What the Lord has Done for Me

He has never let me go.

He has never abandoned me.

He has never unjustly chastened me.

He has never been unkind, or vicious, or mean spirited.

He has never withheld his love.

He has never forgotten me.

He has loved me with an everlasting love.

His right hand has led me, even when I pulled away from him.

When I was faithless, He was faithful.

He was my shield and my guard, even when I didn’t see it.

He has answered countless prayers, in ways I didn’t see or understand, but also in miraculous ways that I did see.

He has taught me how good he is.

He has been my comforter.

He has been my friend.

He has been my teacher and counselor.

He has been my encouragement and my buffeter, my stronghold and safe place.

He has redeemed me from the pit of hell. He not only made me, gifted me with life, but then he bought me back when I was lost in sin. He gave his son, he died a painful disgusting, terrible death, so that his blood would pay for my rebellious and selfish and wicked ways.

And after he bought me back, He called me lovely beloved child of God, co-heirs with his perfect, beautiful son. He gave me an inheritance I didn’t deserve. He called me righteous and chosen.

He picked me up, turned me around, set my feet on a solid ground, Hallelujah!

He gave me hope and a future, his plans prospered me and gave me peace.

He set me in a family where I was taught of him and brought to him, and loved and accepted.

He brought me a husband who is faithful and wonderful and fun and forgiving. He gave me a beautiful home in a peaceful nation where I enjoy freedom and prosperity and the luxury of fellowship with other believers, and the chance to choose my days and my ways.

He gave me three beautiful and intelligent and compassionate children, and the fun of spending every day with them.

He gave me a thousand beautiful people to surround me, and fill my life with conversation and laughter and beauty and support and adventures in music and art and hiking and swimming and bonfires and food and warm affection.

He gave me every beautiful thing on this earth for my enjoyment- mountains and sunsets and rainbows and ballet and puppies and the Caribbean waters and the dark woods of Alaska and the happy tulips in spring. And then he gave me his word- to guide me to what is best, to warn me of what is wrong, to lead me in the way everlasting.

He gives me each new morning, like a little gift, unwrapped, a new chance to find more of Him, and how wonderful He is, and how wonderful it is to walk after him, to search for him and find him like a hidden treasure.

He gave me the heritage of thousand upon thousands of righteous ones, a bright cloud of witnesses, who have already gone before me and danced out lives of faith, full of pain and glory and joy and sorrow, and he gave me the blessing of their testimony- written and spoken and sung, all of us like the blind feeling the elephant, and describing to each other a bit of the Lord that we are experiencing, so that only together we can get a glimpse of the Great, Glorious, wonderful God that He is!

He gave me a future- an eternity of further up and further in, where each day is a new beginning of the bright, great joy it will be to know Him, really know Him, the way He knows us.

And he knows me, He really knows me. He sees to the depth of my heart, and He loves me. He sees where I stumble, where I fall, and he lifts me up, and tenderly nurses my wounds, and he makes all things work for my good, and he goes ahead of me and prepares my way, and he doesn’t scold me over my failures, but overwhelms me with his generous grace. He genuinely cares for me, and wants to see me succeed- to become just as his Son is- fully loved and fully loving. He is not slow to forgive, He is not lax in his provision for me. He is abundant, overflowing, He is good, always.

There is a lot more. But do you know what? He would do the same for you, if you want.

Born Again

We are going on in the third chapter of John. If you’re just getting started, you can back up and start at the beginning by clicking here. Or you can jump into the story right here. A man, Nicodemus, has come to Jesus at night to question him.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Here we are still in the middle of the conversation with Nicodemus. We’re talking about being born again. What a strange phrase, but then, it’s become so common it has lost it’s strange-ness in our ears.

Born Again.

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Nicodemus wants to know what God is doing, and what Jesus has to do with God, and Jesus answers by saying, “You won’t understand unless you’re born again.”

Then he gives an analogy. We can feel the wind going by, but we can’t understand it. That’s how it is with the Spirit’s ways… Unless.

Unless.

Unless what? Unless you are born of the Spirit.

Unless you are born of God, you don’t understand God. Unless you’re born of the Spirit, you don’t understand the Spirit. Jesus can’t explain anything of God to someone who isn’t born of God.

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Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.”

Here he’s gently reprimanding Nicodemus, and saying, How can I talk to you of God? This is harsh. Remember, Nicodemus is one of the religious leaders and teachers. He should know of God more than anyone, right?

And then Jesus goes on to refer to Himself in third Person. “We.”

It’s just like God spoke in Genesis. “Let us create man…”

It’s because He’s about to say something about Who He is.

Nicodemus says, “We know you have come from God.”

Jesus is about to say He IS God.

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“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe,” He goes on, “How will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

So he’s saying, no one has ever come from God, except the One who IS God. The Son of Man is a title that Jesus refers to- it’s essentially saying, “God who was born as a man.” And He’s saying it about himself. 

What do you think Nicodemus thinks of this? He came and said, “Okay, we know you came from God…” And Jesus answers him by saying, “If you want to understand what I’m about to say, you have to be of the Spirit. And by the way, I’m not from God. I am God.

But that’s not all, he says even more. He tells Nicodemus the answer to what he came to ask- Why are you here? What’s your purpose?

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” 

It’s only this beginning of the book of John, but he’s already telling what the ending will be. He’s saying, “I’m God’s Son, and I’m here to rescue all of you through my death.”

This is what it means to be born again: To believe. To come to Jesus, listen to him, and look at him, and recognize that this is the Son of God, who has come to die and take away our sins.

If you do that, you’re born again- and then you can understand more and more of the kingdom of heaven. You can go to Jesus with your questions, and he can answer them.

Do you have to go back inside your mother’s womb? No.

You have to lay down at the feet of Jesus, and say, “I believe you have come from God, because you are God, and you have come to rescue me from my sins.”

And he washes you, not with water, but with blood. And you stand up, free from sin, your old self dead, and your new self born through Him into a new life.

You are born again.

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The book of John (1)

This post is part of an ongoing series moving through the book of John. You can subscribe by email at the link on the side, or you can head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here. 

Follow Me.

John 1:40-50. Let’s read this whole part.
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

So much here! First of all, let’s talk about what Jesus did. Remember, we are here to know the Mercy Man. 

First, Jesus sees Simon and gives him a new name. Then, he sees Philip and says, “Follow me!” Then Nathanael. Jesus looks at him and sees him- really sees him. He tells him where he is physically, and he tells him what’s in his deepest heart.

Whoa.

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This is so beautiful. Do you realize that this is what happens to us? When we come to Jesus, he looks at us and knows us completely- inside and out- and loves us.

He knows our past, he knows our failures, he knows even the terrible things of us- and He gives us a new name, and he says, “Follow me!”

Amazing.

But how does he do this? How you do know it’s for you? Wasn’t it just for these special men? The chosen ones?

 

No. You are a chosen one, beloved, if you have chosen him.follow 2

 

 

You see, later in the gospel there is a verse that says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” There is a whole discussion in theology about who is chosen and there’s plenty of very smart people who can argue both sides about whether we choose God or he chooses us. But suffice it to say that you, right now, saying “I choose God,” is a sign that He has chosen you.

Some people can be fatalistic. They say, “Well, I’m probably not one of God’s, he chooses anyway, what can I do?”

This is a silly way. It’s like hanging back at the end of the line, and saying, “What’s the use trying to get in?” When the person at the gate wants to let anyone in.

 

You are chosen, you are called, and I know this because he calls to everyone, and if you are hearing him, and hope is springing in your heart that you WANT to be called, than I know it’s you he’s calling.

 

He’s calling you, and He sees you, and he knows you, and He loves you.

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He sees where you are right now, and he has good plans for you, and good work for you to do, and besides that- a reward. A good reward.

 

And that part about a new name? That wasn’t just for Simon. He looked at Simon, which means, “listen,” and called him Peter, which means, “Rock.” Jesus looked at Simon and basically said, “I know your future, and I have plans for you, and they’re good.” He looked at what Peter was created to be and called Him to it, and he does the same for you.

 

He looks right at you, and says,

“Follow me.”

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The book of John (1)This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

The Baptist

This post and series is now a podcast! You can listen instead of reading by just clicking here. 

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There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light…

Let’s talk more about John for just a few minutes. . Let’s skip forward a few verses, to 19.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He came baptizing people for repentance. There’s more about him in other places in the Bible. He was the son of an older couple who had been infertile for a long time. The book of Luke says his father was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that he would be born, and named John- in fact, Gabriel said more than that. He said, “

“…he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

After John was born, his own father was filled with the Spirit and prophesied, which means, he spoke God’s words, and said this…

“…you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And he was. John came before Jesus, he was born only months before Jesus was. The book of Matthew says he acted like a prophet- not like a normal man. He wore strange clothes like the prophets from the old Testament did. He went out to the wilderness of Judea, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And people went out from the town to hear what he had to say, and this is what he told them:

Repent!

Repent. It’s a word that means many things. In the Greek, it’s “metaneo,” which means to “change one’s mind for the better, to reconsider,” which is how we usually think of it. We usually translate it to mean, “Hey! Admit you’re wrong and change!”

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But in the Hebrew language, the word is nacham, or nichuwm, which is sometimes translated “comfort.” In the way of “to sigh, to be sorry, to pity, to console, to ease, to comfort.” In fact, it’s similar to a word that means, “God comforts us.” There is even a verse that says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord. “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned…”

And John came saying, “Repent! Prepare the way for the Lord!”

Was he saying, “Turn from your sins and be better!” Or was he saying, “Take heart! The sin-conqueror is coming!”?

Maybe both.

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I think of John coming ahead of Jesus, and getting people in the mood for the real thing.

He was like an appetizer, opening up people’s hearts and minds and saying, “Get ready! It’s about time!”

He baptized people in water for the repentance of sins. Baptism was a ceremonial washing that usually signified conversion- like when a person wasn’t Jewish, and they wanted to be. They were fully immersed, and cleansed. But there were other times to wash- like the priests, before they went into the temple to meet with God. Or normal people, when it was about time to give their gifts to God or celebrate Him. They washed fully to clean themselves and get themselves ready for God, because he’s holy.

So John came washing people, and getting them ready to meet Jesus, who was holy.

And the story goes on- the religious rulers have more to ask him.

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

And John did just what he was supposed to do. He pointed to Jesus. 

This is what I want to do. In these posts, I want to point to Jesus. I want to call out to you, to everyone, and say, “Hey! There is comfort! Turn and come see Jesus, he’s the BEST!”

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The book of John (1)
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

A Glimpse of the Trinity

((This post is also available as a podcast! Just click here to listen.))

 

John chapter one, verse one.

The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Trinity. Let’s talk about it today. Let’s start the climb up the mountain towards an impossible peak that is far beyond our understanding, but let’s go anyway, because the joy is in the journey.

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I’ve heard it said that an incomplete analogy for the Trinity is the three parts of an egg. The yolk, the white, the shell. All the egg…. But that analogy never worked for me. Because the yolk is not The Egg. It is only part of the egg. It doesn’t describe how each part is fully the whole.

But that’s why it’s an incomplete analogy. It’s like looking at a mountain from one side. We see it a little, but we don’t fully understand it.

 

Let’s round the corner and come at it from another angle: I think that the word God is like a Title. In it, it contains everything we know about what God is. Ruler, King of Kings, Judge, Creator. One to be Worshiped.

But what if we compared it to the title, President. Who is President? At the moment, a single man. But what if there was an alteration to the constitution that allowed for more than one president? What if the office could be simultaneously held by more than one person? What if it was held by three distinct people, each with their own personalities and responsibilities, but each of them was actually due the title, “President?”

I think of this and the word “God.”

 

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

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It’s still an incomplete analogy. There is something lacking in it because three distinct people would never be so in unity that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are. And the Bible clearly says there is One God.

There is One God.

Which is very, very different from three presidents.

I think this is where unity comes in. If there were three presidents, each would have his or her own goals and dreams and wills.

But the reason why the Three are One, the reason why there is One God, eternally existent in Three Persons, is because they have unity. They are not self-seeking. They submit to and love each other. They are one in spirit, more than just a nice phrase, but literally, they are bonded together so that they share one spirit.

 

Do you know, in the scriptures, where it says, “The two become one flesh,” This is the demonstration of the Trinity. The two become one when they love each other. Truly love. Intimate, self-sacrificing, knowing love.

The Trinity, the three, are One. They are all God, they are all knit together.

 

The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Like a king who marries and gives his title to his wife, the Son inherits the title and authority of the Father through love and submission.

 

When I was a kid, I was confused about who to pray to. Do I pray to the Father? To Jesus? Probably not to the Spirit, right?

When I teach children, they say, “Is God Jesus?”

It’s confusing, I know.

Because there are three persons, but One God.

 

But I think that the answer is that we can look at God both ways.

 

We read and believe that there is One God, and we wonder about it, and we accept it, and say, “Lord, teach me to understand this, because I don’t.” We do this with everything in the scriptures that is beyond our understanding, and thankfully, He teaches us to understand it more and more.

 

Truthfully, some things in the Bible are beyond our understanding, but I think it is foolish to say, “I will never understand it.” Instead, we look at it like children who are gradually learning. We might only catch a tiny glimpse of the mountain, but each glimpse it wonderful and makes us want more.

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And we read and understand them each better for who they are individually. In the book of John, we can begin to see the different roles that each of them play. The more we read, the more we understand.

 

And when we pray, we can speak to them individually- in their roles. We can petition the Father for our requests. He is our provider.

But the Spirit also gives us things, comfort and wisdom… and strength. We can speak to the Spirit, He is with us. I don’t think that it is sacrilege to say, “Spirit, give me strength” or, “Welcome, Holy Spirit.”

And Jesus… well, we should talk to Him. He is our friend and brother. He is our savior and made it possible for us to be in fellowship with God.

I think there is time to talk to each of the Trinity, and we can recognize the distinctness of each of the three Persons, and get to know each of them in their positions. Our Father is Judge and King and Provider. Our Brother is our intercessor and friend, and he defends us against the accuser. Our Helper, the Spirit, is our right hand and our teacher.

But when we cry out to God, not knowing whether God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit hears us, know that there is One God, eternally existent in three persons.

They are all three God. They are all three listening.

mountain 1The book of John (1)

This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to
the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here