Grainfield Church

I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.  And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. (Mat 12:6-8 ESV)

Walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples caused offense by plucking and eating the heads of grain.  Jesus responded to the criticism by pointing to the Scriptures.  He referenced the life of King David and the work of the priests in the temple on the Sabbath. Then he stated that he was greater than the temple and that he was Lord of the Sabbath.

It is hard for us to appreciate the depth of the shock this must have created.  It was an earthquake.  God had created natural boundaries to mark the circle of the years, the passing of the months, and the division of night and day.  But there was no natural boundary to mark a week.  There was a supernatural boundary established in God’s own creative activity. He rested.  People should rest.  This revelation was given to the Jews.  Nothing so demarcated the Jew as the chosen of God as the Sabbath.  The temple was part of that, but there were many temples.  There was only one Sabbath and it belonged to the Jews.

To claim a greatness beyond the temple and even the Sabbath, to claim in fact to be Lord of the Sabbath, was nothing less than a claim to be equal with God.  It was a stunning revelation that many would not accept.  It was the writings of C. S. Lewis that first confronted me with the fact that there were no mild reactions to Jesus.  They ran after him.  They ran away from him.  They sought to destroy him.  But they could not disregard him.

How sad when the modern church is able to drift in and out of its services with a casualness that borders on blasphemy.  How very sad that people quit “church” with claims of boredom and irrelevance.  How very, very sad when church leaders strain at the oars to produce the kind of ‘service of worship’ that will keep people engaged.

Yet Jesus has not changed.  Let him but walk through a grainfield and it becomes a sanctuary.  O that he would walk through our churches once again!  Even if no one repented, they would at least leave in a fit of rage, ‘hopping mad’ as they say at the crossroads.  Our striving for relevance is making us irrelevant.  He is God!  If that is not relevant now, it soon will be.  Yes.  It soon will be.

What a Savior!

An Unacceptable Prediction

It doesn’t get any better than this!  Breaking news yesterday – study reveals that the Big Bang should have been followed by the Big Crunch.  Something like a fraction of a second was the suggested duration of the universe.  Sort of like, now you see it now you don’t.

If that is not rich enough by itself, there is the PhD student who made this astute assessment.  “This is an unacceptable prediction of the theory because if this had happened, we wouldn’t be around to discuss it.”  Wow!  I hope they require more than that before they give him his PhD credentials.

There is just nothing quite like calling your own study a false prophet!  Unacceptable prediction indeed!  There was a time when I said of the far reaches of scientific calculations, “Well, all that is really beyond me.”  Now I say, “Praise be to God, all that is really beyond me.”  Can we become more ridiculous in our speculations than a self-generating universe that goes big bang/big crunch before you can say scat?

Here is a prediction that may be unacceptable or it may not.  2 Peter 3:10 – But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  I call this 3D Global Warming.  It has a physical dimension and a human dimension, but above all, it has a divine dimension.  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen.  Romans 11:36

The speculations we have substituted for God will seem more than small when we all come back to him.  If they have kept us from knowing him, they will seem demonic.  If there was a big bang and if there is a big crunch, then it will all be followed by a big meeting.  Don’t be found there without the Savior.  John 3:16.

What a Savior he is!

Trespassers Will Be Persecuted

Beware of men…  Matthew 10:17

The school bus ride from country to town ended for us when we circled a block of row houses in order to drop the elementary kids off on the right side of the street.  In the middle of that block was a house unlike the others.  It was circled by a high wire fence and a tree in the front yard bore a hand-painted sign boldly declaring ‘No Trespassers.’  I looked at that sign every morning of my elementary career.  I think another sign would have been more effective.  ‘Beware of Dog.’  That sign has a little more bite to it.

When Jesus sent the disciples out on a short term mission trip, he gave them instructions that have proven to be timeless for the body of Christ.  Among the warnings and encouragements, he pointed out a sign they might expect to see if the world were honest. ‘Beware of men.’

The world has its ‘No Trespassing’ sign out for all the followers of Christ.  It isn’t true.  We are not trespassers.  This is our Father’s world and we are the advance unit in occupied territory.  But so the world will always regard the Christians.  And trespassers will be persecuted.

Jesus’ sign is much more helpful.  When men feel the press of divine certainty, they will bite. Jesus used words like hand over, flog, drag, hate, and, yes, put to death.  When Jesus says beware of men, he knows whereof he speaks.  They did all that to him and more.

This is not the kind of thing you would sign up for unless the one who said ‘follow me’ was the most compelling person you had ever met.  So he was.  So he is.  What a Savior!

Compelled

And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29 ESV)

Jesus and his disciples had just disembarked after a stormy crossing of Galilee, a crossing that had set the disciples wondering.  “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”  That would be enough for one day, right?  No.  They were immediately confronted by a man possessed of so many demons that the only name which fit was Legion.

Jesus cast out the demons that day, sending them off as per request in a herd of pigs. Apparently the pigs liked their company less than the man for they instantly drowned themselves in the sea.  All of that is pretty amazing, but not so amazing as the talk of the demons.  As you listen to it, you can only conclude that the devil knows some things he isn’t willingly telling.  In the presence of Jesus, however, his minions began to babble.

The immediate recognition of Jesus as the Son of God is very striking.  Men were kind of fuzzy on this issue.  They still are.  The demons are not fuzzy at all.  But they know more.  They know something about a ‘time.’  They know there is an appointed end of history and they know enough about it that they are confident that this isn’t it.  This is ‘before the time.’ Something big has intruded itself in the middle of their happy rebellion.  But they know more.  They know what their destiny is when the time comes, torment.  Whenever ‘the time’ arrives, then the ‘torment’ will be theirs.  I would bet dollars against donuts that the devil never willingly shares that bit of info with his worldly dupes.

Yet more amazing than all of this is the Savior.  The demons are compelled.  He says come, they come.  He says go, they go.  He says pig, they pig out.  The minions of the father of lies have truth dribbling from their lips.  The disciples had just had one experience that made them ask what sort of man is this.  But it is not just the wind and the sea that obey him.  O no, not just the wind and the sea!

What a Savior!

So, why do the nations rage?

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)

No one doubts the raging of the nations.  Some may doubt that the nations are raging with God as these rulers were.  The nations of our time seem to be raging with one another over territory and rights and control and such.  The brotherhood of man has never seemed farther away.

The rulers pictured in Psalm 2 were united in a singular cause, throwing off the rule of God. In modern terms, God cramped their style.  Indeed, he did and he does.  God is big, big enough to cramp anybody’s space.  The fact that he simply refuses to relinquish his world to the kindly rule of the brotherhood of man cramps a lot of us.

There are two ways for humankind to be united.  God can unite us under his preeminence. Satan can unite us like the rulers in Psalm 2, at war with God’s preeminence.  But the last unity only lasts for a moment.  Once God seems safely removed (don’t count on that), the seeming unity disintegrates into sectarian bickering and nationalistic raging.  Given enough time and resource, men destroy themselves.

Psalm 2 was a favorite of the apostolic church.  Let it be one of yours.  For there in the middle of the raging nations stands one, as Daniel noted, ‘like unto the Son of man.’  The Father is laughing, not cringing.  The Son is poised for rule, not retreat.  The call is moving toward consummation.  Who will answer?

John 3:16.  What a Savior!

Blessed Days Require Blessed Ways

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)

“Have a blessed day” has become the sanctified substitute for the more general “have a nice day” or, if you are feeling your oats, “have a great day.”  In one sense every day is blessed for all people.  He makes his sun to shine and his rain to fall on all alike.  But you get the feeling with these well-wishers that they mean more than that.  The choice of ‘blessed’ over other words hints at a special blessing, a blessing which they know and which they wish for you. The problem is that they never specify what that blessing is.  They spray you with this generic blessing but seldom seem concerned to know whether it sticks.

The psalmist was specific in Psalm 1.  Blessed days require blessed ways.  For him, it began with who you listen to.  Certain counsel was immediately rejected because he had given his ear to the word of God first thing.  Not only that, but he intended to give his ear to that word again before day was done.  What else could reveal how well the day had gone so far and what else could serve to keep the path straight?

As you read the rest of that magnificent psalm, you discover that who you listen to makes all the difference.  Instead of making himself at home in the world, he had a different path. Instead of folding before the temptation of the world, he stood strong like a tree well planted.  Instead of fretting over the future, he walked in confidence that God knew where he was and where he was bound.

Blessed days are born of blessed ways.  It may be that some people who we hope will have a blessed day cannot, no matter how much or how often we wish it.  But the one walking the blessed path will have it whether we wish it or not.

John 3:16, now there is a blessed path for you!  What a wonderful Savior he is!

A Higher Calling with a Deeper Reach

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20 ESV)

The scribes and Pharisees had mastered the form.  It must have seemed ridiculously impossible to this troop of fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots that they should be expected to out-Pharisee the Pharisees.  Then, for the rest of the sermon on the mount, Jesus unfolded what he meant by this greater righteousness.

People miss the heart of righteousness because they miss the righteousness of the heart. Jesus opened the door to true righteousness by exposing the inner life that so often hides behind the facade of religion.  For some, the keeping of the law became a veil to cover the dark inner regions which gave such offense to a righteous God.

So Jesus reached back of murder and showed them anger.  He reached back of adultery and showed them lust.  He went behind the veil of divorce and showed them the self-driven life. He mined their oaths to show them the colossal and foolish pride with which they had  been regarding themselves.  He pulled the curtain on revenge and enemies and revealed to them the almost total absence of the love and grace that God shows every moment of every day.

Jesus has nothing small in mind for you.  He is determined to make you into a creature capable of the highest worship there is and he has destined you to walk in fellowship with the Most High God.  It is a higher calling and therefore must have a deeper reach.

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Gone Fishing

Luke 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

There was no need to hide anymore. Peter had fished all night and had nothing to show for it. Under Jesus’ direction, he was looking at two boat loads of fish. If this man could see fish where no man could find them, what else must he see?

The miracle had opened Peter’s eyes to something more, a person. Jewish boy that he was, Peter had been taught the difference between God and man. In that moment, he experienced it. It speaks well of Peter that he didn’t try to hide or run away, rather he just surrendered. The truth couldn’t be hidden from this man and Peter knew he had no power to make things right. The chasm was too wide and too deep for a man to cross. It had never been more clear just what kind of man he was. It had never been more clear just what God is like. “I surrender. Please go away now.”

But he never goes away. Never. We may run away. But there he stands. What will we do with him? Or better, what will he do with us? Will he do what our sin surely deserves?

Luke 5:10 And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

The only people who are amazed that Peter and his friends left everything and followed Jesus, are people who have never really seen and heard him. For when you see him, you know what you are. And when you hear him, you know who he is. Then, the fact that he wants to go fishing with you is so utterly astonishing that everything else you thought so important starts to look like a pile of rubbish.

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

What a Savior! Go fishing with him.

He Is For Us

Romans 8:31-32 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Is God for us? We must answer with a question. What do you mean by ‘for?’ He is for our forgiveness. He is for our salvation. He is for us living forever with him. He is for our good in every situation. If these are the things we mean by ‘for,’ then, yes, God is for us.

But do we sometimes mean by ‘for us’ that God wants what we want? The answer to that is an emphatic ‘no.’ God is good. He will not give to his children anything that would be ultimately harmful. His commands are not only about his holiness but our good. This is why John could say in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” God’s commands certainly do seem burdensome to a rebellious heart. But for a heart after God, his commands are a reflection of his love. When God says he is for us, he means that he is for us forever and that he will allow nothing, absolutely nothing, to get in the way of our full experience of his grace and glory. Paul wrote that he would give us ‘all things,’ not ‘anything.’

The most mournful drum beat in Scripture is found in the last half of the first chapter of Romans. It resounds three times, “God gave them over, God gave them over, God gave them over.” If ‘for us’ means getting what you want, God is not for you. But he will let you have your way. It is a different story for the followers of Christ.  God will not let you go, and for now, that means you cannot have just anything. That is no gift for a child of God. He is preparing you for nothing less than all things.

1 Corinthians 3:21-22 For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

What a Savior!

Sacred History

This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15 ESV)

Like many children, I despised history until I had lived long enough to have one.  But the followers of Christ have great cause to appreciate history.  Opening the Scriptures, they are privileged to see a deeper, enduring significance in the chronicles of planet earth.

“Out of Egypt I called my son” looked back on a piece of Israel’s history, the sojourn in Egypt. Those words, first spoken in Hosea 11:1, referenced the exodus.  But Matthew indicated that it was prophecy regarding God’s only begotten Son.  So, unless you believe the Gospel writers were impostors who latched on to any available piece of history and made it apply to Jesus, then you must conclude that the history happened for the sake of the Son who was to come.  If the first is true, then close your Bible and go eat your lunch.  If the second is true, then open your Bible while you eat your lunch and know that the food you find in Scripture is more nourishing by far.

It is amazing.  Honest reading of Scripture tells us that history moves for the glory of God and for the sake of his call.  If this is true, the division of history into secular and sacred is false.  All history is sacred.  Whether it is Abraham’s idolatrous father following the migration of the times or Israel’s bondage in Egypt, the sovereign Lord of history orchestrates all for the glory of his Son.  History is the chariot of God’s glory.

Does it matter?  It does.  Whether it is the breakfast you enjoy with thanksgiving, the impertinence you endure with patience, or the trouble you take that will remain unnoticed, if history is sacred, it all matters to God.  The sparrow that falls today may be largely unnoticed. It may be a sad thing for those who do.  But God is glorified in that he noticed if no one else did and he cared.

It matters to him if I am thankful for my food, whether I am patient or impatient with that impertinent soul, and what trouble I am willing to take.  I may respond with anger rather than patience.  He will be glorified either way, now or later.  But there is only one response that opens the door of blessing for me.  There is no insignificant history with the eternally significant God.  He matters.  Therefore, history matters.  Therefore, you matter.  Sweet!

What a Savior he is!  John 3:16.