Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Joy

Good Friday is a day that brought great sadness to the followers of Jesus because it was the day that Jesus died on the cross. The earth grew dark at midday. All but John had fled, and after his death, the hours that followed were filled with confusion and hopelessness. But on Sunday morning that sadness changed to joy. Here in David’s words is a description of their transformation: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Ps 30:11).

Psalm 22 is an amazing psalm that describes Jesus’ crucifixion in such detail that it is impossible to not see the correlations to the gospel writers’ descriptions. It was written around 1000 years before Jesus' death on the cross, and even more remarkable is the fact that death by crucifixion would not be invented for several more hundred years.

In this psalm, David describes the enraged behavior and unleashed tongues of the chief priests who mocked Jesus on the cross. He tells of the soldiers throwing lots for his clothing. David describes Jesus’ disjointed body, his thirst, his struggle, his pierced hands and feet, and even his famous words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Every one of these depictions are portrayed in the Gospels.

Most astonishing is the description of Jesus’ last words from the cross. Here are David’s words: “They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn — for he has done it” (Ps 22:31). John records these words from Jesus' lips, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). Think about this, David prophesies that Jesus would make this incredible announcement summoning his last strength—to utter the words, “It is finished!” Those words in effect say that Christ’s death makes way for sinners to come to God and be reconciled.

Ps 22 only underscores the validity of scripture. The resurrection is the central truth upon which Christianity rests. Remove this truth, and it all crumbles. That is why the reality of the resurrection of Jesus is so essential to the message of the Gospel.

The resurrection is Jesus’ triumph over death—our greatest enemy. Jesus’ enemies, of which there were many, cruelly insulted and tortured him; they beat him and spit upon him and viciously mocked him; they whipped him almost to death, but he never responded in kind. Then they crucified him on a hideous cross—subjecting him to the most revolting death known to man. Then afterward, he was laid in the grave. His disciples believed it was all over—his enemies had finally won. But, that was Friday! Very early on Sunday morning, Jesus obliterated the dark clouds of sadness, shame, and disgrace when he arose from the grave. Just as his father had willed his death, he now willed his son raised from the dead. Because Jesus is alive, Isaiah’s picture of heaven is never more real:

Isaiah 35:10 “and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Lesson from the Tower of Babel

We all have a desire to be known; God gave it to us. That desire is so strong that if it is not directed toward God, it can be much abused. If we pursue that desire without regard to our maker and those around us, we will cross a critical boundary that will harm us. When, however, we seek God and make him the object of our affections and ambitions, we can fulfill that desire to be known. Just to be known by God is the greatest gift in life. It is through this intimacy that we find purpose and meaning in life. Paul states this for us in these words: “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God” (1 Cor 8:2-3).

In the book of Genesis, the people attempted to build a tower that reached the heavens. The problem with the tower was what it represented for the originators. Its builders saw God like other gods. The tower itself was their god, one they could control. This is the weakness of human religion—the desire for self-advancement. By our good works, we believe we can make ourselves more holy. This is the delusion of every religion in the world except for Christianity. The Gospel teaches us that we are saved by grace through faith and not of our works.

The builders of the tower were also driven by the ambition of making a name for themselves. This force drives people of every walk of life to be known. Some people will endure shame or disgrace for the opportunity to make a name—even if it is momentary. This drive to make a name for ourselves can cause us to lose our integrity and compromise our values. The desire to make a name for ourselves drives us to lie to exalt ourselves, to imitate others that we admire, assume a different identity, and worst of all to seek our own glory.

In the book of Jeremiah, we are told that seeking our glory is not a good idea, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” (Jer 45:5). This is similar to Jesus’ words to us: “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 8:35).

The tower of Babel ended in confusion and chaos because the people tried to displace God. When we forget God or attempt to replace him with our own creations, we invite chaos and disaster. The best way to enjoy life and find the highest meaning here on this planet is to love God and be known by Him.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

An Unstoppable God

God is a sovereign God whose plans are unstoppable. Isaiah said it like this: “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isa 14:27). David described him this way: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps 115:3). Daniel’s description is similar: “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Dan 4:35).

When we read the history in the Old Testament, we are startled with the many mess ups and failures of the characters, but we are amazed at the marvelous way God fulfills his plans in spite of their sin and tragedies. When Adam and Eve sinned, God shed the blood of an animal to cover their nakedness. When Cain murdered his brother Able, God gave Eve another son, named Seth who worshiped God. When evil increased so much that God chose to destroy the earth—He saved Noah, a righteous man, and his family.

When Abraham and Sarah could not understand how God’s plan for an heir would come true, they took matters into their own hands. Abraham produced a son through Hagar, Sarah’s servant, but God overruled their mistake and gave them a son in their old age. When Jacob the deceiver had to flee for his life, God never wrote him off but changed his character and his name to Israel.

How God ever chose Judah, Jacob’s son to be in the messianic line is beyond me. He was rebellious, immoral and self-serving. Nonetheless, chapter 39 of Genesis (which reads like a soap opera) is in the Bible to show that God can transform the worst sinners if they surrender to God.

The story of Joseph, more than any other, is evidence of God’s sovereignty. Joseph, sold into slavery by his treacherous brothers, became the prime minister of Egypt. Endowed with God’s wisdom, he presided over the administration of preparing Egypt for the worst famine in its history. Who would have imagined that his brothers would seek relief from him and he would recognize them, and more, forgive them. Joseph summed up this unstoppable God in these words:

Genesis 50:18-21
“His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said.
But Joseph said to them, ‘Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

God works out his plans right in the middle of our mistakes, our scheming plans and tragedies. God always keeps his promises no matter how long it takes. We can trust him even when life seems totally out of control.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


I love the story of Noah because it is so inspiring, until I come to the part where Noah gets drunk. It reminds me of a poem by Robertson McQuilkin that talks about finishing well, entitled,
"Let Me Get Home Before Dark":

The darkness of a spirit
grown mean and small,
fruit shriveled on the vine,
bitter to the taste of my companions,
burden to be borne by those brave few
who love me still.
No, Lord. Let the fruit grow lush and sweet
A joy to all who taste;
Spirit-sign of God at work,
stronger, fuller, brighter at the end.
Lord, let me get home before dark.[i]

I don’t think Noah got home before dark. This part of the story of Noah is one I would rather skip over because it is so pathetic. I am, however, grateful that the Bible tells the whole story, not just the beautiful part. Noah, the man who stood up for God for 120 years while he built the ark, now lies drunk and uncovered in his tent. This episode is a story of shame! It is a powerful commentary on the entrapment of strong drink to control our minds and render us utterly helpless. The term uncovered to me means addiction, loss, and shame.

I cannot forget the wretched sadness of grown men completely uncovered because of their addiction to drink. I found these men on the streets and tried to help them. Their bondage to drink was so intense; they had lost their families, reputations, jobs, assets, and even futures. They were indeed slaves to their addiction to alcohol.

Along the years I have witnessed fathers and mothers lose their children, husbands their wives, all because they found themselves uncovered. Their addictions controlled them, imprisoned them, and sentenced them.

How heartbreaking to see young men and women stain their records with felonies, lose their privilege to drive, limit their employment, and even kill and maim people with their automobiles or some weapon while in their drunken state. Some of them are forced to serve time in prison, and worst of all, they have to live with the regret of what they did.

It is lamentable to hear of men and women who wind up in the bed of someone they never knew only to find out they contracted a venereal disease. The next morning, when their disgrace was devastatingly apparent, they knew Noah’s shame of being uncovered. 

Most distressing is to see adolescents play around with alcohol or drugs only to lose their way in life. With sadness, we watch as they miss their future opportunities for fulfillment and faithfulness.

The serpent of alcohol and drugs bites with deadly venom. I have no use for drinking, and I scorn the social standing that society gives alcohol and now marijuana. I hate what it does to people. I hate what it does to families. I hate the destruction it leaves in its wake.

Noah's failure stands as a witness to the deadly covert dangers that are in this world. The sinful nature is present in all of us. We are in a predicament, and we need help. Will we seek the help that is offered to us by God or will we deal with it in our way and find ourselves shamefully uncovered.