exceedingly abundantly–part 2

The Word for today: Luke 9:18-36

(If you are looking for an article on the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), then look right here.  )

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When Jesus fed 20,000* with just a few loaves and fish, there were 12 baskets of leftovers! Today we conclude a 2-part series which takes a closer look at God’s super-abundant provision.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. (Psalms 23:5)

Our blessings–cups that have been filled and will be re-filled–leave measurement, and even the powers of imagination, behind:

God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20/NKJV)

We receive according to his power and riches:
God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might. (Colossians 1:11)

Scripture here does not say “equal to,” or “up to and including.” It must resort to the phrase “according to”–meaning that our blessings cannot be quantified, but are in accordance with infinity!

This Kingdom Beyond the Reaches of Relativism can be dizzying and disorienting. It will require new habits of speech. So let’s practice a new habit:

Wrong: “Jesus is bigger than…”
We are in the habit of throwing a ‘than’ into the equation. But we can’t, for there is no basis of comparison:
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? (Isaiah 46:5)

Right: “Jesus is bigger.” (Period!)
Jesus escapes comparison; he cannot be contained by relative terms. He escapes relativity!

Thus, whatever we think of Christ shrinks him. So think again and think bigger. Now think bigger yet again. Your thought will not outrun him. Your imagination will never capture him.

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We know Jesus. We even know him well. Yet there remains as much to know as when we knew nothing of Him. Consider a lyric from “Amazing Grace”–

When we’ve been there ten thousand days
bright shining as the sun,
there’s no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.

Just so, when we have learned, and glorified God for, his 35-God-zillionth attribute, we have not shortened the list of attributes which we have yet to discover.

The Kingdom’s disregard of /disdain for/disavowal of limitations is seen in the story of the prophet Elisha, a widow, and the jar of oil that never runs out no matter how much is poured (2 Kings 4). This prefigures Jesus Christ–Christ means “Anointed”–who had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). This also prefigures the feeding of the five thousand, when there were more leftovers than than the loaves and fish they emanated from, which (in principal) allows us to change the lyric to–

When we’ve been there ten thousand days…
there are far more days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.

In the infinite realm, quantity doesn’t exist (or–this is nuts, I know) quantity is reversed: pick one grape and two remain; five loaves and two fish don’t de-materialize but redundantly re-materialize; Job is not just restored but over-restored, 2-for-1.**

When you can turn arithmetic upside down, then you can turn relativity inside out, and overturn gravity as well. At that point you walk on water like a sidewalk. Time accelerates so that what happened tomorrow seems like yesterday. Prophecy is certain and miracles aren’t strange. What will seem strange is that anyone called them miracles in the first place.

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*counting men, women, and children
**compare Job 1 and Job 42

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exceedingly abundantly–part 1

The Word for today: Luke 9:1-17

(In order to get in shape for Kingdom come, we must stretch our spiritual muscles. The following exercises are designed to be both soul-stirring and head-stretching.)

mark this: Luke 9:16-17
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and asked God’s blessing on the food. Breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples to give to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!

I think Jesus had fun with this miracle. I mean, there were no demons involved, no diseases, no catastrophic storms. It was just lunch he was dealing with.

Apart from the resurrection, this is the only miracle reported in all four gospels. The number–5000–grabs the headlines, but what fascinates me is this detail:
They all ate as much as they wanted, and they picked up twelve baskets of leftovers! (Luke 9:16-17/NLT)

Super-abundance (“more”) is a principal of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus isn’t just sufficient, he is more than enough. God doesn’t just meet our needs, he overflows:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. (Psalms 23:5)

Speaking of cups running over, the Bible twice uses an outrageous picture–wine as common as washwater–in order to illustrate God’s superabundant provision.

Jesus’ first miracle–at the wedding in Cana (John 2)–was in fulfillment of Jacob’s famous prophetic vision:
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. (Genesis 49:10-11)

Jesus directed that large vessels (normally used to store washwater) be filled with water. Then he turned it into the choicest wine. His time–and the time of Israel’s visitation–had come. It was an unmistakable pronouncement to His disciples that he was the Anointed of God, the promised King to come.

God’s superabundant provision during His first advent would be the blood of the Son of God, symbolized from Melchizedek to the Lord’s Supper by wine.

Jacob’s prophecy will be re-fulfilled (!) at Jesus’ second advent (during the Millennial reign) when donkeys will be tethered to the choicest vine, and allowed to eat their fill of the best grapes. Wine, once again, will be as common as washwater.

Our blessings (cups filled and to-be-filled) will leave any means of measurement, and even the powers of imagination, behind:
God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20/NKJV).

(Not wanting to stretch your head too much too soon, Stand in the Rain will take a brief respite. Be sure to return tomorrow for more Kingdom calisthenics.)

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‘Lord, Lord’

The Word for today:
Luke 8:40-56

We Christians use the word ‘Lord’ a lot. It’s ‘Lord’ this and ‘Lord’ that. Jesus, for one, thought the word was misused and overused, and he said so:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

We use the term unthinkingly, as if it were a name. ‘Lord’ is not a name. It’s a word that defines a certain relationship–a relationship that looks like this:

He’s in charge, and I am not.

With that in mind, let’s listen to Jesus’ words once again:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

***

Luke has just marched us through a well-orchestrated section of scripture which serves to illustrate one big theme: Jesus is Lord.

He is Lord of the natural realm:
And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. (Luke 8:24)

He is Lord of the supernatural realm:
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. (Luke 4:34-35)

He is Lord over sin and its effects:
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. (Luke 5:23-25)

He is Lord of life and death:
While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. (Luke 8:49-55)

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May I make a modest proposal that, in a backward way, will actually do great honor to Jesus…

If Jesus is not in charge of our lives, then let’s cut out the ‘Lord, Lord’ jive. Let’s declare a moratorium on the word, and just call him Jesus for awhile. There’s no lie in that.

A moratorium might serve to remind many of us that he is not the comprehensive Lord of our lives. And if the day should arrive when he becomes–in truth and in deed–the Sovereign King of our souls, then we’ll hold a party, invite all our friends to the coronation, and crown him Lord of Lords.

Words, as used by Jesus, were raised to the level of binding contracts, even covenants:
“Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

May we do the same. Let’s let our ‘Lord’ be Lord.

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May you never cease to find the questions to your Answer.

The Word for today:
Luke 8:22-39

mark this: Luke 8:25
“Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Which came first–the chicken or the egg?

Which came first–the question or the answer?

I’m not here to strain your brain or place you on the horns of a dilemma. I just want to point out that the Q & the A have a more complex inter-relationship than often meets the eye.  Jesus knew this, and often made a question his answer.

The other day I was reading some political commentary, and a government program was described as “a solution in search of a problem”–an answer in search of a question!

Now that your brain feels like it’s been tumbled in the dryer, I’m going to tell you where the Bible has taken me. Are you ready?

Jesus is the answer. Now, what’s the question?

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Today’s reading provides no less than the ultimate, most consequential question ever asked:
“Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25)

The answer, of course, is embedded in the question. The disciples knew their Old Testament scriptures, which taught that God controls the seas. Psalm 107:24-30 is a precise parallel of what they had just seen:

They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 65:7 refers to God as the one “who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves.” Psalm 89:9 addresses God directly: “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.”

The disciples knew that Jehovah could still the seas by his word alone:
But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. (Psalms 104:7)
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up. (Psalms 106:9)

All waters flow and cease to flow at God’s command. Logic demands, therefore, that Jesus must be the Creator, God. The disciples understanding of Christ suddenly shot right out of the universe!

***

There’s a man in our office with the most ironic ring-tone of all time. His phone blasts out the old U-Tune called “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

My spirit has turned the song’s original intention inside out, so that each time I hear it, I’m reminded that there’s no end to the thrilling questions I’ve yet to encounter, every one of them revealing a heretofore undiscovered facet of Jesus.

May you never cease to find the questions to your Answer.

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Soil Testing 101

(by Pastor Joe)

The Word for Today: Luke 8:4-21

The Parable of the Sower/Soils is “the” parable.
It is not as beloved as the Good Samaritan.
It is not as cherished as the Prodigal Son.
But it is perhaps the most important of all the parables that Jesus told.
While nearly all the other parables cover a certain aspect or portion of faith (e.g. forgiveness, readiness, grace, love, money, prayer, etc.), this parable covers the even more fundamental issue of whether or not we receive the Gospel message to begin with.

Furthermore, we are blessed not only with three accounts of this parable (1), but also the interpretation straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ. We may err in some of our interpreting of other parables, but here its impossible because our Lord has already given us the correct answer. He uses this particular parable to explain to us why he used parables to begin with.

We know, from Jesus Himself, that the seed is the Word of God, scattered for all to hear. The rest of the parable describes four different types of soil and how they respond to the seed. Let me introduce you to them, with a bit of personification:

Mr. Pathy: His heart soil is too compacted to even receive the Word.
Mr. Rocky: His heart soil is too shallow for anything real to grow.
Mr. Thorny: His heart soil is too crowded for any healthy growth.
Mr. Goodly: Is the only one who has the depth and space to grow.

Every single person who has ever heard the message of Jesus Christ can be described in one of these four camps.

Which soil are you?
Have you found yourself to be in different camps in your own history?
(For a real challenge, try figuring out which of the 4 camps are “saved.” I wouldn’t feel so secure for Rocky or even Thorny.)

But before we congratulate ourselves for not being Pathy or Rocky or Thorny and moving on from this parable, let me ask you one question: How’s your heart? I mean right now.

Certainly, these types of soil can speak concerning one’s salvation, but I believe that they speak to every believer, each day. How’s my heart, how’s my soil right now? Just because it was good for a season does not mean that hardness or shallowness or thorns will never again be an issue for me.

Every day, I can choose to be in any one of these camps. I can become callous towards the things of God. I can start off well, but quickly lose my focus and passion. I can certainly allow all the stuff of life to put a stranglehold on anything that really matters with God. Or today, I can choose to “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you (2).”

The truth is, not one of us has “graduated” past this parable to where it no longer applies to us. Not one of us has got this thing down, or reached a place where we no longer need to listen. So I urge all of us to follow the words of Jesus: “He who has hears to hear, let him hear!”

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(1) Here, and in Matthew 13:1-23 and Mark 4:1-20
(2) James 1:21

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