Must

“We must find each other again.”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:5-6 

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16 

I was a little startled lately when I noticed deep inside me a bristling response to the word “must” in the above verses. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is the natural response of the natural man, right? We want to do what we want to do. Being told we “have to do” anything in our current culture has become anathema. Having to suffer in particular. 

The Greek word, dei (δεῖ), means “it is necessary,” and in this context means a “necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end … necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the O. T. prophecies.” 

Whoa. This is not just an authority figure telling us we have to do something we don’t want to do. This is what is necessary to attain God’s ultimate plan and purpose – the salvation of the world. If we call ourselves Christians there are things that we “must” do. The Lord didn’t waste time telling Saul/Paul what he must do, the works planned for him from the beginning of the world. 

Right after I read and meditated on these verses, J.D. Walt sent out an article with some “musts” for the Church today. I think the urgency with which he writes is justified: 

“We stand in the ruins of the still collapsing facade of Christendom. And all our churches are like so many blind people standing around a massive elephant each with our hand on a different part of the animal and each proffering and preferring a different diagnosis, prognosis and plan.  

So what’s the point today? The point is to say the Day of Pentecost never ended. We need not return to the first century church but to restore the 21st century church. This will come by Word and Spirit and the recovery of plain Scriptural Christianity. We must cease fiddling with forms and fads. We must find each other again, not as so many churches but as “Church.” We must cease chasing after phenomenology and begin to run after Jesus on the path of the race marked out for us.  

We must meet one another again at the level ground of the foot of the Cross and awaken to the fact the Heavens have been rended once and for all. Jesus is ascended as Lord and King.” — J.D. Walt 1 

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31 

Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. Luke 22:7 (KJV) 

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Mark 13:10 

But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say. Luke 12:11-12 (NET) 

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. John 9:4 

1Don’t Pray for the Wind. Set the Sails https://seedbed.com/dont-pray-for-wind-set-the-sails/

Image from FreeBibleimages.org  

My Dad

A few years ago, I sat down with my dad and recorded some memoirs of his life. The result revealed a funny, passionate, pretty cool guy. Dad passed away this week and we bury him today. I know this is long, but I would like to honor him by sharing some of his life with you. 

Dad was born in Ionia, Michigan, in 1927. He remembered that his mother kept him in long blond curls and lacy shirts (Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes) until he was three or four. He hated that. He had to wear knickers until he was eight or nine and really hated them. When he got his first pair of long pants he felt very grown up.  

When Dad was 12, they moved to a farm three miles north of Muir in Ionia County. He remembered getting up early enough to do the chores (feed the animals, etc.) before walking to the one-room school. In the cold months he had to get to school early to get the fire ready and the school warmed up. On the farm that Dad had the responsibility of a large half-acre “truck” garden. He had to plant, weed, and harvest the vegetables and take them to market in town. But he got to keep the profits, and he was able to save up enough money to buy his first beautiful bicycle from the Sears Roebuck catalog.  

Dad also raised a calf which won the blue ribbon at the County Fair. The animals loved him. Dad remembered one rooster in particular who would run down the drive to greet him every day when he returned home. That affinity to animals continued. I remember our dog Rowdy and my Dad “singing” together. My Dad would sing and Rowdy would howl along with him. That dog loved my Dad. 

My Dad was always a prankster. He told me some mischievous things he did as a teen. One time he and his friends put a large oak table in the middle of the highway to see a truck hit and demolish it. The driver got out and chased them, but he hid in a cornfield. Another time they took apart a wagon and put it back together on somebody’s roof. One favorite prank was to fill a paper bag with cow manure and set it on fire on a front porch and then knock on the door and run. Of course, the owner would come out and stomp out the fire.

One time a not-so-happy victim chased them. They scattered, running through back yards, trampling gardens and breaking down fences. The next day he was all innocence at the breakfast table as his scandalized parents read the headlines in the small-town paper: Hoodlums Destroy Victory Gardens.  

He told me that one of the worst punishments his mother could mete out was the phrase, “You will have to tell your father when he gets home.” Then he had to go all day dreading when he had to confess to his father what he did. Grampa Roy usually went easy on him though – being a joker himself. 

When he was in high school, he played football. In one game he was hit in a “whipsaw” (hit at the top and the legs at the same time from different directions) by two guys from the opposing team. He got a concussion and couldn’t remember the rest of the game. But the Ionia Sentinel Standard reported the next day that Douglas went crazy in defense, not afraid of anything. A year or so later when he was stationed on Bikini a Navy ship was anchored off shore. Two sailors got permission to come ashore to see him. They asked, “Are you Douglas?” They were the two guys who had hit him, and they were the ones who told him what happened the second half of the game. 

His Uncle Hiram told Dad that if he learned Spanish, he could go with him to South America when he graduated. He took Spanish but struggled. The war broke out and ended that plan. However, for the rest of his life he tried out his broken Spanish whenever he met Spanish-speakers. They usually gave him bemused, but polite, answers or nods. He also, on purpose, massacred French saying when parting company with you, “Your reservoir my sewer – that means good bye in French.”  

Dad joined the Navy at 17 as soon as he graduated from high school. He got a cyst removed from his leg ahead of time, so there would be no possibility he would be 4-F and not allowed to enlist. He got his hair cut real short ahead of time too so when he got in the chair at basic the barber took one look at him and said, “Get out of here.” But then – disappointing to him, but good for us – he got scarlet fever and had to be quarantined.  The war ended before he got out to the South Pacific.  

He stayed in the Pacific though as a Navy corpsman attached to the 53rd Seabees construction battalion. He was based in San Diego, Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, and Bikini. His last duty station was Bikini as they prepared for the atomic bomb testing. Most of the guys had to go back out to the ship at night, but Dad was allowed to stay on shore in the medical tent. The tent had a refrigerator in it for medicines and penicillin and the guys would store beer in it. Other Seabees would bring steaks down from the food tent and a radio that got state-side music and they would grill steaks and listen to the music at night. Dad also talked the guy that usually did the food inspection before the soldiers could eat their meals into letting him do the inspection. That way he was first in line for chow. 

Upon his return from duty, Dad was accepted at Central Michigan University, where he studied for one year before transferring to the Western Michigan University occupational therapy department in 1947. Dad was staying at the YMCA while attending school, when he met my Mom at a dance in December of 1948. He had heard music and wandered down to the gym. They noticed each other through the crowd, but my dad was too shy to ask for a dance. Mom told her sister, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” As the dance was ending Mom finally went over and introduced herself. My Dad never had a chance. He remembered the sweater she wore his whole life. They danced together at the next dance and never stopped. They taught ballroom dance for over 60 years together, only retiring just a couple of years ago.   

In a quiet moment just days before he passed into glory, we talked about going home and standing in the Presence of God. We talked about that we can’t stand before God because of good things that we have done or because we are, what he called, a “big wig” in the church. That none of that means a thing to God. The only thing that means anything to God is what Jesus did for us on the cross. That we are standing before him in filthy rags if all we have are the good things we have done. At least, if that is what we are trusting in.  

With the light of eternal revelation in his eyes he said that trusting in your good deeds is “like trying to buy your way into heaven.” Yes, exactly Dad! It’s like trying to buy our way into heaven. But the only currency accepted by God is the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  

He stopped being able to talk much soon after that, but I know we will meet again in God’s Presence. I love you forever Dad and will miss you greatly.   

Your reservoir my sewer.  

Photo, family photo shows that my Dad’s legacy of humor lives on in his crazy family. He’s the one in the middle in the bottom row.

Justice to Victory

“We deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.”

Here is My Servant,  

whom I have chosen,  

My beloved,  

in whom My soul delights.  

I will put My Spirit on Him,  

and He will proclaim justice to the nations.  

He will not quarrel or cry out;  

no one will hear His voice in the streets.  

A bruised reed He will not break,  

and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish,  

till He leads justice to victory.  

In His name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21) 

This prophecy about the Messiah, which first appears in Isaiah 42:1-3, says that he will proclaim justice to the nations, and that he will lead justice to victory. I wondered, what does that mean – leading justice to victory? Does it mean what it looks like at first glance, that He will finally bring justice and condemnation on all the evil in the world? Will He finally judge all the rebellious and sinners? I know that will happen someday, at His second coming. But I think that the “justice to victory” that He brought the first time was something else. Something wonderful. 

Matthew is clear in repeating this prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah that he is referring to Jesus first incarnation, or first coming, for the verses leading up to it say: Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, warning them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:16-17). 

The Hebrew word translated “justice” in the original prophecy is mishpat, which means judgment. It comes from shapat, which means to avenge, condemn, contend, execute judgment. Throughout the Bible God warns that the judgment for sin is death: 

And the LORD God commanded the man … “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT) 

Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

Pure justice then is death for all who sin. That’s all of us, who in our selfishness and greed and lust have killed and maimed and impoverished each other – physically, mentally, spiritually.  For what we do, even secretly, even what we secretly think, affects those around us – “so death spread to everyone.” 

But, instead of pouring out His judgment on us, God’s judgment on sin was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. As Pastor Troy Gentz preaches, “we deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.” In willingly dying as a sacrifice for our sin on the Cross, Jesus was victorious over sin and death. He brought justice to victory. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT) 

“He [Paul] applies to us personally what Christ accomplished perfectly. When we are united to Christ by faith, his punishment becomes ours and his righteousness becomes ours, and God counts our sins against us no more.” — John Piperi  

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 

Thanks be to God that He brought my justice – the justice due to me – to victory by the shed blood of Jesus for us on the Cross!

Come to Him, wounded and fading and He will give you life. For “a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish.” Salvation 

iHow Did the Cross Disarm the Devil? https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-did-the-cross-disarm-the-devil 

Image by Jack Bair

Not Karma

Pay them back what they deserve, O Lord, for what their hands have done. Lamentations 3:64 

Jeremiah, the prophet whom God sent to warn Israel of impending disaster, had, for his troubles, been made a captive, thrown down into the bottom of a muddy, empty well to die, been beaten and put in stocks, mocked and insulted. And here he cries out to the Lord for vengeance. “Give them what they deserve Lord!” 

That is our natural reaction to mistreatment, isn’t it? Hoping they get what they deserve; hoping that karma will do its thing. The problem is, it is a two-way street. Reading this, I all of a sudden saw the contrast between Jeremiah’s natural reaction and the cry of Jesus from the cross: “Father forgive them!” 

Jesus was cruelly treated too, but he said something different. He pleaded for God to forgive. He didn’t cry out for karma or revenge. Jesus showed us another way. “Father forgive them!”  

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3 

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” Jesus came as the exact representation of God. Jesus came to show us what God is really like. “Father forgive them!”  

Jeremiah didn’t have that. But we do because of what Jesus did on the cross. It is the “Good News,” the gospel message. You are forgiven. They are forgiven. Jesus made the way for our forgiveness, and gives us the power, through his Spirit to forgive. We don’t have to trust in, or be the victims of karma. We may have done really horrible things, and people may have done horrible things to us, but God hears the cry of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them!” 

You are forgiven. Come and receive what Jesus did for you by dying on the cross. If he or she or they have mistreated you, forgive, let it go, put it God’s capable hands. Let God love them back home, just as he is doing for you. That’s quite a bit different from karma. Karma wants revenge. God wants redemption.  

Lord forgive us and make us a new creation. Give us the power to say with you, “Father forgive them!” 

What does the Bible say about Karma?

Image, Niagara Falls, by Boris Kasimov  https://flic.kr/p/2g3fgeL

Running Heart

“Come what may, I want to run.”

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32 

To run with a heart set free, a heart of passion. Running this way, on a narrow path, to me implies fearlessness, trust, knowledge of the path, being in good shape (preparation, training), focus, selflessness. Not carefully picking my way over, possibly dangerous or rocky, unknown ground. Not slowly, ready to turn and go back if it gets too hard. This running implies commitment to a goal. It implies wholeheartedness. 

Runners in the Old Testament many times were part of the Royal Guard who served the king, running before and after the king’s chariot (see 1 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 15:1). Other runners were messengers. 

One poignant story of a runner-messenger is in 2 Samuel. David’s son, Absalom, had tried to overthrow the throne, but the rebellion had been put down and Absalom had been killed. Joab commanded a runner to go and give David what he thought would be good news. But, Ahimaaz son of Zadok knew his king. So, he begged to also run with message. 

Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.” 

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.” 

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off. 

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.” 

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.” 

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.” 2 Samuel 18:19-23 

“Come what may, I want to run.” Ahimaaz wasn’t running for reward. But rather, he knew that David would be heartbroken at the death of his son and he wanted to get there first and maybe soften the blow a little. He was running for the love of his king. 

In Psalm 119:32, David says he runs in the path of the Lord’s commands. The Hebrew word is the noun mitsvah (מִצְוָה). It comes from the verb tsavah (צָוָה) = to command, charge, give orders, lay charge, give charge to, order, send a messenger.  

“Command [tsavah] is used for the instruction of a father to a son (1 Sa 17:20), a farmer to his laborers (Ruth 2:9), a king to his servants (2 Sa 21:14).”  — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol II  

If we have received Jesus as our Savior, we are all of those things. We are children of our Father God, laborers in his field, servants of the great King. We are his runner-messengers and we run in the path – the Way – of his commands. He has illumined the Path and shown us the Way to run. He has given us great and faithful promises that if we run on this Path we will not stumble or grow weary. 

I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Proverbs 4:11-12 

But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)  

He has commanded us to run with His message of love, redemption, hope and healing to a heartbroken world. Let us run for the love of our King – fearlessly, selflessly, wholeheartedly, passionately, faithfully. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run … Hebrews 12:1 

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message (or word) of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored (literally in the Greek, “may run and be glorified”), just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 

Draw me after you and let us run together! Song of Songs 1:4 (NASB) 

Photo by Raid Gaspésie  https://flic.kr/p/Yp1wfA  

What Is This Gospel?

Again, this week a theme emerged from many of the blogs and daily devotionals that I follow. “It’s amazing!”

But what is the Gospel? It is this, that God has sent his Son into the world to save sinners, Jn. 3, 16, and to crush hell, overcome death, take away sin and satisfy the law. But what must you do? Nothing but accept this and look up to your Redeemer and firmly believe that he has done all this for your good and freely gives you all as your own, so that in the terrors of death, sin and hell, you can confidently say and boldly depend upon it, and say: Although I do not fulfil the law, although sin is still present and I fear death and hell, nevertheless from the Gospel I know that Christ has bestowed on me all his works. I am sure he will not lie, his promise he will surely fulfil. And as a sign of this I have received baptism. — Martin Luther (1522)i 

We are acceptable to God not because we have obeyed, nor because we have promised to give up things, but because of the death of Christ, and for no other reason. — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest 

The great doctrine, the greatest of all, is this, that God, seeing men to be lost by reason of their sin, hath taken that sin of theirs and laid it upon his only begotten Son, making him to be sin for us, even him who knew no sin; and that in consequence of this transference of sin he that believeth in Christ Jesus is made just and righteous, yea, is made to be the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ was made sin that sinners might be made righteousness. That is the doctrine of the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ on the behalf of guilty men. — Charles Spurgeonii 

God loves you and me. He loves people like us. He loves people who have made an awful mess of their lives. And we have nothing to commend us and we’ve been unthankful and unholy and rebellious and stupid. And amazingly He loves us. It’s amazing! — Derek Prince 

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7iii 

i Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/29/four-implications-of-martin-luthers-theology/  

ii C.H. Spurgeon, The Heart of the Gospel, a sermon delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, July 18th, 1886 

iii Blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/10/28/hope-for-today-heirs-having-hope/  

Photo by Jack Bair 2020

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