Old Man Winter

Days ago I awoke to the first frost of winter. The ground, rooftops, and the windows of the house and car glistened white with the frozen dew of the morning. The aching of my leg and hand joints confirm that Old Man Winter is upon us.

One of my sisters lived in southern California for a while and complained one year that it was 70 degrees (21 celsius) and everyone was buying winter coats. She’s returned to Oregon and knows that here, 70 is the beginning of shorts and sunbathing weather! O for 70 degrees again!

King David was old, advanced in years; and they put covers on him, but he could not get warm…. So they sough for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. And the young woman was very lovely; and she cared for the king, and served him; but the king did not know her (1 Kings 1:1, 3-4).

It gets cold in Israel. When I arrived in Tel Aviv in the Spring of 1993, it had snowed the day before and closed the airport! One of the effects of old age is a persistent coldness caused by the slowing of blood flow through the body. Between being 70 years old and the weather, King David couldn’t keep warm despite all the blankets in the world, so a beautiful young woman was found to care for the aging king, and even use her own body heat to keep him warm.

Some throw dispersion on David, digging up bones of the past and attempting to add flesh to them. They argue that David was sexually involved with the young woman … after all, he’d committed adultery once. But the Scriptures are clear that was one event in David’s distant past, a past he’d repented of.

The national hero who had once slain giants and defeated armies now couldn’t leave his bed. David was facing the winter of life, the reality of old age and death.

David’s son Solomon wrote about old age, ending with the poetic charge: Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7).

Are you ready to meet the God who gave you life?


I Have Decided

The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2)

The late 1800s witnessed a great wave of missionaries to India. Entire states once ensnared in Hinduism and closed to the gospel became open furnaces of fiery Christian revival. Many of these states, at the same time, became the fiercest of battlegrounds, with many of the missionaries and their converts martyred in the process.

One state, Assam, saw dozens of missionaries murdered before a single convert to Christ appeared.

When a husband, wife, and their two small children were the first to profess Christ, village elders sought to make an example of them. They had the family shot through with arrows beginning with the children.

When told to recant Jesus, the husband boldly proclaimed: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.” His children were murdered while he watched.

Again told to reject Jesus, he said: “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” Then he watched as his wife was shot through.

Once more told to deny Jesus the man said, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.” With that, he was executed.

After a long time, when missionaries finally returned safely to that area, they found that those responsible for the deaths of the family had all converted to Christ.

The missionaries sought out the famous Indian evangelist Sadhu Sunhar Singh (1889 – 1929) to take up the work in the area. Singh insisted that if India was to be reached with Jesus, missionaries had to teach the Bible alone without traditions or culture.

Singh visited the village and heard the story of the young man’s testimony years before. When he witnessed the lasting power of the Gospel of Jesus, Singh wrote the hymn we sing: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

The song isn’t about making a choice to be saved, but the once-for-all power of the Gospel of Jesus in the redeemed, even in the face of death. Rather than an emotional manipulator to accept Christ, it’s an anthem of devotion to the One who is already your Saviour.

Avoid Processed Foods

If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).

Grace works the front desk at the tanning salon and is a 3rd year student at George Fox University. When I arrived, her cloth bag with her change of clothes, keys, and lunch was sitting on the counter along with a cup of tea. Her bag was emblazoned with the phrase AVOID PROCESSED FOODS. She and I then went through a series of questions and answers about her tea.

How the water got into the cup. How the tea got into the tea bag. How the tea bag got into the wrapper and the box. How the box of tea arrived at the store and transported into the United States from India, China, or Africa. I wanted to know how the tea was picked, dried, cut, sorted from twigs, bugs, and other debris.

When we were done, we counted more than 20 different “processes” just for her one cup of tea … not to include the processes that were used to get her clean drinking water.

A potato that has been dug up, washed, cut, and cooked has been processed whether by you, a restaurant chef, or by a factory machine in Iowa. Everything you eat is processed, the only question is who processed it.

I ended by saying, For years I’ve said, words have meanings, and meanings have consequences. We buy into popular sayings and marketing campaigns, like “Avoid Processed Foods”, without ever using logic, reason, considering facts, or thinking. 

Grace replied, That’s the problem. No one ever taught us to think. 

The last words of the Bible command us to be careful how we handle the Word of God. God’s words have meanings, and those meanings have consequences, yet often we are remiss in how we handle what He has revealed to us.

We are not to add to what He’s said. We can add to His words by changing the meanings He’s given to them. Being saved by grace means that we have no part in our salvation, it is a gift given to us.

We are not to take away from His words by dismissing what He’s said as patriarchal, cultural, “white”, or old fashioned. His words are not subject to fads and fancies, or cultural ideas or values, they are as eternal as He is.

The Rapture

Since I was a little boy, I’ve heard two things explained as truth. The first is that one day Jesus is coming back to the earth to carry His people to Heaven in what is called the Rapture. 

Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had many people deny the Rapture based on their own personal experience. The main objection they offer is that they’ve heard this doctrine all their lives and it’s never happened. To them, the fact that it hasn’t happened yet is the absolute proof that it will never happen.

Now lets apply that same reasoning to the second truth I’ve heard all my life: one day I’m going to die.

I’ve lived 52 years on this ball of rock, dirt, and water. I’ve experienced many moments that have carried me close to death, but I haven’t died. Therefore I don’t believe I’ll ever die. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet is the absolute proof that it will never happen.

Do you see the unreasonableness and lack of logic in the argument? Just because I haven’t experienced it yet, doesn’t mean it won’t happen at a point in the future, maybe even an hour from now.

The matter comes down to this: Do you believe what the Bible says? If the Bible is inaccurate or untrue in one thing, it will be wrong in many things. But if you believe the Bible to be the perfect Word of God as it claims to be, then you can’t deny Christ’s promise to return to take His people to Heaven. Jesus said, In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

His promise isn’t to bring us to the earth. In case you haven’t realized it yet, you’re already here. Instead, Christ’s promise is to take us to His Father’s house, a place called Heaven.

Yes, it’s possible that many of us reading these words today may die before Jesus returns, but Christ’s promise to come again and take His followers to be with Him in Heaven is still sure. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

And Can It Be? – Charles Wesley (1738)

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

Spiritual Thirst

Let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).

The Bible says that satisfaction of spiritual thirst is available to everyone who desires the water of life, Jesus. But where does spiritual thirst come from?

Last week my wife and I went to one of our favorite Chinese restaurants. We placed an order for our usual fare: egg flower soup, egg rolls, BBQ pork, fried shrimp, subgum chicken chow mein, sweet and sour spareribs, pork fried rice, and a pot of Oolong tea.

One of the things about Chinese food is that it always makes you thirty. We weren’t thirsty when we arrived and placed our order for two; but the little old Chinese lady in kitchen made us thirsty. Our thirst wasn’t natural, it was created in us by another.

Jesus made an interesting promise to a woman at a well in Samaria: Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst again (John 4:14). He was speaking of giving Himself as the ultimate spiritual thirst quencher. But if His statement is true, why don’t more people come to drink of Him?

Why do the majority of people in the world ignore His offer and not come to Him? Only the thirsty come to Him, and most are not thirsty.

Why are most people not spiritually thirsty? Because they haven’t been made thirsty.

Who makes them thirsty so that they come to Christ Jesus? Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44). God enlists you to deliver the water, but He creates the thirst.

Today, if you are thirsty for the water of life, thank the Father for making you thirsty!

Mistaken Identity

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 16:13-17).

For nearly 150 years, European merchants traveled to India and China trading silk, spices, technology, and culture. The trade took two routes, one across land, the other by sailing around southern Africa. Both routes were dangerous because of Muslim pirates on the seas and warriors on land.

Christopher Columbus believed a direct route from Europe to China and India could be found by sailing westward across the Atlantic Ocean. On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail westward from Spain with three ships to find the nation of India. Two months and 9 days later, he arrived at a group of islands off the coast of Florida that he called the “West Indies” and named the inhabitants of these islands, Indians.

Years later it was determined that Columbus and other explorers looking for Asia had actually discovered two new continents, North and South America. The name given to the peoples of these lands, Indians, continued. Today, these native peoples of North and South America are still known as “Indians” though they have no connection with the nation or peoples of India. It was a case of mistaken identity.

During His earthly life, many people mistook the identity of Jesus. Some believed Him to be merely a prophet, a good teacher, a miracle worker, a story-teller, and even a lunatic. Some even suggested He was one of Israel’s greater prophets brought back from the dead. Despite His claims to deity, His identity was a mystery to many of His countrymen.

Yes, Jesus performed miracles, was a master story-teller, taught profound ideas, and spoke the word of God, but He was much more than these. He was God in human flesh, come that we might identify with Him and that He might die to save us.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Exploded Expectations

There are certain expectations in life. For example, you can’t have a hot dog without honey barbecue baked beans with bacon.

Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic.

In my last visit to Kenya, I was taken to experience the arrival of the great staple of America: the hot dog in Africa. My expectations were quickly exploded. Not only were there no baked beans, it wasn’t a hot dog.

I’ve heard it said many times, “I did the ‘Christian thing’ and it just didn’t work.” We do what we think God requires then the result isn’t what we expect. Our exploded expectations are not God’s fault; they are our expectations, not His. Usually we’ve failed to realize that God has a greater purpose than meeting our expectations and fulfilling our desires.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts  (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God’s purpose goes far above what is obvious to you and me. His purpose runs through many lives, and sometimes through many generations. We see only the immediate desired outcome of our own hearts . . . and unrealistic expectations always lead to disappointment.

So what can we do when God doesn’t do what we expect?

First, realize that God’s purpose is different from your own. What you expect to get out of life may be very different than His ultimate goal for your life.

Second, be assured that if you love Him and are called according to His divine purpose, all the events – even the disappointing ones – work together for good in His time and His way in your life (Romans 8:28).

Third, remember God’s character. Remember that He is the same God, even when our experiences make us feel or think otherwise. You may never understand His reasons or ways, but you can always trust His heart.

Fourth, give your disappointment, and sin, to God. This requires the difficult task of letting go of it, but when you do, you are free to cling all the tighter to Him.

Fifth, thank Him for including you in a marvelous plan that is greater than you.

A Walking Rock in the Desert

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).

For centuries there was an unexplained mystery in the canyon desert of Death Valley, California. Trails seemingly showed heavy rocks sliding across the sand of the desert floor without external force. It was as if they could walk.

Finally in 2014, a team of researchers provided scientific evidence to explain the walking rocks, some moving as much as 213 feet (65 meters) in 16 minutes! In the winter, water droplets formed on the sand and then froze overnight causing the desert floor to be slick like a skating rink. A little wind, and the rocks would slide.

Early in the Book of Exodus (17:1-7), we read that the people of Israel were thirsty, and God miraculously provided water from a rock they called Meribah. Years later Israel was still relying upon God’s supernatural provision for water (Numbers 20:9-13). If we take Paul literally, it’s as if the rock had been following them throughout their 40-year wanderings.

When writing to the Corinthians, Paul says this rock of water in the wilderness was Jesus!

Many places in the Bible use the image of a rock to describe God (Deuteronomy 32:4, 13, 18; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 18:2, 31, 46). Still today, rocks are symbols of longevity, permanence, strength, and refuge. In First Corinthians 10, the word Paul uses for rock (petra) doesn’t refer to a run of the mill roadside rock but an exposed mountainside or cliff. Surely Paul wasn’t saying that Jesus is a literal mountainside which followed the children of Israel in the desert for 40 years.

In those years of wilderness wanderings, the people of Israel were unable to provide for their own needs. They weren’t farmers growing corn or wheat for bread, yet God rained manna from the skies at night. These ex-slaves had no military training, but God protected them with a giant cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. Water is hard to find in the desert, still God supernaturally provided abundant water from a rock.

Though Israel didn’t know Him by name, Jesus was the Source of supply for every Israelite.

God the Father has already given us every spiritual blessing in Heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). God’s spiritual supply is abundantly given to us today as it was physically to ancient Israel: through Jesus.

He Delivered Us

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Galatians 1:3-4).

Grace and peace come from the Father and Jesus, the Son, who gave Himself. His life was not taken from Him; Jesus willingly gave it (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). He became the sinner’s Substitute before the judgment bench of the Father as the Sacrifice for our sins. Jesus didn’t die for His own sins. He didn’t sacrifice Himself to protest racial or gender oppression. The cross wasn’t His way of providing us with physical health, wealth, and our “Best Life Now.” He paid for our sinfulness by His death, and not by our attempts at obedience or good behavior. He surrendered Himself for our sins so that He might deliver us from this present evil age.

Jesus gave Himself to deliver or rescue out from the power of this present evil age. As believers, we live in a world dominated by sin and opposed to God until the day we land on Heaven’s shore, but we are delivered out of its power and grip right now.

The world operates under Satan’s appointed and temporary rule (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 5:19), but God, in Christ, has freed us out of its power so that we are in the world, but not of it (John 17:11, 14-18; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 5:5).

By His death, Jesus substituted Himself for us, rescuing us out of the clutches of this evil world. But it’s no value to go out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire. He freed us from something evil and gave us something blessed instead. He translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13), reconciling us to the Father.

Why would the Father give us grace and peace? Why did Christ give Himself to death? Why would we be delivered from this world? Because it’s the eternal and pre-determined will of our God and Father. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places because before time began, He chose to do so (Ephesians 1:3).