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Sovereignty

Boldness and Sovereignty – Meditations on Acts 4

Acts 4 begins with the Sadducees being very irritated with the apostles because of the healing of a man who had been lame since birth. The healing was the tip of the iceberg for the Sadducees because what really irritated them was that the Apostles were proclaiming “in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

This was a theological issue for the Sadducees because they denied that there was a resurrection for anyone. And now there was this pesky healing to deal with and already 5000 men alone had heard the word of Jesus and believed.

So the high priest, Annas, and Caiaphas and all the priestly family brought in the apostles to interrogate them and to intimidate them into silence. They demand to know “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

Peter is not silent and being filled with the Spirit responds:

“Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, LET IT BE KNOWN TO ALL OF YOU and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – BY HIM this man is standing before you well.”

Bold words. True words. No shrinking back before the magistrates. And he is not done.

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

And there is salvation in NO ONE else, for there is NO other name under heaven given among by which we MUST be saved.”

This is not just Peter exercising his right to “freedom of speech.” He is compelled to declare boldly to the religious leaders and the people and now to us the naked truth that all of us stand together as GUILTY and if we would me saved there is one and only one way – through Jesus Christ.

That is as true today as it was then. Let the boldness of Peter – who just weeks earlier had denied Christ to a servant girl – Let it speak the truth of His words to your soul today.

You cannot save yourself – But the one named Resurrection and Life can!

The leaders are astonished at the boldness of Peter and John doubly so because they saw they were ordinary men without formal education. They further recognized they had been with Jesus. So believers reading this post – you don’t need a MDiv to effectively serve your king. And not just as a janitor. Spend time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer and with His body and boldly declare His Worth to those around you. This is not to disparage (necessarily) seminary training, but you could graduate from seminary knowing a lot of things but not have been with Jesus. And you could not have gone to formal training but have spent time with Jesus – and He can use you for His purposes – even to teach!

Apparently the man healed has joined Peter and John in the courtroom. “You honor, I present exhibit A.” This is hilarious irony to me. The now un-lame man standing next to the apostles so stifles what the Sadducees would like to say – that they cannot say anything in opposition to “uneducated” Peter at all!

So they go to private session and decide that given the incontrovertible fact that a great sign has been performed they need to cut their losses and just tell the apostles to knock it off in the future. No more talking about this Jesus fellow. With this CYA plan in place they go and tell Peter and John.

“Ok guys – fine the guy was healed – but we know better than you about religious things – so no more talking about this Jesus or doing any more healings like this. We will let this one go but don’t teach about Jesus anymore!”

Peter and John are not done being bold.

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

What an incredible response! If you think it best to deny what God has clearly done here – that is on you – but as for us we MUST declare what we have seen and heard.

They are released after a few more threats and are greeted by their friends who are overwhelmed and they lift their voices together and say:

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

The kings of the earth set themselves

And the rulers were gathered together,

‘Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples plot in vain?

Against the Lord and against His Anointed”

They quote Psalm 2 – rejoicing that the reality of those words written by David long ago – have come to life before their eyes. Here the apostles very lives were in danger. They had no power of their own to resist. Yet the King of Kings rules over earthly kings and leaders and these powerful rulers are unmatched to thwart His reign.

They continue with this astonishing confession declaring the sovereignty of God over all things – they delight in declaring …

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever YOUR hand and YOUR plan had predestined to take place.”

Oh Lord may we your people in 2021 be so bold to speak of your salvation. Draw us to you that those around may see – they have been with Jesus and be drawn to you as well. And Lord help us not to set our hopes on American government and the restoration of the “way things ought to be.” But let us instead believe and declare that though the “Kings of this world set themselves” You rule and reign over every king or president or ruler! You are the Sovereign one – the King of Kings. Lord drive that truth from our words to our lives so that we may learn to speak with bold truth and confident faith about Your great salvation.

For there is salvation in NO ONE else, for there is NO other name under heaven given among by which we MUST be saved.

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Isaiah 6 Imagined

See the source image

Oh King Uzziah would that you had listened to the good priests when they withstood you at the gates of the temple.  For 50 years you served the people of God well.  You sought the Lord faithfully.  You taught the people rightly to fear the Lord.  After all the damage your father did with his half-hearted devotion to God you were a lion in his place.  Your fame was spreading, and you were strong because the God whom you served helped you marvelously. 

But in the end… you failed.  You failed yourself, your people, and your God.  The strength God had given, you came to believe was your own.  In pride you forced your way into the temple against the objections of the good priests who restrained you!  In your anger you sought to usurp your will against Yahweh’s.  You foolishly defied the Lord’s instruction and, in your arrogance, thought you could bypass the priests and offer incense yourself on the altar.   And the Lord struck you – your reign was taken from you and you lived as a leper – isolated and alone- until the day of your death. 

And now I fear for the people – again they serve false gods and offer sacrifices in high places.  They refuse to turn whole heartedly to the Lord.  Oh Lord help us!

I fell asleep.

AWAKE!

I open my eyes and surrounding me is an incomprehensible scene. My heart shakes in awe and fear as my eyes focus on the center of my vision. Looming in front me – a great throne and the one seated on the throne rivets my attention. In a moment I know I am in the presence of the King – one unlike dead Uzziah – one whose reign had never and would never cease. The King of Kings. His throne is like no other I have ever seen – towering above me. I quickly look away sensing deeply in my soul that I do not belong here. As I look away my eyes trace the train of His robe which fills the entire temple in its grandeur. Above him stand beings unlike any I have ever seen. Radiant and powerful they stand with six wings – they too unable to look directly at the throne of God.

Then suddenly the one on the left calls out as if intensely compelled. His voice feels as though it emanates from the very anchors of the earth – It surrounds me – shaking and reverberating in the thresholds of the chamber.

“Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts;

The whole earth is filled with His glory!”

As he speaks the whole room is engulfed in smoke. The absolute truth of the words resonates to me. I sense their reality as surer than the ground I stand on. And I am cut to the heart. I have no place here. I too am compelled and words spill almost involuntarily out of my mouth…

“Woe is me! For I am lost!

I am a man of unclean lips – and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.

And now my eyes have seen the KING – The Lord of Hosts!”

I collapse in fear and awe certain my destruction and death are imminent. My eyes catch movement and I flinch. The great seraphim who had just called out mightily in worship now is moving towards the altar. In the altar I can see heat rising and glowing coals. He produces a pair of tongs and picks up a hot coal and turns and looks at me. Suddenly, he is directly in front of me and thrusts the burning coal to my lips. I have no time to resist but fear surges in me sure that my doom is sealed.

Intense heat and pain fill my senses and I reel backwards caught in an odd sensation of burning and new life, rather than death, coursing through my body. The seraphim speaks again in words that again rattle but now even more deeply in the walls of my being:

“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

He looks at me expectantly as the shocking truth of the words work their way from my soul to my head. I feel their impact before I can even fully process them. Shalom and life fill me up as I realize as sure as God himself is the great I AM – my sin has been covered, my guilt taken away! In awe I again collapse to the ground filled with relief and gratitude.

Then He who sits on the throne speaks:

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Again words gush out of me:

“Here I am send me!”

Whatever your purposes my heart says “Yes! I will go!”

The King speaks again:

“Go and say to this people:

Keep on hearing BUT do not understand

Keep on seeing BUT do not perceive

Make the heart of this people dull,

Their ears heavy,

Blind their eyes,

Lest they see with their eyes,

Lest they hear with their ears,

Lest they understand with their hearts,

And turn and be healed.”

I sense the justice of Yahweh’s words.  I sense the wickedness of my people.  Yet I am stricken at these words and I blurt out:

“For how long, O Lord?”

And he answers:

“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant and houses without people

Until the land is a desolate waste

Until the Lord removes the people far away

Until the forsaken places are many in the land

Even when a tenth remain in it

It will be burned again

Until only a stump remains.

The holy seed is its stump.”

I awoke from my vision. My emotions were jumbled but my mission clear and certain. God alone is King and He does whatever he pleases. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. His favor rests on me undeservedly this I know. Yet for many of my countrymen His wrath remains on them. This is also just. And my heart is fixed on his promise that a holy seed will remain by his free mercy. Truly it must be said:

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts;

And the whole earth is full of His glory!”

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What if….? The Power and Promises of God that bring Peace in Uncertainty

FEAR
In recent weeks the entire world seems to have been caught in grip of its cold steel tongs.

What if I or my loved ones contract Corona Virus?

What if _________ becomes president of the United States?

The stock market is plunging – How can I feel secure?

The wheels of the world seem to be coming off as we fly at breakneck speed over some unseen precipice.

BE STILL

“Be still and know that He is God!”

“Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

PEACE – SELAH

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

SELAH – PEACE

“Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

Be still, and know that I am God.”

There is a God in heaven who rules over the affairs of men. Those who trust in Him are glad. Even in great storms when the waves swamp the deck of our little boats – our anchor strikes firmly on the rock.

HIS PROMISES:

“I will never leave your or forsake you”

“Fear not! I am the one who helps you.”

“I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior.”

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

“”Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

“Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

TRUST HIM!

These are God’s promises to his people – to all who are His. Instead of giving in to fear turn your eyes to the One who alone rules over all things – to the one who has provided redemption and life and joy and peace that endures through any towering waves in this life.

If you don’t know this God – Seek Him today while he may be found – Call upon Him and you will find He is very near.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah”

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Just 62 Miles Away…

There is a place that is not even as far away as Wenatchee is from Moses Lake that is so different an environment no one could live there. In fact any human going there would almost instantly die. I’m talking, of course, about space. The Kármán line that divides our atmosphere from outer space is about 62 miles away. Here – the air we breathe, the nature we enjoy, the warmth we feel are taken for granted, and the thought that we live in a little bubble of air surrounded by a much vaster and totally alien environment is given little thought.

I was thinking of this in relation to the kingdom of God. I see and take for granted this world and its systems. They are as natural as breathing. My commute to work, spreadsheets, interaction with my colleagues, playing Frisbee with my kids, eating supper, driving my car, engaging in political discussion, paying the bills….all this is completely normal and natural. And yet surrounding and underlying all of this “normal world” is a God who rules and reigns over all things – whose mighty angels engage invisibly in the affairs of men. If I had eyes to see I would be overwhelmed by this spiritual world.

Many of us, myself included, can be tempted to just focus on what we can see. The things of this world are the only reality we consider – and we give little thought to there being a whole other world just under the surface that if we spent anytime at all looking for it – we would catch glimpses of it. And just like this earth is a fragile bubble of air – so this natural world is fleeting in its current state – and the world to be that is even now being formed is a more solid reality.

All this is to say why I read my bible and books on God and post quotes on facebook. It is not because I am trying to impress you… it is because through these things I gain glimpses of another world – a world more real than this one. As CS Lewis said it is through the word that “we espy heaven.” I long for the rule of God – to be captivated by him – and I post things that help me glimpse who he is and what he does. When I see him – it helps me see this world in a different light and I am transformed by what I see.

It is easy to just breathe in the normal world, but I have found it does not satisfy. Lewis again: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” We are made for another world and that world is just a breath away – closer than Wenatchee – Oh Father give us eyes of faith to see.

Hebrews 11 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. “For he (Moses) endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

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Romans 9 on the Free Will of God to Save

Romans 9

The Statement

“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

WHOOOAAAA God …hates???? That would be unjust!!

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

This must be about something else not about God saving people…

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

But I thought salvation was based upon my free will….

16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

But surely God has mercy on everyone right?

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Well if God is hardening people and saving people without regard to the person and based only on his own will, then it would be immoral of God to hold people accountable for their actions

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

SEE!! I told you!!
*Note Paul does not retract his statement or say “No, No you have misunderstood me.”

Response 1

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Response 2

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

This passage is amazingly clear that God is the initiator of salvation and HIS will is the decisive will in the salvation of individuals.

The Glory of this truth is that no matter how far you wandered from the Lord, no matter how deeply you have indulged sin God is able to rescue and redeem. And the corollary is no matter how good you imagine yourself to be or how much work you have done to reach God – your strivings are insufficient to move God towards you at all. NO!! If we are to be saved it is by free grace alone. God is the complete Savior or none at all.

Brief Thoughts on Acts 9

field

The bent of Paul’s heart to rage against God is the same bent of every heart apart from awakening grace.

The need of Paul to be knocked off his horse by the blinding light of the Lord is not a “Paul” need. God must reveal himself or we perish.

The response of faith in Paul once the Lord revealed himself personally to Paul, is the same response everyone has when the Lord reveals himself to you. Faith

Believers are all “chosen instruments.”

“And when he (Paul) had come to Jerusalem” Paul went to the church where it all started. The place he had approved of the murder of one of its deacons. Paul attended church in a place where he had murdered one of the beloved congregants. What amazing power the Gospel has to reconcile the vilest offender.

The church was multiplied as it Walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

When illness and death struck a church member, Peter an apostle was called by disciples of the Lord, and Peter raised her from the dead. By this means the gospel was spread throughout Joppa and many believed.

Application:

1) Thank you Father, for calling me – saving me, how I sense my desperate and wicked heart apart from Your saving grace. I am unworthy but grace to be a chosen instrument

2) Lord Let me embrace the vile, love sinners, trust the greatness of your call and your gospel as I encounter the broken.

3) Lead my heart to the fear and comfort of the Lord that your name may be magnified in my life.

4) Lord do the necessary miracles to spread your Good News in Moses Lake so that many will believe.

Sermon: The Sovereignty of God and the Sufficiency of Christ

KJV was requested by the host church – It had been a while 🙂

Why Did Jesus Weep?

IMG_20170504_164035

John 11:14 “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.

John 11:35 “Jesus Wept”

What is Jesus glad about in verse 14? That “he was not there” Glad that he was not there to prevent Lazarus’ death! Not there to heal him of his sickness! Jesus says he is glad he was not there. Let this verse alone sink into your theology. God has something greater in mind for us than only healing or even preventing us from dying – Something so much greater in his mind that he says something as seemingly calloused as “I am glad I was not there” to heal and prevent death.

So what is this thing Jesus so passionately wants for us? Continue reading “Why Did Jesus Weep?”

So Let it Be – Peace in the Storm

light in the storm.jpg

Reading today in I Kings 11 and 12

Due to Solomon’s sin of going after other gods, God says his kingdom will not endure. And the prophet Ahijah says this to Jeroboam: “Behold I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes…”

But how will he do that? After all Rehoboam, son of Solomon – the greatest king ever – is the king over all Israel.

Well, basically Rehoboam ignores the pleas of the people and the advice of his older advisors to lighten the yoke on his people. He instead says to the people. “My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (Note to self: not a good campaign message)

And then this verse in the Holy Writ:

“So the king did not listen to the people, FOR it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the Son of Nebat.”

What “a turn of events!” Young counselors had to give the bad advice to the king – Rehoboam had to ignore the advice of his wisest advisors and the pleas of his people – And the people had to chose to revolt just days after the death of the wisest king in their history and most prosperous years of their existence.

God is not passive in the affairs of men. He does not surrender his sovereignty nor bow at the altar of man’s free will. Man chooses as his sin-oriented nature desires and God’s sovereign will is not in the least thwarted. He will accomplish what he desires. His will reigns supreme!

Isaiah 55:8-11                                                                            

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Being convinced of God’s sovereignty and being convinced of God’s goodness and being convinced that by the blood of His son you are His child – is a powerful trinity of truths that I have found to be a strong anchor in the midst of my darkest days. They are like bright rays of the most beautiful and compelling light penetrating to the depths of my grey-clouded world. Let these truths be fastened firmly in your heart and you will find you have the ballast in your boat to weather any storm. So let it be.

Does God Ordain Evil?

mountain

Observation on God’s sovereignty in today’s Bible reading:

1) Jeremiah 1 “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God’s sovereign choice does not mean Jeremiah is a robot (without will and incapable demerit or merit) Jeremiah has a will but it is a contingent will not a sovereign or free will that God alone has. Continue reading “Does God Ordain Evil?”

Sovereign God or Sovereign Me?

tall-trees

In Isaiah, Assyria is “the rod of God’s anger” against a godless nation. And God uses them to plunder and spoil the “people of his wrath.” And when God has completed his appointed purpose for the nation of Assyria,
Assyria says,

“By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.”

God says he will punish the arrogant heart of the King of Assyria and replies:

“Shall an axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!”

“Behold, the Lord God of Hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low.”

How often have you said, “by the strength of my hand or my wisdom I have done it?” God replies, “Oh really – you have done it? You are an instrument in my hand to do with what I please. Will you give me the glory due my name or continue to claim that you are the greatest “axe handle” in the history of the world?”

Who do you worship a Sovereign God or a Sovereign Me?

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Crying Out in the Darkness Psalm 107 – a Meditation

darkness
Life feels sometimes like I’m wandering in a vast desert with no place to rest.

Sometimes it feels like my life is ebbing way in a hopeless search for satisfaction.

Sometimes all seems dark and it seems I will never find the light. I keep on trying to find my own way out of the darkness because I feel there is no one else I can really trust.

But then I realize I can’t even trust myself because I pursue my own selfish and sinful ends. And though I know my sin harms me I follow it to the gates of death.

To add insult to injury life is so hard. Friends die. Sickness hits. Finances are always a struggle. Parenting. Marriage. I feel often at my wit’s end. Continue reading “Crying Out in the Darkness Psalm 107 – a Meditation”

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