Say It Again, God

“When God repeats something, He’s making a point and we need to pay attention.” My seminary professor’s words stuck with me as I sat before my Bible the next morning reading the day’s Scripture. I had been working through the Psalms for several months and was sitting in Psalm 136. You need to read this for yourself, so go grab your Bible (or look the verses up here) and read through this chapter. I’ll wait for you. What did you notice? Every verse ends with the refrain: “His love endures forever.” Twenty-six times. Do you think God is trying to make a point? Do you think you and I need to pay attention?

If there is one persistent theme in all of the Bible it is the love of God. God’s love often comes in different ways and the Psalmist points many of them out to us – His great wonders (v 4), His creation (vs. 5-9), salvation (v. 10-12), miracles (vs. 13-15), guidance (v. 16), protection (vs. 17-20), goodness (vs.  1, 21-22), faithfulness (v. 23), redemption (v. 24), and provision (v. 25).  God’s people in every generation could add to that list. God’s love is extraordinary and indescribable, through writers of books and songs and scripture (and blogs) have attempted to put it into human words. And they’ve all fallen short. There is a great old hymn, “The Love of God,” written in 1917 by Frederick. Lehman and Claudia Mays, that I think comes as close as anyone ever could. The third stanza is my favorite:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.[1]

This psalm is full of beauty and majesty and wonder. But the point God was making over and over and over  – the thing that He wants you to grasp with all your heart, Beloved, is that He loves you and His love will endure forever. And that is something to repeatedly thank God for (vs. 1-3,26).

[1] The Love of God  (1917) by Frederick M. Lehman, 1917, har. by Claudia L. Mays, 1917, v. 3 by Anonymous/Unknown, copyright status is Public Domain.

At the Feet of Jesus

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“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3).

I often think about the feet of Jesus. Those ten tiny toes kicked against the swaddling clothes as He lay in a manger. Those feet carried Him into the lives of sick children, broken, sinful women, and demon-possessed men. People fell before the feet of Jesus to plead for healing for themselves or someone they loved. And every time Jesus responded with compassion, He never walked away from those who needed him. His feet took Him to teach on the side of a mountain and the lakeshore. They carried Him up to Golgotha where Roman soldiers nailed them to a cruel, wooden cross. His nail-scarred hands and feet were the proof of His resurrected body before His disciples.

All His glory was bound up in that human body with human feet that carried Him to souls in need of mercy, freedom, grace, and life. He walked into my life with those beautiful feet bringing good news, peace, and salvation to this weary sinful woman.

There is one more place in Scripture where we see the feet of Jesus. Zechariah 14:4 says “On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west.” When Jesus Christ returns to earth in all His glory, His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives – the place where He surrendered His will to the will of the Father (Luke 22:39-42) – and His glory will be so great that the mountain will split in two. Those beautiful feet will stand atop the mountain, and those scars that spoke of the humble servant of God will now shout of the mighty King of kings. “The Lord will be king over the whole earth” (Zechariah 14:9).

The feet of Jesus bring us healing, wholeness, freedom, and life. The feet of Jesus bear the marks of His great love for you and me. His feet that once bore nails will one day bear power – earth-shaking, mountain-breaking power. And at His feet, all of humanity will fall in worship and proclaim that He is Lord.

Beloved, have you invited Him to walk into your life?

Bible Study

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You’ve heard me say this before, and I’ll say it to my dying day – one of the most important Bible study lessons I’ve learned is to not take any Scripture out of its greater context. That is crucial to understanding the text and making the right application.  When we isolate a verse or passage we can make it say pretty much anything we want. I’ll give you just one example.

Two points are always taught from the miracle story in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus met ten lepers who cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (13) And He did. He told them to “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” which the Law demanded. The first point is that the lepers didn’t wait around until they saw their flesh restored but immediately did what Jesus said, and “As they went, they were cleansed” (14). The lesson is drawn that obedience proceeds blessings. The second, and you’re probably familiar with this one, is that only one of the ten healed men returned to thank Jesus – and this brings the lesson of gratitude.

But the point of this miracle story is not just a reminder to be obedient to God’s commands nor to be grateful for what God has done for you, although these are both important lessons and life habits that we should adopt. They are secondary to the miracle-working power of Jesus which added evidence to His claim to be the Son of God. That is Luke’s point throughout his entire gospel – the greater context. Luke stated his purpose for writing in 1:1-4. He wanted to assure “Theophilus” of “the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Now we don’t know who Theophilus was, but we know what he was taught. The heart of the gospel is in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Everything in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, points to Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. Without that firmly fixed in our minds, Bible study misses the point.

Beloved, I am passionate for you to get into the Word and get to know God’s heart for you – it begins and [never] ends with Jesus.

What the Church has Forgotten

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Something has been sticking in my craw lately. Something Jesus said. “Sin no more.” It’s found twice in John 5:14 and 8:11. What’s bugging me is not that Jesus said it – everything the Lord said is right and true and should be written on our hearts.  The problem I’m having is how the church is using it. Let me explain.

In John 5:1-15 Jesus healed a thirty-eight-year invalid at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus told the man “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (v. 8). And so the man is healed. John said “Later, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (v. 14).

In John 8:1-11 Jesus is confronted by a group of religious leaders who bring before Him a woman caught in the act of adultery (BTW – where was the man???). Jesus rejected the religious folks and sided with the woman because no one is without sin (I hope that’s not a surprise to you). After all of her accusers walked away he told her “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).

Without fail, every time I hear these stories taught, preached, or written about, they invariably press the “sin no more” point. Is that really what the Scriptures are teaching us in these accounts? What about the miracle-working power of Jesus? What about grace?  What about forgiveness? What about the extraordinary, wonderful, breathtaking, holy love on display? What would Jesus want us to take away from these passages? Surely not just the divine imperative to “leave your life of sin.” We forget that these are real people who encountered the real Son of God in the flesh. Yes, their lives were likely changed (we know nothing more than their encounters with the Lord) but the catalyst for change was the amazing grace and healing power of God through Jesus Christ.

What is the message of the church? It seems to most often be: “Don’t sin!” Is that what brings people to Christ? Let me ask it a different way. What drew you to Jesus Beloved? Fear and chastisement or grace and compassion and forgiveness and love? “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

And if He Does Not . . .

I prayed every day for three weeks. We thought he was going to make it. He endured three surgeries and overcame so many obstacles to recovery. But last Friday – three weeks to the day after his motorcycle accident, my brother passed away. So many of you were part of the roller coaster ride and my family and I are so very grateful for your prayers. You were as shocked as we were when we got the sad report. My brilliant, funny, talented, annoying brother with the dry wit and crooked teeth is gone. There will be no more Mark Twain quotes. No more rants about the crooked government. No more picking on his sister. No second book for his new series – Bracken and Platt are forever silenced.

I prayed so hard and believed God for a miracle. After all, He is Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals. He could heal my brother. He could mend all his broken bones. He could restore his neurological function. He could save his life. He could shield me and my family and his children and friends from this grief and pain. But He didn’t. God took Jim home and our hearts are broken.

But He is still God and He is still good. And I still trust Him with my heart and my soul and my life and the lives of those I love.  Like the three Jewish young men in Babylon who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, I know that “the God I serve is able” . . .“but even if He does not . . .”[1] I will never stop believing. I will never stop trusting. I will never stop loving. I will never stop worshiping. My brother is gone, but the next time I see him – and my mom – it will be forever.
No one is promised tomorrow. Hug your loved ones today Beloved.


[1]. Daniel 3:16-18.

To See the Extraordinary

rainbow stars“Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25

When we read the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we are amazed at the record of Jesus’ miracles and wonders while He was on the earth.  Healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, walking on water, feeding the multitudes, calming the storm, just to name a few.   We read of His teachings and his sermons and think how exciting it must have been for the disciples to be with Jesus on these occasions.  But the gospel accounts only highlight a select few incidents on certain days in the Lord’s life.  Does that mean the other days they walked with Jesus were just ordinary, hum-drum days?   I find that hard to imagine.  I can’t help but believe that every single day with Jesus the disciples witnessed something extraordinary.  I believe that is what today’s key verse means.  Jesus did more amazing things than could be contained in written records.  Surely every day they saw and heard more than just everyday things because they were in the company of the divine Son of God.

You and I don’t have the incarnate Christ physically present with us, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the miraculous.  You see, we have the presence of Jesus Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit living in us, and if we are willing, living through us.

We find recorded in John 14, Jesus’ promise to His disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18).  He was not talking about His appearances after His resurrection; He was talking about the Holy Spirit, whom He would send to empower His followers.  By that Spirit, Jesus said, “[you] will do what I have been doing; [you] will do even greater things than these” (v. 12).  That is how Jesus could tell His disciples: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  He would be with them—and with us, through His indwelling Holy Spirit.

What does that mean for us?  It means that, just as was so for the disciples, we are living every day in the extraordinary presence of Jesus Christ.  That means every day for us is never just an ordinary day.  Every day you and I walk with Jesus, we are filled with the power of the divine Son of God.    He’s right there with us, because He is in us.  Does that mean that we will see the sick healed, the dead raised, multitudes fed and all the things the disciples saw with their own eyes?  Well, yes and no.  I will never count out the possibility of God doing today what He did in the first century, He is still the same God of miracles in every age.  And through His followers, healing takes place (consider the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse physician Kent Brantly and team during the Ebola crisis); and multitudes are fed (have you ever had the privilege of serving at a homeless shelter?)  I will say the likelihood of seeing the physical dead raised to life is pretty slim, but every day we have the opportunity to see dead marriages come back to life, to see dead churches restored to vibrancy, and especially to see the spiritually dead resurrected to spiritual life.

Maybe your life feels like a drudge of laundry, kids, paperwork, telephones, machines or assembly lines.  Day in and day out it’s the same routine, the same faces, and the same struggles.  Where is the extraordinary in that?  I believe we can find it if we have our eyes open to what God is doing around us.  Every sunrise is a wonder, those sweet babies are living, breathing miracles, and even our own bodies are a marvel to behold.  Nature offers us glimpses of God’s power all around us: the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, the warmth of the sun with the cooling breeze, and the glorious colors of the sunset all give witness to the awesomeness of God.  I also believe we can be part of the extraordinary by letting the Spirit of Christ work through us to accomplish incredible things beyond our own natural abilities and strengths.  Your testimony can be the springboard to the miracle of a transformed life.  Your kind words and caring actions have the power to restore hope—and if you’ve ever lost hope, you know that finding it again is nothing short of a miracle.

What wonders await our senses when we look for God’s hand in this world?  What miracle can He work through you in someone’s life today?  My friend, I encourage you to look around with fresh eyes and a seeking heart for the extraordinary presence of God around you and inside you.  If you are a follower of Christ, no day is “just another day,” because nothing is ever ordinary when Jesus is there.

How wonderful are Your ways, O Lord, how miraculous are your deeds.  Please give me eyes to see all you are doing around me in and within me.  Help me to see the extraordinary in my everyday life.  Amen.