Friday, December 28, 2012

Fifty Two Weeks / 1 John 2

The Darkness

So often we read the Word and it is speaking directly to us; yet, we deflect its impact by thinking this is for someone else. Even as you read this, and I write it, the sense arises that “This is something someone else needs to hear.” Hear this.

“Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”

Surely you know someone to which this applies. You probably are even thinking of a name right now. Is it yours?

The World

This brief passage which includes verses 15-17 has fascinated me for a very long time. The “World” referred to here is the system in place by which the fallen world operates. It has given us greed, war, porn, exploitation, celebrity, and countless other things that are, at best, poison pills.

It is based on three principles: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. These are the only three things on which it is based. These are the elements used to entice Eve in Eden. These are the same three things used to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. And these are the same three things used to draw us away and against God the Father. 

This is all that is in the world. Everything else we know is either one of these three dressed up in different clothes or it is the Kingdom of God. This is important information because the very deceptive spirit of Antichrist is in the world.

The Antichrist

Antichrist is to be embodied in a person who will be revealed near the end of this present world. This is usually as far as we go with our understanding about Antichrist. There is more. 

The Antichrist doesn’t just suddenly appear out of nowhere. The whole world has been being prepared for his unveiling for centuries. This prep has been carried out by the spirit of Antichrist which John tells us (1 John 4:3) is already in the world. 

Here is what you need to know. The spirit of Antichrist works to get humans to deny the unique position of Jesus Christ as God’s Only Son who died for our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification. Any “teaching” that draws you away from this acknowledgement of Christ Jesus is founded in the spirit of Antichrist.

The Children of God

“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus. We need you. The world is in a desperate state. Humanity is oppressed. Creation groans. May You hear our cry and come quickly and may we be unashamed at your coming.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fifty Two Weeks / Matthew 2


Intelligence, strength, talent, beauty… these are all important and useful items but they can all be trumped by timing. All of the strength in the world won’t help you to hit a baseball if your timing is off. You may be the most beautiful but that doesn’t matter if you aren’t the one standing in the waiting room when the director yells, “I need a red head, now!” You can have great intelligence but it really doesn’t take great intelligence to buy low and sell high. That takes timing.

The Magi and the Star

First of all I need to mention that the Magi did not visit the baby Jesus in the manger. It’s OK for artists to take license with this because it is true to the heart of the story; it just isn’t true historically. According to the Scripture they actually came to see the toddler in a house. 

It is also highly unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that shepherds don’t keep their flocks out in the fields at night during winter. However, December 25th may not just be a random date and the reason goes far deeper than the claim that it simply displaced the pagan mid winter festivals. I would encourage you to see the movie The Star of Bethlehem or visit the website for more information about this date.

The Magi saw an event in the heavens that convinced them that a great king had been born among the Jews. They set out on a journey that required several months and were led by the star (and the prophet Micah) to where the child actually was. 

Think About This

This is not an attempt to unravel the mystery of the star. (See to do that.) But let’s just take the story at face value and consider what it means.

The universe is like a giant clock. We don’t know all of its mysteries, or likely even more than a tiny fraction of its mysteries, but there are some things we do know. We do know the physical laws which govern the movement of the starts and planets. This is what enables us to send a rocket into space on a journey requiring months or years and still we can manage to calculate exactly where it will need to be in order to arrive at the same point in the vastness of space to intersect a heavenly body moving at great speed. By these laws we can calculate where the heavenly bodies will be in the future and likewise we can determine where they were in the past.

This means that when God send His Son into the world He didn’t just go, “Oh! A star! I need a star to announce this birth. Poof! Star be!” No, actually He would have needed to make preparations a little sooner. According to the latest scientific reasoning He would have needed to plan this over 13,700,000,000 years sooner in order for the heavenly event to occur that caused the Magi to make a long dangerous journey to see the new King. 

The Right Time

Paul says in Romans 5:6, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Of course. God always does things at “just the right time.” 

Furthermore, Jesus uses this idea several times in John’s gospel saying, “The right time foe me has not yet come.” Like Father, Like Son.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fifty Two Weeks / 1 John 1

First Person

Much of the Bible is written in the first person. It is somewhat curious that in his gospel John never refers to himself directly but by the pseudonym “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that he is reporting first hand. In his first epistle John seems to be referring to his earlier writings and his ministry as he shares his life. “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched.” 

John also states the reason for sharing his experiences; for sharing the gospel. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”

We share the gospel because we want others to become part of the family to which we belong. This isn’t so that the family might grow stronger and our side will win. Our side is going to win regardless of who does or doesn’t join up. We want them to be with us, with the Father and Son, so that joy may increase.

God is Light

Noel Stookey (“Paul” of Peter, Paul, and Mary) wrote a song many years ago titled The Means are the End. That song has stuck with me not only because is has a catchy melody but also because it contains a great truth. In a culture where we have largely bought into the notion that in order to combat evil we may occasionally have to (in the words of Dick Chaney) “embrace the dark side”, let it be clearly stated that such a concept is unmistakably ungodly.

Read this sentence out loud: “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

It is a lie to think that we overcome darkness with darkness. All that does is create more darkness. As John wrote in his gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Light is the only thing that defeats darkness.

What, me sin?

Some people practice the delusion that once we become Christians we no longer commit sins. This is an asinine idea on too many levels to innumerate but even more importantly it is a deadly dangerous idea for three specific reasons.

  • “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Such an idea removes truth from our lives.

  • “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Such an idea causes us to value our knowledge above God’s and causes us to be incapable of functioning in the clear light of His Word.

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I am not trying to unravel the mystery of our salvation here. I don’t think we have to get “saved” over and over, but I do believe that to walk in righteousness requires a life of confession and cleansing. No cleansing without confession. No confession without the realization that I have sinned.

At least this has been my experience in the first person.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Week 49 / 2 Peter 3

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign;
No more water but the fire next time.” - Negro Spiritual

“By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire.”2 Peter 3:6-7a

The Fire Next Time

We are in the first week of December, 2012. If the Mayan Calendar prognosticators are correct this is the world’s last month. This isn’t the first time that predictions of the end of the world have gained notoriety. Some such predictions have come from within the church while others have come from outside of Christendom. So far they have all been wrong.

The world as we know it will end, but we have a problem.

The Problem

We have literally lost track of how many times the prediction has been wrong. The cry, “Wolf!”, has gone out so many times that many people are numb to it. It is easy to understand why, upon hearing such dire news, the typical response tends to be, “Sure, yada yada yada yada…”

The world as we know it will end, but how can we know anything about it with so many wrong warning going forth?

This One is Different

Actually, it isn’t all that hard to distinguish the bogus from the genuine. The Bible consistently warns about false prophets and misleading prophecies. Peter even alerts us to the fact that people will become so numb to news of the end that they will scoff when they hear it. They will even forget the flood; an event so significant that rumors of it persist in almost every culture. 

Here is a sure fire give away that an “end of the world” prediction is false: “If they set a date you may be certain that this isn’t from God.”

Jesus said that no man knows the day or hour. Peter says here that the day of the Lord will come like a thief. Jesus also said that He would return at the hour when He is least expected. I don’t know when the end will come but I now when it won’t come: 12/21/12.

The world as we know it will end, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it is a glorious thing because it will be replaced by a new heaven and new earth which, instead of being a cruel fallen world will be the home of righteousness. 

When will it happen? At the right time. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The important question isn’t “When”, “Who will be ready”.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fifty Two Weeks / Hebrews 11


This chapter is generally considered to be the definitive word on faith. It plainly defines faith. It gives examples of faith by introducing what many call the Faith Hall of Fame. It gives us insight into what faith does, and doesn’t, mean for our lives.

This is a short blog so I obviously cannot go into great detail about any of this but here are some brief random observations about there three areas.


“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” 

Two brief observations here. Faith starts with hope. Hope is not some sort of inferior type of faith. It is the starting point for faith. 

Faith concerns the invisible. That makes faith a very big topic indeed. Astro Physicists estimate that the visible universe makes up only about 3% of matter. This does even start to take into consideration the impact faith has on such other invisibles as love, worry, conflict, the future… etc. We are so taken with the visible world that it is easy to lose track of how very insignificant and transient the visible is compared to the invisible.

Hall of Fame

Most of the names mentioned in this list are fairly obvious to anyone somewhat familiar with the Bible. Here are three brief observations.

Abel presented a better sacrifice by faith. What does that mean? The Bible doesn’t specifically answer this question but I have pretty good idea. On the day Adam and Eve sinned God killed an animal to give them clothes but more importantly to allow them to live. Animal sacrifice was instituted that day and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Cain and Abel must somehow have been taught this. Abel believed. Cain had a “better” idea.

Abraham was enabled to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that God could raise the dead. I have alway been attracted to Genesis 22 and the story of Abraham offering Isaac because it is such a beautiful and powerful picture of God the Father and Jesus the Son. Here the writer of Hebrews even tells us that Abraham was able to do this because he thought Isaac could be raised from the dead! This is exactly the same reason that enabled the Father to allow Jesus to be sacrificed.

Rahab was a resident of Jericho and a fairly minor character in the Old Testament pantheon; yet, she is included in this list and also mentioned by James as an example of faith. At first glance what she did doesn’t seem to be very noble. Basically she committed treason against her city. Ah, but when you read why she did what she did things come into focus. This is what she said: 

““I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

Everyone else in her city apparently knew the same facts she knew but she was the one whose faith led her to believe, “… the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

For Us

There has been a lot of “logical” but weird teaching on faith come out of the USA the last few decades. Logical? Yes, but in a carnal sort of way that is foreign to the people on this honored list.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. But what kind of faith are we talking about here? We are talking about a faith that sees the invisible. This is a faith that looks beyond this world and sees the one to come. Yes, our faith can indeed impact this present world and circumstances, but more importantly it impacts us and how we view things and live our lives. 

I personally don’t trust a faith that it too focused on this world and its “things”, its stuff. The world and its stuff is not worthy of this kind of faith. The one thing all of these had in common was that regardless of the exploits they did they still did not receive the reward of their faith in this world. How could they? How can we? This world doesn’t have the capacity to fulfill the object of hope which produces godly faith. Regardless of what happens in this world, or what some would teach us to focus our faith on, we should remain mindful that the real goal can only be described as “something better”. Don’t settle for less.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fifty Two Weeks / Hebrews 7


The Bible is such a wonderful  surprising book. As most of you know the Bible is actually a collection of books written by some 40+ authors over a period of 1200+ years. Were it a single book written by a single human author it would be a marvel of intricate coordination. Since it was written over such a long period by so many different writers from such diverse backgrounds and circumstances the coordination of its themes and teachings is nothing short of miraculous. 


This passage before us today brings together three separate passages from widely different streams as it talks about a little known character named Melchizedek. 

Genesis 14 was written by Moses (c. 1500-1200 B.C.) and it describes Abraham’s rescue of his nephew Lot. The end of Genesis 14 tells how Abraham was met after the battle by a priest named Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and brought out bread and wine. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of all that he had.

Psalm 110 was written by King David (c. 1000 B.C.). It is considered to be a psalm about the Messiah and it contains one of the most unexpected prophecies imaginable. The Lord tells Messiah that He will make Him a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Understand that Melchizedek is mentioned no where else in the Old Testament except for these two passages written some 200-500 years apart. In the interim the Priesthood of Aaron was established by the Law of Moses. 

Why would David declare that Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Aaron? This is especially perplexing when you consider that Melchizedek was a very minor character (in the theatre the role would be considered a “walk on”) and a character who was not only not an Israelite but not even descended from Abraham!

Hebrews 7 unravels this mystery that was so deep it hadn’t really even been seriously considered by the teachers of the Law.

Mystery Revealed

The answer is actually quite simple once it is explained.

Messiah could not be a priest after the order of Aaron because: 

  • The order of Aaron already had men serving as priests. They were all mortal and as such subject to sin and more importantly, to death. Therefore, there were regulations for succession set down for this priestly order.
  • The order of Aaron served as priests for the Law of Moses which did not really have the power to cleanse from sin.
  • Those who served after the order of Aaron were from the tribe of Levi; however, Messiah was to come from the line of David which meant that He would be from the tribe of Judah.

Melchizedek was the perfect archetype of the priesthood of Messiah because:

  • We know nothing about the origins of Melchizedek, nor about his death. Therefore, if not literally, he is certainly theoretically immortal.
  • Because he blessed Abraham he was actually considered to be greater than Abraham. This could not be said of Abraham’s decedents from the tribe of Abraham’s great grandson Levi.
  • Because he came before the Law of Moses he could also be said to supersede the Law.

Jesus is the answer to the puzzle. He was from the line of David but He was also to serve as a priest. Though His mother’s line is known He had no biological earthly father. Moreover, having been raised from the dead He lives forever. From everlasting to everlasting He is eternal. (Some actually believe that Melchizedek was in fact a pre incarnate appearance of Christ.) He Himself claimed this when the Jews sneered in John 8, “Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?… You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!” To this Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!”

Moses wrote this seeming footnote to the rescue of Lot by his uncle Abraham. Over 200 years later David wrote a truly puzzling prophecy connecting Melchizedek to Messiah. Over 1,000 years later the writer of Hebrews explains the mystery in the light of Jesus’ life. Miraculous!

(A note to those who claim the tithe is not for Christians. No, we are not bound by the tithe as a law; however, we are children of Abraham since he is the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16). Melchizedek is the archetype of Christ in the worship context; even going so far as to introduce the elements of the Lord’s Table in the bread and the wine. Abraham, who represented us, tithed to Melchizedek, who represented Christ. Ignore it if you want but it looks pretty plain to me.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fifty Two Weeks / Hebrews 4

Every year on the last Sunday our church hears a sermon on the importance of reading the Word. All are encouraged to read the Bible all the way through in the coming year. The idea to promote this at least yearly (it is certainly referenced several times through out the year) started as a result of a sermon given by a high school friend of mine back in 1975. He outlined the benefits of reading the Word and challenged all present to commit to daily reading of Scripture. I responded to that challenge and the results were profound in my life.

While my friend David drew from various passages to explain the benefits of consuming the Word I believe that the twelfth verse of this chapter really encapsulates the essence of what having the Word in you will do.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Living and Active

The Word of God is living. This is why I can encourage people to read it again and again. Virtually every time you read the Word something it says new, something for today. Our lives change and we are constantly at different places in our journey. The Word speaks to all of those places. It speaks to where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. When we pick up the Bible the agent of the Holy Spirit is engaged and He causes things to he highlighted and revealed that we were unable or unprepared to see on a previous reading.

Simply put, the Word never grows stale. It isn’t like watching reruns on TV.

The Double Edged Sword

A double edged sword is a metaphor for something that cuts both ways. The Word is certainly that. It can bring great conviction or great comfort. It can bring doom or deliverance. It causes brokenness and makes whole. This is a truly dangerous book.

Therefore, it is important to not approach the Word in a presumptive mode. If you go into the Word looking for “proof texts” for your personal prejudice you will likely find something that you can bend to your bias. Many have done this and used it as justification for everything from war to slavery to greed. However, if you approach the Word with humility and allow it to speak to you the result will be to reveal your personal prejudice and banish your biases, because…

Heart Surgery

This sharp double edged sword penetrates. It brings division between those things that are of the spirit and those that are merely sourish. More to the point it judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. It will reveal things in my heart that are opposed to God and encourage those things that are truly righteous. 

This can be an unnerving experience at times; yet, it is an experience that we should embrace. As the next verse tells us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” We tend to think that God doesn’t see as long as we aren’t thinking about the fact that He does see. It is much better to allow the Word to judge us now than to wait and be judged when all will be revealed.

This isn’t simply a judgmental exercise by any means. In fact, judgement is certain whether we read the Word or not. It is in the Word that we discover light and grace. It is here that we find out that we have a High Priest who can sympathies with our weakness. It is here that we are told about the Throne of Grace to which we can approach with confidence to find mercy and help. 

The Bible is a double edged sword. Use it carefully. Use it daily.