Things prophets and angels do not know

To my knowledge, there’s nothing quite like Second Peter 1:10-12 anywhere else in the New Testament.  From this text, we learn that prophets and angels often did their work without understanding the big picture.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances in which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

One of the bedrock principles of many Bible scholars holds that in order to understand a prophecy, a student should go back and try to learn what the prophet who announced it understood it to mean.  What was in the mind of the one speaking?

As though the speaker was the ultimate authority on his prophecy.

This principle–clearly mistaken, according to the Apostle Peter–has led to the undermining of some of the great doctrines of the Christian faith (at least by some; not all, of course).

In fact, the prophets said more than they knew, says the Apostle Peter. They were the instruments of “the Spirit of Christ within them.”

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Those of whom the Lord is not ashamed

“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).

Sometimes a verse of Scripture gets under our skin and burrows itself deep inside and will not leave us alone.  This is such a text for me.

It comes right in the middle of a tribute to some Old Testament citizens who nailed the faith thing.  By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham left home without a clue where he would end up. By faith Moses walked away from the palace and threw his lot in with the Hebrew slaves.

By faith.

Faith means a) I have evidence but b) still have questions.

Faith means a) I believe in the Lord God but b) there are still some parts of the puzzle missing.

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Mediocrity: Not how you want to live

“…you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold…” (Revelation 3:16)

Mediocrity is a warm blanket.

Mediocrity is remaining with the bunch that finishes neither early or late, that turns in work much like everyone else’s, that is satisfied with pretty good.

Mediocrity is the head in the sand when the storm is raging around us.

Close your eyes until it all blows over.

Mediocrity is the coward’s way out when life-or-death decisions are being made.  “Well, let’s give this some more thought.”  “Let’s not be too hasty here.”  “We don’t want people to think we’re extremists.”

There’s the appearance of safety in mediocrity.  We’re like everyone around us.  We don’t stand out.  No one criticizes us. They don’t even see us.  We blend into the landscape.

Our English word mediocre comes from two Latin words, medi meaning “halfway,” and ocris meaning “mountain.”  Somewhere there is a list of everyone climbing to the crest of Mount Everest.  But no one ever bothered to note those who got half way up and turned around for home.

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Gluttony: My favorite sin

Let all things be done in moderation.  –Philippians 4:5 

I read somewhere that Diamond Jim Brady, a character in American life a few generations ago, loved food so much, his stomach was 6 times the size of a normal belly.

Now, that, we think, is a glutton!

Can we talk?

How ironic that the season during which we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus provides us the perfect excuse to over-indulge.

Like the megalopolis that now stretches from Washington to Boston or from Dallas to Fort Worth, this eating holiday dominates our calendar from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

Walk through any modern large-box store, and study the edibles they’re offering during this season. It’s not just turkey and dressing and yams and egg nog any longer. It’s chocolates like you would not believe, in every kind of assortment and combination. It’s cookies and cakes and pies coming out your ears. Books pour off the shelves telling homemakers of new recipes for the latest taste sensations for these holidays. Restaurants offer special smorgasbords for the holidays with prices approaching $100 per person.

The wonder is that Americans are not all 400 pounds.

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“Lord, that’s not how we do things!”

“‘…your ways are not my ways,’ saith the Lord.”  (Isaiah 55:8)

Keep an eye on how the Lord works in your life. You might learn something useful for the next time He wants to use you.

This little couplet seems to sum up 90 percent of what Scripture and life teach us concerning the operation of God in this world….

When God gets ready to do a thing,

He loves to start small

Using ordinary people

With whatever methods He chooses,

And take HIs own good time about it.

Only people of faith will still be standing there at the end

To see what He has done

And to behold His glory.

That’s how He does things.  You can see it all through Scripture and by looking back over your lifetime.

But here is the problem.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are different from ours.  He is in fact light years above and beyond us and our techniques. (He said that very thing in Isaiah 55:8-9.)

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The clue that gives you away every time

“Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who is made like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12)

Reading through the gospels, watching the interaction between the religious bigshots as they bully the Lord Jesus Christ–imagine that!–and suddenly, we are brought up short by noticing the prominent role fear played in the lives of these people. Consider…

–“Herod feared the multitude” (Matthew 14:5).  Ah, a good reminder that tyrants always fear their subjects. Always.

–“The Pharisees feared the multitude” (Matthew 21:46). And so do religious bigshots fear their people.

–King Herod feared John the Baptist (Mark 6:20).  Wickedness fears righteousness because it cannot understand it, cannot control it, can’t intimidate it, and cannot silence it.  God’s faithful people must never lose sight of this for one minute.

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God’s people: Always on duty

Paul to Timothy: “Be instant, in season and out of season.”  (2 Timothy 4:2) 

(I was in revival in the St. Louis area.  This was eight years ago.  Here is what I wrote….)

I met Sarah three mornings ago when she and three co-workers were having breakfast in the hotel where I was staying while in the St. Louis area for a revival.  The four of them were sharing a small table, obviously enjoying one another’s company. As they got up to leave, I called over to them. “Hey, do you guys have a minute?”

“I’m a cartoonist and I would love to draw you. It takes one minute and it’s free. Would you let me draw you?”

They mildly protested that they might be late for work, but they lingered and I sketched them, two guys and two girls. All in their early 20’s. All young and cool and looking good.

“We work at Buckle,” one said. I had no idea what that was.

“It’s a denim store in the mall. Right next to the food court. You ought to come by.”

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The difficult, precious business of HOPE

…because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel…. (Colossians 1:5)

…this hope we have as an anchor for our souls.  (Hebrews 6:19)

I’m eighty years old as I sit here at this laptop in my breakfast room, typing away.  I live in hope.  Hope for all that Christ has promised is a big, big thing with me.

I often seize upon Psalm 27:13 I would have despaired had I not believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Hope is not mentioned there, but that’s what it’s talking about.

Hope or despair.  Those are the two choices.

The only choices.

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What to do when you don’t feel like singing

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:25)

Anyone can sing when the skies are blue, the air is fresh, the flowers are dressing up the world, and your spirit is soaring. To the best of my knowledge, your Father in Heaven enjoys and appreciates that singing.

But the kind He values most, the singing that thrills His heart, the praise that establishes forever that you are His and He is yours, Scripture calls “songs in the night.”

If you can praise Him when you’re feeling lousy, when the news is terrible, when the bank account is busted, the news from the doctor is bleak, the family is in rebellion and nothing good is going on in your life, then one of two things is true: either you’re a nut in hopeless denial, or you know something.  Some really big Thing.

He giveth songs in the night.  (Job 35:10)

Thelma Wells is someone you need to know.

This precious lady was born to an unwed mother with more problems than any one soul should ever have. She was a severely deformed teenager with no husband and no place to go, since her own abusive mother insisted that she take the baby and leave. The poor unwed teenage mother found work as a maid cleaning ‘the big house’ while living with her baby daughter in servants’ quarters.

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Self Esteem: Finding the balance is tough

I’m a sketch artist.

I’ll sometimes sit in a room for hours on end doing quick turnouts of subjects who are lined up.  I do this at conventions and church meetings, at schools and fairs and in people’s living rooms.  I love to draw people.  Takes about 90 seconds and in most cases, produces something people treasure.

But not always.  You’d be surprised how often people would rather be anywhere on the planet than in front of me posing.

I can see it coming a mile away. The person reluctantly slides into the chair opposite me, looks in every direction except mine, and when I manage to get his/her attention, refuses to look me in the eye. Asked to look this way and smile, the party mumbles, “I don’t smile.” Or, “I don’t like my smile.”

A few times I have said with  more than a little impatience, “Look, I could understand that if you were 13 years old. But you’re a grownup. Get over this. Everyone looks better with a smile, including me and definitely including you. Now, look me in the eye and show me a smile. You’ll like the picture a lot better.”

One day, when no one else was standing nearby to be drawn, I tried something with this depressingly shy young woman.

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