Luke 4:28 | White Hot Wrath

Facts are bright, hot, and painful. Facts can also shape us into who God wants us to be if we will listen. When I was younger, I thought everyone would respond to facts, logic, and reason and I foolishly engaged with anyone to discuss truth. It did not go well. I made more than a few people mad, but that was never my intent or desire. The real world has proven to me over and over that facts are not all that useful when dealing with a group of people. A twitter mob moving from timeline to timeline to roast and skewer others is devoid of reason or facts. Watching cancel culture rage on without facts or reason is terrifying. And I think I know why. Facts are unfeeling and they can be wielded in ways that cut deep. Facts, truth, and reason are inconvenient when social standing and peer perspective is more important. One on one someone might admit that a certain fact is true but in public that same someone will move along with the culture in lockstep to their own doom.

Before Jesus had even called a single disciple at the beginning of his ministry, he spoke a factual truth to the people of his hometown and the reaction of those he had grown up with was that of a full-blown mob and all the scary evil that comes with mob behavior.

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luke 4:28 ESV

Wrath here is the kind that boils up and then quickly subsides. It is unreasoned like the kind of a husband and wife toward the end of a marriage where they can set one another off at every unseen slight. The words of Jesus to those in attendance sparked a wildfire of dry pinestraw that is quickly consumed because there is no real substance. This wrath was so white hot that here we are in just Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel and already the people are ready to kill him.

29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:29-30 ESV

Many falsely believe that Jesus was all full of love and only love. I can do anything I want because Jesus loves me reason some. However, that is just not the case and does not hold up to facts. Jesus spoke inconvenient facts to this community of devout Hebrews right where their pride would be wounded most. Their reaction to the facts betrays the evil in their hearts. What was it that Jesus said to them? He spoke to them about all those that God healed and saved who were not Hebrew. Jesus dared to give a complement to the godless gentiles. Interestingly Luke, a gentile, wrote of a similar message from John the Baptist in the Chapter right before this one.

8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 ESV

Jesus wants the people to understand is that God is in the business of saving all of humanity not just a single culture or a single people. Racism has not part in God’s kingdom. God is in the business of saving those who would humble themselves and follow him.

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:28 ESV

Dear reader what facts have you pushed way? Is running with the mob really that satisfying? Come let us reason and discuss true truth. Put away the personal truth that is not really true and does not align with God’s creation. Jesus came to speak facts about himself, about God, and about relationship with neighbors. Jesus has proclaimed salvation from sin and that people in all places will listen. I pray that you will be one of those to hear him speak.

Luke 4:6 | Satan is not a King

The topic of Satan, the devil, is interesting to me. My interest is not in the sensationalism of Hollywood or middle age gothic paintings. My interest is a little more philosophical. I would like to know how Satan views his role as a fallen angel. Satan must have believed he could overpower the Creator in the beginning. He lost and was cast out of heaven. But now what is his motivation? Does he know the war is already lost or does he still think he has a chance to win when Christ returns?

Clues to an answer of Satan’s place in this world is revealed when he tries to corrupt and temp Jesus. The fascinating exchange occurs with Satan offering Jesus power and authority over all of the kingdoms of earth.

5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7 ESV

There are two keys that stand out from this act of Satan that help paint a picture of his current state of mind. First is that Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a “moment of time”. Time is a complicated reality. We know that time is not constant and we know that it is part of the creation. Time does not exist separate from the physical world. Jesus claims to be the beginning and the end meaning that he is not constrained by the limitations of time. The Creator, Jesus, is not subject to the rules of the creation so he can operate outside of time. Before time and space there was God and God exists separate from the physical creation and God exists separate from time. If Satan can show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time then Satan to some degree is able to operate outside of what is normal time for a mortal man. However, Satan appears to still be constrained to some degree by time. He still needed a “moment”. If that is true then he does not possess eternity apart from God his Creator. Satan cannot claim to be the beginning and the end. While powerful enough to reduce the amount of time needed to show Christ all the kingdoms of the world, he still must operate with limited knowledge of what is to come. It could be that this blind spot leaves him to believe that just maybe his rebellion could be successful. But realistically he must know that he is finite and constrained by this physical creation of heavens and earth just like all other men and angels.

The second key and most interesting is what Satan promises to give to Jesus. He tells Jesus that he will give authority and glory of these kingdoms to Jesus. This is no surprise. Satan is the ruler of this world and the ruler of the power structures that promote evil, pride, and selfishness. This is where people understand that there is evil in an ugly world. Satan offers all this to Jesus if Jesus will worship Satan as if he is god. But in this offer Satan reveals a truth. That truth is that Satan has limited power. Notice in the offer of all the kingdoms Satan acknowledges that those kingdoms are what have been given to him. Satan is not the real owner. Satan has no power or authority that has not been given or granted. Satan is a prince of this world but he is not the King and owner of this world. Satan is nothing more than an evil steward of something that is not his.

Jesus rightfully rejected Satan’s offer because there is only one Creator. There is only one true God who is worthy of worship. Paul clarifies the rightful order of this creation and Satan is deluding himself if he thinks there is anyway for him to own a creation that does not even exist apart from God.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 ESV

When Christ returns as the King of Kings, Satan the ruler of the kingdoms will not be able to keep what he offered to Jesus because every authority and power will be made subject to Christ. The harsh result for Satan is that even his greatest tool, death, will also be destroyed. We have a moment of grace in this life to choose who we will worship. Would you worship self like Satan has done or would you submit to the one true God? Only one of those powers has any true authority as the King and Creator of all.

1 Corinthians 1:1 | Christ Only Always

jesus

I teach at a local church on Sunday mornings each week and I have a rule in my class that answers to questions must be real not the “church” answer. By church answer I mean that I don’t want the class to answer what they think everyone would expect to hear in church but to answer the question in real honest terms the way we would see it in life outside the church. The church answer to a question I specifically don’t want is “Jesus”. Jesus could almost literally be the answer to most any question one might get at church. The running joke in my class is that if no one has an answer or no one wants to answer the hard question because it is a little to real and close to home then I get the church answer “Jesus”.  The class laughs because it is most likely the right answer but not the answer we usually live life by.

Barclay in his commentary for 1 Corinthians notes that in the first 10 verses Paul uses Jesus, Christ, or some combination of those names 10 times. The Corinthians were divided and they were struggling internally. So Paul is trying to get their attention with that intro. Church hear Paul… the solution, the answer, the resolution, and everything you need is Jesus. Why can’t we as people who call ourselves followers of Christ turn to Him first, consistently, and always?

This reminds me of a hymn Have Thine On Way, Lord. Where the final verse of the final stanza concludes with Christ only, always, living in me.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Church, why not turn to Christ always and only? I grew up in a large denomination that I still love. God has called me to serve in a non-denominational church and I am good with that because Christ only, always. A friend once told me to major on the majors and minor on the minors. Meaning that the organization of the church is not something to argue over (the minors). Let people be where God has called them, but where division should occur is where Christ stands on what is right and wrong like the trinity, sexual ethics, and hell (the majors). What a challenge Paul put before this early church. Here are those first 10 verses calling out Christ only, always.

1 Corinthians 1 ESV

  1. Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
  2. To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
  3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
  5. that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—
  6. even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—
  7. so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  8. who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  10. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Exodus 12:11 | Door to Mercy

One of the most fearful, memorable, and horrifying judgments on this present earth by God is found in the final plague against Egypt when Moses at the direction of God demanded that Egypt let the Hebrew people leave to worship God. The King of Egypt was stuck in this awful cycle of rebellion, stubbornness, and arrogance against God due to his own selfish and evil nature. In this final plague Pharaoh comes to the end of himself and he finds God’s crushing judgement on his entire worldview.

6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. Exodus 11:6 ESV  

God’s wrath is not looked upon kindly by modern man and many Christians willfully overlook God’s judgment to think and speak only on God’s love. But God’s love is not true unless God’s judgment is also sound. God’s judgment on Egypt is juxtaposed against his mercy for Israel here at this moment in history as recorded in Exodus 11 and 12.

God’s Judgement:

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. Exodus 12:12 ESV

In this final plague where the firstborn in every household dies in one terrifying night God communicates clearly that this death is a result of his judgement on Egypt. They are being judged as we all will be judged based on the life lived in service to self or stuff apart from God who created us. Egypt put their trust in false god’s that promote selfishness and hedonism. Egypt killed the first born of the Hebrew people out of selfish desire to remain in control. Egypt the same Egypt that is keeping as slaves the people of Israel deserved this judgment. It not my judgement or the judgment of the Hebrews or modern man’s judgment but it is the perfect righteous judgement of God who is the creator of all things.

God is also allowing this judgment on Egypt to be an example to the Hebrews and indeed the rest of history since we are still to this day discussing this terrible event and why it happened. God has chosen this moment with Egypt and Israel to reintroduce himself in a permanent way. God is taking control of the narrative and altering the course of human history. From this moment forward people will know God the one true God. No longer will people be ignorant of their Creator.

God’s Love:

11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Exodus 12:11 ESV

God’s love is found in His mercy. The Hebrews could have been left to the same fate as the Egyptians. But God provided an undeserved way of grace. If the people would follow his instructions and listen to His voice, they could find Passover from the judgment to come.

God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb for each household. The blood of this lamb placed on the doorframe of the house would allow the angel to Passover them in the moment of judgment. Yet there was more to God’s instructions that speaks to us today. There is a realization that this meal must be eaten in haste with nothing left for tomorrow because God is leading those that will submit to his word out of the world and they should be ready to go as one just passing through. Don’t put down the kind of roots that fools us into believing that this is our one best life. But stand with cloak on and staff in hand ready for the life with God that awaits. The Passover meal represents how they should live as one covered by the blood of the lamb.

My Response:

…For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed… 1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

All that happened as recorded in Exodus is but a sample of the perfect justice and perfect love that God is working out to a final conclusion. Judgement is coming on those who willfully live lives in service to their own selfish desires. Our sin will be judged by God just as Egypt was judged. All are guilty of sin before God. I am not here to judge others because I stand condemned as well. Yet because God is also perfect in His love, He provided a perfect Passover lamb in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blood of this lamb is available but it will only cover households that want to receive and trust God. The Hebrews received the instruction of Moses and were saved. The Egyptians rejected those instructions to trust in their own ways and were condemned by their own actions.

My response to God’s instruction is to yield to Jesus and partake in the grace and mercy God poured out in his Son. I am covered by the blood of the lamb and judgement will Passover me not because of my worth but because of my faith in God’s worth.

Exodus 10:21 | Darkness is the Choice

With the season of Halloween upon us I was thinking about how scary the darkness can be. Movies love to capture the imagination of what might be found down a long unstable staircase in the darkness. Nothing but spiders but hey the imagination of something unknown can send a chill down my spine. Some children want a light left on when they drift to sleep. Many of my neighbors leave lights on around their house because they fear the thief could use the darkness to lurk about. I once took a tour of a large underground cave and as part of the tour the guide had everyone stand still and then they turned the lights out. The natural state of this cave where we were at under the ground was without light. There was nothing. I could not see even the faint outlines of the person next to me. In fact I reached up to touch the person in front of me just to make sure they were still there. There was no light peaking around a corner. It was just dark like I had never experienced before.

Moses appeared before the King of Egypt right before the 9th of what would be 10 plagues on Egypt. Moses was given instructions to ask the King to let the Hebrew people go and worship the Lord. However, God knew that the King would not let them go so God prepared Moses with instructions on what this 9th plague would entail.  

21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” Exodus 10:21 ESV

Darkness that can be felt. I shudder at the idea. Light a match and darkness. Start a fire and darkness. Look to the sun and darkness. God said that this would be a darkness that could be felt. This word “felt” in the Hebrew could be translated “to grope”. Darkness that will grope. The darkness would grope its way into your being. It would have been a paralyzing blanket cast over the nation. Worse yet it is a darkness that lasts for 3 days. Imagine the despair of the Egyptian people and specifically the Egyptian King in that one of the major gods of Egypt is Ra the sun God. Insult on injury here is that Ra as creator is supposedly the father of the Egyptian King. The King’s own fatherly god Ra has been shown to be worthless before the Lord God who created the sun and everyone in Egypt plainly sees this as the case.

Paul in his opening letter to the church in Rome describes the situation.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. … 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, … 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:18-19; 22; 25 ESV

Egypt serves the creation and they worship the creation. There have been eight previous acts of God’s power and wonder over the creation to convince them that he is God and he is worthy of their attention. Yet they “suppress the truth” so they can continue to live their unrighteous lives as if God does not exist and as if they will not be accountable to their maker. Contemporary man does the same. We worship science which is our ability to manipulate the creation. Yet we still know almost nothing about the creation some will even deny there is a creation or a reality because they understand that where there is a creation there is a Creator. We worship exercise and healthy lifestyles yet we still grow old and die. We worship cults of personality in culture and yet mental health issues and dissatisfaction with life continue to increase. Why? Because we live ungodly lives in darkness contrary to what God created us for.

The Egyptians had an advantage over the modern man in that the three days of total darkness they experienced was plainly physical. They had a chance to reflect and think about the plight they found themselves in. We in the modern world are paralyzed in the darkness of our hearts yet we avoid acknowledging our current state by the distractions of entertainment and busyness that rule our lives.

A theme of darkness and light runs throughout the Bible. As I wrote here that God is light and he calls Christians to be a source of light in a dark world. It is no surprise then to hear Paul tell us the message he received from Jesus on God’s plan for this world.

I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:18 ESV

Now is the moment to turn from darkness to light, from sin to forgiveness. Jesus is calling us to worship a worthy creator. If we submit to Christ then we will be in the light. If we worship the creation which includes our own selfishness then we remove ourselves from God the source of light and will live in eternal darkness. Draw near to Christ and he will hear your cry.

Exodus 7:4 | The Light’s Great Act

There is a misconception in the culture that the God of the Old Testament is a vengeful and angry God but the God of the New Testament is loving and wants everyone to do whatever they want to be happy.  The result of these two narratives is that those who hate God and his church will talk about how unjust the angry God of the Old Testament is so that they can justify curtailing God and the church in the public square. And those who proclaim a judge-less God of the New Testament a God that desires everyone to be happy use this view to justify their own “truth” of selfish desires and hedonism. Any challenge to this judge-less God is immediately thrown out with the lecture we are not to judge others.

Both narratives are wrong about God. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. If God changed then he would not be God.

First let us look at the judgmental God of the Old Testament. Moses traveled to Egypt to free the Israelite slaves from the oppressive Egyptians. God tells Moses that He will free the Israelite people through signs and wonders and he also tells Moses that the signs and wonders will be a judgment on Egypt.

3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. Exodus 7:3-4  ESV

Here is the God of the Old Testament condemning the Egyptians to a painful judgment that ultimately ends in the first born throughout Egypt being killed by an angel of God. This final plague and judgment was so overwhelming that the Egyptians begged the Israelites to leave.

Was this a vengeful and angry God who had no right and therefore we can condemned his action or was this a righteous judge who is justified to judge Egypt in this manner? Before answering this question remember that the Egyptians are holding the Israelites as oppressed slaves. These are the same Egyptians that set about to murder every boy born to the Israelites.  These same Egyptians that rejected God to serve after false gods. As creator of humanity and sustainer of the universe God created us to worship him and him alone.

Fast forward to the New Testament where Jesus explains God’s purpose in judgment. Jesus the loving and compassionate tells a religious man exactly what God is doing and what God is doing is not a judge-less God wanting the people to just do whatever they want.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:17-19 ESV

The cultural narrative is that God loves everyone. And that is true. Jesus says that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world. The cultural narrative also says that God just wants everyone to be happy being whoever they want to be and doing whatever they want to do. This is not true. Jesus spells it out “this is the judgment” that Jesus is the light of the world but selfish, evil, and hedonistic humanity loves the darkness and does not want the salvation of Jesus because humanity’s works are “evil”. Jesus described humanity as “evil” that includes me and not just people outside of my affinity group. Furthermore Jesus states clearly that anyone who does not believe in the Son, Jesus, and the light he brings stands judged “condemned” by God.

Just as the Egyptians were condemned because they loved the darkness wanting nothing to do with their Creator so too will we who love what is contrary to God. God has brought light and truth into a dark world yet just as the Egyptians rejected the words of God so too is this current culture stand condemned. God has not changed who he is and we have a choice of salvation through Christ or to continue to love what the darkness wants to be important. Just understand that God and the evil done in darkness are not compatible. One cannot choose this world and what is popular in this world and then stand before God without condemnation.

Dear reader Christ stands at the door to your life. Would you love the politics, the lifestyle, the anger, the disappointment, and the lust of this life more than the salvation that Christ offers where “whoever believes in him is not condemned”?

Exodus 5:22 | God’s Failure

What are the reasons people follow Jesus? Some follow him for money and fame. Some follow him because they are unhappy with their current life and are told that Jesus will make them happy. Some follow him because the family told them to do it. I followed Jesus because when I was very young God asked me to call on the name of Jesus. He pursued me and I agreed having no idea what the result would be or why I should. God asked me to submit to Jesus. How does one say “no” to God when he is there every single day? What I doubt anyone would ever claim as a reason to follow Jesus is because they want to make their life harder. Yet that is exactly what happens in many ways because God’s agenda and my agenda are not aligned. In Christian parlance there is a phrase “counting the cost” that we see hit Moses when he reluctantly confronted the King of Egypt.

Moses knew that he did not have any authority or leverage to free the Israelites from Egypt. He did not have authority over the Israelites and he did not have authority over the King of Egypt. When God calls him to go and make the outrageous demand to let the Israelites go free he goes reluctantly. The result is a failure that blows up in the face of Moses.

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2 ESV

So Pharaoh then makes life for the Israelites miserable and as his slaves he has control of the situation. The Israelites complain to Moses that this is his fault and then Moses in turn complains to God.

20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” 22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” Exodus 5:20-23 ESV

Moses encountered God at the burning bush and agreed to follow God into this mess. Nothing about this situation is comfortable for Moses. Nothing about this situation has made Moses happy. Moses had to leave his family behind. Moses left his flocks behind. This endeavor is not making him wealthy. Moses is not even sure if he will make it out of this challenge to the King of Egypt alive. What is God doing? Because at this point in the life of Moses God has not come through. The life of the Israelite slave just went from bad to even worse. As a leader of people, I can’t imagine the grief Moses must be experiencing at this moment because if this fails people will die. So, he lashes out at God “you have not delivered your people at all”.

Has God failed? Why would God not make everything roses and rainbows right at this moment? Has God failed in your life? Why is there still pain? Why do your enemies still hold power? Why do the “good” suffer and the evil triumph?

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? … 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:28;33 ESV

Following God comes at a cost. It comes at the cost of my ambition, my plans, and my desires. Following God requires everything else to be pushed aside. God is not something that one adds to life to make one happy. God is not a magic mantra that adds blessings to all my desires and all my plans.

The disciples followed Jesus in part because they expected the Messiah to be a triumphant king kicking Rome out of the Hebrew state. When they realized this was not going to happen there was despair like we see here in Moses.

16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:16 ESV

Jerusalem would be a death trap for Jesus. The disciples knew that the Pharisees wanted them dead. Thomas has despaired of all his dreams and hope for blessings from God in this life. God has failed. Jesus has failed.

I am just like Thomas and Moses. How many times have I been angry with God. Why did you bring me down this road only to see my job lost? Why did you bring me down this road only to see friends or family turn on me?

Did Jesus not promise that we would see the glory of God? Does Moses not get a chance to see the glory of God in the most spectacular parting of the Red Sea? Does Thomas, doubting Thomas, not get a chance to touch the nail scared hands of the resurrected Jesus? Do we even now not leave room to believe God and to see his glory when we come to the end of ourselves and our own ability to control a situation?

God brings us to a point where we need him and him alone. God has never failed and God has never abandoned me. Moses could not solve the problem with the King of Egypt. The disciples had to set aside their own ambitions and be made ready for the resurrection and life that God had prepared for them.

When God calls will you follow him into the difficulty? Will you follow him into a life that is unpopular with the world? God will ask hard things of us so that He can be glorified and we can be amazed by him. My life has countless moments of amazement at Christ working out his glory to my encouragement. So be encouraged because when God’s glory is revealed all of the hardship faced in this life will be nothing compared to the joy of the presence of Jesus the King of Kings.

Exodus 3:14 | Authority Proven

Authority is an interesting concept. If I make truth claims about something then I must back up my claim by some kind of authority. For example, I could claim to be the best artist in the world. In order to prove that claim people would want to see my work. If I don’t have any works to show them then they may laugh and tell me I have no authority to make that claim. But if my art has been sold or used in some famous well known way then I might have some authority to make that claim. If I claim to be an authority on species of birds, I might be able to point to college degrees and past peer reviewed publications to back up my claim to authority. A fascinating down side to authority in our lawsuit crazed society is that if I put on a white coat, earn degrees, and then as a doctor someone gets hurt because I was wrong then my authority that was worked so hard for becomes a snare. For example this NBC News Report. In Italy there was an earthquake that killed hundreds. The experts on earthquakes made authoritative claims that the chance of an earthquake was low. Should these experts be held accountable for being wrong? Here is the main quote from the article.

“an Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter Monday for failing to adequately warn residents before a temblor struck central Italy in 2009 and killed more than 300 people.”

In the aftermath of the convictions other scientists resigned from disaster prediction boards and groups because they do not want to accept the downside of the authority they had claimed. And this is completely reasonable because they claimed an authority to predict earthquakes that is not yet settled. Scientists and “experts” go on broadcast media to make definitive claims that they can’t possibly know for sure all to puff up their credentials, egos, and wallets. I know it may seem shocking but a court finding them liable for not living up to those claims is a reasonable outcome if we accept that their authority is as definitive as they willingly lead the public to believe.

One of the most famous events of the Bible is the moment God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. God asks Moses to go to Egypt and free the Hebrew people. Moses rightfully objects because he has no authority with the Hebrew people. How will he as an outsider walk in and say to everyone come with me? How will he have any authority to speak to the king of Egypt and ask for the Hebrew people to be freed? It is an overwhelming and impossible task to ask of Moses.

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” Exodus 3:13 ESV

Moses asks God by what name will I come to them? By what authority will I go and make this revolution? Moses rightfully knows that this is not his ambition or his place. He will only be a messenger sent by God.

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14 ESV

There is no greater claim of authority ever in the history of the world than God’s response to Moses in this moment. God tells Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent him. God makes the claim that he exists.  God also tells us in this name that he has no beginning and that he is beyond the constraints of the start and end of time. What is more God then backs up his claim to being the ultimate authority by delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt through some of the most amazing miracles recorded in all of the Bible. 

19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. Exodus 3:19-20 ESV

God told Moses that he exists and God backed up his claim of authority by doing everything he told Moses that he would do to free the Hebrews. But this is not all, there is one more claim of authority that goes along with this burning bush event. Fast forward to the New Testament where the religious Hebrews constantly challenge Jesus because they did not want to accept the authority he claimed (and backed up through miracles). In one of the debates Jesus tells them that the father of faith and the father of all Hebrews Abraham looked forward to the time when God would send Jesus to save the world.

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:57-58 ESV

Jesus responds to their childish mockery by doubling down. Before Abraham was even born “I am!”. The parallel between God telling Moses that he is “I am” and Jesus now telling everyone that he is “I am” even before the birth of Abraham is a shocking claim of authority. Jesus is claiming to be the same God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. If there are any doubts to the meaning of what Jesus said look at how the Jews respond to Jesus after he said this.

59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:59 ESV

Moses was called by God out of a burning push. God’s authority is unquestioned in freeing the Jewish people out of Egypt. Jesus calls out to you dear reader with an authority that no expert, no scientist, no guru, no crystal, and no medium can ever claim. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus came to die, to be buried, and to be resurrected so that God and his creation might be restored to fellowship. How will we respond to such an ultimate authority? Now is the time to trust and have faith in, Jesus, the authority that will never fail.

Exodus 3:4 | God Changes Outcomes

The family and the community we are raised in makes an impact on our world view and our outlook on life. Yet we could be raised in the most wonderful family and still grow to become a horrible person. Or we could be raised in a dysfunctional family and grow to become a wonderful person. Our past is not the final decider of our future. We are each unique individuals to God and when he speaks the real decider of our future is our willingness to listen and respond.

Moses was raised in the household of the king of Egypt and had every privilege in the world. But he knew and most likely everyone he was raised with knew he was not Egyptian. So, on one hand he was raised with the shrewd evil as a prince of Egypt and on the other hand he was also raised as an outsider which eventually lead to his desire to murder an Egyptian in order to help one of his own people. Because of this family dynamic it seems inevitable that his life would follow this path of murder against his own adopted family. And because of his arrogance he was found out and forced to flee Egypt.  

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Proverbs 16:2 ESV

Our actions are an overflow of what is in our hearts. Our actions are a reflection of our spiritual condition. If you constantly lie to get what you want then in your spirit you are an evil liar. If like Moses you harbor hate in your heart and it spills out into murder then you are an evil murder. Even if my hate has never spilled out into an action of murder that does not mean I am not a murder in my spirit. God knows the state of our spirit. Moses murdered for what was a noble reason in his own mind but it was out of hate and it was wrong.

After a lifetime on the run Moses who once had ambitions to rule like a king of Egypt has lived his life humbly in the wilderness tending flocks and raising a family. He is no longer the murder he once was. It is at this point that God weighs his spirit again. God makes the move to introduce himself to Moses completing the transformation from shrewd prince of Egypt to child and servant of the one true king.

4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Exodus 3:4 ESV

Moses was not ready early in life for what God planned for him. Moses would not have listened to any council from God. Murders never listen they charge forward in a pseudo-righteous anger living as they see fit. But now a life time removed from Egypt Moses is ready to not only hear from God but to recognize the authority of God.

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 ESV

We do not control how we are raised and how we are raised is not the final decider of how we live. Moses had to leave the privilege life of his youth and to live humbly in the wilderness. He had three options in this new life. First, he could have planned and plotted his return to power in Egypt. Murder would have only been the beginning of evil if he had lived this life. Second, he could have despaired all that he lost when he left Egypt. He could have become depressed to the point of uselessness. This too would have been an evil because being created in the image of God he has made us for so much more than despair. God made us to live and enjoy him. Finally, the path forward that Moses embraced was a quite life content with anonymity away from the riches and evil of Egypt. It is was from this place that God was able to speak to Moses and he was able to respond “Here I am”.

The worst evil of all would have been if Moses had stayed in Egypt living a worldly life of riches and evil. That is the most fearful place I could imagine. Could anyone hear God speak in such a circumstance? Moses by God’s grace has been prepared for this moment to hear God clearly. And God clearly introduces himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What an amazing moment a lifetime in the making.

5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:5-6 ESV

Dear reader where is your life standing at this moment? Is God calling your name and would you dare turn aside from your current course to pause and hear what he has to say? When I was young God called my name and I was compelled to listen. I am so thankful for being in a place and in a moment where a response to God’s calling turned me away from a life of evil. Jesus is calling would you like Moses respond “Here I am”?

Luke 1:34 | Why a Virgin Birth?

Why is the virgin birth of Christ such an important doctrine for Christianity? The desire to question, ignore, and reject this doctrine as important is primarily due to a lack of understanding to the significance of the claim. A review the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will be informative when we see how each author approached the topic.

Both Matthew and Luke deal with the traditional birth narrative and they both explicitly tell the reader that Mary is a virgin at the birth and conception. It is clear from the text that the audience, the writer, Mary, and Joseph all understand that a virgin birth is not possible and would bring shame to the Mary and Joseph because people would not believe that Mary conceived by way of a supernatural act of God.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:30-34 ESV

Matthew quotes directly from Isaiah 7:14 about God’s promise of a virgin giving birth.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-25 ESV

A virgin birth as odd as that might seem is clearly there in those two gospels and everyone clearly understood what was meant by saying a virgin will give birth to a son. To help clear up the “why” we should look at this from God’s perspective. The answer can be found in the birth narratives of Mark and John because those two texts do not give the physical birth of a baby boy type of story. These two gospels provide the history of Jesus not from man’s perspective but from God our Creator’s perspective. These two Gospels highlight the other side of the story that God wants humanity to know about Jesus and these two narratives are the key to understanding the significance of the virgin birth.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

Jesus in Matthew and Luke is a baby born from Mary. God through the Holy Spirit intervening in the curse that humanity lives under. Jesus in Mark and John is the son of God who existed as God from the very beginning.

Jesus is heir to God’s Kingdom and because of the virgin birth he does not have a biological birth father in the same way as the descendants of Adam (you and me). By not having a biological earthly father Jesus is able to break the curse of the sin nature.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV

Together these four gospels complete the truth of the origin of Jesus, Immanuel “God with us”, who is fully man and fully God. The virgin birth allows Jesus to be both man and God at the same time and furthers the claim that Jesus is God. Not just God, but also the Creator God. Without the virgin birth Jesus would not be God and could not have saved anyone from sin.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 ESV

Revised and Edited Originally published to Human Effort Sept 2013