Monday, November 30, 2015


In the book of Exodus, Moses is called to be the leader of God's people, and, very specifically, to lead them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.  This is not an easy task, to say the least.

Pharaoh doesn’t want to let the people go, but he is compelled to.  When the Hebrews have left Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and his army chases them down at the Red Sea.  At a point of crisis, with the water, seemingly impassable in front, and the Pharaoh's army behind, the Hebrew people appear on the verge of defeat.

But these are God's people, called by Him for His purposes.  And so throughout their entire journey He is with them and He provides for them.  The crisis at the Red Sea is no exception.  God separates the waters so that the Hebrews can pass through and then He allows the waters to close up and defeat the army of Pharaoh. 

In response to this saving action by God, Exodus 15:1 tells us that Moses and the people sang a song to the Lord, which includes these words in verse 2:

"The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him."

"He has become my salvation."  This seems to be the heart of this verse, and of the whole song of praise.  The Hebrews were in grave danger.  They needed to be saved, and they were in a position of complete vulnerability.  They were unable to do a single thing to save themselves.  They were God's people, and God saved them.   

God is still in the business of saving His people today, something we remember as Advent begins and Christmas draws near.  Without Jesus we would be in the kind of danger the Hebrews faced at the Red Sea, with no apparent reason to think that anything besides our end was near.  They were confronted with the end of their earthly lives, and the fuller story of the Bible teaches us that without Jesus our death in this life will end in eternal separation from God. 

But God is a God who saves, and true salvation comes through Jesus, and no one else.  The salvation that came to the Hebrews at the Red Sea, and at every other crisis in their journey, points us to the better salvation that comes through Jesus.

As we journey through Advent and towards Christmas may you see that your salvation is in Jesus, and no one else.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I was thinking about thanksgiving and wondering if that word was used in the Bible.  It is used twelve times, including these words that Paul writes in his second letter to the church at Corinth:

"You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God."

One way that we could read this verse is with the expectation that God will give us everything we desire, so that we could then share some of our blessings with others, and then give our thanks to God.  That reading would be only partly correct. 

Our error would be in reading "You will be enriched in every way" too literally, thinking that we could go through life without any kind of hardship or disappointment.  The truth is that sometimes it is through hardship and disappointment that we come to understand unexpected ways in which God's hand has been present as rich blessing in our lives. 

As the season of autumn deepens and Thanksgiving approaches I have been remembering some of the things I have to be thankful for this year.  Those things are many.  Some are fairly minor and others are things that have given me memories I will treasure for years.

But everything hasn't been perfect this year.  There have been some disappointments, and times of hardship.  The hardest thing that my family and I have dealt with this year has been the passing of our granddaughter, Raelyn.  But as I think about the sudden loss of Raelyn I am also able to see the hand of God present with our family, a hand that brings peace and comfort that never fails.

Our loss wasn't the kind of situation where we could see God's comfort immediately, but when we did see it we also saw that it was always present.  There was never a moment where it was absent or lost, as if for a moment God forgot to do what He was supposed to do.  Even in the hardest times of our lives, God is always doing exactly what His word teaches over and over that He does. 

Things such as these: He never stops being good.  He never stops being holy.  He never stops saving sinners.  And as one of the saved, He never stops being the one to whom my thanksgiving should always be given to.

May this season of Thanksgiving be one in where you see the ways God has been present to you this year, and may He receive your thanks and praise.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Well Pleased

In Mark's Gospel there is a very brief story of the baptism of Jesus.  In just three verses of chapter 1 Mark tells us everything that we need to know about this episode in Jesus' life, including these words in verse 11: 

"And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.""

Jesus himself only entered the story in verse 9 and yet the Father calls Him "beloved" and says that with Jesus, the Father is "well-pleased."

As a father myself I can understand the idea of a child as beloved.  Parents often love their children through thick and thin.  The children may not do things parents like, but parental love can often endure a great deal of poor behavior from the child.  It is the fact of the relationship itself that makes the child beloved in the eyes of the parent.

But what in Jesus causes the Father to be well-pleased at this point in the story?  He enters the Gospel in verse 9 and has been baptized.  According to Mark Jesus has not done anything else, nor has he said a single word.  Well-pleased?  Why?

One reason would be the fact that even though we don’t know the details of Jesus' life to this point we do know that it has been lived without sin.  1 Peter 2:22 is one of several places where the Bible teaches that Jesus lived a life free from sin, which would include His entire life before His baptism and public ministry.  That in itself would give the Father pleasure.

But I think there is another reason, one which has to do with the vantage point of the Father in considering His Son. 

Mark tells us that the voice of the Father comes from the heavens, which, for a moment after Jesus' baptism, have been torn open.  We may not understand quite how that "works" but I think it shows us that the Father is speaking from a place where time is eternal, and so the Father sees Jesus in a way that is completely different than what we see, or even what Jesus himself has known to that point in His earthly life.

This is what the Father sees in Jesus.  He sees the Son who was present with the Father, from before the very beginning of time.  He sees the Son through whom all things were created.  He sees the Son who set aside His own glory to enter into a fully human life, beginning that life in the same place of complete dependence that everyone on earth does.  He sees the Son living a life that is free of sin and obedient to God at every single step.  He sees the Son whose obedience is to the point of laying down His very life in order to bring freedom for every person who would place their faith in God through Him.  He sees the Son who is raised to glory and enthroned in heaven.  He sees the Son who returns to earth in power and glory, bringing the end to all earthly things and the fulfillment of all of God's eternal plans. 

In short, as the Father speaks from heaven to the Son, He sees the Son from before the first verse of Genesis and after the last verse of Revelation.  He sees all of creation and redemption, and the presence of the Son, fully obedient to the Father, in every bit of it. 

Well-pleased?  With all that in view, how could the Father be anything less than well-pleased?

May you know that peace and joy that come when Jesus is your Savior.  Your Lord.  These things that He has done, which so please the Father, He did not only in love for the Father.  

He did them for you.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Unlikely Messengers

This morning I preached from Mark 1:1-8.  These are the opening verses of the Gospel according to Mark, and they contain a whole lot of Good News from God for His people.

One of the things I noted was that the central character of this passage, John the Baptist, hardly looks like God's leading messenger.  Out in the wilderness, dressed in rough clothing and eating a diet that, quite frankly, doesn't attract my taste buds.  If God wants to reach lots of people shouldn’t the messenger go to the places where all the people are, dressing and living in ways that show he fits in, so that people will listen to him?

Perhaps.  As we read this passage we do see that many people are hearing about John and coming out to the wilderness to see him.  To listen to him.  And as unlikely as it seems, he must be having some effect, as people are repenting of their sin, confessing their sin, in response to God's message, as delivered through John.

What about today?  Is God still calling on people to repent, to turn away from sin and turn towards Him?  Absolutely.  Is he still using messengers?  Again, absolutely.  And who are His messengers?

Some of them are fairly obvious, people such as myself, who are called to serve churches as their pastors, coming to the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and preaching God's word.  Bringing the Good News of Jesus to people in many other ways during the course of the week.

But there are other messengers as well.  People who may think of themselves as fairly unlikely messengers, if they think of themselves as messengers of God in the first place.  These are the people sitting in the pews, Sunday after Sunday.  They are people who know first-hand the presence of the King of Kings in their lives.  They are people who love the Lord.  They are people who know God, who love God, and who have the ability to share a bit of that knowledge, a bit of that love, with other people. 

Every one of those unlikely messengers has a different part of the story of God to tell, and a different way to tell it.  And as they tell their stories they lead others to experience the powerful move from unbelief to faith.  They become a means that will God use to bring change  in lives,  The eternal change that comes when Jesus is not some abstract person, or the main character of an obscure book, but Savior and Lord.

Praise God for His messengers, both the likely ones, and especially the unlikely ones.  may it be your blessing to serve God as His messenger today.

(The picture above is of two of God's messengers, one of whom wasn't told why to pose for the picture.) 

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror abroad and at home

Last night, while we here in the United States went about whatever it was we were doing, there was a terrible terrorist attack in France.  As I write this afternoon the latest news is that 129 people were killed and 395 were injured.  The attacks were horrible crimes, and the outrage and calls for justice, in France and throughout the world, are entirely justified.

It was an ordinary Friday evening here in Dulce.  I learned of the attacks in France while we were having roller-skating in our church gym.  There were over 30 children skating, playing, laughing and just generally having a good time.  It was the biggest turnout I've seen since we've been here. 

I imagine that in a broad sense, including both the good and the bad, it was an ordinary Friday night throughout America, following an ordinary day.  Meaning that in America it was  a day in which about 3,000 babies lost their lives through abortion.

Over 20 times the number of deaths as in Paris, but not happening simultaneously in one or two locations in one city, but happening  in many places scattered throughout our country.  Not deaths that come through the means used by terrorists, means that nearly everyone would say are illegal and immoral, but through means that in this country are protected by law and considered by many to be morally neutral, simply a matter of choice.  Legal or not, moral or not, those means are just as deadly for the victims in the womb as for the victims in Paris.

Three thousand babies who won’t grow up to roller-skate, to play, or to laugh with other kids.  Three thousand babies who won't grow and learn to read school books and blog posts.  Three thousand babies who won't grow to be adults who can express outrage at the world's injustices, or seek to correct them.  Three thousand babies, every day.

It is right to pray and seek for God to bring peace and justice in the world.  And was we pray for peace and an end to terror abroad, let us also pray for peace and an end to the terror we allow at home.