To All Generations

www.bible.com/1713/eph.3.20-21.csb

Who do you think Paul is talking about here? Is he talking about Jesus? You might think so, but Jesus is mentioned secondarily in this passage. He isn’t primary. To find the subject of this passage, you have to go all the way back to verse fourteen, where Paul writes, “I kneel before the Father.” Interesting huh? Context!

Now, does it change how we read this text? Well, not a lot. But it does show us a bit about how Paul thought of God. You see, of all the terms Paul could have used here, his favorite is “Father” when referring to God. This of course is in reference to Jesus, the Son. But Father is also important to us as believers in Christ, since we are also “sons” of God through faith. While there is one Son, the Son, we are also “sons” and “children” of God. And it is pretty remarkable.

I want you to notice something else about this verse. He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. I know that when I pray to God, and petition Him for certain outcomes, my imagination can only go so far. I can imagine a healing or a relief from stress or something minor like that. But God has infinite creativity. He is able to “do” beyond anything that we can “ask or think.” God “does” more before breakfast than I could ever imagine thinking. So in our limited capacity, we can ask, we can hope, and we can imagine, but God can DO. And His work surpasses anything that we could come up with.

I can remember when I was between churches and just bumming out, feeling sorry for myself about what God’s purpose and role for me was. Never in a million years would I ever have imagine looking in the want ads in the newspaper for a ministry position, but God did. My wife happened to see it first, showed me the classified, and thus began a four year ministry at Browns Corner Chapel outside Scipio, IN. I would have never imagined it, but God did, and God arranged circumstances to get me started there. God is like that.

The last piece I wanted to focus on is from my title above. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Bible is an old dusty book that belongs to history. There are books like that, but this isn’t one of them. This book, though it describes historical events and was written nearly 2000 years ago, is fresh every day. It wasn’t just written to the first generation, but to every generation. Jesus is just as alive and real today as He was for your grandparents and your ancestors. You can have as close a relationship with Jesus as the Apostle Paul, or even as Peter did, if you want it. Do you?

Lord Jesus, Heavenly Father, sweet Holy Spirit, I cannot help but be awed by what I see and hear. Your word continues to stand today as the best source of authority, Your message of hope that I will ever read. I cannot but be in awe and wonder by how Your old book still speaks. I am grateful that even such a one as I, far removed from the events of the Bible, can still read and be blessed, as if I too were participating in the events as they unfold. I too can experience the presence of God in my life just as the early disciples did, because You are just as real today as 2000 years ago. Lord, however I may serve You today, let me serve. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Genesis 40 Revisited

Genesis 40 presents a short story that 1) establishes Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, and 2) provides a connection to the Pharaoh later on (when he has disturbing dreams). As such, the chapter feels like connective tissue for the larger narrative, not really significant in itself, but important because it connects the larger story. I really had not given this story much thought on it’s own, until I began to notice significant details, it seems to me, carefully chosen details, that demonstrate significant prophetic elements of the Christ and His dual nature.

To summarize, the story is about two servants of Pharaoh, the cupbearer and the chief baker, who for unknown reasons are thrown into prison where Joseph is. They both have striking dreams which make them unsettled. As Joseph interprets both dreams they discover their unique fates three days hence. The cupbearer will be restored to Pharaoh’s service. The chief baker will be beheaded and impaled on a tree. As you read through the chapter, it becomes obvious that elements of Christ’s story are involved.

The cupbearer represents Christ’s divine nature. He was sent to prison, just as Christ was sent to earth, where he resided for some time. Since he is called a cupbearer, he resembles Christ’s role to the One who bears the cup of God’s wrath. It is because of Pharaoh’s fierce anger that the cupbearer is in prison. But this cupbearer will be resurrected after three days and restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court, just as Christ died, was in the grave three days, and was resurrected to the right hand of the Father. Christ bore the full cup of the wrath of God in Himself, and even prayed that the cup would pass from Him in the garden. Christ was the divine Cupbearer raised to life.

The chief baker, on the other hand, did not see life at the end of three days. As the baker of bread, he represents the body of Christ, just as the cupbearer represents the blood. The baker’s specific charge is never given, just as Jesus was innocent before God. The baker’s three days preceded his death, both beheaded and impaled. He could never be hung by a rope as hanging by gallows had not been invented yet, and he had no head to hang him. He was impaled on a tree.

The specifics to each man, their dreams, and their fulfillments could have been anything. All that was needed was to get Joseph established as an interpreter of dreams and a man at Pharaoh’s side at the right time, and yet, these two men and their two dreams offer pieces of the Christ story to those who look for them. Though the two men themselves are incidental, it seems to me that their stories, intertwined with Joseph, are intended to point to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Joseph in many ways is the Savior of Israel in Genesis. So when we see an episode like Genesis 40 that contains “a filler story”, we need to stop, take a look around, and ask questions like, “why is this story here?” Even insignificant stories in the Bible are important.

The same God who gave these men their dreams also gave Joseph their interpretation. Though no one realized it at the time, God was telling Joseph the story of His own Son, His death by crucifixion, His sacrificial death, even though He’s done no wrong. For the Father’s fierce anger over sin He would bear that wrath, but would also be raised to glory, through these two men, caught in circumstances bigger than themselves, God would tell the story of His Son, who is both bread and cup, flesh and blood, Man and God. All the pieces are there. They are just in a different order.

The problem with this is that no one else in Scripture picks up on it. No one tugs at this thread to unravel the story and show it as Christological. Far less significant texts in Genesis are dealt with Christologically, like Genesis 3:15, the character of Adam, the “seed” of Abraham, the character of Abraham and his justification by faith, the opposition of Hagar and Sarah as Sinai and Zion, etc. Joseph is never treated Christologically in the New Testament. He’s never considered a type of Christ formally, and he,s only mentioned in Acts 7 in Stephen’s sermon, in Hebrews 11:22 and Revelation 7:8. Only Stephen takes any time with Joseph, but not as a Christ figure. In the Old Testament, it seems his progeny, Ephraim, soiled the name of Joseph, as Ephraim became synonymous with the rebellious northern Kingdom of Israel.

So as it is, take this interpretation with a grain of salt. There is no New Testament precedent for taking this story for any more than it is, but as it stands, the details are fascinating. As some have said, Jesus can be found in all the books of the Old Testament. As Jesus said, those with eyes to see and ears to hear will find the kingdom. Maybe this is one place to look.

The Company of Mockers

www.bible.com/1713/psa.1.1-2.csb

I have always loved David’s progression in this passage, from wicked, to sinners, to mockers. It is a progression from passive to active in their wickedness. The wicked are those whose mind is turning from good to evil. They are thinking about wicked things and working things out. The sinners are those who’ve taken up the mantle of wickedness and sinned against God. They have tired of the cramped Laws and openly rebelled against their Lord. But the last group, the company of mockers, is the worst of the lot. Not only are they wicked, and are sinners, but they they mock the God of heaven. They have denied God, for they know the penalty for their actions should God actually exist. This is why (some) atheists actively hate God and Christians, even they don’t “beleive” in His existence. They must continually deny what their own spirit tells them, forcing them soul down into dark places so that their “reasonable” mind can drown out the evidence that surrounds them.

But atheists are not the biggest problem for Christians, not by long a long shot. For Christians, our biggest problem is ourselves. As David writes, there are plenty of opportunities to walk in counsel of the wicked (“try this, do that! No one will find out!”) or to stand with sinners (“Sin isn’t so bad once you get used to it. Don’t you have a God who forgives sin? What’s one more sin?”) or to sit with the mockers (“You call yourself a Christian? Then why don’t you . . .?”) As Christians, we certainly feel the pressure from the world to be more like them, to fit in and conform so that we don’t stand out.

But what is the strength of the Christian? The written word of God. In this we meditate, day and night. In the Word we find a ready defense against temptation, just as our Master did. A Christian who is equipped with the Word will never find it failing, but it will always provide an answer when your faith is challenged.

I’m sorry to say, but the greatest threat to the Christian isn’t the world, but the ease of which Satan’s arguments can slip past our defenses when we don’t know the word of God. If we don’t study the book, we will be wide open to attack. Be diligent to study the word of God so that you will not be unprepared in the day of temptation.

Dear Lord, help me strong in the face of certain attack by the evil one. I know you have laid out for me everything I will need to know in You book. Help me each and every day to open Your word and apply what I’ve read to my life, so that my gaps will close and I will stand in the day of temptation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

As Scripture Has Said

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.7.38.csb

When you start quoting the Bible, people stop listening.

I’ve noticed this, of course, in ordinary conversation with people when talking about spiritual things. Many people like to talk about their spiritual experiences, conversations with God, and visions they’ve had from Him. But when I start to quote Scripture, then conversation seems to take a different turn. It’s all fine and dandy when they can control their conversation with God, but when God’s authoritative Word comes into play, they have nothing else they want to talk about.

But coming across this gem this morning, I hadn’t notice before what Jesus is talking about. He doesn’t quote from a single Scripture, but the message of several scriptures:

The LORD will continually lead you; he will feed you even in parched regions. He will give you renewed strength, and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring that continually produces water.
(Isa 58:11)

Moreover, on that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it will happen both in summer and in winter.
(Zec 14:8)

He will pour the water out of his buckets, and their descendants will be like abundant water; their king will be greater than Agag, and their kingdom will be exalted.
(Num 24:7)

The closest is Isaiah, but the others point to it. In essence, being a follower of Christ (and God) will allow you to both be filled with His life-giving water (remember that the Middle East is often a parched land, so water was an important resource) but also be a conduit for such water for others.

What’s more important is how Jesus frames this quote. He doesn’t apply it to a single prophet, but to the whole of Scripture. It is as if all of Scripture were designed for this purpose: to fill people up with the presence of God! It isn’t the message of one or two prophets, but of the whole of the 39 books of the Old Testament Scripture, and by implication, the remaining 27 to be written in the New.

So if you need a lift today, a filling, might I suggest that instead of waiting on God to “send you a word” or a “dream”, pick up a Bible. Many people who cry out to the heavens for a word from God ignore the Bible sitting at their elbow. If the whole book seems overwhelming to you, and you don’t know where to start, start here. Start in John. Read through it. The whole Bible is designed to fill you, so start here. Don’t demand that God answer your questions. That is futile. But listen for God’s voice. As you begin to take the words of Scripture into yourself, you will become more familiar with it, and will know when He is speaking. Tune out the other voices in your world, just for a time, so that you can focus your attention. He will speak to you.

Dear God, I have let so many other voices speak into my life, but I have neglected the One that matters most. Please forgive me this indiscretion and help me focus again on the Voice that made me, loves me, and died for me so that I could live. Help me listen again to Your voice so that my paths will be made straight. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

In Deep

www.bible.com/1713/isa.55.11.csb

Isaiah is probably the one book in the Old Testament that reads like the New Testament when it comes to showing God as a loving, inviting, gracious God who calls all to come to Him and be saved. Many times as I’ve read through Isaiah, it didn’t feel like an old dusty book talking to old dusty people. It often felt like God was talking to me. Before putting this blog together today, I felt the same reading through Isaiah 55. I recommend it. For it feels just as fresh today as it ever has. It is hopeful, inviting, and makes you feel like the Lord is talking to you.

That’s why many verses out of this short chapter often get quoted, because they are so relatable. How is that? How can a book that was written and put together 2800 years ago (give or take) still sound like its today’s sermon? Because that is the essence of what God is saying in this verse. His word does not return to Him, without first stirring the soul and echoing in the chambers of the heart. His word, like rain as he explains in verse 10, falls upon the earth and causes growth. His word causes change. You cannot read His word and come away the same. It changes you. In burrows deep inside you, whether you accept it or reject it, to take root in you and cause you to think differently about things.

But that is what the word of God is supposed to do. It is to plow your heart, fertilize it with good seed, so that the Spirit can do His work in you. The word breaks up fallow ground and it fertilizers ground within which the seed is growing. The word is God’s agent for both creating new places for the Spirit to work, and for places for the Spirit to continue its good work until completion. This is why we always need the word, whether we are believers or before we become believers.

As you read today, may I encourage you to continue to let the word do it necessary work. Allow it deep inside. It will not harm you. It may hurt, but it is the kind of hurt that surgery must do in order to heal. Trust in God’s word. It will always tell you the truth, which is something we don’t often like to hear. Let it do God’s work in you, and let it drown out the voices of falsehood and lies. Let it work in you, and you will be refreshed as with a spring of fresh water in a garden.

Lord God, may my heart be open to Your word, and Your word alone today. I will hear many voices of discouragement and doubt, but in Your alone I may trust. Many will try to discourage me, but I know that in You, I do not fear. Help me Father to trust Your voice and work your greater work in me through Your word and Your Spirit. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Sick and Tired

www.bible.com/1713/psa.51.10.csb

Ooh it’s Friday! Wow. Color me uninterested. Whereas I was supposed to be on the road and traveling to a conference this morning, I am very much grounded as our venue canceled classes last week and closed up for the semester. So that means no eating out, no seeing some new places, no hanging out with people smarter than me. Well, that’s just fine.

If you are suffering from the effects of social isolation and distancing, then you know what I’m talking about. Nevertheless, I still have a job, in healthcare, which is committed to staying open and running throughout this crisis. Well, that’s just fine. It gives me a reason to get out of the house everyday.

That being said, we have a lot of sick and tired going on, generally this week has been weird. We can’t go do anything but go to the grocery store. Restaurants are closed. Movie theater is closed. Schools and churches have buttoned up. It’s just home and work. And I’m lucky to have both. But imagine a lot of folks are climbing the walls about now.

Something that we could ask for this morning is a clean, renewed heart. The ones we have need tending. I look forward to adventures and travel simply because they refresh me, and make me appreciate my own home that much more when I am away from it. But I also know that this world is not my home. I have a much better place and a much better homecoming waiting for me, and it makes this home a little less familiar.

My prayer this morning, especially as we are forced to shelter in place and so on, is to cultivate our spirit, remind ourselves that while we are warm and dry, we still need to prepare our spirit. We need to work on that holy book we keep around the house, need to be familiar with it. We have this opportunity to explore it, study it, begin to pieces together that have baffled us. There will always be an endless supply of distraction, but only one book will renew you’re spirit. Only one book will make you look at your world differently every time you put the book down. Only one book can change the way you think about this world and open your eyes to the larger world God has made. Take time this morning and today to open God’s book. Read it. Study it. Maybe comment below if you have come across insights. I invite you into God’s book. May it renew your spirit so that you are not sick and tired.

God bless our reading today, as You the Divine Author invites us to Your Word and Your Thoughts. We can do but to think Your Thoughts after You, but we await what You have to show us today.

The Division of the Soul

www.bible.com/1713/heb.4.12.csb

Who knew that the soul could be divided? The Hebrews’ author gets very existential in this text, perhaps saying more than he knew. We know that joints and marrow are distinctive tissues. We can actually see this in anatomy. Marrow exists within the bone, while joints connect bone to bone. They connected by extremely tough tissue called tendons. So the ability to separate these tissues must be with equipment that’s extremely sharp. So we might surmise that the connection between soul and spirit must be equally difficult to separate. This stands to reason, as we often see the two as synonyms, rather than distinctive elements. Is there support for this?

We are all born with souls. It is the very stuff of who we are. Without souls we are considered dead. It is the soul that gives life. In Greek it is the word used is psuche, which we often transliterate as psyche.

The spirit is a word we employ to describe the ethereal and intangible essence of bodiless entities. We employ this to describe ghosts, the Holy Spirit, and even high-alcohol content beverages. (I might put forward here that I believe the association between consuming “spirits” as alcoholic beverages gives the same warm feeling in the body as the presence of the Holy Spirit, hence, do not become drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.) the Greek term for spirit is pneuma. It is the same word used for “wind”.

With some basic information, we might see that the two words do describe two different things. A psyche is something we never see, but see the effects of, like behavior, presence of life and so forth. A pneuma is something we might have a concept of apart from the body, like a mist or vapor. But we always see the spirit as the more powerful of the two, since psyche is always associated with a human being while the spirit is not. That the two have such a strong connection in this verse might be new information for us. But let me show you why this connection exists.

When we are baptized into Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that presence of God introduced into our lives is intended to grow us spiritually into disciples. It is supposed to be a strong connection, as we work to discipline our lives, thoughts and intentions to be more Christ-like. But here comes the intent if this verse.

The Word of God (the Scripture given by the Holy Spirit) is living and active. Important to remember this. Since the word given by the Spirit separates soul from spirit, what is the nature of this separation? Simply? It is the separation of the will of the soul from the will of the spirit. The word of God makes that separation very stark. When we read the word of God, we find what He wants, and how that is often different from what we want. The word of God isn’t old and dead, like many religions of long ago. It is living and active, even to reach into your soul right now and make it plain to you what God wants. God isn’t an old god from an old faith. He is present. He is near, and He is speaking into you through His word. It is a powerful thing to be considered worthy of hearing the will and word of our Creator.

Help me Lord to listen to you today. I know that my will js not Your will, but help me each day to make it more so. I love you Lord, more than anything. Let my soul cleave into Thy Spirit that we may not be separated again. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Needs

www.bible.com/1713/mat.4.4.csb

What would you consider a “need”? I am often surprised what others consider their needs. In Eastern Kentucky, I often see people forego their need for shelter, family, even good to afford their drug habit. People will give up everything to satisfy that need. Even the dignity of their own body.

You however might have more simple needs, like a warm bed, a stable marriage, kids that are kind, food on the table, a roof over your head, clothes to wear and so on. But have you ever considered the Word of God as a need?

What this implies is that we all need food to survive, no one will thrive without the Word of God. Honestly if it were not for this blog, there would be whole days I may forget to look up a verse of Scripture. So this blog is as much a daily discipline for me as anything. It forces me to get into the Word, if only for a little bit.

How does the word impact your life? Are there days you go without picking a Bible or reading from an app? If we don’t intentionally put it on front of our eyes every day, the temptation is very easy to forget. And what happens when you forget to make God’s Word a priority? Our human minds begin to slip, slowly at first. We skip out of the habit and we lose that daily reminder of hope. Depression enters the picture because without Jesus, this world is a sorry place.

Little by little if we avoid God’s word, we lose a little hope and acquire a little despair. We need the word of God to remind us of our journey, our purpose, and our destination. Without them we wander in darkness, and that’s no way to live.

Please consider in the coming year of making daily Bible reading a priority. You will feel much better for it. God bless you in your daily walk.

Power in Harmony

https://www.bible.com/72/rom.15.5.hcsb

Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.
(Rom 15:5-6)

Last Saturday, my daughter was taking part in a band combined with all the regional bands from their middle schools. I didn’t expect what I heard. Over the course of one day, my daughter has managed to learn how to play three new songs, songs she didn’t even know to start, and then learn how to play them with complete strangers. By the time of the concert, they had managed to learn how to play together and bring off a most impressive concert, despite their youth and inexperience. I credit this in part to the instructors who worked with them, but also the power of harmony, when everyone is working together to a common goal. In this case, everyone was working on the same music, if not the same page.

I think we Christians could take a page out of this book. We are all trying to save the world according to our own silos. Each of us think we have the right way and correct understanding of how the Bible works and how Jesus saves. The fact that there are hundreds if not thousands of churches (and yes, each have their own thing), would seem to give lie to that fact. Either only one of us is completely right, some of us are partially right or we’re all completely wrong.

Truthfully, I think we have much more in common than we think, and we probably ought to cooperate more than we do. If we all claim to be Christians, then surely there must be some real Christians among us. I believe each one must be firmly convinced in his own mind what he believes. But I also believe we tend to nitpick over non-essentials, like whether or not we use musical instruments in worship.

I believe the essentials are these: Jesus Christ is the Living Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified on a cross, risen from the dead and alive in Heaven at God’s right hand, but just as near to us. If this isn’t at the core of your faith, you are not a Christian. The resurrection alone as Paul said is the most important fact of our faith, and must be upheld.

The second is like the first: The Bible as written in its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) is the final authority of God on this earth. It was written by the Holy Spirit through the hands of about 40 men (and maybe women) to its minimum extent of 66 books, the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New. All of the Church recognizes these books. It is true in all that it attests to and affirms. It is our final authority of faith, and cannot be interpreted to the opposite of what it clearly says. It was written to be understood, and written so that even common men (and women) could understand it. Anyone who denies the written Word of God or its authority is not a Christian because they deny the surest source of authority they have.

Beyond these two, we can talk about others, but I believe you need these two to start having a conversation. God bless you today!

 

God of Mysteries

www.bible.com/1713/jer.33.3.csb

The deep things of God remain are great mysteries. Even those who’ve spent their lives searching them out can only grasp the most basic concepts. There are depths of God that cannot be fathomed by mortal minds.

Even to begin such an undertaking requires the Holy Spirit, a gift Christians receive upon their baptism. For the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God (1 Cor 3). The Holy Spirit does better than Google when it comes to the deeps of the Almighty.

So why the invitation? If our minds can’t handle it and the Spirit is our only guide, why does God invite us to know Him?

Are you ever interested in how your dad met your mom? Or what your mom was like growing up? Have you ever talked with your parents about their dreams and desires, or things that they’ve learned? It is one of my privileges to talk to the old and hear these kinds of stories. The human experience is one of the more fascinating elements of history. What life was like. How did people of previous generations solve the same problems without electricity and google?

In the same way, I think we would like to know more about where we came from, and of the mind that brought us into being. What is life like for an eternal Being with an infinite imagination and creativity? What are the principles that govern His Being? What does He like? What are His dreams and desires? Thankfully He didn’t leave Himself without record, for all these answers can be found in His book. That’s right, for all those people who say of their life, “I could write a book!”, He did.

But He didn’t just write a book. That would be too simple. He employed a host of writers who in turn using their own life experiences wrote about God from their own unique perspectives. Yet the same God shines through every page, just to show you that He isn’t an iconoclast or a demagogue, but that expression of God can take on many different means. God expresses Himself directly at times, through voice and prophet, but also through signs and symbols, through Psalm and prose, through gospel letters, even in apocalypse. The same God, but revealed in a myriad of means to appeal to the widest possible audience, human beings. And all are invited to discover His secrets. Woah.

Take some time today and read. You might learn something.