Tag Archives: life

Today’s Scripture – October 1, 2015

John 5:20-23 (NIV):  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

When the Jewish leaders heard Jesus’ call God His Father, and believed that in so doing  He was claiming to be equal with God (verse 18), they were actually right.  Although humbled at the moment through becoming a man, the leaders were in fact trying to face down the eternal Son of God.

Jesus pointed out three areas of overlap between Himself and God:

  • The Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whomever He wants.  This life-giving is on two levels.  Both God and Jesus raised the physically dead to life on several occasions – a miracle without equal.  But they both also gave spiritual life to those who were dead in their sins, separated from God, the source of all life.  This was illustrated to Ezekiel in his vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), and was fulfilled not in the return of the exiles from Babylon, but on the day of Pentecost, when God’s Spirit blew through the assembled believers, filling them and giving them real spiritual life, which quickly spread to an additional 3,000 Jewish people (cf. Acts 2).  All of that fulfillment was enabled by the sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  Together He and the Father bring dead things to life.
  • The Father is the Judge, but He has given authority to judge to Jesus.  Those leaders didn’t like feeling that Jesus was judging them, but they were in fact facing their eternal judge, and he was finding them sorely lacking.  Jesus’ very presence was a judgment on people.  When He showed up someplace and began to speak, the people responded to Him in ways that showed the real state of their hearts – either craving and receiving His words, or rebelling against what He said, rejecting Him, and thus showing their rejection of the God who had sent Him.
  • Jesus and the Father are one, so the one who rejects Jesus and His words rejects the Father as well.  Many in Jesus’ day rejected Him, believing that by doing so they were defending God, staying true to Him.  But by rejecting Jesus, God’s final and most complete revelation of Himself, they actually rejected God and all that He had revealed of Himself previously.  By rejecting the fulfillment of the covenant, they rejected its foundation.  By rejecting the fruit as bad, they ended up rejecting the whole tree.

If Jesus had merely been a talker or a teacher, there might have been room for doubt about His claims to be the Son of God.  But Jesus did far more than just talk.  Even in this case, He had done and amazing miracle, healing instantly and completely a man who had been incapacitated for 38 years.  But, despite the outward trappings of their religion, these “leaders” had no spiritual life at all.  They were walking corpses, dressed in fine gowns to appear alive.  The saddest thing is that the One who was standing right on front of them, the One whom they were persecuting, the One they were arguing with over the relevance of the rules that they had made up, was the One who could give them real life!

Father, even today so many people look at the man, Jesus, and miss the eternal Son of God right in front of them.  They ignore the miracles (including the resurrection, which these Jewish leaders hadn’t even encountered at this stage), and they take issue with His teachings, deciding on the basis of their own thinking whether to accept or reject them.  O blind generation!  O walking dead-men!  Do you not see that the One before You is the glorious, eternal Son of God, the One who came to earth, not to teach us pithy sayings, but to give us life through the laying down of His own life?  The proper response is not intellectual wrestling, but worship. It is not weighing His words to determine if we think there might be validity to them, but whole-hearted acceptance of this man, and Who He is.  Help us, Lord, all of us who go by the name of Jesus, to so present Him to the people around us by our words and our actions, that they can see His life in us, can experience His miracles in our testimony, and can then turn to You and be saved.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 18, 2015

John 1:4-5 (NIV): In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John understood that Jesus was more than a person who merely “lived.”  In the first three verses, John told us clearly that Jesus is and was God in the flesh.  But John realized that when Jesus came, He actually carried life in Himself.  Every person is alive, but Jesus had life in Him in a completely different way.  That was why Jesus could restore health and wholeness to people – His touch and His word imparted wholeness of life where damage and disease had allowed death to gain a foothold.  It was how He could raise people from the dead – the life that was in Him overflowed into the bodies of those who had died, restoring the life that had gone from them.  And it was how He could rise from the dead Himself – the real life that was in Him could never be extinguished.

Jesus brought light and life back into a world where sin had enabled the darkness of death to reign.  The coming of this light was a recurring theme is Isaiah’s many messianic prophesies.  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1 NIV)  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)  Isaiah could see the light of Jesus’ life shining from 700 years away!  And when John wrote “the light shines in the darkness” using the present tense verb, he indicated that the light of Jesus did not just shine in the darkness while He was on earth.  It was still shining decades later when John wrote his gospel.

The translation of the final phrase of verse 5 has been the subject of much debate.  Was the darkness not able to understand the light, or was it not able to overcome the light?  The answer is, both!

The darkness was not able to understand the light of Jesus at any level.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law who opposed Jesus believed that He was just a man like them that they could plot against, attack and bring down.  But they were never able to win a single argument with Him.  They were never able to succeed in a single trap that they laid for Him.  They couldn’t understand the way He thought, the way of light, because their minds were trapped in the darkness.

Even satan himself was not able to understand the light that was in Jesus.  He thought that Jesus could be tempted to put His own needs ahead of God’s agenda (the primal idolatry that we all tend to fall into!).  But the snares and temptations that he had used successfully on everyone from Eve through David, all the way down to the days of Jesus, failed to capture Him.  As the writer of Hebrews tell us, Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)  Even before and during the crucifixion, Jesus could not be tempted into using His power and authority to free Himself or to ease His own pain.  Instead, He followed the Father’s plan to the letter, regardless of the pain and suffering, and ultimately the death that it brought Him.

And, of course, the darkness was never able to overcome the light that was in Jesus.    Even the darkness of death could not extinguish the light of life that flowed through His entire being.  After the Jewish leaders had succeeded in putting Jesus to death, they were suddenly stymied by His resurrection.  And even after Jesus left the earth, these leaders were suddenly faced with hordes of disciples who now had this same inextinguishable light in them!  They had succeeded in killing Jesus’ body, but that death had been transformed into unconquerable, unending light and life that spread through His followers, and then out into the whole world.

Father, I especially love the understanding that, after Pentecost, when Your Holy Spirit blew through the upper room, the unconquerable light and life that was in Jesus was now in His followers, driving darkness from their hearts, and empowering them to spread light and life everywhere that they went.  Lord, we need a resurgence, a revival of that light and life among Your people today.  Blow through us again.  Shine Your light into our lives so strongly that darkness has no place to hide.  And then help us to purposefully spread that light and life into ever dark corner of our world.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 11, 2014

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV):  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

There is staggering import in these words of Paul.  The reason that people become a new creation when they trust in Jesus for salvation is that this trust leads to a real death of the old person that was, and a real resurrection in Christ as a new person, clean, fresh, and recast in the very image of Jesus.  It is this death and resurrection, not of Jesus, but of the new believer, that is represented in baptism, and that is pointed to in Romans 12:1-2, where believers are to live in this death of the old self and in the new life in Christ by continually considering themselves to be living sacrifices to God.

But, sadly, little of this imagery, and even less of this truth, remains today.  The formality of saying a “sinner’s prayer” has largely replaced the real death to the old life that is to be the hallmark of the redeemed.  And so we tend to spiritualize Paul’s words instead of living them out, and congregations are full of people who have prayed the prayer, but have not been resurrected as a new creation.

But Paul, when he surrendered to Jesus really did die to who he had been right up to the moment when the risen Jesus appeared to him outside of Damascus.  He had the same body, but the old person who had inhabited it died, and there was a brand new person living in there – a person who had a heart of love and compassion instead of hate and anger.  A person who wanted to glorify the name of Jesus instead of stamping it out.

Some may say that Paul was an exception – that normal, everyday Christians usually don’t experience that kind of huge turnaround in their lives.  But the question must be “why not?”.  Paul clearly expected that death to the old life that was focused on earthly things was the norm, and obviously had seen it happen in the people that he had helped to receive Jesus.  Likewise, he clearly saw the new birth, the new creation, as normative as well.  I believe that a key part of the answer is that we don’t teach the people whom we are leading to Jesus about the completely new life that they are to receive.  Our focus is merely on forgiveness of their sins, so that is all that they expect.

The person who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior receives much more than mere forgiveness of their sins, as important as that is.  If forgiveness of sins was all that was needed, the sacrifices of the Old Covenant would have been sufficient.  But when a person turns away from their old life to God, when we intentionally die to our old earthly-focused existence, God grants us a new life in Jesus – a life that is qualitatively different, a life with a completely different focus and feel from the old life that we surrendered.  And then He, the God of the universe, comes and lives in our hearts, continuing the molding, shaping, and reprioritizing, to remake us into His very image.  THAT’s the difference that the New Covenant makes!

Father, as one who has experienced this death to my old self, and the new person that You made me into, I say a hearty AMEN to all of this.  After having experienced all that life in You is, I will never turn back, never return to the old way of living that I died to.  Thank You, not just for the gift of life, but for the new life that You have given to me.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 18, 2014

Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV):  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

When Cain’s offering was rejected, while his brother, Abel’s, was accepted, anger began to boil in his heart.  The core issue was very simple:  Abel had offered his sacrifice according to God’s instructions, and with a submissive heart that sought communion with God above all else.  Cain, on the other hand, wanted to be accepted on his own terms.  He brought a sacrifice based on what HE had decided to give instead of basing it on God’s instructions.  So naturally, his offering was refused.  It was principally a matter of the heart:  Abel’s heart was soft, submissive, and obedient; Cain’s was hard, rebellious, and striving for mastery, even of God.

When God saw the hatred begin to boil in Cain’s heart, hatred of Him for refusing the sacrifice, and irrational hatred against Abel because his sacrifice was accepted, He intervened.  He laid out a clear choice to Cain:  the way of life, or the way of death.  The way of life was to lay down his anger and his hatred, surrendering his will and his agenda to God, and offering the sacrifice of obedience and submission.  The way of death was to surrender to his anger, to submit his heart to the sin of hatred, and to let it lead him to actions that would ultimately separate him from all that he held dear; to put him and his descendants on a trajectory away from fellowship with God.

The key was, Cain was in a place where he could choose whichever path he wanted.  He was not powerless or helpless in the face of this anger, or of the temptation to let it fester into hatred.  Sin was indeed crouching at the door wanting to master him.  But he was a human being, not an animal.  And, as a human being, he retained the divine prerogative of choosing his response to the situation.  If he had let his heart be soft toward God, God would have given him all of the power that he needed to master the sin that was trying to trip him up.  But instead, he chose to harden his heart against God and His words.  And, as a consequence, anger turned to hatred, and hatred gave birth to murder.  And from there, the whole trajectory of humanity was changed.

People today still retain that divine prerogative:  the ability to choose how we will respond to the situations that arise and to the temptations that crop up.  If we choose to let our hearts be soft toward God and His words, He will give us all the power that we need to master the sins crouching at our door, enabling us to master the evil that is striving to master us.  But if we choose to harden our hearts against God and His words, then sin will master us, and the whole trajectory of our lives will be put on the path leading to death.

Father, help us to choose right.  Help us to keep soft hearts before You, to desire Your love and Your acceptance more than anything else.  Help us to never believe that we must give in to sin; that we have no choice.  Instead, help us to keep our hearts always turned toward You, so that we can receive Your power to be completely victorious in every situation.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 10, 2014

Colossians 2:8 (NIV):  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

This warning needs to be taken seriously today by every member of the body of Christ.  The enemy of our souls is subtle and crafty.  He has always been that way (cf. Genesis 3:1), and he will be until he is finally taken away at the end of all things.  He will never use a direct assault against one of God’s children, because that is too easy for them to see through.  He will use trickery, deceit, and flawed logic that seems reasonable, at least at first glance.

One of the greatest traps for Christians today is a humanistic, naturalistic worldview.  This worldview/philosophy rejects the supernatural in favor of the material.  It rejects the miraculous n favor of “science,” things which can be directly observed, repeated, tested (which miracles and other things dealing with the spiritual realm cannot).  The biggest weapons used by those who are pushing this worldview are personal attacks and shaming.  They call those who believe what God has written in His word unsophisticated, unscientific, primitive, and ignorant.

But the fact is, the ones who refuse to believe that God exists, who believe that the material world is all that there is, and that purely natural processes happening at today’s rates are capable of bringing into existence all that exists are truly the unscientific ones.  The first true scientists believed that God created everything, just as He says in Genesis 1 and 2.  They also knew that God is a God of order, so they believed that they would be able to discover the laws that He set in place to keep everything orderly.  And they did discover many of them, and used those same laws to advance their discoveries and to invent new things.

But the current naturalistic philosophy, genuinely a hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ, discards all of that.  It ignores even the laws that were discovered and validated centuries ago (and are still accepted in every other area of science), such as the need for a cause that is sufficient for the observed effect, the fact that life can only come from life, and the clearly observed fact that all things reproduce according to their own kinds.  (Yes, there is observed variation within kinds, but scientists have never observed one kind changing into another kind.  Finches with varied kinds of beaks are still finches, and still reproduce finches; bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics, but they are not only still bacteria, but the same kind of bacteria, and reproduce the same kind of bacteria.)  God is the only cause great enough to call into existence a universe as complex and finely tuned as the one we live in.  He is the life that is the only source of all living things.  And He is the one who created all of the various kinds with vast diversity built into their genetic structures, so that they were able to reproduce and fill the earth with all of the varied forms of life that we see today.

It is vital that we as God’s people do not allow ourselves to be taken captive to naturalistic and humanistic philosophies.  They are not only inadequate in providing the answers that mankind needs and hungers for, but they are dead-end philosophies that offer not hope for the future, and no path to eternal life.

Father, I agree.  I used to hold to those dead-end philosophies.  Thank You for leading me beyond them into the truth of Your word, the truth of Your very being.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 29, 2013

Genesis 1:1-3 (NIV):  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Sometimes people look at the beginning of something and are dismayed, unable to see the shape of the finished product when the work is in its initial stages.  Every huge, tall building that is built today begins by digging a deep hole in the ground.  It doesn’t look very tall or impressive at that stage, but the blueprints, the vision of the finished product, leads the engineer to begin with something that doesn’t look anything like the final, glorious product.

When human life begins, it starts as a dot smaller than a period at the end of a sentence.  But in that single fertilized cell, all of the person that will be is present, awaiting future development.  To some, this early stage seems so much less than the finished product, that they have no problem dehumanizing it and sweeping it away.  But, just as in the skyscraper’s construction, when you destroy the beginning, you are actually destroying the end as well.  By aborting an embryo or a fetus, you are not destroying a “potential person,” but the actual person that is in the process of development.

When God first created the heavens and the earth, they didn’t look like much.  In fact, they looked like nothing at all, since there was no light!  There was the vast expanse of space, empty except for a lone, water-covered orb, spinning in the inky blackness of a starless void.  Anyone looking at that initial stage, that first creation, could easily have written it off as a failure.  Lots of empty space, with one, lone, watery, lifeless globe spinning in it.  But all of that was merely the first dab of paint on an empty canvas.  It was all empty and formless, that is true.  But over it all God’s Spirit hovered, full of the creative power to bring His entire vision into glorious fulfillment.  From the first burst of blinding light, things began to move toward the complete realization of His plan.  In six short days, the scene had changed completely.  The heavens were ablaze with countless stars.  The world had become a brilliant blue-green sphere, teeming with plant and animal life.  And the first two human beings, the parents of all who would fill the earth thereafter, were gazing in wonder at their new home.  Everything was perfect – exactly as God had planned it.  From such humble beginnings, God had created a masterpiece.

Believe it or not, it is the same way with people.  Often, when people come to God, they come as something not very impressive by divine standards.  Some come smelling strongly of cigarette smoke and alcohol.  Some come tattooed and pierced.  Some come with all of the scars, internal and external, of a life badly lived.  All come laden with sins, and with mental and emotional baggage that has made their whole lives, in the end, a barren wilderness.  Even those that come with worldly wealth and position, but black with sin inside, actually bring nothing to the table that is of benefit to God in shaping them into what He wants them to become.  Some might look at the darkness of these lives and determine that they are a pretty poor place to start in building anything of divine use.  In a sense, when these people come, they are like that pit that is dug in order to build a skyscraper; like a black, starless expanse of space.  There seems to be nothing to build on, no potential.  But God’s Spirit is hovering over the scene.  With a flash of divine light, God illuminates the darkened heart and mind.  With a burst of His divine power, He tears down the old, rotten structures of the life, and makes the person into a completely new creation – a creation full of life and light.  (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)  Over the next days, weeks, months, even years, God grows the newly formed person into a fully formed member of the kingdom of God; mature, powerful, and ready to reproduce themselves in other lives.  A person who is just like Jesus, the blueprint that God uses for everyone who comes to Him.  (cf. Romans 8:29)

Of course it is difficult for most people (even the one who is being transformed) to see the finished product in the initial stages of growth.  And sometimes those involved in the process grow discouraged and give up, aborting the process before it is completed.  And the newly formed soul can die before it has a chance to become what God intended it to be.  But if all concerned will keep Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) firmly in view through the whole process, then they will be able to remain steadfast, continuing to move forward through every discouragement, through every single backward step, and they will be able to see the finished product shining through in a much shorter time than they would have believed possible.

Father, as one of your new creations, I say a hearty “Amen!” to all of this.  When I came to You, I was pretty worthless, even in my own eyes.  But in a flash, You changed me from top to bottom, from inside out, in ways that were quickly evident to everyone.  And from that foundation, You built me up over the following days, weeks, months, and years, continuing to teach me, to mold me, to shape me into the very image of Your Son.  None of this was my doing – my job was to stay close, live in obedience, submit myself to Your work, and never give up.  All that I am today is because of You and Your creating, remaking, reshaping power.  And I will praise You forever for all You have done in me.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 9, 2013

Luke 24:45 (NIV):  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

One of the first principles of the kingdom of God is that the things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Trying to describe or explain spiritual truths to one whose spirit has not been quickened, whose eyes have not been focused, whose mind has not been opened, is like trying to explain a sunset to someone who has been blind from birth; your words may be perfectly descriptive, but they are spoken to a person who has no experience base that would allow them to catch the meaning, let alone to internalize it.

Sometimes, especially after we have been a Christian for a while, it is really easy for us to forget how blind we were before God opened our mind and enabled us to catch our first glimpse of spiritual truth.  And it puzzles us when we cast beautiful spiritual pearls into a conversation, only to see them irreverently trampled on.  We don’t understand why these great truths that have amazed us don’t seem to have any impact on our listeners.

The truth has always been that the unspiritual, those who have not surrendered themselves to God, have spiritual ears that are plugged and spiritual eyes that are closed tightly so that God’s words, even His miracles, cannot penetrate their spiritual hearts.  They are like the people of Nazareth to whom Jesus revealed Himself (Luke 4:14-30), who could not accept that He really was the Messiah, despite the miracles He had been doing.  They had only earthly eyes that could only see earthly things, and actually ended up trying to throw Jesus off a cliff!  They are like the servant of Elisha, who had only earthly eyes that saw them surrounded by the Aramean army and despaired.  It seemed like nonsense when Elisha told him, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  (2 Kings 6:16 NIV)  Elisha had spiritual eyes that were divinely opened to see the reality behind the physical world.  But Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  (6:17 NIV)  And then the servant, with divinely provided spiritual sight, could see the surrounding hills ablaze with heavenly warriors.

Today there are many who completely deny the realities of the spiritual dimension, and even of God’s own reality.  Sometimes those people even read the Bible, but they do so without any spiritual ability to understand, so its truth remains hidden from them.  At times God’s people try to fight these people, to reason with them, even to argue with them.  But all of this will be to no avail.  The things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned, and we will never be able to argue them into accepting them, no matter how impeccable our logic.  They are blind, despite their bold professions that they can see clearly.  They are lost sheep, who cannot even see the ravening wolf just steps behind them.  The most powerful, compassionate thing that we can do for those poor, blind, lost souls is to pray the prayer that Elisha prayed for his servant:  “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  Only when God has opened their eyes, minds, and hearts to spiritual reality will they be able to see the truth, turn, and be saved.

Father, I must admit that we usually don’t pray this prayer for the lost, let alone for those who are so entrenched in naturalism and atheism, yet claim to see.  But to paraphrase Peter:  “Because you say so, I will do it.”  (Luke 5:4-5)  Thank You for opening my own eyes to see Your truth.  Help me to powerfully pray that same opening of eye, mind, and heart into those I am trying to reach.  Amen.

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