On Sunday Morning

JFK

Nearly a decade before I was born, President John Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address: My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

In America, this attitude has become a platitude. Kennedy’s words are long forgotten as people routinely fight each other to get more rather than to consider what they may freely contribute.

Sadly, this same mentality pervades the church set. We ask: What can I get by going to church? What will God, or the church, or the pastor, or the musicians, or the people there give to me today?

People attend church for the social experience. They seek a smiling face, friendship or a handout. They want heart-stirring music, an emotional charge, or a platform for income equality and gender-fluid politics. Others make it a cover of godliness to hide a lust for material possessions or a place to lurk after vulnerable, hurting people.

The Bible portrays the Church as a spiritual organism in a material world. It pictures the Son of God coming to Earth to reveal the Father and be the redemption for man’s sin. Christ’s mission wasn’t social engineering or political revolution, but ending sin and death. Jesus is eternal life rather than health or wealth here and now.

Few ever arrive Sunday morning and ask, “What will God receive from me here today?

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him (Habakkuk 2:20).

 

Greater Works

Lake County, Oregon, USA
Lake County, Oregon

He who believes in Me the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:12-13)

Think of the works of Jesus and what comes to mind? He walked on water, cast out demons, knew the thoughts of others, multiplied food, preached the gospel of the Kingdom, healed the deaf, gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, cured the diseased, raised the dead, forgave sin, and gave eternal life. That’s quite a list of works!

Jesus claimed that each of His works was actually a revelation of the character of the Father (John 10:25; 14:10).

On the night of His betrayal and arrest, Jesus told the 11 disciples that they would do His works and greater works because He was going back to Heaven. What are “greater works”?

Some people believe that the “greater works” means miracles of greater power. To these people I like to ask, “What is more powerful than the works Jesus did 2,000 years ago? What could be greater than raising the dead, forgiving sins, giving eternal life, and feeding tens of thousand with few sardines and bites of bread? If you have greater power than Jesus, you are greater than God!”

Jesus could not, and did not, mean more powerful without diminishing His deity to you the creature!

The gospel record shows that Jesus never traveled more than 150 miles from His birthplace. Both His message and works were limited to a tiny sliver of ground known as Israel, about the size of Lake County in my home state of Oregon, only 8,019 square miles. Yet within only  a decade of His death, the apostles took the Gospel of salvation into Africa, Asia, and Europe. They multiplied His works throughout the known world and salvation changed the course of human history.

Each of His works, Jesus said, were done to glorify the Father through Him. “Greater works” doesn’t mean that we can do something more powerful than the en-fleshed God could do, that’s heresy! It means that Christians would spread the Evangel around the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

How to Know God

knowing-godYou search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).

Most people think of the Bible as either a rule book or a story book, when in fact it is a divine Book revealing God in the Person of Jesus Christ.

It didn’t take long before people, including the Jewish leaders, took notice of Jesus. By night, one of them, a Pharisee named Nicodemus approached Jesus to find out who He really was.

There’s no record of the conversation until Nicodemus said, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him (John 3:2).

In the two simple words we know, Nicodemus revealed how the Jewish leaders were gaining spiritual knowledge and discerning truth. Everything they knew about God and how He worked was by personal experience and observation.

What did the Jewish leaders know? First, they’d observed that Jesus was a miracle-worker; second, they believed that the miracles proved that Jesus had been sent by God; and third, the concluded that because of the miracles, the Jewish rulers should listen to Jesus.

Was personal experience and observance the way to discern truth and gain spiritual knowledge? Jesus didn’t think so. He said that their method for knowledge and truth was wrong. Instead, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Seeing God’s ways requires a new birth, a spiritual transformation, not seeing miracles.

Nicodemus was honest enough to admit that he didn’t know everything he should have known and that he was thinking in material, physical terms and not spiritual terms. How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? (John 3:4).

Spiritual knowledge and truth begins by knowing God, and knowing God requires what Jesus called a re-birth. There is no other way. The only foundation for knowing God is to know the Bible, for the Bible is the testimony of Jesus.

Past Feeling

img_20170126_082553572Sorry to show you this, but it’s a callus on the bottom of my big toe. It’s been there as long as I can remember.

A callus forms by repeated pressure or rubbing on the skin. The skin then forms into a hard layer, completely dead and long past any feeling.

This is exactly how the Bible describes the soul of a person alienated from the life of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

In the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Like the body in the graveyard is beyond hearing – no matter how witty your remarks or loud your oratory – only the One who conquered death can speak life where death reigns in the sin-hardened soul.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

Scare the Hell

Scare the Hell 10 2015Marcus went to bed earlier than usual. The morning would bring a special day for the 13-year old. He was trying out for his junior high school basketball team and needed to be rested and ready to make the squad.

From out of the hallway he heard the clock chime its familiar tune. It was 2 am. “So much for going to bed early if I don’t fall asleep early,” he thought to himself.

A short time later Marcus awoke to a screeching sound and the smell of smoke. In the same hallway where the clock chimed every hour hung the smoke alarm. He heard his parents yelling and his two baby sisters crying. He was scared. Just then his bedroom door smashed open. Marcus jumped hastily from his bed and followed his father through the smoky hallway to the front door. He could feel the searing heat of the flames as he rushed past the kitchen.

Safe outside, the family huddled in the street as the police arrived and then a fire truck. Now every part of the house lit up the night sky. Marcus felt dazed by what he was seeing. Everything he had … everything he knew … it was gone. He was sure he was going to puke.

The young teen turned in the street toward the sidewalk just in time to walk into the path of a passing car, the driver looking at the fire rather than the road. Marcus was dead.

Just because you scare the Hell out of someone with tales of everlasting fire, the mark of the beast, or a world war, doesn’t mean he is safe in the arms of Jesus. Threats and fears don’t convert men; only grace through faith in Jesus saves.

 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Cash Cow

Ever feel like you’re a cash cow with everybody and their brother grabbing at your udder for a squeeze?

Every day the US Post Office delivers the mail to my door where there is another request from a charity for money. My email accounts overflow with requests for money from someone in Nigeria getting married, a widow in Ghana needing help sneaking $35 million dollars out of her country, or a purported US soldier willing to cut me in on his illegal stash of Afghani gold if I send him $50.

None of these want me; they want the money they ignorantly think I possess.

One day Jesus multiplied a few pieces of bread and fish to feed a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children. The following day, everyone in the county and their brothers filled the synagogue to see Jesus! His stories and miracles rocketed Him to sudden fame.

The disciples were impressed by His growing numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Each time the television cameras panned the great crowds at His crusades more people wanted a piece of what He was handing out! He was their meal ticket and a great show too; but Jesus wasn’t impressed.

You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled (John 6:26).

His signs were proof that He was God’s promised Messiah and Saviour. His message called Israel to repentance from sin and to faith in Him. He was their King if they’d accept Him, but Jesus knew the crowds didn’t want Him, they wanted stuff from Him. He was eternal life, but they craved more fish and bread.

By the time Jesus was done preaching his sermon that day, only 12 from the crowd remained and From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:66).

How awful to use a Man for what He can give materially, but reject Him.

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:35).

Original Sin

Original SinI was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).

We often imagine that the newborn baby is like an empty spiritual slate waiting to be written upon. The Bible reveals otherwise. From conception we are sinners and God’s condemnation rests upon our heads like a lead hat.

Jesus said, “He who believes in Him in not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Adam’s one sin was enough to destroy his fellowship with God, cast him from the Garden of Eden, and sentence him to the physical death he’d already experienced spiritually. We are not born innocent, but are already condemned by the sin of Adam, and we spend a lifetime adding layer upon layer of sinful thoughts and deeds to the already filled slate.

There is no magical age when a child becomes accountable as a sinner. No parent has to teach his newborn to sin. From the moment Johnny snatches the ball from his playmate and yells “Mine!” (covetousness) to when Suzy defiantly asserts “No!” (dishonoring her parents), our children are revealed for what they have been since conception: sinners.

Sinners, no matter their age, need a Saviour. Jesus is that Saviour.

As through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift of salvation came to all men, resulting in justification of life (Romans 5:18).

Rivers of Water

rivers-of-waterJohn D Rockfeller  was one of the richest men in the world when he was asked, “How much money is enough?

Rockefeller answered, “Just a little more.

There is something inside of us that is never content with what we have. There’s always a want for a another slice of cheesecake, more love, a bigger house, a newer car, more equality, a slimmer waistline, or just a little more money. I’ve seen the symptoms of those unsatisfied desires and I’ve experienced them.

About six months before His death, Jesus was in Jerusalem for a holiday called the Feast of Tabernacles. Each day of this festival, as a trumpet was blown three times, the Jewish high priest would pour out a small silver pitcher of water upon the parched ground. It was a symbolic prayer for rain at the end of the hot, dry summer and a request for God to send the Messiah.

On the final day of the Feast, as Israelites gathered to watch the high priest’s tradition, Jesus stood and cried out, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38).

The water the high priest poured on the ground didn’t satisfy the dry ground, but Jesus promised to satisfy the spiritual thirst of those who come to Him. He offered more than a mere pitcher of water for the soul, but water in abundant and overflowing rivers.

Every thirsting person which comes to Jesus by faith, finds in Him spiritual, eternal, satisfying, life-giving drink for the soul.

Room Enough for All

oregon-plateHere in the United States, each of our 50 states has different automobile license plates. My state of Oregon offers 34 different looking license plates for passenger cars alone, each an advertisement for our state.

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of license plates from other states. I suspected that people were moving here to Oregon. My suspicion was right. The State of Oregon has the 6th-fastest growing population in America. People from all over the country are moving here in vast numbers.

All these new Oregonians are causing more traffic congestion. They demands schools for their children, new shopping malls, and more houses. What we native Oregonians see as an already overcrowded place is getting even more crowded.

In 1971, Oregon Governor Tom McCall said of visitors to our state, “Come visit; don’t stay. … I urge them to come and come many, many times to enjoy the beauty of Oregon. But I also ask them, for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.

Heaven has no overcrowding.

Jesus said in His Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). He went back to Heaven to prepare a place for each of those God predestined to be His children (Ephesians 1:4-5). There’s no overcrowding and no shortage of space. There’s room enough for all whom He has invited into His house.

Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).