Archive for November 2015

Make God Flesh and Blood

What an amazing concept! Our loving God, an infinite Spirit being, holy, unseen, and transcendent, made Himself a real human being. He longed for us to know Him. He wanted us to trust Him. He wanted to assure us that He understood us. He became like us in every way, sharing our existence, our life, our temptation, our pain, even our death. He became like us so that we could become like Him.

That is incarnation: God made flesh…God become human. God became incarnate in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is no longer with us in physical form. But God’s deep longing to be incarnate has not cooled. He still burns to be seeable and touchable. He still desires to be flesh and blood here on this earth, among the human beings who need to know Him and come to Him. Incarnation is still what He wants.

How can He be incarnate here? We, His children, His Church, are His incarnation. As soon as Jesus returned to the Father, He poured out His own Spirit on all who trusted Him. By the Spirit of God we make God flesh and blood, here and now. We make Him real to needy people. We are His face, His hands, His feet, His heart. We are His love, His compassion, His holiness, His peace, and His unconquerable joy.

Our wonderful God become seeable and touchable. What an amazing possibility! And each of us and all of us can play a part. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Be the Incarnation
Printed Music & Lyrics

Everyone is Invited

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus often described the Kingdom of God by telling stories, or parables. Two of those parables talk about the Kingdom of God as being like a wedding feast, and in both, Jesus casts Himself as the Bridegroom. Both parables tell us something about our relationship to the Bridegroom, and both contain a surprising, even shocking, twist.

The first parable is recorded in Matthew 22:1-14. In it, a king had planned a wedding feast for his son. When all was prepared, those honored by an invitation from the king were unwilling to come. They all claimed to have something more important to do. They all treated the king and his servants with total indifference and disrespect…even to the point of violence. The king responded appropriately.

But he was still intent on filling his banquet hall. How could he celebrate the wedding of his son without guests? His honored, invited guests had proven themselves unworthy of his generosity. So here comes the shocking twist: since the honored guests had disqualified themselves, EVERYONE was invited. The king’s slaves were ordered to go throughout the whole city and urge everyone, high and low, good and bad, to come to the wedding celebration. Everyone could come and feast with the king!

But here comes another twist: one guest is thrown out for being inappropriately dressed. He hadn’t even bothered to dress in his best clean clothes, in a way fitting for such an event. Like those originally invited, he had treated his king and his king’s invitation with indifference and disrespect, so he too was excluded.

So what is the point of the parable? It is summarized in v.14: Many are called, but few are chosen. (NASB)

God’s wedding invitation goes out to all. All may joyfully, freely celebrate with Him and enjoy His abundance. But not all are “chosen” – that is, not all will actually be allowed to taste the feast. Those who insult their King and arrogantly spurn His hospitality will never taste His provision.

The King’s invitation is free, but it carries conditions. We must realize that we have received an invitation from our Sovereign King, and respond with the respect due Him.

Love That Teaches

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” 

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 

We had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:5-7, 9-11, NASB)

“Father” has grown to be the name for God that is most dear and meaningful to me. This personal name expresses intimacy and belonging. It reminds me of His deep love for me as His own son. And when I speak it to Him, the word says, “I love You and trust You and reverence You.”

But the scripture above adds a new side to this picture of God as my Father. It says that God disciplines all His children…including me.

Does that mean that God sends troubles our way? Or perhaps He just allows them, then uses them for our good? I won’t attempt to answer those questions. My concern is what His discipline has to do with me.

I remember when my three children were teenagers. I came to realize that they would only grasp many truths through personal experience. I could talk and talk, but some lessons would never penetrate their shells. Like all of us, they would base their decisions on how they saw the world. Unfortunately, there is so much of the world they hadn’t yet seen. But pain is a great teacher, and they would learn, just as we did.

I think of my own life. If I didn’t experience all the tough times, how much would I really understand of God’s tender, personal love for me? Would I realize that He cares about my finances, my car, my children, my job – everything I care about – and that He is willing to be involved in all those areas?

How often did I cry out in desperation, “Lord, You are able. Why don’t You just take away these desires?” Yet without those shameful failures, would I have learned how totally, constantly I must depend on Him? Would I have tasted the depths of my own self-centeredness, the terrible bondage of sin, or the wonderful freedom of holiness?

Without the demands of family life, would we ever understand the demands of love, or its blessings?

He has spoken so many truths to us in the Bible, and He has called us to simply trust Him. But these truths often don’t come alive for us until we experience life’s discipline.

Remember, God is not a scowling disciplinarian, standing over us with a switch in His hand. I hurt for people who travel through life with a guilt complex, thinking each new trouble is a punishment from God for some failure. Our Father is not like that. He is eager to teach us, eager to lift us and show us how deeply He cares. His heart is anxious to give us His very best, and not even the life of His only Son is too great a price to pay.

Trust Him. Look to Him in everything, and let each situation teach You more about His love for you.

All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. (Psalm 25:10, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Are Children
Printed Music & Lyrics

Kingdom of Peace

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9, NIV)

Peace begins in God.
It begins with His completeness in Himself and
with the love and perfect unity among the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Peace comes to us in Christ.
He who is one with the Father and one with the Spirit
became one of us.
And as we simply trust Him, like children,
He becomes one with us.

When Christ has finished what He has started,
when we are one with Him, we will be
one with the Father and
one with the Spirit as well.
As we are one with them,
we will also be one with each other,
and the peace of God will be perfect and complete.
Creation itself will then be transformed.
As Romans 8 says:

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration…
in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and
brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (vv.19-21, NIV)

Peace will reign in all creation:
no more disharmony; only
completeness, and
full, open, fruitful, unimpaired relationships throughout all reality.
Just imagine!

Beauty and truth,
pleasure and purity,
humanity and holiness,
justice and mercy,
will be full and in perfect harmony,
just as they have always been full and in perfect harmony in God.
Art and science,
celebration and reflection,
giving and receiving,
worship and play
will simply be facets of being in Him constantly and completely.

Everyone will be
beautiful in their God-breathed individuality.
We will be
like Him,
with Him, and
complete in Him

O come, Prince of Peace! 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Sweet Peace
Printed Music & Lyrics

Ezekiel 16

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Unclean. I was unclean to my very core – thoroughly, completely unlovely.
I had no hope or thought of ever being anything else.

You came to me and saw me for exactly what I was, yet You loved me.
You loved me because of who You were, not because of who I was.
There was not a scrap of worth or attractiveness in me.
You loved me because You are loving, not because I was lovable.

You tenderly, thoroughly cleansed me, and I was clean.
You began to share Yourself with me.
Because You loved me, something of You came to life in me.
You made me something other, something more than I had been in myself.
Your life, Your beauty, Your purity began to glow in me,
though before You, I had not a breath of any of these things.
Because You loved me, I grew lovely,
though the loveliness was Yours, not mine.

You proposed marriage. Such wonderful promises You made!
You promised to envelop me in Your love,
to love me deeply, completely, and forever.
You promised to make me more in You than I could ever be on my own.
You asked only that I be faithful to You—
that I give myself completely and exclusively to You.
You lavished more and more of all Your best on me—
all that You had and all that You were.

Sometimes I forgot that my loveliness was actually Your loveliness, and
I took what You had given me, what You had made me,
and used it selfishly, proudly to serve myself.
Though You were faithful, I was not.
Sometimes You had to let me taste the bitter fruit of the choices I made.

But Your love never gave up on me.
You forgave me, and You drew me back to Yourself.

My Lord, my Love, You are still drawing me closer,
and I am still discovering how Your love can change me, cleanse me, and renew me.

I love You, my Lord!
I am Yours, completely and forever!

All Credit, No Blame

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2, NASB)

I identify with this verse, which is from “the last words of David” recorded in 2 Samuel 23:1-7. I too am conscious of Almighty God speaking through me. But sometimes I struggle with how to characterize this to others. I don’t want to claim a higher, purer inspiration for my words than the truth merits. All the blame for my stumbling words is mine and mine alone.

At the same time, I am deeply conscious that He is speaking through me. I don’t deserve the credit for anything good that comes from what I say or write. All truth comes from Him. I’m also conscious that the way I express that truth, the words chosen, also frequently comes from Him. He alone is all truth, beauty, and elegance. We cannot even affirm that “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3, NASB). Words, phrases, and lines sometimes come to me fully formed, with no “constructing” necessary on my end. Where do His perfections end and my childlike efforts begin? I don’t know, nor do I know how to properly praise Him for graciously involving me in the wonderful things He does.

Father, all good comes from You. You include me in Your work, not because I am good, but because You are good. I have no good, know no good, speak no good outside of You. Teach me how to give You all the credit but none of the blame for the magnificent truth You beautifully share and I so inadequately express. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Speak Your Word, My Father
Printed Music & Lyrics


During Advent we see Jesus, not as flesh and blood reality, but as a promise, a hope, a silhouette of our coming salvation. During Christmas He is still a helpless baby who only does…what babies do. Yet even before the human Jesus did anything, simply through His coming He painted a beautiful portrait of our God:

  • This God has worked for millennia to save us from death and bring us back to Himself. His plan was born long before we were, and it will continue until it is completed.
  • While we wait for that completion, He encourages and draws us through promises. And He carefully keeps every promise, even when the wait seems endless. Christ’s birth proves that God keeps His promises. Be assured that His promised second coming will happen as well.
  • God describes Himself in terms we can understand. But no description, no name, no combination of roles does Him justice. He is a King, yet a Servant…a Mighty Warrior, yet a Shepherd. He is both Prophet and Priest…a powerful Lion and a Lamb to be slaughtered. Our God overflows all these descriptions.
  • God is also a patient gardener. He loves to grow things! He is growing for us a life that is deep and rich and fruitful beyond our wildest imaginings. But it starts from a tiny seed and must grow slowly and naturally. We have to nurture it. We have to wait for it.
  • Beyond all these, first and foremost, our God is a Father.
  • This Father dearly loves “ordinary” people. He loves them like His own children.
  • God embraces human life from the roots up. This 100% God became 100% human that we might become 100% like Him. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See How God’s Flower Blossoms
Printed Music & Lyrics

Undying Love

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Isaiah 54:1-10

The Old Testament prophets frequently talk about God’s relationship with His people as a marriage. Out of love, each makes promises to the other. They make a covenant, a contract, an agreement – not only a legal contract, but a contract of two hearts. They promise to honor, love, and be forever faithful. But Israel made promises that she could not keep and did not keep. What happened to the marriage then?

One of the most striking things about the Old Testament prophecies is their frequent pairing of horrific judgment with wonderful renewal. Israel sinned, repeatedly, grievously, over a long period of time, with total indifference toward their God. As a result, God was forced to let her reap what she had sown. But He would no more get the fierce words of judgment out of His mouth than He would be forgiving her, comforting her, wooing her to Himself.

He is a lover, a husband, whose love for His unfaithful wife simply will not die.

Love is as strong as death…
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7, NASB)

Read Isaiah 54:1-10. Israel’s sin and God’s judgment have been deep and severe. Israel has flaunted her prolonged unfaithfulness to her Husband. For a time, she has been so devastated that she seemed like a widow, left completely and helplessly alone. But now how does God speak to her?

  • He cannot stay angry with her (v.9).
  • He shows her compassion, though she deserves none. Though she has wronged Him, His concern is for her (v.7).
  • He reaffirms His everlasting, never-dying love for her (vv.8, 10).
  • He takes away all her shame, all her disgrace. Imagine the deep shame of having been unfaithful to your spouse, then imagine the spouse removing it, completely and forever. What forgiveness! What renewal! (vv.4, 6)
  • He tells her again that He, the Creator of all, the Lord of all the heavenly armies, the Redeemer, is her loving husband (v.5).
  • He joyfully says she should make more room in their tent, for children are coming – lots of children! New life will be born from their love (vv.1-3).

Father, thank You for Your passionate, undying, life-giving love for us!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Give Thanks to God
Printed Music & Lyrics

Lord, Today

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14, NIV)

My life is a breath.
I appear, then disappear.
I can’t speak with confidence about the next moment,
much less about the future.

When I think about the future,
it usually turns to useless speculation and worry.
I get anxious about my own selfish concerns, and
I miss today’s opportunities for blessing those around me.

Lord, I don’t know what the future holds.
But I know You are there.
I know You are working today
to draw us further into the fullness of Your great blessings.

Lord Jesus, today matters.
Today I will keep my eyes and my heart fixed on You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Holy in You
Printed Music & Lyrics

Your Kingdom Come, Father!

The mall near our house isn’t doing well. As a business person myself, familiar with the pain of financial struggle, I empathize. It saddens me to see so many store spaces unrented and so many shops crammed with merchandise but empty of customers. The mall’s attractive façade puts on a smiling face, but its emptiness sings a mournful song of failure and loss.

But today, Father, You whisper to me that this is the story of all our world. Separated from You, separated from its Creator and His life, His wisdom, and His power, this world is bankrupt. It is doomed to struggle, emptiness, bitter disappointment, and utter failure.

But I hear new management is coming to the mall, and they have a vision. They have a plan, and they are working. They hope to transform this shell into a bustling, useful, successful shopping area.

You are working as well, our Father. You have promised that You will transform our dying world into a new creation, overflowing with life, love, fulfillment, fruitfulness, and joy. We have seen You work before, and we know You always accomplish Your purpose.

Your Kingdom come, Father. Your Kingdom come!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Hallelujah Hymn
Printed Music & Lyrics