Written by: Justin Taylor Years ago, Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) popularized an old poem—the commonsense simplicity and clarity of which have encouraged many anxious and weary saints. From an old English parsonage down by the sea There came in the twilight a message to me; Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven, Hath, it seems to me, teaching…
Monthly Archives: October 2017
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
I’m still stuck on Disney Land, and the ‘Magical Kingdom.’ I’m stuck on the comparison between the unshakeable, invisible kingdom that we have our eyes fixed on and the kingdoms that people try to build here on this earth. In Hebrews 11 the writer talked about Abraham and all the others living as aliens and strangers because “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” vs. 16.
As believers of Jesus and members of His kingdom, our desire is for a far off country. We can see the invisible kingdom with our spiritual eyes in flashes and glimpses. The secular humanists try to convince us that earth is our home and there is nothing more. They believe that earth can be made into Heaven, which stomps on my longing for that far off country that I am designed for. I am really not designed for this earth. Here I am an exile and stranger and I wander about awkwardly. Quite awkwardly at times.
People who don’t know that there’s another kingdom beyond this one store up their treasures for the here and now and they believe the beer commercial from a previous decade of a beach sitting beer drinker: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” They have to fight aging and death and redefine Heaven and Hell because they can’t face what the Bible really says about an eternity for those who reject Jesus.
So the good news is that those who know Jesus and follow Him have a true magical kingdom to look forward to. We get to drink from the spring of the water of life without payment. And here there will be no more tears, death, crying or pain, as Revelation 21 promises. The old order of things will have passed away. We will have no need of light or the sun and moon, for the glory of God will be our light.
In the meantime, we will offer to God acceptable worship with trembling and awe. We acknowledge that we are aliens and strangers and that we desire a better kingdom, a heavenly one. A magical and unshakeable one.
I was at Disney World this last week for a conference. I didn’t go to the actual Magic Kingdom, but it was all around me, staying at a resort by Epcot. So, watching all of the hoopla has made me think about the parallel between the Magic Kingdom of Disney World and Mickey Mouse and the Kingdom of God and Jesus.
Think about it. It seems to be every kid’s dream: “I’m going to To Disney World, where everyone’s happy.” I watch as the grounds are manicured and customer service is bar none. Workers scurry around morning and night to keep the flowers and the lawns well manicured, food and drink is plentiful and people seem to be coming and going at all hours. Taxis and airplanes bring in groups and take them away as they keep the dreams coming and going. There are fireworks every night, jugglers and flashing lights. How is this related to the kingdom of God?
Don Richardson wrote a book called “Peace Child” about reaching tribal people in Papua New Guinea. He found a redemptive analogy about the remote tribe he was working with waiting for a peace child to come to pay the price for their sin. He used it to show how Jesus was the peace child and it opened the way for them to accept the gift of salvation as a people group. He said that there’s a redemptive analogy in every culture.
Disney World could be our ‘redemptive analogy.’ Perhaps woven into the American psyche is the dreaming of a place, a magic kingdom where dreams really do come true, is the set up for the kingdom of God. Disney World is not that place where dreams really do come true. It costs too much money, kids still cry, families still fight, and when you leave and fly home it snows and you have to go back to work.
But in longing for a place like that we are really longing for Heaven and for Jesus. Jesus is the real Mickey Mouse and He really is better. He doesn’t have big ears, but He has a big heart for the world. He doesn’t have a high pitched voice, but He holds the world together. He created all things and in Him all things all things hold together. And Heaven is that perfectly manicured place where everything really is perfect.
The Kingdom of God is enduring, and when we get to it we won’t have to go back to work, we will be forever young, and all of our dreams really will come true. Flying back in the airplane, the kids in front and behind of me all had stuffed animals, which I’m sure came at a great price, of Goofy and Minnie and all of the characters. They grasped them tightly as they fell asleep and then as we landed and walked off the plane to a land that was much colder and much less magical.
Kids, let me tell you about a place that doesn’t have Goofy and Minnie to hold on to, but is much more magical and is really real…
This was my jail Bible study last week. I’ve been thinking about it since then, about how it was really more for me than for them maybe. I went in with a friend. We usually go up with two of us. I led. My friend used to be in federal prison for like eight years. Jesus got a hold of her in a big way there and she has such a soft heart for people. She has yet to really tell her testimony. I can’t wait until she does. It will be powerful.
We had three different groups of women, so I led this three different times. Some women can’t get along with each other, and all together the little room we meet in would be too full. I like the intimate nature of groups of three and four because we can really interact. It’s a county jail and most of the women are Native American. We chatted for awhile. I’ve been going in leading studies on Sunday nights for over 17 years now, and some have been in and out of jail almost that long.
My thread was about people who wanted to get to Jesus so bad they were willing to do almost anything to do it. The first was from Luke 5:18-20. That’s where the four guys lower the paralytic guy down through the roof because the house was too crowded to get to Jesus. In verse 20 it says, “And when He saw their faith He said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.” It never really struck me before Jesus saw their faith. And maybe the four guys were changed that day too. Or maybe they encountered Jesus before. But they were desperate enough for their buddy to get healed that they sawed a hole through a roof. That’s audacity and desperacy.
The next scenario we looked at was Luke 7:36-50, the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair, tears and ointment. She busted into a dinner party of Pharisees and was willing to cut through put down’s and maybe getting tossed out so she could do something they would never do. In washing His feet with her tears, she got to His heart and He got to hers. Jesus turned to her and said that He knew she loved Him much and that though her sins were many, she was forgiven much. The Pharisees didn’t get that. But they weren’t willing to get to Jesus like she was either. Are you? Am I?
The third person we looked at was a another desperate woman. She’s told about in Luke 8:42-48. Do you notice none of these people get names? This one is “the bleeding woman.” She had ‘an issue of blood’ for 12 years. If you want to get a room full of women going, read that story. She thought, ‘if I could just touch the hem of His garment.’ And she did and ‘boom!’ she was healed. She had to push through a big crowd to get to Jesus.
What do you have to push through to get to Jesus? I have push through a busy schedule, other people’s demands, through stupid distractions, through crowds, traffic, tiredness, laziness and all kinds of things just to get to Him. There are times when I find myself saying inside “I just have to sit with Jesus.” Sometimes I want to scream it. Other times my soul whispers it.
To the women in jail, I encourage them to get radical to get to Jesus. They will do whatever it takes to get to a party or to get a hit of drugs, or to get a boyfriend. Jesus said in Matthew 5:29-30 that if your right eye or right hand causes you to sin to cut it off. That’s radical! We have to be radical to get away from sin and we have to be radical to get to Jesus. Unconventional, desperate, audacious. We have to saw holes in roof tops, break into dinner parties and push through crowds.
Do whatever it takes, but get to Jesus and hold on tight.
That’s what Colossians 2:3 says. Have you ever really thought about that verse? It’s come to my mind quite a bit lately, like when I’m really stumped. What I think it means is that when we need wisdom and knowledge we can turn to the treasure chest of wisdom and knowledge–Jesus.
The more we delve into Him, the more wisdom and knowledge we find. Colossians 2 as a whole talks about things that I’m not sure we really know what they mean. I memorized the book of Colossians years ago and I review it occasionally on the way to work. This week I’ve been on verses like the one above, as well as verse 9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” Teach me O God.
I’m am Elementary Principal by trade. Quite often I face things more complicated than I prefer. I don’t know if I’m looking to coast now that I’m in my late fifties, but things have gotten so much more complicated with broken down families, law suit hungry people and mental illness that’s maybe demonic affliction but disguised by diagnosis’s if all sorts.
This last week had some of those days where I really needed the treasure chest of Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge. I guess I can’t really go into much detail, but I can say that as I tried to deal with a very disturbing situation, Colossians 2:3 was on my mind. I bought some time by walking down the hall to get coffee and I walked and prayed that God would show me the answers I was looking for, because in Christ we have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—claiming that verse.
Slowly all parties involved worked through the situation, first with the boy and the school counselor, then his dad. In the middle of that next night I felt God give me more insight into the boy’s psyche and how to approach the consequences and follow up. My answers from God weren’t lightning bolts but I got through the day with about ten other side issues swirling simultaneously and can say that this week was a “win.”
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:8b-11
David is revelling in God’s Word. Are you starting to get the idea that the Bible is a big deal?
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Commands and precepts are similar. They aren’t God’s suggestions, they are “must do’s.” We can’t take them or leave them or explain them away. The commands of God are pure, or radiant, and they give us light. David wrote in Psalm 119:105 that God’s word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. In other words, as we stake our lives on the Bible and obey what is written in it, we will receive guidance from God. He will direct our steps.
Take the opposite side for a minute. If you don’t have any regard for God’s commands, your eyes will be dark. Have you had ‘dark eyes’? Do you someone else like that? They are troubled and evil minded. And, your path will be muddy and jumbled. You won’t get to where you try to get to. Something will always get in the way. That’s because you’re not doing things God’s way. Things won’t work out then.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. In Proverbs 1:7 we find that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (or wisdom).” If we fear God that means that we take His Word seriously and have an intent to obey, knowing that God always gets His way. God’s word is clean, pure, and perfect. And God’s Word endures forever.
There aren’t many things that endure forever. Our stuff doesn’t. Our hobbies don’t. Our souls do, what God says (His Word, or the Bible) does, and things we do that have eternal value last forever. Matthew 6:19 tells us to store up treasures in Heaven. One way to do that is spend time on spiritual things, like prayer and Bible study.
The rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Other words for rules are judgments, laws or ordinances. God’s judgments are just and righteous. Psalm 119:160 summarizes this well by saying, “The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever.” If you pick a fight with God, you’re bound to lose. So surrender to the rightness of His ways and you will find peace.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. God’s words are more precious than a big bank account. And they are sweeter than Dove chocolate. Can you say this?
By them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. God’s commands give us warnings for those who violate them and rewards for those who keep them. The rewards are usually not monetary, though it can involve having a blessed life. That blessed life extends from this life into a guaranteed eternal life in Heaven.
May you have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to obey God’s commands and to experience God’s rewards.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. Psalm 19: 7-8
David is declaring his praise for God’s law, and more generally, all of God’s written word. We know it as the Bible. How we view and esteem the Bible is foundational to our faith. If our beliefs about the Bible are faulty, our faith will be faulty as well.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. There are no mistakes or contradictions in the Bible, contrary to the claims of doubters. The Bible is also sufficient to meet all of our needs. Some may say that this is a book written by men, but that is not true. God told 40 men what to write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They wrote using their personality and writing style, but rest assured, the Bible is God’s words.
And they are accurate and authoritative and they convert or revive our soul. In other words, as we digest God’s words, they change us from the inside out. And they give us spiritual life and health.
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. That means that what God says about Himself, where we started and why we are here is true. It is also trustworthy, rock solid and prove-able. What God says, He will do. He will always keep His promises and we can rest on that truth. This makes us simple, or humble, people wise. If you want wisdom and humility, make the Bible your best friend.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart or giving joy to our hearts. Precepts are things that we are responsible for carrying out. They are God’s decrees and commands. God’s commandments are given to us for our provision and our protection, just like a parent’s rules for a teenager. Like a teenager may balk at his rules at times, but later sees it was for his benefit, so it is with God’s parameters for us. When we follow them, we find joy and freedom.
No other book or way of life will change our lives, make us wise and give us joy. The Bible is the prescription for whatever ails our hearts. Or, as David reflects in Psalm 119:93, “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.”
Are you in the Word? Has it changed your life? Or do you just own several copies of it with fancy covers and pens for them? Just like your credit card: “Don’t leave home without it.”