Archive for February 2015

Jesus the Word

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

John 1:1-3

Do the opening verses of John remind you of any other passage of scripture?

John opens the story of Jesus with a retelling of the creation account from Genesis 1. He makes the parallels obvious:

  • In the beginning
  • “The Word” reminds us of God speaking the world into existence.
  • Darkness…emptiness…light

But John writes to give Jesus His proper place in the creation account. When all things were created, Jesus was at the very heart of the process.

What does John mean by referring to Jesus as “the Word”? What is a word? It is a means of self-expression, of conveying one’s will, intent, heart, and mind. So when John refers to Jesus as the Word of God, he is saying that Jesus is God’s expression of His own will, intent, heart, and mind.

But remember from Genesis 1 that God’s Word is more than just an expression of intent. God’s Word carries the full authority of our Sovereign Creator. He speaks, and it happens.

Jesus is that sovereign, active, powerful, creative Word of God. Jesus is not just an expression of God’s will. He is God’s will in action, bringing into reality all that the Father desires and commands.

All things came into being through Him [through Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3, NASB)

By Him [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17, NASB)

Since the very beginning, Jesus has been God’s Word, bringing to reality all the Father’s will. It was true when God spoke worlds into existence. It is true today. Think of all our loving Creator wants for us and for His creation. Jesus Christ is His sovereign, creative Word, bringing about all the Father’s will. He is God’s sovereign, creative Word in you, fully accomplishing all your Creator wants for you.

Reassurances

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Isaiah 42:13-17; 43:14-21

When you need reassurance, picture these truths from Isaiah:

  • When you are threatened, your Creator charges out like a mighty warrior, raising a war cry, doing battle on your behalf. (42:13)
  • In His deep passion for you, your Maker is like a woman in labor, groaning, gasping, panting, crying out for your best. (42:14)
  • Your weaknesses and limitations do not limit God. He can do things for you that you could never do for yourself, things you could never imagine. (42:15-16)
  • When the situation looks the darkest, remember that you have not yet heard the end of the story. (43:14-15)
  • The God who parted the Red Sea to let His people through can move any difficulties out of your path. (43:16-17)
  • Your God did all these mighty deeds in the past, but He is not limited to the past. When His people are in need, the Creator delights to create something brand new. He is not done creating! (43:18-19)

Our Creator God is not bound
by the past or the present,
by our weaknesses or limitations,
by obstacles or roadblocks,
by norms or impossibilities.
Nothing can restrain His passionate love for His people.

Wisdom in Our Ignorance

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33, NIV)

We human beings are inherently ignorant. Physically we live a fraction of a second on a grain of sand in a universe that is ancient and vast beyond all imagining. Our perspective and objectivity are minuscule. Our view of truth is highly tainted by our personal prejudices and selfish desires. To claim that we understand reality, or that our minds and limited senses are an accurate gauge of reality, is laughable. Ignorance is common to each and every one of us.

God in His greatness has chosen to reveal Himself to us. And by degree He graciously helps us understand reality as we understand Him. He has given us His own Spirit to enlighten and guide us.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV). As we trust His revealed Truth and faithfully speak the Truth and live the Truth, we need to remember our limitations and the weakness of the vessel in which we hold His treasure. Our understanding of our great and boundless God is always only partial.

Yet God’s promise to us is this:

  • God, who through the millennia has spoken to us in many different ways, has spoken fully and finally in Jesus Christ, His own Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
  • In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10a, NIV).

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3). If you desire wisdom, if you want understanding, seek Him.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Truth of God Is Greater Far
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

A Word from Your Creator

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Isaiah 43:1-7; 51:12-16 

Hear your God speaking to you:
“I am Your Creator,
your Maker,
the One who formed You,
the Lord,
the Holy One,
your Savior,
the One stretched out the heavens and founded the earth.
I know your face.
I call you by name.
You belong to Me.
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you cross raging rivers, they will not flow over you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be burned.
Why?
Because of Who I am.
I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel.
You are precious to me, and
I Myself am with you.

“Child, it makes no sense for you to be afraid of all these lesser things.
I created them, and they bow to me.
They do what I tell them.
When trouble threatens, you tend to forget Me,
that I am the Sovereign Lord of all, and
I am with you, and I love you.
When you’re concerned about something, turn to Me.
Talk to me.
Trust me.

“Look! I have covered you with my own hand.
Nothing can trouble you here unless you let it.
You are mine.
Rest in my peace.”

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Be Still, My Child
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Our Single-minded Father

Father, this morning You helped my heart to grasp
what my mind had dimly known:

Everything You have allowed me to go through in my life,
everything I am going through even now,
is to build my relationship with You:
all the years of frustration,
all the loneliness,
all the financial struggles,
all the endless waiting,
all those disappointments.

You have isolated me to Yourself.
You have hemmed me in.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me (Psalm 139:5, NASB).
By my circumstances and by Your Spirit within me
You have turned me repeatedly, persistently toward You.
You have made Yourself
my only comfort,
my only hope,
my only unchanging Rock of truth,
my only refuge.

Father, the unfailing faithfulness of Your eternal love swamps
my tiny attention span,
my childish self-centeredness,
my meager, stumbling faith.
I am a child learning to walk.
Like any eager parent, You call me,
lift me,
point me,
hold my hands, and
draw me toward Yourself.

Sometimes we wonder whether faith is entirely a gift of Your sovereign choice,
or whether it is our doing.
But You are like one building a campfire.
You work to create a tiny spark,
then patiently blow it into flame by Your mighty but gentle breath.
I have to respond,
but all the doing is Yours, my loving Father.

Continue to patiently, persistently draw me.
And when I am tempted to despair or complain,
help me to remember and look to You again.
You are my Father, and I am
gladly,
proudly,
humbly Your child.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Simply Seeing You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

When Loss Is Gain

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel
will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35, NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame, and
sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:2-3, NIV)

Jesus calls all His followers to sacrifice themselves
as He sacrificed Himself.

He laid down His life “for the joy set before him”.
He freely submitted to the cross, “scorning its shame”;
that is, He viewed the shame of the cross as insignificant,
unworthy of consideration.

He modeled this definition of sacrifice:
to turn loose of something good
in order to grasp something greater.
This is the sacrifice to which our Lord calls us.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Lay Aside Your Passing Pleasures
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Whom or What Are You Worshiping?

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Jeremiah 10:1-16

God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah about 600 B.C. But if God were to raise him up and speak to our society today, what would he say?

“People, your gods are what you seek, what you trust and live for, what you look to for ultimate meaning. They are what define you. So look logically at who or what you are worshiping. Your gods are no gods at all!

“Material goods are too temporary and shallow to fulfill the dreams and desires your Creator has planted in you. They can’t change who you are inside, and you can’t take them with you when your body dies. Look at them, for heaven’s sake! They’re only wood and stone, metal and plastic!

“Money is simply a medium of human exchange, with no intrinsic value. It can only bring what human beings have to give, and no human being can give you what you truly need.

“Comforts and pleasures are fleeting sensations. Don’t spend so much effort trying to temporarily FEEL better. You can BE better from the inside out, and forever!

“No matter how you take care of your health and appearance, age, sickness, and death will overtake you. You are spending too much of your life trying to keep what you are sure to lose.

“All these things are promising you a meaningful and satisfying life. Whose promises do you believe? If you want life, go to the only Source of life, the One Who made you.”

The LORD is the true God;
He is the living God and the everlasting King…
It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom;
And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens…
The Maker of all is He. (Jeremiah 10:10, 12, 16, NASB)

Why Natural Disasters?

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Genesis 3:1-19 

If God commands all nature, why are there natural disasters? It seems logical that either God causes natural disasters, or He doesn’t control nature, right?

We can’t always say why God does this or that. His thoughts and ways are far beyond our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). We only know what He tells us:

  1. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. (Psalm 145:17, NASB) 
  1. In His sovereignty, God has chosen to give us the privilege and responsibility of making meaningful decisions, within certain broad limits. We decide our actions, then He allows us to experience the results of those decisions.
  1. God appointed us stewards of this world, and sometimes natural disasters are caused by our own greed, neglect, or mismanagement.
  1. In a general sense, all natural disasters are apparently the result of our original decision to disobey God and go our own way. When we corrupted ourselves, we also corrupted the natural world over which God placed us as rulers.

The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility…in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:19-22, NASB)

But even though God allows us to suffer the results of our decisions, He is still sovereign, and love is still His pledge. A few verses later in the same chapter Paul assures us:

We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

God’s purposes for His people extend far beyond this world. We can never understand God and His ways if we focus only on this present world and think of physical death as the ultimate end. God’s love and purposes do not stop when this body dies.

Sharing His Life

My wife and I have enjoyed browsing through antique shops. I got hooked on them years ago when I collected old books. So when she and I got the chance to spend a weekend away together, we decided to tour the small towns nearby and visit their shops.

The weekend was wrapping up, and we were in Gower, Missouri. In a small store there I came across a funeral card for a man who had died in 1887. Reading the card, I couldn’t help thinking about that man. He brought to mind the countless individuals around the world who have come and gone, seemingly unknown and unremembered. So many people. So many generations. We are like flowers. We bloom and proudly spread our petals toward the sun, only to die as quickly as we came, leaving little sign of our coming or our going. What difference does our living make? What does it matter that I, or any of us, were ever here?

We are surrounded by a stream of death that flows unceasingly through our world, engulfing all life, threatening to wash away all concept of meaning and significance. For me, antique shops quietly testify to that. They are graveyards for our treasures. When we’re gone, the things we counted precious are left behind to sell for pennies or to gather dust. They sit there on the shelf, mocking the foolishness and futility of our lives–lives hungrily invested in what is doomed to quickly pass.

As I stood there and saw myself as part of that stream of death, I was reminded that there is more.

I am not just a physical body that is dying even now. The life in me is the life of my Creator. He has shared it with me, and His life is unending. He is not a God of death and darkness, but of life and light. His life will not die with this body, and this world is not His final arena of existence or meaning.

What is more, I can know Him. I can know Him personally and live in a relationship with Him. I can please Him and talk to Him. I can learn of Him and grow in Him. I can fulfill the purpose for which I, and all this, was created.

That’s what I want above anything else. I want to become the person He designed me to be.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Ash Wednesday Hymn
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Psalm 104: Immerse Your Senses in God

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Psalm 104:1; Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23 

Most of us moderns are fundamentally different than people of earlier generations in one important respect: we spend so little time outdoors. When you spend time out in nature, you start to notice things: the majesty of the sky and the vastness of the world above and beyond; the beauty of the landscape; the movements of the wind and clouds; the birds, with their colors, calls, flying patterns, and habits; and so much more.

The writer of Psalm 104 is outdoors, and he sees God. He looks around him, and he sees the greatness, the splendor, the majesty of God. Creation helps him imagine and know the unseen God.

If you were absolutely intent on communicating a vital message to every human being on earth, to every person of every nation, every age, every ability, every personality, throughout all time, how would you do it? There are thousands of languages in the world today, and each is constantly changing. Levels of education vary. Technologies come and go. How would you communicate with each and every individual?

God wanted us to know Him, so He painted a vivid picture of Himself in creation itself. He wrote all the essential truths about Himself into the world around us. Creation speaks about Him in a way that is above and beyond all human language.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4, NASB)

Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NASB)

Do you want a living picture of God, one that will engulf all your senses? Go out for a walk in nature, and keep your eyes and your heart open.

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