With Bread

In a few days

bride and groom walking on staircase

God often synchronizes His events with those of man and those which He commanded long ago. It’s fascinating to see that God is never in a hurry, never behind schedule, and loves people enough to include them in His plans.

Celebrations

As children of Adam, it is in our nature for us to celebrate events. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, 12-step milestones, births of nations. Consider the Lozi tribe in Zambia. Their king is very revered and influential. 

Each year, when the rains come, their lowland territory becomes flooded. The Lozi people cannot leave their flooded land until the king gives his permission, and he and his entourage are the first to cross a large river and relocate to his highland territory. It takes eight hours for the king’s boat to cross the river. His arrival kicks off a three-day celebration!

In a few days

Each event that people celebrate carries its unique pomp and circumstance. It is fascinating to see that this natural attribute comes from being created in God’s image, for God is big on ceremonies and celebrations.

A significant difference between God’s events and ours is that God never rushes, nor does He become frenetic, whereas being rushed and frenetic is part and parcel of humanity’s staged events. Notice what Jesus communicated to His apostles.

John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 1:5

Pentecost

Why, in a “few days?” God’s plan was to birth Christ’s Church on the Jewish day of Pentecost. Jerusalem would then be teaming with Jews from both foreign and domestic lands. They would be there to celebrate the day of Pentecost. Little did they know that God would institute a new Pentecost.

The word Pentecost means “50”, so for the Jews, Shavuot (Pentecost) comes seven weeks (49 days +1) after the second night of Passover, therefore “50”. For Christians, Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter.
What better way to showcase the fulfillment prophecies in the book of Joel? With Jerusalem filled with people that spoke myriad languages, the Holy Spirit had the perfect platform to point people to the miraculous, to the birthing of the Church for the whole world, testified to by the first members of the first church proclaiming the glory of Jesus in every tongue, every language.

Coming Soon, an Extraordinary Celebration

In chapter one of Act, we find Jesus telling His disciples, hang on for just a few days more, and then you will see Me, again, in the miracles which the Father has ordained. Of course, the apostles wanted to know, “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) But Jesus said the timing for that event was hidden.

We love to celebrate. God loves to celebrate. I am confident that there will be an extraordinary celebration on that day when Jesus calls us home.

Are Birds Evil?

picture of a "Bee Eater" bird

Just look at the beauty and purpose that God created in this “European bee-eater.” WHAT! They eat honey bees! Does this make them evil? No. Only children of Adam, people, are evil. –Matthew 15:19

The Good News is that Jesus has made a way, the only way, for us to reborn, out of wickedness, and into righteousness!

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.Romans 5:19

Work Where God Placed You

green leaf trees under blue sky

Jonah 3:10, When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah 4:1-3, But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

John 4:4, But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Work Where God Placed You

I don’t know which side of the political aisle you stand. I don’t want to know. However, my question to you is this: If God told you to join the other side and do His work inside that party’s camp, would you do it? Would you do it if you knew that God would extend compassion to that political party?

That is basically what Jonah faced and what drove Jonah to flee God and to become livid when God changed the hearts of the people of Nineveh. Jonah certainly had a tough assignment. To be told to go to an evil society. To tell them that God was going to punish them, knowing that God would change their hearts. That they would repeat and make Jonah look like a false prophet. That was Jonah’s assignment. Ouch!

Don’t look at others’ fields and say in your heart, that’s where I should be. Don’t say in your heart, “I would be better.” Don’t waste your prayers pleading with God to put you in the place you want to be, that you thought you would be. Don’t allow bitterness to displace gentleness. Don’t run from God; don’t hinder God’s work in you. God called you for a purpose. His timing and His place may not align with your agenda but our purpose in God’s kingdom is to do His will.

A People, A Place, and a Purpose

God calls every Christian, and He chose you and called you for a purpose. He has a people, a place, and a purpose for each of His children, including you, if you are His child.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10

Your life will never make sense until you receive the Father’s beloved Son, yield to the yoke that Jesus has personally crafted for you (Matthew 11:29), and entered the field which He has prepared for you. Don’t be a tone-deaf musician, an inarticulate teacher, a clumsy craftsman. Rejoice in the work that was prepared for you before you were even born.

God’s Heavenly Call

Allow the radiance of Christ Jesus (Hebrews 1:3), through the abiding Holy Spirit (John 14:17), to shine from you and upon those around you. Allow no hate, no malice, no discontent to discredit the work Christ is doing through you. If your Master has called you to weave baskets or build bridges, do it all unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). If He has called you to go into the enemy’s camp, then go. For there is a day on God’s heavenly calendar when you will stand before Him and give an account of what you did with your life (Acts 17:31). Don’t let your answer be, “I buried it.” (Matthew 25:18) Instead, do your Master’s work so that you will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into thy rest.” (Matthew 25:21)

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Coffee, Too

So, by now you’re asking, Gary, how are you going to wrangle a devotional out of coffee, especially when so many people abhor the stuff? Well, here goes… Read more

Our Signature

love one another chalk written on concrete floor

Jesus always shows compassion towards people that are lost or struggling. He showed compassion to Mary (called Magdalene); He cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:2), and the dad that asked Jesus for help to overcome his unbelief (Mark 9:24) and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27). Jesus reached out to me when I was lost.

Here is something wonderful for believers: The Holy Spirit in us is God’s signature, guaranteeing we are His (Ephesians 1:13–14). Likewise, our signature – the thing that identifies us – is pointed out by Jesus in John 13:35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

This message, “if you love one another“, is recurring from my recent posts. The turmoil in our society is a symptom, more than a “condition.” You can plug in whichever turmoil you wish. Still, all of these symptoms radiate from a single, underlying disease. It is a disease that lives in the flesh of every child of Adam:

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24

Here’s R.C. Sproul’s commentary on this passage:

Belonging to Christ involves repudiating an old life and embracing a new one. The image is that of taking off fraying clothes and putting on new ones.

The Root of the Problem

The root of the world’s travails is a double-headed monster. Mind you, it’s one monster, but it shows up in both the “old self” and the “new self.” Let’s first consider the old self.

One Head is the Old Self

Before you or I accepted Jesus’ salvation, we were convicts awaiting our sentencing. We were under condemnation (John 3:18), we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), we lived and breathed rebellion against Jesus (Isaiah 30:9), the Righteous One (Acts 3:14). Integral parts of our old self were wickedness, greed, jealousy, and more. Our reprobate selves were diseased and decaying. Nothing good resided in us. So no one should expect anything good to come out of us (Job 14:4). Not brotherly love, not selflessness, not fairness, kindness, gentleness, love, and so forth. Certainly, there were occasional acts of love and kindness, but these were always fleeting, and if the real heart of any reprobate person were to be exposed, only evil would be found (Romans 3:10).

Therefore, with regard to a world bursting at the seams with death, it is hardly surprising that any number of heinous laws, systemic sins, personal wrongdoing, and more were perpetrated upon people. The ideas espoused by people like Karl Marx are lunacy for those ideas stand upon the belief that good can be found, if not in the individual, then in some collection of peoples. How utterly misguided are these theories and philosophies for they are born in sin and doomed for destruction.

The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.Isaiah 24:5

The Second Head is Sin in the New Self

If you scroll back up to God’s Word from Ephesians 4:22-24, notice that the apostle Paul wrote this letter to Christians. He wrote it, not to the city council in Ephesus but to the church in Ephesus. Even after we are born again, our old self still lingers. You and I know this, empirically, because we have sinned after being saved. Maybe that’s too much of an assumption. I confess: I have sinned, more than once, after being saved. Therefore, I know that a battle exists between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), not in the “me” that is now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but, in vain, it fights against my new self. Also, I have not fully been transformed into the likeness of Jesus because my mind, though improving, has not been fully renewed (Romans 12:2). And here’s where the monster comes in.

The Monster

Just as Eve was seduced to sin in the Garden, every Christian has been seduced by God’s enemy at one time or another, resulting in sins of commission or omission. For in whatever areas of our lives we are weak, those the places where we are attacked. When a weak Christian finds solace with other Christians that are weak in the same aspects of character, then the local church starts down the path of heresy. That heresy finds “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) in other churches, and soon the society undergirded by Christians becomes reprobate, espousing lies and passing laws firmly grounded in death, not life.

Our Signature

What can we do? If Christians never sinned there would be no reason for:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

Yet, we are warned with passages such as:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:7

And we are warned:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.1 John 3:6-8

How can we nullify that dead and decaying old man who keeps trying to cling to us, to pull us under, to steal our joy, to steal our witness, to steal our hope, to collude with weak and false believers that spew out heresies? Jesus has given us soul-medicine, the Good News that protects us from our old self. And what is our protection? John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Love is how we are recognized, it is our signature. It costs us everything that is worth nothing.

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Love Lifted Me

fishing ships in a harbor
Love Lifted Me
I was sinking deep in sin,
far from the peaceful shore,
very deeply stained within,
sinking to rise no more;
but the Master of the sea
heard my despairing cry,
from the waters lifted me;
now safe am I. 

"We love because he first loved us." - 1 Jn. 4:19

Photo: I snapped this pic in Kupreanof, Alaska.

The Apostle That Jesus Loved

book of John page

John 19:25-27but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

John the Apostle

Much of the following is based on traditional Church history. Throughout the book of John, the apostle John goes to great lengths to keep his name out of the book, most likely motivated by humility. When we read John 1:35-42 we discover two things about the apostle John. First, it is likely that he was a disciple of John the Baptist. So, he and the apostle Andrew were the first apostles. 

The apostle that Jesus loved is the apostle John (John 13:23). Church history tells us that John was probably the youngest apostle and He died as the oldest Apostle, perhaps in his 90s.

John the Mentor

Polycarp was the bishop for the church at Smyrna, located on the western side of ancient Greece, and Ignatius was the bishop for Antioch, located on the eastern side of ancient Greece. Both Polycarp and Ignatius were disciples of the apostle John. Their writings helped fuse the thoughts and teachings within the rapidly growing local churches.

John was the youngest apostle of Jesus, he lived the longest, and we have two of the most instrumental Early Church fathers that were taught by a person that not only witnessed the work of Jesus but was friends with Jesus. Therefore, the apostle John was a bridge between Christ’s earthly ministry and the Church’s founding and early establishment. 

John the Student

All of these observations are well established. But here’s what I am late in learning: the mother of Jesus lived with John. That’s what our Scripture for today tells us. I knew that, but I didn’t appreciate it.

Is it any wonder that the Gospel, according to John, is unique among the four Gospels. We have the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), and then we have the book of John.

How many times did John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, sit around their “kitchen” table and talk about Jesus? John would have heard the first-hand stories of Mary’s visitation from the Holy Spirit, the shepherds, and the Magi. Their flight to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus, and on and on. John had more access to the whole of Christ’s earthly life than any other apostle. 

John the Testifier

Now we know that men wrote God’s Word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-262 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:20-21). So, each book contains the living Word of God while maintaining the characteristics of the writer. With that understanding, look at the opening verse of each of the four Gospels.

Matthew 1:1, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Luke 1:1, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us…”
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John the Proclaimer

Christian theologians struggled for 300 years to understand the opening verses of the book of John [a]. From the powerful first verse of John’s book, the apostle John explodes with resounding declarations as to the deity of Jesus, the miraculousness of Jesus, the height and width, and depth of the immeasurableness of Jesus. John knew these things. The Holy Spirit was in him (1 Corinthians 3:16) and on him (Acts 19:6). 

It’s reasonable to assume that James, the brother of Jesus, who probably led the apostles’ work in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13, 19), no doubt had known and had spent time with John. And far above all, John was the apostle that Jesus loved (John 13:23).

John in the One

Peter, James, and John, the three, were the only witnesses of the raising of the Daughter of Jairus, the only witnesses of the Transfiguration, and the only witnesses of the Agony in Gethsemane. In fact, the apostle John was within the 12 (Matthew 10:2-4), within the 3 (Matthew 26:36–46), within the 2 (Luke 22:8), and within the one, for he was Christ Jesus’ best friend (John 13:23). Just like our best friends, Jesus knew John and John knew Jesus.

I’ve written these observations not to elevate John, but to help us grasp the majesty and deity of Jesus that John desires to communicate in his book. I think there has never been any mortal man better equipped to express to the world how marvelous and mighty is Jesus, our Savior, our God (John 20:28). So, we gain some of this understanding when we read what John wrote, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration: 

The Glory of Jesus

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)…”Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

When you need a boost to your life in Jesus, turn to the book of John. I don’t think it’s possible to read John’s book and not draw closer to Jesus, the Son in whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 3:17).

[a] The Mystery of the Trinity, Lecture 3, podcast, from 0 seconds – 50 seconds, R.C. Sproul

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

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Sinful Adam condemned the Righteous Adam

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!John 19:5

God’s Word is so fascinating and so cohesive. Cohesive? Yes, God’s Word “sticks to” all of the other parts of God’s Word. Each bit holds other bits together. 

In the 19th chapter of John, Pilate brought Jesus before the Jews as an accused criminal. Pilate declares, no doubt in a loud and authoritative voice, “Behold the man!” What Pilate didn’t understand nor did the Jews, was that the person that stood before them was the perfect Man. The Greek word for “man” used in John 19:5, means manone of the human racea human being. Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man (Mark 14:21).

Adam from Adamah

Though all of us come from Adam, the Jews have a record of their lineage back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). From the Ancient Hebrew Reference Center we learn:

The Hebrew word אדמה (adamah) is the feminine form of אדם meaning “ground” (see Genesis 2:7)…Each of these words has the common meaning of “red.” 
– Dam is the “red” blood
– adamah is the “red” ground
– edom is the color “red”
– adam is the “red” man

Genesis 2:7 states that “the adam” (man) was formed out of the adamah (ground)

Sinful Adam condemned the righteous Adam

God created Adam, but Adam sinned. Jesus, the Son of Man, was conceived by God and was sinless. Therefore, the innocent, perfect man was presented by Pilate to the Jews (the adams). Jesus, the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47), was rejected by the Jews. We could even say that the sinful Adam condemned the righteous Adam [a], as was foreshadowed when Cain condemned Abel.

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:20

As Christians, we can expect people (i.e., Adams) to condemn us. We live in challenging times, but then Christians have always lived in challenging times. It is imperative to remember that within the ranks of those that persecute us are people like Saul (i.e., the Apostle Paul) that will repent and be saved. We must live in ways that do not hide Jesus from those that persecute us.

[a] Humanity was “in” Adam. We can say this based on Hebrews 7:9-10 ESV: One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

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Qualifications

graduate from college

Each person that God calls, He calls for a purpose. God is not subject to times or circumstances. So, if He has called you then He has already gathered the provisions for you. Neither man nor virus can stop the will of God.

You may say, all around me are problems that seem to block God’s call upon my life. What am I to do? Recall what God said to Moses:

The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” – Exodus 4:2

Stop and look at what God has placed in your hands. God placed a staff in the hand of Moses to overcome an insurmountable obstacle (Exodus 14:16). God put a horn of oil in the hand of Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13) to anoint Israel’s new king while King Saul was still on the throne. And God put Elijah’s cloak in the hands of Elisha (2 Kings 2:14) while a group of prophets watched him to see if God was really with him. So, pray, ask God what He has placed in your hands? Ask Him to anoint your gift as He anointed the gifts given to Moses, Samuel, and Elisha. God will make a way for you where there is no way.

No doubt, many of us are familiar with Isaiah 42:8 (ESV) – “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” We know that where God guides, He provides. Many of us know the testimonies of Andraé Crouch, who God instantly gave the ability to play piano for his dad’s church and that God also, instantly, gave the gift for playing the piano to Annie Herring (2nd Chapter of Acts). But those people are the exceptions.

The Responsibility Rests on You

God usually puts the responsibility squarely on us to act in faith and develop the qualifications we need to meet the call He places upon us. That’s the reason for Christian universities, seminaries, medical schools, and such. God places His call upon us, but He typically requires us to acquire the qualifications. We see qualifications recognized in Christ’s parable of the talents.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” – Matthew 25:14-15 (ESV)

The servants didn’t get the same opportunity or responsibility but were given “according to his ability.” Ability implies talent, training, and time, otherwise known as qualifications. We are not born with skills. God gives talent, but skill is talent that has been refined and perfected over time. As God’s Word states in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV): “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” By saying “do your best,” the Holy Spirit shows us that our effort is measured by God.

Making it Personal

Even while you are preparing for God’s purpose for you, there is no substitute for spending time with Him. Praying to the Father in the name of Jesus under the unction of the Holy Spirit is the only way for you to journey from talent to the skill that God has called you to. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that there is a shortcut.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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