February 26, 2013


One of my professors used to describe the book of Genesis as God’s creation gone haywire. And that is exactly what it is! From the moment that forbidden fruit juice trickled down Adam and Eve’s chins, planet Earth began to spin out of moral control. Before long Adam’s family was stealing … raping … even killing! If I were God, I’d have probably just annihilated them all. Good thing I am not God! Instead of destruction, God set in motion a plan for salvation! He was going to send the Messiah to redeem these people from their sins. And how did He begin that plan? He selected one tiny little family—that of Abraham. From this family would come a Savior who would repair the train-wreck that was planet Earth.

But what is so amazing is that God picked such a twisted, dysfunctional family to work with. Abraham was impatient and deceitful. Isaac showed favoritism between his own children. Jacob was a con-artist. Joseph was arrogant. His brothers murdered a whole village full of men, then sold Joseph as a slave. And this is the family God chose to be the ancestor’s of the Messiah Jesus?!? Would God really put up with such a motley crew?

Well, He didn’t just put up with them. He molded them, changed them, and—sometimes even in the midst of their sinning—He blessed them! Maybe the most remarkable example of this was when Joseph’s brother’s sold him into slavery. In cold blood they shipped him off to Egypt and told their father he was dead. Surely God would not bless such atrocious behavior, would He?

Well, while God surely abhorred their behavior, the fact is that He used their bloody hands to get Joseph down to Egypt where years later, as governor, he was able to provide food for his starving family! If they hadn’t sold him as a slave, he wouldn’t have been able to rescue them from certain death! And all of this came about as a result of God’s plan! He actually used their sinful choices as part of His plan to do them good (see Genesis 50.20)!

Now, the question is ‘Why?’ Why didn’t God just let these bums starve to death? That’s what they deserved, isn’t it? I’ll tell you why: Because if Jacob’s boys had starved to death, the ancestors of the Messiah would have been completely wiped off the face of the earth. No Israel means no Messiah. And no Messiah means no salvation for anyone! And God wasn’t about to let a few rogues ruin His plan for the ages! Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful to His own good purposes (2 Timothy 2.13).

So, take heart, you who consistently fail. The book of Genesis is a monument to the truth that God is not about to let your dysfunctional life or family thwart His purposes of salvation! If you are His, He will change your dysfunction into Christ-likeness … and (without condoning it for one second) He will even sometimes work through your dysfunction to accomplish His good pleasure! God’s purpose of salvation is invincible!!! And therefore, so are His chosen people—even the most mixed up ones!

February 19, 2013

Cease from Man, part 2

Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed? Isaiah 2.22

“Cease from man,” as the KJV puts it. And perhaps the man (or woman) that many of us need most to “cease from”; perhaps the person we need, most of all, to “stop regarding,” is the one who looks at us in the mirror each morning! Solomon puts it like this: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3.5, emphasis mine). “Cease from man” – including and especially yourself!

How badly I need to learn that! How many times have I found myself in a mess, or a period of uncertainty, and tried to dig my way out of it by my own ingenuity, or ‘wisdom’, or sweat? And how many times do I end up making matters worse because of it? I think back to the botched paint ‘touch up’ that I did to the church’s back door last year. Leaning on my own understanding (which, in painting with oils, is very limited), I determined to make a fix at all costs … and ended up just making matters worse; and costing myself a lot of trouble in the process. I’ve done the same thing, sometimes, with pastoral situations – interjecting my own thoughts and solutions with little prayer, and even less biblical wisdom – and often hurting relationships or laying unnecessary burdens on people in the process.

The problem in both cases – and in every case where you and I foolishly take matters into our own hands – is two-fold. First, and most obviously, we are not trusting the Lord. And then, secondly (and exacerbating the problem), we are trusting ourselves in the Lord’s place; leaning on our own understanding … which is almost always extremely limited! This is where a great deal of our worrying comes in, is it not? When we find ourselves in a tight, we start to make decisions and project the future based on a very limited amount of understanding … and we worry, and sometimes even panic, in the process.

Suppose you begin to have several medical symptoms. You begin to have stomach pain, and to have to use the restroom more frequently. You’re a bit concerned about it … so you head to Google and start trying to figure out what’s wrong. After a good hour of searching and reading the message boards, you’re convinced that you probably have some dreaded disease that will take your life within a year. But then you actually go to the doctor – the one who has a thousand times more understanding than you do (even with your Google search!) – and he doesn’t seem concerned at all. Not because there is not a problem, but because he actually knows what the problem is, and exactly what he is going to do to correct it.

Leaning on your own understanding, you panicked. But going to the expert, there was calm and a clear plan. And so it is, on an even grander scale, with the Lord. When we lean on our own understanding, there is so often fear and worry. We can only see a little sliver of the whole picture … and so we panic. But God sees the whole thing, and never has the slightest change of pulse when considering your dilemma. He knows exactly what He is doing, and will do.

Let me say again that I need to learn these lessons, not just teach them. That has been painfully evident to me in recent days. So learn the lesson yourself. “Cease from man” – especially from your own man.

February 11, 2013

Cease from Man

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” Thus said the Lord to His straying people in Isaiah 2.22. The King James Version puts the first few words of God’s plea even more memorably: “Cease from man.” Cease hoping in him; cease exalting him; cease fearing him – and, by implication, begin hoping again in the Lord; begin exalting the Lord; begin fearing the Lord!

Let me just mention a few ways that we should all “cease from man” – preaching them as much to myself as to anyone else:

1. Cease idolizing man. When we think of idols, the first thought that comes to our minds may be that of statues and images. If we’re more astute, we will realize that foods, drinks, games, money, and possessions can also be idols. But what about people? O, people can definitely be idols, can they not? We have a television show named for this very sin problem! Whether it is a celebrity, or an athlete, or a political figure, or a pastor … we are in for great disappointment if we put mere men or women on pedestals. Yes, we should recognize the giftedness that God has granted to a good many of His creatures … and even admire it! But who gets the ultimate credit for the Mona Lisa – Michelangelo, or the paint on the canvas? And who gets the greatest applause when we see a man or woman worth admiring? The creation, or the Creator?

2. Cease trusting man. This was one of Israel’s great problems in many portions of her history. When an enemy was breathing down their necks on one side of the land, they would run and seek the help of another pagan king at the other end of the border! To put it in our modern terminology, instead of turning to God in times of trouble, they immediately picked up the telephone or began scouring the internet for solutions. Am I saying it’s wrong to call a plumber when your shower head explodes, or a lawyer when you have legal troubles, or a pastor when you need counsel? No! But call on God even more intently than the plumber! Earnestly ask God to work through the lawyer or the pastor, instead of trusting in a mere man. The same should have been in place in Israel. God could have – and often did – use pagan kings to do His people good. But the point is that Israel should not have sought the kings (small ‘k’), but the King (capital ‘K’)! Let’s make sure we do the same!

3. Cease fearing man. One reason Israel often entrusted themselves to one pagan king was because they feared another pagan king! They worried, and fretted, and stayed awake at night … afraid of what so-and-so might do to them. Does that sound familiar? Don’t we often allow the fear of what others will think or do drive our decision-making? And don’t the decisions we make as a result of such fear often prove to dishonor the Lord? We’d rather displease God than Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so! But it ought to be the other way around! Seek, yes, to please and honor other people when it is legitimate to do so. But when you must obey God rather than man … “Cease from man” … “whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?”

Is there any situation, in your life, in which you need to “cease from man” and begin afresh with God? Do it, even today. God never once let His believing people down!

February 8, 2013

Important Sermon Correction!

Hello all.

A couple of Wednesdays ago I preached on Jesus as "the resurrection and the life" from John 11.25.  Some of you, perhaps, listened in.  Thanks for that.  During the sermon, I made a statement to the effect that, when Jesus died, His body would have decayed for those three days in the tomb, just like His friend Lazarus’s did in John 11.  After further consideration, that was a mistake.  Acts 2.27 (quoting the Psalms) clearly states that God did not allow His Holy One to undergo decay.  So I made a significant mistake in my teaching about Jesus’ three days in the tomb.  The audio file has been corrected now to reflect the accurate biblical teaching.

Please forgive me, and note the correction in your minds …  and let this be a reminder to have the attitude of the Bereans (Acts 17) who, even when listening to such a one as the apostle Paul, were “examining the Scriptures” themselves, to see if the things spoken by Paul “were so.”

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

February 7, 2013

In Jesus' Name, Drinking Water for Rural Nigeria

Some of you know that one of our church members, several years back, began a project drilling bore holes in her native Nigeria - Abba's Living Water - in Jesus' name, providing clean, sustainable drinking water to needy villages in Africa and beyond.

We'd like to widen the circle of folks who know about the work, so ... today we caught up with the 21st century and created a Facebook page!  Check it out.  And if you care to like or share us, we'd be grateful!

Sermon Series: The "I am" Statements of Jesus

We've just completed an 8-part series of messages on Jesus' famous "I am" sayings in the gospel of John.  Listen in:

John 8.58 - "I am"
John 6.35 - "I am the bread of life"
John 8.12 - "I am the light of the world"
John 10.9 - "I am the door of the sheep"
John 10.11 - "I am the good shepherd"
John 11.25 - "I am the resurrection and the life"
John 14.6 - "I am the way, and the truth, and the life"
John 15.5 - "I am the true vine"

Also, see this important corrective note on the sermon from John 11.25.