Doorframes

cross - doorframe

“ ‘Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:9, NIV).

In Old Testament times, God gave the Israelites several commands, the culmination of which was, “ ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). God’s chosen people were not only to obey these commands, but they were to pass them on to their children and grandchildren. For this very reason, God told the Israelites to
“ ‘Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:9, NIV). In this way, the Law of God would be remembered every time the Israelites entered their homes.

I find it interesting that the Law of God was to be written on the doorframes of the homes of the Israelites. For just prior to this command, the Israelite’s doorframes were written upon, not with the Law, but with the Gospel. During their captivity in Egypt, in an event that would become known as the Passover, the blood of lambs was spread on the doorframes of Israelite homes so that death would literally pass over these families.

Time and again, both then and now, the Law of God is covered by the grace of God. Such grace is found in Jesus at the bloodied frame of his cross. For on the cross, the Lamb of God was put to death on our behalf. Our sins are passed over and we are free.

“We Are” Versus “I Am”

i am

“Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many’ ” (Mark 5:9, NIV).

Jesus doesn’t fear confrontation, even when it means standing against Hell itself. He never cowers in the face of evil. Jesus doesn’t run from danger, and he will go to the ends of the Earth to search for and save even one lost soul.

The Gospel writer Mark records a frightening, yet fascinating, account of a demon-possessed man and his life-altering encounter with Jesus. Mark’s description of the man is quite startling. He lives among the tombs in the region of the Gerasenes. No one can stand against him. Like a dog, the man is chained, and like a monster, he breaks the chains. He approaches Jesus, not out of aggression, but out of obedience, for “…even the demons submit…” in the presence of and at the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17, NIV). When asked by Jesus to identify himself, the man states, “My name is Legion…for we are many” (Mark 5:9, NIV). The demons speak for the man, but they have no authority over Jesus. The “Legion” of demons, the “We Are”, is no match for “Jesus”, the “I am”. At their request, Jesus casts the demons into a nearby herd of pigs, and to the demons’ surprise, the pigs stampede into the sea and drown. The collateral damage is massive, and the townspeople ask Jesus to leave the region, but the man, formerly demon-possessed, stays, providing a witness for Jesus to all who will listen.

Jesus referred to himself as the “I am”, identifying himself as the God of the Old and New Testaments. He said things like “…I am the bread of life…” (John 6:35, NIV) and “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6, NIV). Jesus, the personification of God, came down from Heaven and was victorious over the forces of Hell. Through the sacrifice of the “I am”, we are forgiven and free. And we, also, have an amazing story to share.

Dry Bones and New Life

valley of death

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life’ ” (Ezekiel 37:4-5, NIV).

Ezekiel Chapter 37 is an interesting passage of Scripture. It’s the story of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones. Why are these bones described as dry? It’s because these bones have long been left for dead. In fact, they are about as dead as dead can get. There is not even the hint of life within them.

While Ezekiel’s vision is likely representative of Israel’s exile to Babylon, it is symbolic of a deeper truth – that God can bring life out of death. Think about it. God formed the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground. Yet, Adam was lifeless until God breathed into his still body. Adam’s first breath of life was the breath of God.

So, too, Jesus lay in a borrowed tomb. Make no mistake about it. Jesus was dead. He had been crucified just days before on a cross at Calvary. Yet, God breathed life into Jesus’ lifeless body, and the Resurrection of Jesus became God’s ultimate demonstration of life being torn from the grip of death. Yes, God breathes life into that which is dead.

Consider the “dry bones” in your life. Maybe they’re the bones of the “skeleton in your closet”, that deep, dark secret of your past. Or perhaps, the “dry bones” are broken relationships with old friends or family members, and, no matter how hard you might try, life seems to be unrestorable. Just maybe, the “dry bones” are most descriptive of your finances, your addiction, or even your devotion to God.

Don’t be afraid as you stand in the valley looking at the many “dry bones” in your life. God can and will bring life out of death. Restoration is just a breath away. Speak to the “dry bones”. Share with them the Word of God. And, watch them rise again.

Jonah (Part 3)

underwater

“…you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…” (Jonah 4:2, NIV).

The phrase “slow to anger” appears multiple times throughout the Old Testament of the Bible. It is a fitting descriptor of God, especially when compared to the quick-tempered and short-fused character, Jonah.

Jonah refused to travel to the city of Ninevah, not because he was too busy for the trip, but solely due to self-serving motives. Jonah was petty and judgmental. He did not want to preach his divinely assigned message to the Ninevites, because he did not want them to repent and receive God’s mercy. Jonah would have much rather seen the city and people of Ninevah in ruins.

Unlike Jonah, God is “slow to anger”. He doesn’t react in a knee-jerk sort of way. God is patient when it comes to dealing with sin and the short-comings of people. God is fair and just, but he is merciful and gracious as well.

The Ninevites experienced the amazing grace of God, and we can, too. God is “slow to anger” and desires a relationship with each of us!

Faithful and Fruitful

bible with blue coffee cup

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

It can be difficult at times to faithfully practice the spiritual disciplines. Tasks like reading the Bible and prayer can all too easily take a back seat to the trivial pursuit of binge watching one’s favorite shows on television. At the end of the day, we can find ourselves frustrated and a bit drained spiritually. We’ve accomplished little, and our souls hurt greatly.

The Apostle Paul addresses faithfulness in his list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians. These fruit are the spiritual traits of the Christian believer. These spiritual fruit are woven together in a web of faith. Therefore, love leads to joy, and joy leads to greater love. Likewise, patience leads to goodness and vice-versa. While each of these fruit is a gift from God, bestowed upon us by the Spirit of God, we can cultivate the spiritual fruit in our lives, creating an increase in their volume and vitality.

As we demonstrate faithfulness in our practice of the spiritual disciplines, our fruitfulness increases. As we read and listen to God’s word, pray, and study, the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, and all the others yield a more bountiful harvest. Faithfulness leads to fruitfulness, and fruitfulness leads to faithfulness. May we ever be faithful in the disciplines of our faith!

Jonah (Part 2)

underwater

“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God” (Jonah 2:1, NIV).

Jonah was on the run, not from some sort of enemy, but from God. He had been given a divine command to preach a message of repentance to the people of Ninevah, but instead, Jonah boarded a ship for Tarshish, about as far away from God as the sea would take him. A severe storm led Jonah’s boatmates to throw him overboard, and, if not for God’s provision of a hungry fish, Jonah would have certainly drowned. Now, Jonah would spend three days in the fish’s belly accompanied solely by his thoughts and, of course, God’s presence.

One might think that Jonah would spend his days of seclusion cursing God or, at the very least, his predicament. Jonah, however, used his divinely appointed “time out” to offer God praises. Jonah recognized his mistake in not listening to God and praised God for his rescue and provision.

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for any amount of time, you’ve likely prayed, like Jonah, a belly of the fish prayer. These are the prayers we pray in the dark, lonely, smelly spaces in which we sometimes find ourselves. At times, the fish’s belly is a result of our own poor decisions. Other times, mere consequence lands us in this most desperate of situations.

Perhaps your cries to God have pierced through the dark nights of depression. Or maybe an addiction has placed you in dire straits. Illness, unemployment, and shattered relationships can also leave a person broken in the proverbial belly of the fish.

It’s important to remember that, in these and all situations, you are not alone. Jesus had his own belly of the fish moments. He prayed in the darkness of Gethsemane and from the cross at Calvary. Jesus has already been through, in some shape or form, what we experience in this life. Jesus even spent his own three days in the belly of a sealed tomb. Yet, he came out victorious.

Perhaps you are experiencing a belly of the fish moment right now. Know that God is with you. Call on him. He will answer. You will see the light of day again.

Power in the Cross

cross with light beams

“ For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17, NIV).

Many people view the Apostle Paul as one of the greatest preachers of all time. Certainly, Paul was instrumental in spreading the Gospel like wildfire throughout the region of Asia Minor. Paul, however, recognized that he was hardly the most eloquent of speakers, nor the wisest of men, and that the power behind his words was not in his preaching, but in the cross of Christ.

At times, we might be hesitant to share the message of God’s love in Jesus with those around us. We might feel like we don’t know enough about the Bible or that we won’t have the right words to say. Paul destroys this notion as he recognizes his own limitations in speaking about Jesus, but he does it anyway. Again, the power of God is not in the preaching, but in the cross of Jesus.

As a pastor, I sometimes have people compliment me on a particular sermon. As a Christian author, people will sometimes remark on the message of my writing. I must admit that I love the affirmation! Still, I recognize that these individuals are not ultimately responding to me, but to the good news of the Gospel. And, while you might think that that’s humility on my part, it’s actually honesty.

There is power in the cross of Jesus. The message of the crucifixion changes lives and saves souls, and we are privileged to share it. Therefore, let’s be bold in our witness and in our less-than-perfect delivery. God will use it to change the world!