Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Measuring Faith



While we’ve each been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3), sometimes we’re found measuring things by our doubt and unbelief rather than by the faith we've received. What do I mean? Let’s follow Peter out on the Sea of Galilee as we attempt to evaluate and compute what happened there.

The disciples had been rowing across the Sea of Galilee throughout the night and making little forward motion. Then suddenly they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water, totally unencumbered by the waves and the wind. They were all afraid, yet despite his fear, Peter called out and said:

“‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the waters.’ He said, ‘Come.’ Peter stepped down from the boat, and walked on the water and went toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he yelled, saying, ‘Lord, save me.’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'” (Matthew 14-28-31 NHB).

A Small Measure of Faith

If you had been rowing for hours and hours, getting nowhere, and then saw Jesus walking effortlessly on the water, wouldn't you want to leave your labor behind and hope to join him? Before you answer, we know that Biblically speaking, only one twelfth of believers would follow that inclination and ask Jesus to call them out on the water. So that makes the following fact all the more impactful. If Peter had only "little faith," enabling him to get out of the boat and walk upon the Sea of Galilee, the faith of the other disciples was likely not sufficient to even be measured.

Perhaps it's time, therefore, that we reconsider and remeasure Jesus' "rebuke" of Peter and begin to see it as, at least in part, an affirmation of Peter's belief. Remember, the one who called Peter one of "little faith," is the same one who declared that faith as small as a mustard seed is sufficient to cast a mountain into the sea. We should join Jesus and commend Peter for his small measure of faith for it enabled him to exit a boat during a storm, and walk upon a path of rough waters. And, he was successful up until the point that he began to doubt.

A Measure of Doubt

What a teaching moment this was — holding Jesus' hand while standing on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus used the opportunity, not to degrade Peter but to affirm and instruct him. In essence, Jesus said, "You had a sufficient amount of faith to join me on the water. Things were going so well, why did you doubt?” Doubt! What exactly is doubt and why is it so destructive?

One way to understand doubt and its relationship to unbelief is to see it in light of hope's relationship to faith. Faith, after all, is the, "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Heb 11:1 NIV). Doubt is the confidence in the things we see that contradict hope and faith. So, as hope is the fuel for faith, doubt then is the fuel for unbelief. Hope has the ability to believe the impossible, while doubt has the ability to put our focus on the circumstances around us. Peter's focus was broken and his attention was given to the wind and the waves about him, causing him to doubt not only Jesus, but the measure of his faith, successfully walking upon the water. Hope is realized in our focus upon Jesus as the Word of God. Doubt is realized and measured by our focus upon those things contrary to Jesus and the Word.
“We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete” (Hebrews 12:2 CEV)

As it is said, “We become what we behold.” Paul says that we’re transformed into Jesus’ likeness as we gaze into his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and what is possible through our faith in him and put his eyes upon those things devoid of Jesus' glory. When he began to sink, believing that he needed to be saved, that's when the measure of his doubt outweighed the measure of his faith.

Measuring Contrary Winds


The strong winds enticed Peter to lose his focus, but it is easy to see why he had begun to remeasure the situation, despite his success thus far. The evening before, the disciples had been serving as waiters, helping Jesus feed over 5,000 hungry people. Afterwards, Jesus sent them off in a boat, rowing across the lake. By the time Jesus caught up to them, walking on the water, it was sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. in the morning. They had been rowing against the wind for many hours. 

In the moment that Peter shifted his focus off of Jesus and upon the strong winds, it was because he knew what it was like to strive against those winds and fail. He and his fellow disciples had been doing that for a measurable period of time in the dark of night. So, when he began to measure his current situation by the doubt that those previous experiences had created, that's when he began to sink. 

We will do the same whenever we look backwards at our failures instead of looking straight ahead towards Jesus.

Well-measured


A small amount of faith is nothing which we should be ashamed. We can, according to Jesus, accomplish great things as long as we do not measure our situation by doubt and unbelief. It is Jesus who gives us our measure of faith and the means by which it is applied. How we measure and apply doubt and unbelief to a situation, however, is totally upon us. Peter had seen Jesus walk on the water and applying a sufficient amount of faith (little), he walked out on the water. But once Peter's doubt based upon his own experience became his focus, the measure of his faith became inconsequential in relationship to the measure of attention he gave to doubt.

So if we are to learn from Peter's experience, we must first believe it a good thing to get out of the boat, answering Jesus' call for us to move forward. Then, we must strive to measure everything we do in light of the success Jesus had before us. He said that we would do the works that he did (John 4:12), which means that depending upon the need, we can look to his example as to what is possible. That's how Peter walked on the water. We must see Jesus as the author and completer of our faith (Heb 12:2).

Hope is the lighthouse that calls us forward and is the substance under our feet as we move forward in faith. It always tells us that there will be a place to step as long as our eyes are focused in the right place. That's how we measure where our next step is going, and that's how we combat the doubt that comes to counteract walking out the measure of faith we've been given.

Small faith is not an insufficiency. We've simply not known how to measure the value of the mustard seed faith within us. How we measure a thing determines its worth. The scales must be aligned properly and the gold within the believer must be valued based upon what Jesus says, not measured by the defeats and loses we've endured.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Fringe Invitation

Fringe

I’ve been rewatching the series Fringe which is about an off-the-beaten path, science taskforce within the FBI which investigates and uncovers a pattern of odd phenomenon revealing a coming otherworldly battle. During this viewing, I’m noticing some parallels it shares with the Churches mission in our day. Now more than ever I believe that we must embrace the works Jesus said that we would perform — those things in the Bible which can appear to be fringe aspects of the Gospel. But I also realize that that the supernatural aspects of the Gospel can appear, like in the aforementioned TV show, classified as fringe science.

That’s why I wrote The Gospel Served with the Works. My intention was to create an easily accessible and digestible, scriptural presentation of the Churches mandate to do the works of Jesus. 


“The supernatural is weird enough. Don’t make it any weirder.”


Holding Things in Tension

But at the same time, I also understand the reluctance of some to embrace these aspects of the Gospel as they feel that many in the Church are far more invested in the fringe elements of the supernatural than they are the core commission itself. That said, I feel that, like in the show Fringe, the need for God to act powerfully through his Church will overshadow the failures of the past and that the Church can even more successfully operate in the works of the Gospel. To do so, I believe that we need to hold some things in tension with each other instead of in extreme opposition.

On one hand, our comfort level with the Holy Spirit must surpass that of Thomas Jefferson who infamously cut up his New Testament, removing all the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ ministry, leaving only the wise sayings and teachings behind. That is one end of the spectrum.

But we also can’t be those who are so attracted to the flame of the supernatural aspects of the Gospel that we believe that being odd and strange is a badge of spirituality. As they taught us at Global Awakening, “The supernatural is weird enough. Don’t make it any weirder.”


Investigation and Immersion

I suggest that we must begin to put ourselves out there. Like the Fringe division of the FBI, we must begin to investigate and immerse ourselves in the supernatural works of Jesus so as to integrate them into our understanding of the Gospel. But can we do this without becoming weird? The fact is that weird and fringe are always held within the eye of the beholder. So in this case, no matter where we fall on the supernatural spectrum, we will likely appear weird to someone. But, that’s the chance we take as Christians. We signed up for persecution whether we knew it or not.


Identity

But by the same token, we must not seek our identity in being weird or in being persecuted for being too otherworldly. Whether we are stiff and staunchy, or if we are weird and wild, we often bring those quirks and leanings into our Christian identity and ministry. The trick is, however, to let Jesus work in us along the way to let those things fall off as we move forward in him. While we can never fully arrive at perfection until the time he full arrives again, we are on a journey forward. 

Along the way, it is important that we offer grace to those around us and to ourselves as we strive to enter his rest and come into higher levels of maturity and identity in Christ.


You are the ones who are greatly needed in the supernatural presentation of the Gospel for you are the most sensitive to its abuses.


The Invitation

So I would like to offer an invitation and a challenge to those who find their identity in being grounded in the Word of God and in orthodoxy. You are the ones who are greatly needed in the supernatural presentation of the Gospel for you are the most sensitive to its abuses. You are needed to help round out the Church and demonstrate those works that Jesus so clearly said that we would do. The full Gospel needs your unique perspective.

Along the way, however, you might discover that despite your best efforts, you might still look weird to some, even yourself. But that is just part of the price Jesus’ disciples have always paid for venturing out in his name.


A Challenge

If Christians praying for the sick and other demonstrations of the works of Christ have looked to you more like a sideshow than a presentation of the Gospel, take the challenge to be the one to step up and demonstrate those works in a better way. The Gospel Served with the Works presents numerous scriptural examples of how these works are not a fringe element, but a major component of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Check it out and more importantly, jump back into the Book of Acts and see how the disciples operated. 

In addition, find those around you who embrace these works… those you feel you can trust to help you stretch yourself and along the way, invest yourself in other solid biblical resources on the subject.

And, don’t judge those who seem to you odd or overly flamboyant. It is amazing how our perception of how God works will change based upon our experience. While he never changes, our perception of him changes and grows as we come to better know him and his ways.


Conclusion

I propose that of the many ways we are called to suffer for the Gospel, one of the most difficult seems to be the call to allow ourselves to enter into uncomfortable positions, believing that God is looking out for and guiding us through them. As has been recently repopularized by the TV series, The Chosen… Come and See!

Can you trust him to expand your understanding while keeping you from falling off the edge? I think you can. The Body of Christ needs those willing to present Him well and that means to present him fully, taking on every aspect of the Great Commission. While it may seem like you’re investigating the fringe elements of the Gospel, it might surprise you how normal the supernatural is to God. Are you up for accepting his invitation found in the Great Commission?





Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Monday?

Easter Monday?


Anything is Possible

Easter is a time where anything is possible. It's the day believers celebrate Jesus' resurrection. If he can pull that off, he can do anything... right? Easter Sunday has come! But, what about Easter Monday?

Interpreting the Resurrection

Jesus said something rather curious just before he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. He said, “I am the resurrection.” But, what he meant always seems to be open to interpretation.

At Lazarus’ tomb: “I Am the resurrection and the life!”

At the cross: “I don’t look much like the resurrection right now!”

At the empty tomb: “See, I really am the resurrection!”

At various times in history: “Jesus WAS the resurrection!”

At the door of current circumstances: “???????”

Plugging Into the Resurrection

Paul found a group of folks who he commended for being full of faith, the Ephesians. Yet, he prayed for them (and for us), that they would come to better know the power of the resurrection:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead…” (Eph 1:17-20 NIV).

24/7 Resurrection

Paul lets us know that for those who believe, there is also a Resurrection Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, etc.. So tomorrow, or whenever you read this, think about what Paul has to say about this and how he continues his thoughts on the matter a few verses later:

“… God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6-7 NIV).

Guess what? We're in those coming ages now. 

Eternally Yours

For when Jesus ascended into heaven, he didn’t take the power of his resurrection with him to pack away for safe-keeping — he left it here for us.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all” (Acts 4:33 NIV).

“…Through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord…. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro 1:4, 16 NIV).

From Death to Resurrection

It is worth noting that resurrection requires that some things die off. Paul spends a good amount of time talking about this in the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians. But before you cringe at the thought of having to lose something, check out Paul’s language. His resurrection Monday was filled with joy in knowing that what he left behind was nothing in comparison to what he had gained the day before. His experience taught him that the power of the resurrection makes dying more than worth while. 

A Week’s Worth of Resurrection

Resurrection Monday is worth it. That’s the message of the Gospel! We seek… we find… we move forward past Resurrection Sunday, taking with it the promise that we must shed some things along the way, but that the power of the resurrection has the miraculous power to make tomorrow even better.

The Christian Life is About Resurrection

Christians are famous for showing their faith two days a year, on Christmas and Easter Sunday. This fact isn’t always as much about a lack of consistency or commitment as it is a lack of experiencing Resurrection Monday through Saturday. We need to know that there is more, and if there is more, we can have it. It is not asking too much to receive what we’ve already been given.

Today is a Good Day to Die, and a Good Day to Come Alive!

For Christians, today is the day that we affirm Jesus’ status by recalling his profound invasion into human events and human history. Are you seeing a need for more of the resurrection? Seek and you will find! That’s a promise from Jesus! He, after all, is the Resurrection, and the Life we seek. Just start asking for more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Watch Out for the Fleischmann’s



Yeast

Today, (if we are bread-makers) we throw a touch of Fleischmann’s, Red Star or some other brand of yeast into the dough so that it rises us and fluffs up bread the way we like it. Biblically speaking, however, yeast is mostly symbolic of sin which infiltrates and alters bread in a bad way. This is why Jesus warned his followers to be watchful for the yeast of the Pharisees. 

Pharisees
The greatest problem with the Pharisees was their inability and sometimes unwillingness to believe what Jesus was doing and who he said that he was. And while anyone who believes in Jesus today might feel they are immune to the effect of a little Fleischmann’s, Jesus did not seem to think so.


Bread of Life

Jesus was all about the bread! Think about it! He multiplied bread along with fish at least twice. He made it part of his very last meal before his death, and was known to eat it at least once after that… which is quite a feat. And of course, he let us know that he is the bread of life. That makes what he said about leaven even more important. It doesn’t take much yeast rolled into the dough for it to spread through, infiltrate, and interact with it. That’s just how yeast works. 

Jesus breaking bread
And so when Jesus declared himself the Bread of Life, he gave us context for where this leaven likes to grow. So while we might rightly recognize Jesus' identity, it is possible that we might choose to overlook the fullness of that identity through doubt, cynicism, and even pride… all things associated with the Pharisees. 

Consider this! Saul was a Pharisee and it took a knock to the ground, temporary blindness, and miraculous healing to undo the effect of yeast within him and transform him into Paul. Once we determine that phariseeism is something that only someone else can “catch,” that we are somehow immune, it is likely that at least a speck of yeast has somehow found its way into our own belief system. If spiritual yeast were not that pervasive, Jesus would not have put out the all-points bulletin that we should beware (Mt 16:6, Lk 12:1, 1 Co 5:6).

Prove It!

Thomas and Jesus
What things about Jesus do each of us raise our heads and discount in someone else’s spiritual walk or in ours? Likely, that’s an area where something has risen and has begun to spread. Consider Thomas! After Jesus had appeared to the rest of the disciples in Thomas’ absence, Thomas declared that the only way that he would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead is if he would be given substantial proof. This is reminiscent of the Pharisees who saw miracles performed in front of them, yet continually asked Jesus for specific signs to prove himself to them. Could it be that Thomas picked up a bit of that yeast along the way? It’s not hard to do.

Self-Check

Check mark
Am I more adamant in denying Jesus’ activity in the world today and in my own life than I am about recognizing Jesus' desire to intervene as he did in the New Testament? Do I discount God’s action in those I disagree with because I’m convinced that my views, positions, and standing are “more right?”


Solution!

Fortunately, Jesus is very accommodating and reaches beyond our unbelief and judgmentalism declaring, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing (Jn 20:27).” It’s our choice; yeast just makes it more difficult to make the right choices, but it's definitely not impossible. That change is what the Bible calls repentance and that simply means changing from our position to God’s position. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Who Moves God’s Hand?

Who Moves God’s Hand?



Resurrection Power Makes Sadducees Very Sad (and Tired)

In Acts, Chapter 4, Peter and John had just been arrested for healing the lame man at the temple. You know, that's the one where they had no silver or gold, but called on the name of Jesus and the man was healed. This made many happy, but it made the Sadducees very sad, you see (sorry, I couldn't resist). But because it was late in the day and their actions literally wore out the priests and the Sadducees, Peter and John were thrown into prison for the night. Why were these Jewish leaders so overcome, or as some translations render it, annoyed, disturbed, or distressed? Actually, these descriptions merely scratch the surface of the Greek word diaponeomai, which The Helps Word Studies defines as depleted by grief and pierced by fatigue. How could these folks be so tired?

See, these people in authority had been quite busy for a number of days beginning with the death of Jesus—the one who said that he would rise from the dead. These are the same Jews, appointed by and in league with Roman power who sought to squelch the power of the resurrection. Remember that the Sadducees vehemently disbelieved and denied the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:8).

Upon Jesus’ death, they requested that his tomb be guarded to squelch any attempt that might give credence to resurrection claims. Then they had to deal with reports of not only his resurrection by paying the guards to lie saying that Jesus’ body had been stolen, but also reports of more resurrections (Matthew 27:51-53). Denying that which we disbelieve takes a lot of effort and the Priests and Sadducees had been facilitating damage control concerning their reign of disbelief for quite a while.


Needing a Second Wind

But, finally, even after the recent events of Pentecost, they must have believed that their battle would soon be coming to an end. That is, until two unschooled and common men began operating in the same resurrection power that Jesus had used, attributing that power to his name. When would this nightmare ever end? 

But despite their exhaustion, they took advantage of a good night’s sleep, having devised the perfect plan for the following day. They would use the same overwhelming authority that they had wielded up to this point and quickly squash and intimidate these two common men.

As an aside, you may have noticed that despite their common opposition to Jesus, there is no mention that the Pharisees joined the Sadducees in this mission to eradicate the demonstration of resurrection through Jesus’ name. Perhaps the Pharisees’ sympathy towards the resurrection of the dead caused them to part ways during the current kerfuffle.


It’s a Bit of a Stretch (of the hand)

But things did not brightened up for the Sadducees. Peter and John left the proceedings even more determined to preach and demonstrate the resurrection for they understood something that the Jewish leaders did not… God’s hand was now available to believers. Just as Jesus declared that Pilate’s authority was designated and not innate, the apostles understood that God had orchestrated the authorities to:

“… do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:28 ESV)

God had been using his powerful hand to lead the Sadducees where he wanted them to go, his hand even participating in the decision-making process to carry out his plan (Acts 4:28). The apostles understood this and they also understood that now, post-resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Holy Spirit, that God’s hand and his plan was proceeding forward, becoming available to believers. This realization caused the apostles to pray:

“'And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.' And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness…. With great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:29-31, 33 ESV)

Indeed! Why do the nations’ rage a losing battle—one destined to wear them out—now that the hand which once used them as puppets to fulfill God’s plan, is now turned against them… unless they repent?


The Hand that Dealt a Sadd Defeat

How is it that Peter and John were able to walk free with only a “stern warning” from the authorities? The priests, elders, scribes, and Sadducees could not deny what the power of the resurrection had accomplished as the man who was healed stood as overwhelming proof of resurrection power. 

You may not have stopped to consider that this lame man was over 40 years old, yet God healed him. It was not simply that he had been lame for a long period of time and that everyone was familiar with this fact, but everyone, especially the officials knew well that 40 is the number of trial and judgment. 

Just as the Israelites had spent a complete 40 years in the wilderness, and just as the flood rains extended a full 40 days and nights, these 40 years of incapacity meant to them that this man had undergone a complete 40 years of trial and at the end, had been judged by God as sinful, deserving his physical handicap. To these people, that was the end of the story! He had either been judged for his own sin, the sin of his family, or a combination of both, doomed incapable of undergoing redemption. 

And yet, the power and authority in the name of Jesus Christ had raised him up, superseding the curse of the law. Until now, the Sadducees had come to believe that by their designated and acquired authority, that they were the hand of God, or at least, that it was by their authority that that the hand of God would move, especially in rendering judgment and determining righteousness. But here, their power had been stripped away for they had nothing to say being unable to deny that, outside of their authority, God had performed this miraculous sign.

“What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” (Acts 4:16 ESV)

Up until this time, they had been exhaustingly able, with varying degrees of success, to squelch and effectively deny the resurrection. Now, at least amongst themselves, they admitted defeat.


Keeping His Power Handy 

And so, instead of punishing Peter and John, they sent them away with a powerless warning to cease their actions. But the apostles pressed in all the more for they understood that the hand of God was inclined towards them, as it is to all believers. God’s hand was no longer moving to fulfill Jesus’s earthly ministry, sacrificial death and resurrection, but to perpetuate the power for believers which his actions procured for the Church. 

Paul understood and communicated this readiness of God’s hand to move through his people, praying for the Ephesians (and for us) that we would come to know and embrace the power within us—the same power which raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:16-23) That’s a prayer worth revisiting on a regular basis. 


Moving the Hand of God

He is the potter and we are the clay, and so he puts his power in these vessels of clay as he did Peter and John, to make it apparent that the power comes from God alone (2 Corinthians 4:7). While the power is sourced unmistakably from him, he invites us to draw upon that power, so that his glory might be manifest, or so says the call of the Great Commission.

Consider for a moment the interplay between humility and boldness which played out in the apostle’s prayer in Acts 4. Led by Peter, the apostle who so eloquently preached for us to humble ourselves that God might lift us up (1 Peter 5:6), their prayer of humility was a very specific prayer that God would embolden them with his power—in speech and in action.

Humility is not about lowering ourselves down to inactivity, but it is about letting God lift us up. Anything else is a false humility, or a false sense of authority and power in which we seek to glorify ourselves. Our only hope is to rely on his love, his grace, and his power that we, like those who went before us, serve the Gospel according to the power of his hand, within the confines of the power of his plan.

Monday, December 21, 2020

An Everlasting Invitation

An Everlasting Invitation



You're a Hero of the Faith

    Have you ever thought of yourself as a potential Peter or possibly a Paul? How about a Martin Luther or a Martin Luther King or any of the other heroes of faith who have emerged over the years? If not, then why not? 

    Does the idea of being like one of these folks seem too far reaching... too lofty? Then what about Stephen? He wasn't an apostle or a priest. He was just a waiter who somehow managed to turn his city upside down. People like him represent people like you and me when we find our true identity in Christ.

    None of these people were anomalies or special exceptions, but were simply those who humbly answered the call before them. While we will each have our unique expression of his light, we've all been called to humble ourselves and accept the same invitation and commission.


Bold Humility

    While, like us, these people often found themselves in dark, seemingly futile times, they rose up boldly in humility shining their light in the darkness. While these two actions might appear to contradict each other, we must come to see that humility holds lowliness and boldness in tension together. 

    While humility begins with a sober view of our natural position, humility is also the springboard for God to work through us—our call to be his light in darkness (Mt 5:16). Humility is not merely about deference to His position, it also recognizes the power and promise of his redemptive work through the Gospel.

    When we act in bold humility, it becomes apparent that what we accomplish could only have been sourced from his all-surpassing power, and not from ourselves (2 Co 4:17). 

    This is the grace he gives to the humble (Pr 3:34, Ja 4:6, 1 Pe 5:5) which was exemplified through the prayer and actions of the disciples in Acts 4:24-31. Check it out!


False Humility

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (Ja 4:10 ESV).

    People often misperceive humility as merely the action of not calling attention to themselves. This partially correct, but incomplete presentation of humility leads us to believe that it is safer, and somehow even more holy, that we allow darkness to remain the status quo.

    But, humility must take us somewhere. If we humble ourselves without the intention and purpose of letting the Lord work through us, we're not actually operating in true or full humility. Remember, the disciples humbled themselves before the Lord, expecting that He would lift them up and that he would stretch forth his hand to heal through them... and, He did (Acts 4:24-31).

    False humility, on the other hand, subtly convinces us that putting ourselves in a position for the Lord to lift us up is the act of being prideful and even arrogant. It does not understand the true meaning of grace.


Grace (charis)

5485 (x├íris) ... preeminently used of the Lord's favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is "always leaning toward them”). Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.

    Grace is not merely mercy. It is the extension of himself towards us. And, it is more than simply a heavenly "thumbs up," where God lets us know that he likes us. Grace means that God extends who he is for our benefit and through us for the benefit of others. It is the substance of the ongoing incarnation, Immanuel... God with us. It's what made Peter, Paul, Luther, and all those heroes of the faith spring into action.

    As we humble ourselves, it's God's intention that the power of grace will lift us up and draw us into action. That is why scholars sometimes translate the word grace (charis) as "gifts," as in “gifts of healing” (1 Co 12:28, 31). Paul, our New Testament authority on grace, encouraged us to desire these gifts, or graces—all within the context of his love, so that they would build up the Body of Christ so that we can all be at our best (1 Co 13:1-13; 14:1-40). 

    Humility, therefore, is the lowering of ourselves so that we can be obedient to the call before us, just as Mary was when she responded to the angel saying, “… I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38 ESV). 


Invitation: Be All You Can Be — Shine!

    The U.S. recruiting effort found the right words when it urged young volunteers to “Be All You Can Be!” That is the call for us today, just as it was in Paul’s time. If you’ve had enough of the darkness around you, remind yourself of this promise in Isaiah:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Is 60:1-3 NIV)

    At its core, faith revolves around believing in God's character and nature and that he is true to his word. Faith expressed, is believing that his plan works for all believers—including you and me—not just a select few. Each one of us has the potential and is invited to be all we can be because OUR light has come!

We Hold the Hope

    Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col 1:27) and so we are invited to ditch futility and to leave false humility behind so that we might shine in the midst of the darkness around us. 

    Do you feel like you’re in darkness? Then exercise humility, putting your faith in his promise that those who seek will find (Mt 7:7). We must each abandon unbelief and believe that the fullness of the Gospel is not just for some special others, but is for all of us. We've all been invited to walk in the light, just as he is in the light (1 Jn 1:7). 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Holy, Holy, Holy! Join in the Heavenly Chorus!



Holy3

As a hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy has had long-lasting appeal. From the time that the words were first penned by Anglican Bishop Reginald Heber in the early 1800s and then melded with music composed by John Bacchus Dykes in 1861, the song has found its way into the hymnbooks of about every denomination around the globe.

Archaic

Hymnbooks, however, are quickly becoming a thing of the past, just as songs with words like Wert and Shalt. Yet, this hymn continues to march on triumphantly in spite of, or perhaps even because of, its use of archaic language. These old-style words remind us of our history and at the same time, the timelessness of this song's message.

All Thy Works

Holy, Holy, Holy is a skillful blend of theology, poetry, sing-ability, and of course, reverence. On one hand, its tune is so simple that anyone can sing along, and even beginners can knock out the notes on a keyboard. Yet in striking contrast, its deep and intricate lyrics are so rich and full of meaning that they can stop you in your tracks.

“All the saints adore Thee, Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.” 

Our Song Shall Rise

It’s no wonder that this hymn has had such universal appeal for anyone who sings it can find themselves somewhere in the landscape. We're either on the outside in some level of darkness, attempting to look in at the heavenly vision, or we've already entered in, at least to some extent, straining to get an even closer look. 

Sinful and Saints

Words like Sinful are not popular words today, even in the Church. Holy, Holy, Holy, however employs it well, presenting the disparity between our natural position without God and our own state of holiness while resting in Him. 

While no-one in creation is by nature holy, redemption is all about him making us holy, sanctified, and saints, for all these words in the Greek are from the same word, hagios and all mean Holy (Ro 1:7, 1 Eph 2:19, Rev 14:12, etc.).

Evermore Shall Be

Holy, Holy, Holy strives to raise our consciousness of God’s omnipresence and his timeless nature. Consider, for instance, how Heber stitched together biblical references of the angelic chorus found in two verses written nearly 800 years apart from each other that he might present one eternal heavenly anthem (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). 

Glorious

Above all, Holy, Holy, Holy successfully tackles and presents the concept of the multifaceted glory of God. His glory is, on one hand, that which reveals his nature and emanates from his presence. He is... glorious! But, his glory is also that which is ascribed to him—our recognition of his works and his nature (Psalm 29:2). His glory is found in the fact that he is holy, or... set apart.

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Holy, Holy, Holy is a hymn that purposefully repeats various words and themes. Scripture tells us that every fact should be established by two or three affirmations or witnesses (Mt 18:20, Acts 10:16, 2 Co 13:1, 1 Jo 5:8, etc.). This repetition is used to attest to the fact that he is truly holy but at the same time, also serves as a mirror to his triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

The Angels’ Song

In heaven, the angels never stop singing Holy, Holy, Holy! When Isaiah arrived on the scene to witness their song, he found that in comparison, the daily chatter between himself and his fellow believers did not quite measure up (Isaiah 6). This realization created a dilemma for Isaiah until the angels brought forth a solution.

Joining in the Song

Once Isaiah had been struck by a realization of his unworthiness, an angel brought him a remedy in the form of a coal taken from the fire of God's glory. Once the fiery coal touched his lips, he was transformed into a joyful and willing volunteer. Likewise, Holy, Holy, Holy draws it hearer's in that they too might join in the song of heaven.

The Heavenly Anthem

Holy, Holy, Holy has grown over the years to hold universal appeal. Still, how much more could be accomplished if we purposed to sing it each time we felt the darkness attempting to hide his works and to hide his desire to light up the darkness? What might God do if, like Paul and Silas, we sang this hymn whenever the darkness seemed to overcome us?

We might even see ourselves as more than just individuals or even members of a local congregation, but instead as powerful participants in a great heavenly choir.

Singing Along!

Many renditions of the hymn are available on Youtube, unlike this traditional version, most do not include all four verses. So, follow the link and sing along.


Holy, Holy, Holy


Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
 Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
 God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!


Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
 Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea, Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
 Who wert and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
 Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see; Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
 Perfect in power, love, and purity.


Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
 All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea; Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
 God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!