isn’t meeting our needs.  Instead of viewing the body as those whom we are called to build up through personal sacrifice, we view it as one more vendor of personal satisfaction.  We bring all our self-centered, captivity thinking with us then blame the church when our expectations aren’t met.  But if we are not giving ourselves to make the church a vibrant, living body where Christ is pleased and honored, who will?  Shall we blame church leadership for our mediocre church experience?  Is it the job of leadership to supply a product that meets the demands of a congregation of consumers?  No, if church is not what we think it should be, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
            Paul certainly didn’t view church as a place to get: “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Cor. 14:26).  This is the fulfillment of Haggai’s prophecy: a gathering of people who have all gone up and have brought back materials with which to build the Lord’s house.  Only in such a house as this—where life is truly flowing from the head and between the members—will the Lord take pleasure and be honored.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

That He Might Fill All Things

My life, like the lives of many other people, is full of activities, interests, responsibilities.  Sometimes I worry that this reflects a lack of interest in God and that perhaps my heart is set on the things of this world moreso than on Him.  As I entertained this concern recently, God brought Ephesians 4:10 to mind: “He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”  As the Lord spoke this verse to my heart, I could see Him filling everything in my life.  Reality under the old covenant (before Christ dealt with sin) was one where God only filled the temple in Jerusalem.  He remained behind the veil while we lived our lives outside of it.  But reality under the new covenant is that Christ fills all things with His resurrection life. 
Despite the divine fact of Christ’s resurrection, we often continue to live our lives according to an old covenant mentality.  My anxiety over the various activities and interests in my life is a classic example of this contradiction.  Subconsciously, I continue to think that I’m “with God” when doing specifically religious activities like praying, going to a church service, or performing ministry.  But when occupied with non-religious activities, I classify that as “not with God” time.  In my own mental universe, I have neatly divided sacred and secular.  I have relegated God to my own, self-styled temple complete with a veil which divides when I am with Him and when I am not.  But this veil is only in my mind, and is the veil of unbelief that persists in the absence of God’s revelation (2 Cor. 3:15-18).  For in Christ, the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:14).
            Does this mean that sin and selfishness don’t exist and we can throw caution to the wind?  Not at all.  As we pursue various opportunities and interests each day, what separates a life filled by Christ and a life too full for Christ?  Quite simply, it is the cross that does this.  Before Jesus ascended and filled all things, He descended into the grave.  The filling of all things by Christ’s resurrection life depended on the taking of old things to the grave.  We too must descend into Christ’s grave by the revelation of the Spirit (Rom. 6:3-5).  Our experience must be infused with the reality of the cross by the action of the Spirit.  Otherwise, personal passions and desires will fill everything we do.  But Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”  If, by revelation, the Spirit has brought us to Christ’s cross, and if we have descended with Him, then for us all things will be filled with the Risen One instead of with us.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Better Thing: Jesus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” 
(Matt. 11:28-30).

            Who is Jesus inviting into His rest in these verses?  Perhaps we first think of non-believers, burdened by sin, needing the rest that can only come from knowing Jesus.  This is certainly true.  But Jesus is especially addressing disciples in this verse, for no one can know Him or find rest unless they first take His yoke.  It is the church, the yokefellow of Christ, that most needs to take these words to heart.
            We have accepted a great self-deception in the church: we have made salvation the finish line instead of the starting line.  Based on this faulty premise, we neatly divide humanity into two groups: those who know the Lord (us) and those who don’t (the world).  While this is partly true, it isn’t the whole picture.  As followers of Jesus, we are called disciples.  The word disciple means, “learner.”  We need to know the Lord just as much as non-believers.  Now that we have taken Jesus’s yoke, we are learning Him.  Now that we are born again, we are growing into a mature man (Eph. 4:13).  The evidence that we are knowing Him and are maturing in Him is that we are entering into His rest (Heb. 4:3, 10).
            But have we really laid down our wearisome burdens?  Or have we just exchanged them for others?  Perhaps some lay down the burden of sin only to take up the burden of religious behavior.  Perhaps the pressure to achieve is merely redirected toward ministry rather than left on the cross.  Maybe we give up the responsibility of pleasing man only to take on the responsibility of pleasing God.  And instead of “keeping up with the Jones-es” maybe we drive ourselves to keep up with whatever church has a book on the bestseller list (Eph. 4:14).  Jesus said of the Pharisees, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4).  Likewise, there are those who greet us with a handshake and a ball and chain when we gather on Sunday.  If we have merely given Christian packaging to worldly burdens then we aren’t accepting Jesus’s yoke or learning Him at all.
            Jesus has a simple message for His body, the church: “Lay down the burdens of human religion.  Lay down the burdens of Christian culture.  Know Me, and rest in Me!”  Psalm 46 says it this way: “Cease striving, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.”  To know Him requires that we trade Christianity for Christ, that we give up our harried serving to sit at His feet (Luke 10:41, 42).  Only one thing is needed, and that is Jesus Himself (Luke 10:42; Mark 10:21).  If we choose “the better thing,” it will not be taken away (Luke 10:42). 

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Single Stone

            David used only one stone to defeat Goliath and the entire Philistine army (1 Sam. 17:49, 50).  One stone set right the many blasphemies Goliath shouted at God’s people day after day (1 Sam. 17:16, 23).  One stone redeemed  the disobedience of every Israelite soldier who did nothing to resist Goliath.  One stone was all God needed to save His people. 
            Likewise, Paul says that the act of one man—Jesus—brought grace to many.  One act of self-giving atoned for generations of selfishness and sin—past, present, and future.  One righteous life laid down swallowed up centuries of death and brought resurrection life to myriads of people.  One act of obedience compensated for countless acts of disobedience committed by billions of people every day in every age (Rom. 5:15-21).
            Considering the awesome, far-reaching, unending power of Jesus’s death and resurrection, can we not trust Him with our own failings, whether committed years or minutes ago?  Can we not face that which is fallen, that which is satanic, and echo David’s words to Goliath: “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, who died and rose again, whom you have defied.  THIS DAY, the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down by the power of His cross (1 Sam. 17:45, 46).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seeing for Ourselves

My wife and I moved from Texas to Washington in March of 2000.  Just before moving, we went to our Wednesday night prayer meeting.  Someone was sharing about how Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ and was sent to tell the disciples about the One she had seen (John 20:17, 18).  As I listened, the Lord said to me, “I have called you to be this type of messenger.”  Like Mary, the Lord has sent me to tell disciples about the One I have seen.  Mind you, I haven’t seen Jesus physically.  But we are not to know Him that way any longer (2 Cor. 5:16).  It is with the eyes of our hearts we are to see Jesus, and this is really the only way to see Him (Eph. 1:17, 18).  The gospels show that even people who saw the Lord physically didn’t know Him.  They only knew Him when revelation happened in their hearts (Matt. 16:15-17; Luke 24:15, 16, 30, 31). 
Over the years, my understanding of this calling has grown.  Not long after moving to Washington, I returned to the passages about Jesus sending Mary to the disciples.  As I read Luke’s account (in which several women accompany Mary), one part stood out to me: “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11; Mark 16:9-14).  I was caught off guard that the disciples didn’t believe the message brought by Mary and the others.  At that point, I understood that, sent by Jesus or not, I shouldn’t expect everyone to believe me or to receive what I said.  Even as I write, I am reminded that women didn’t enjoy the social standing that men did at that time and were not taken seriously in important matters.  My own experience has shown that some people won’t respect me or listen to me because of my personality, my level of education, the way I dress, and 1,000 other things that lower my status in their minds.  I have even been snubbed by ministers because I am not in “full-time” ministry, a fact that makes me less valid in their eyes.  But God is not impressed by the markers of prestige that we think give us the right to judge.  So instead of first appearing to people who might be respected Jesus appeared to a group of women whom He knew would be dismissed. 
While the disciples didn’t believe Mary, some, like Peter and John, at least went to see for themselves if what she said was true.  As we know, they found Jesus’s tomb empty and eventually saw Him themselves.  This is my greatest hope when I share the Lord.  I can’t expect anyone to listen to me or believe me but if I can make someone curious enough to look for Jesus themselves, and if they see Him by revelation, then that is better than being listened to or respected.  Listening to me won’t help a single person.  What each of us most needs is to see Jesus ourselves.  How can we do this?  Paul says if we set our hearts on Christ, God will remove the veil blinding our hearts, and we will see Jesus in the scriptures.  As we know Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit will transform us into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:14-18; Luke 24:45, 46).  To the degree that we have been transformed in this way, the life of Jesus manifests in us, and we can see Jesus in each other as well (2 Cor. 4:10, 11). 
           Seeing Jesus and being transformed into His likeness is my first calling, even above preaching Him to others.  After all, if He isn’t seen in me, there is no message to preach, and there is quite enough of that going on amongst Christians already.  Instead, I believe the Lord has called me—and every one of us—to be a message and not merely preach one.