Bandwagon

Every season, no matter what sport, the teams that make the playoffs always have an influx of fans. We call this jumping on the bandwagon. They may not watch the sport all season long, but if a certain team ends up in the postseason, suddenly, they’re superfans. The excitement draws all sorts of people out of the woodwork who act as though they’ve been fans all year long. The true test of these “fans” is the next season. Through the off-season, many of those who jumped on the postseason bandwagon will quietly slide right off, never to be seen again until the next time the team makes the playoffs. But there are a few who will continue to follow the team through their down time. When the season starts up again, those jerseys they bought at the end of the previous year get aired out, ready to be worn again through the year.

When Jesus began his ministry, he knew he would draw the bandwagoners right along with the truly faithful. Some followed because of what Jesus could do, but they never stuck around long. Others followed because of who Jesus was. Those people he discipled.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

John 2:23-25 (NIV)

Jesus is no dummy. He can tell his true followers from those who are just along for the ride. Just like wearing a team jersey doesn’t necessarily make a person a true fan, showing up at church on Sunday doesn’t necessarily make you a true believer. God looks at what is inside of us, not what we show everyone on the outside. Not only does God look, but we should be inviting Him to do so.

Test me, O Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind.

Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

We cannot hide who or what we are from God. He sees through every façade, every fake smile, every insincere word. But even if we are a bandwagon Christian, only showing up when things get exciting, it doesn’t mean that we can’t become true worshipers. The Psalms are filled with lyrics of insufficiency and defeat, treachery and deceit. Yet, if we turn our hearts fully toward God, He will be faithful to draw us in and to help us (not make us) become true believers, worshipers, followers.

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24 (NIV)

Read: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2

There is a cloud

On a cold winter night in 1933, a boy was born. It was Christmas Eve. The boy’s parents were poor. Dirt poor. To add to his trials, the boy’s parents were not married when he had been conceived. Soon, siblings followed and they all learned to work on the family farm. But that boy, born on Christmas Eve, had bigger plans for himself.

When the boy got a hold of a catalogue, he would eagerly flip to the menswear section and stare intently at the men dressed in sharp suits. The boy wasn’t destined to keep working on the farm. His imagination was bigger than that. Someday, he would get to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy grew and continued to work on the farm. Circumstances led him to drop out of school before graduation. But he worked. He met a lovely young woman and, after a time of long-distance correspondence, he convinced the girl to marry him. Soon, they welcomed a baby girl into their family. The first of three. They were poor. Dirt poor. But that boy born on Christmas Eve still had bigger plans for himself and his growing family. He still wanted to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy, now a man, had his sights on a certain company, but that company was not hiring. The boy, now a man, didn’t think that should stop him from working for them. So every day, he got up, got dressed and went to work. He earned nothing but the respect of those he helped on the loading docks each day. It wasn’t long before the company decided to start paying the man who wanted to work so badly, he’d do it for nothing. Surely he’d work even harder if he knew he’d be earning a paycheque.

The man born on Christmas Eve worked his way up in the company. Then another company, and then another. By the time he retired, he’d been wearing a suit and tie to work every day for decades. All those days of looking at catalogues daydreaming of the future had finally come to fruition.

In addition to becoming a very influential businessman, the man born on a cold Christmas Eve to poor parents who hadn’t been married when he was conceived, the man who never finished high school, also pastored a church. And then another church and another after that. When the man finally went home to be with Jesus, the building where his own church met was not large enough to contain all of the people whose lives he had touched.

Nothing in the way his life began indicated that a boy born on a farm to poor parents would have had the capacity to affect so many lives in both business and ministry. But that is exactly what my grandfather did. Even when it was no longer fashionable, he still wore a suit and tie to work every day and to preach at church every Sunday.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”

1 Kings 18:43-44 (NIV)

Like a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand, where and how we start has little consequence on how we finish. That small cloud saved a nation from drought and famine. That boy born on Christmas Eve brought countless lives into the kingdom of God through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and his legacy lives on in every life he touched and every life those lives touch. Even if you are told, there is nothing there, look again. And again. And again. Surely there is a cloud. Maybe you just can’t see it yet.

Read: i Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51

The Word

The first five verses of John’s Gospel may very well be my favourite verses in all of scripture. One could study them for a whole year and still not grasp the full weight and complexity of their meaning. Previously, I’ve been focused on the Light, but today, the Word jumped out at me.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 (NIV)

Revelation 19:13 speaks of Jesus and his name is the Word of God. So, one could read the first verse of John like this:

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

If Jesus is the Word of God, what does the Bible have to say about the Word?

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

In this context, Jesus had to give himself up as a sacrifice for our sins because that is what he was sent to do. And if God’s Word, Jesus, will accomplish what God desires, Jesus had to achieve the purpose for which he was sent.

For me, this is another one of those big revelations that needs time to roll around and fully form. Read these verses again for yourself and see what God is speaking to you through His Word.

Read: 1 Kings 14-15, John 1:1-28

May the Force be with you

In honour of the fourth of May—what many have come to know as Star Wars Day, let’s talk about the Force.

The act of living generates a force field, an energy. That energy surrounds us; when we die, that energy joins with all the other energy. There is a giant mass of energy in the universe that has a good side and a bad side. We are part of the Force because we generate the power that makes the Force live. When we die, we become part of that Force, so we never really die, we continue as part of the Force.

George Lucas describing the Force.

In the Star Wars films, the general farewell between Jedi knights is, “May the Force be with you.” In Christian terms, “Go with God.” While George Lucas’ epic story between good and evil, light and dark isn’t a Christian story, it doesn’t mean that we can’t look at them through the filter of Word of God. We can liken the Force to the Holy Spirit. But rather than we become a part of it, the Spirit becomes a part of us.

When the construction of the temple was complete, Solomon dedicated the building to the glory of God. He goes on to bless the people of Israel.

Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. But your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.

1 Kings 8:56-61 (NIV)

In short, “May the force be with you.” Solomon’s prayer was like Yoda reminding Luke to trust the Force, to feel and see the Force in everything around him. Solomon encouraged Israel to remember who brought them to the place where they now stood and to fully commit themselves to the One who caused it all to happen.

Solomon’s prayer is one that we can pray for ourselves, our families, and our churches every day. Turn to God. Walk in His ways. Keep His commands. Fully commit to the Lord. All of this is made possible through the aid of the Holy Spirit which was sent to us for that purpose. The Spirit, like the Force, is there for our benefit. He makes great power available to us and helps us to do that which we are called to do.

So go out, walk in God’s ways. Get yourself in tune with the Holy Spirit.

May the Force be with you.

Read: 1 Kings 8-9, Luke 23:39-56

30K Giveaway

Yesterday, I made an attempt to win $30,000 from a local radio station. For several weeks I’ve been listening half-interested for three specific songs played consecutively in a specific order. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would miss those three songs while I was at work or in a meeting or at church. That is, until I heard all three songs played consecutively in the correct order while I was on my way home from work. Once I pulled over (it’s not legal here to have a phone in your hands while driving), I dialed the number, several times, and was met with an automated voice each time telling me the number I had dialed was not available. I listened while another caller won the $30,000.

Then I got to thinking. What would I do with $30,000? As it turns out, $30,000 wouldn’t really last very long. With record high gas prices, I suppose I could fill up my car once or twice… While it would be great to be $30,000 wealthier, it wouldn’t really launch me into a new life.

In a dream, God gave Solomon a choice. A big choice. Ask me for anything. Anything. Solomon could have asked for all the riches in the world. He could have asked to conquer the world. He could have asked for the world. But he asked for wisdom.

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

1 Kings 3:10-13 (NIV)

Like Solomon, we have been invited to make requests of God.

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:14 (NIV)

James then tells us what we should be asking for.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask of God, who give generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:5 (NIV)

Sure, we could ask for health and wealth, but like the $30,000, where will that get us a month, a year, a decade from now? Because Solomon asked for wisdom, God gave him everything else. With wisdom comes the ability to make the choices to keep us healthy and make us wealthy.

Wisdom is in low supply. If what is perceived as wisdom is not coming from God, where then does it come from? We have the ability to ask for and receive wisdom, yet how many of us have actually taken advantage of that offer? Instead of asking God to rectify a situation, why not ask for the wisdom to fix it ourselves? Then the next time we find ourselves in a similar place, we’ll be able to repair it ourselves, or perhaps we won’t find ourselves there at all.

Like Solomon drew people from all over the known world, the world should be drawn to godly wisdom. But it has to exist to draw people. So go ahead, ask God. See if He doesn’t keep is word.

Read: 1 Kings 3-5, Luke 23:1-26

Cheap and easy

Have you ever known another Christian who thinks you should do things for or give things to them just because you’re both Christians? Somewhere along the line, a lot of believers got it in their heads that everything should be cheap and easy. Free is even better. We’ve got this idea in our heads that it’s a blessing. Generally, it’s not. It’s cheap. It’s greedy. It’s unbecoming of a group of people who should be known for their generosity, not their ability to rip people off in the name of faith.

David, having grieved the Lord, was instructed to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a certain place. That certain place was a threshing floor belonging to a man named Araunan. Araunan offered everything to David for free.

But the king replied to Araunan, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

David paid for the threshing floor, the wood for the fire, and the oxen to sacrifice. As the king, it probably didn’t break the bank. But he still refused to offer something to God that he didn’t have to pay for.

Centuries later, another sacrifice was required. Like David’s sin needed a sacrifice, our sin, too, needed a sacrifice. Only the payment for our sin was much greater than the purchase of a floor, wood, and ox. The payment required on our behalf was the life of God’s Son.

As Jesus prepared for what he knew he had to do, he let out one last agonising prayer.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luk 22:42 (NIV)

I cannot imagine the torment Jesus went through during that time in the garden. He knew the physical pain would be unbearable. He knew the weight of the sins of the world would be crushing. And he knew that he would forever be separated from his Father.

These are just two examples, in a book of many, that we are to emulate. Jesus taught on and lived a life of generosity. That practice continued in the early church as Paul writes to commend the church at Philippi.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.

Philippians 4:15 (NIV)

Only one church of many understood the concept of generous giving. The point was not that Paul needed so much (even though he did), but that the church received far more because of their gifts.

Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Philippians 4:17-18 (NIV)

David could have very easily accepted the gift Araunan offered to him, but he knew that he needed to pay a price or the sacrifice would not have been his, but Araunan’s. Jesus, too, could have prayed that the cup be passed and stopped there. God may have even allowed it. But Jesus knew a price had to be paid. Paul could have sent the gifts back to Philippi since he had more than enough, but he knew that the church needed to give so that they could receive more.

You see, generosity is not something we should expect from others, but it is something we should expect of ourselves. How much value do you place in something that came cheap and easy? Compare that to something that you paid dearly for.

Someone may or may not have need of what you have to give, but you have far greater need for the space your sacrifice creates in your own life. If you want a blessing, you have to make room for it. If a gift costs you nothing to give, is it really worth giving? What does that say about you? What does that say to the person receiving the gift?

No matter who you give to or what you give, whether it be to the Lord, a brother or sister in Christ, or the homeless person on the street, give generously. Give faithfully. Give as though it’s the first gift you get to give and the last you’ll ever be able to give.

Read: 2 Samuel 23-24, Luke 22:31-53

I Am

Who created God? When did God begin? How can anyone not have a start?

These are all the logical questions anyone might ask of a God who claims to have no beginning and no end. And they are all questions that, even if we have the answers right in front of us, we will never really be able to wrap our minds around.

We humans know we have a beginning. And an end, of sorts. And another beginning. And then eternity (which we can’t really wrap our minds around, either).

When God speaks to Moses through the burning bush, He doesn’t say, “I was the God of your father…” God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) This implies that, not only was God the God of Moses’ ancestors, but He still is their God. And if He still is their God, they must still exist somewhere.

Jesus mentions this account when the Sadducees made an attempt, like the Pharisees often did, to stump him with the law. Don’t try to stump Jesus. You can’t. The Sadducees couldn’t, either. They gave a long hypothetical situation in which a woman ends up marrying seven brothers and eventually dies childless. In heaven, who is her husband?

After explaining that the finite things of life do not come with us into eternity, Jesus closes with this:

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Luke 20:38 (NIV)

Our short lives on this earth are amazing things on their own, but when you add eternity to that experience, it is a mere shadow in comparison. When we make Jesus our Lord, God our Father, He is our God for eternity. Again, a tough concept to grasp. But no matter how difficult it is to fully comprehend eternal life, it is ours nonetheless.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—is is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

Even as I try to put into words the vastness of this truth, I am blown away by what God has offered us. Not only has He given us life on earth, but He has made a way for us to live forever with Him.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NIV)

God isn’t an I was, He isn’t an I will be. He is. And He has made us to be like Him.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NIV)

When we are made alive with Christ, we become a part of The Great I Am. Who I was no longer matters. Forevermore, I am with I Am.

Read: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47

Tainted love

Ask just about anyone on the street and they’ll tell you that you should be able to love whoever you want however you want. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Do what makes you feel good. Love is love.

In the course of time, Amnon, son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom, son of David.

2 Samuel 13:1 (NIV)

So what if Amnon loves Tamar? He should be able to love whoever he wants! Right? Well, if Tamar is the sister of a son of David and Amnon is a son of David, doesn’t that make Tamar, at the very least, his half sister? Not so lovely to love now, is it? But that didn’t matter to Amnon. He had to have Tamar no matter what. He loved her after all. He deserved to have her love him back.

So he came up with a plan to lure Tamar into his bedroom. Because Amnon was her brother, Tamar figured she was safe. Until Amnon made a completely inappropriate pass at her. She tried to fight him off.

But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

2 Samuel 13:14-15 (NIV)

Amnon, in his obsession assumed that, by having what he wanted, his needs would be satisfied. Instead, his passions were reversed.

Aren’t we like that sometimes? We can obsess over something, love something, want something so bad that we are willing to do almost anything to get it. We should be able to love whoever or whatever we want, shouldn’t we? If it makes us happy, shouldn’t we do what we can to get it?

Just because we want something doesn’t mean we should have it. It doesn’t mean it’s good for us to have it. It doesn’t mean it’s ours to have. And it rarely means what we think it will mean.

During the hippie era, free love was the fad. In recent years it’s #LoveWins. We are constantly being told that if it feels good, do it. Love what you love. You can’t help who you love. In all of the noise, we as believers must remind ourselves of what love really is. We must recognise that the world, who has rejected Jesus and the God who is love, cannot really know or experience true love unless they acknowledge the single greatest act of love in the history of humankind.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

That is what love looks like. It certainly wasn’t the thing Jesus wanted most. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t cater to his wants or desires nor did it fulfill any fantasies.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Amnon’s tainted idea of what love was fell short of nearly every point Paul made regarding love in his letter to the church at Corinth. His love for Tamar was all about himself. The love Christ calls us to has nothing to do with our own satisfaction, but is all about others.

Read: 2 Samuel 13-14, Luke 20:1-26

If these stones could talk

In rooms that may have seen a lot of action or secrets, one might wonder what the walls would say if they could talk. Since much of what is recorded in the Bible took place outside or in tents, if these walls could talk isn’t really pertinent. But there is something else that was present at pretty much every major biblical event. Stones.

Rocks, not even precious ones, hold great importance in scriptures. Jesus himself is referred to as a stone.

The stone the builders rejects
has become the capstone.

Luke 20:17 (quoting Psalm 118:22) (NIV)

In Joshua 22:10, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar of stone to stand as a witness to future generations that they worship the Lord.

In Joshua 4:7, Joshua commanded that twelve stones be taken from the middle of the Jordan River that Israel had just crossed. Those stones would become a memorial to Israel for all God has done for His people.

Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:31, took twelves stones to repair the altar of the Lord.

In 1 Samuel 17:40, David selected five smooth stones to take with him into battle against Goliath.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the passover, his followers shouted his praises. The Pharisees, as usual, weren’t impressed and wanted Jesus to silence them. He refused.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:40 (NIV)

I don’t think that Jesus meant every inanimate stone laying on the ground would suddenly find its voice. I believe Jesus was referring to every stone set up as a memorial in God’s name, every stone used in the name of the Lord, every stone that stood as a witness to God’s glory and greatness.

And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.

“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.

Joshua 24:26-27 (NIV)

If we keep silent in our praise, I believe that God truly can make these memorial stones speak out. They have been made witnesses to miracles and wonders—the very things we should be proclaiming at every opportunity.

We may wish to know what the walls of The Oval Office may have to say if they could talk, but we shouldn’t have to wonder what the stones would say. We should be saying it for them.

Read: 2 Samuel 10-12, Luke 19:29-48

Sovereign

SOVEREIGN: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion.

I doubt many of us have anyone in our lives we’d consider to be supreme in power or possessing supreme dominion. And most of us would probably like to keep it that way. But one man, a very long time ago, recognised someone as supreme—sovereign.

What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord.

2 Samuel 7:20 (NIV)

This wasn’t the only time David referred to God as Sovereign Lord, either. Seven times in this passage, David repeats the moniker.

Maybe you’re a believer in the meaning behind numbers in the Bible, maybe you’re not. But no matter how you put it, saying something seven times over the span of eleven verses seems rather significant, and maybe more so because of the importance of the number seven.

Seven, you see, is the number of completion or spiritual perfection. We see it first in Genesis. On the seventh day, God rested because creation was complete. In the account of David, God has just announced to the king though the prophet, Nathan, that David’s kingdom will endure forever. God has made an everlasting covenant, a covenant that will never be broken. That’s some pretty weighty news for a man who was anointed king as a shepherd boy in the field.

David responds by referring to God as Sovereign Lord, acknowledging God’s supreme dominion over him. For many men, news that their lineage would last forever could have gone straight to their heads. But not David.

Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

2 Samuel 7:25b-26 (NIV)

Hundreds of years before Jesus arrived on the earth, God’s covenant with man was made and acknowledged to be complete by the man with whom the covenant was made. David couldn’t have known that his lineage wouldn’t sit on an earthly throne forever. Nor could he have known that God Himself would plant a seed in one of his descendants. A seed that would grow up to be known as the Son of David.

God, though, being sovereign, knew exactly what He was doing when He made such a great promise to David. He set in motion an extravagant plan to save mankind from their sinfulness. Unlike David, God knew that the man with whom He made a covenant would stumble and fall. So would his son who succeeded him on the throne. And so would countless others in the long line of King David.

Yet it wasn’t so much the obedience that God was looking for—He knew the standards He set before men were impossible to keep, but He was looking for willing humility.

For the Lord takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with salvation.

Psalm 149:4 (NIV)

David’s humility earned him a crown which led to salvation for all. Like David, we can never know the far reaching effects of our willingness to set ourselves aside and acknowledge God as Sovereign Lord, supreme in power. The best that we can do is humble ourselves before the Lord, accept what He has so freely given to us, and continue to chase after his heart like David did.

Read: 2 Samuel 7-9, Luke 19:1-28