I know what the Bible says, but…

Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet…” (John 7:21-22a, NIV).

In the passage I read this morning from John’s Gospel (John 7:14-9:12), the tension between Jesus and the Jewish people is palpable.  They simply refused to acknowledge who He was, debating and arguing and reasoning their way out of faith in Jesus–even when He was performing miracles, teaching Scripture, calling them back to God, showing love and compassion without measure, and living without sin in every way.  The Jews were amazed by Jesus’s miracles, yet angry with Him for healing a man on the Sabbath, and they were even accusing Him of being demon-possessed.

Jesus was incredulous, and rightly so!  In spite of everything He’d done for them, they still refused to believe in Him.  He does one miracle and the crowds are amazed by it… yet, not amazed enough to actually follow Jesus and receive Him as Lord.

How many times in my own life have I been amazed by God, but unmoved in my heart?  Too many to count!  I have often heard others say (and, I’ll confess, sometimes I’ve thought myself) these seven deadly words, “I know what the Bible says, but…”  Oh, that those words would never escape our lips!  May we never fail to be moved by the wonder, the grace, the Truth, and the beauty of God’s Word and the Savior it reveals to us.  Be amazed and be moved this week.

In Christ,
Pastor Andy

Give Her Something To Eat!

They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.  But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!”  Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat (Luke 8:53-55, NIV).

I love this story of how Jesus was interrupted by a woman who’d been sick for 12 years while on His way to heal a very sick little 12-year-old girl (I’ve always thought it interesting that the girl’s age was the same amount of time the woman had been sick–12 years, but it’s probably just a coincidence).  The interruption delayed Jesus long enough that the little girl actually died.  Undeterred, Jesus went and raised her from the dead.

Wait… He did what?!?  Yes, He raised her from the dead!  Wow!  What an amazing miracle!  And then after performing one of the most incredible, miraculous acts in human history… He told them to fix her supper.  Jesus is so practical!  If I’d just seen my own child raised from the dead, supper would be the last thing I’d be thinking about!  But no doubt this little girl was hungry, and Jesus doesn’t just look after supernatural needs, but everyday ones, too.

This brought to my mind the question of how well do I look after my own everyday needs, like, say, sleep!  Or rest, or relaxation, or eating healthier, or… exercise (yes, I used the “e-word”).  If Jesus cares about me eating supper, maybe I should, too!  And if Jesus is concerned for the practical needs of others, so should we be.  Sometimes people don’t need a miraculous intervention, they just need a cup of coffee with a friend who will pray for them.  My prayer for us this week is that we will remember to eat, sleep, and wrestle with our kids, do the everyday, practical things that Jesus cares about, and have a very normal, “mundane” conversation with someone who just needs a friend.

In Christ,
Pastor Andy

The Tyranny of Man

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15 NIV)

When I was a kid, it seemed like parents, teachers, and other adults were always talking about the danger of peer pressure.  My dad often used to quote me 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  Peer pressure could lead you to do things you’d never do on your own, it was full of pitfalls and evil influences and would cause you to turn your back on your family, your church, your God, and everything good in this world.

So, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration… but then again, maybe it’s not.  I don’t know what they call “peer pressure” when you’re an adult, but I don’t think it’s any less real or dangerous.  By all accounts, Pilate would’ve released Jesus to go free.  However, he gave Barabbas to the crowd and condemned Jesus to crucifixion because he wanted to satisfy the crowd.  He had an innocent man tortured to death because he wanted to please the people.

One of the greatest challenges pastors face is what I call the tyranny of man.  It’s the desire to please the people, which isn’t necessarily bad until it conflicts with pleasing the Lord by being obedient to what He calls us to do.  Rather than pursuing the path God has laid out for us and our churches, pastors often struggle with a desire to keep the peace, avoid rocking the boat, and hope that it all turns out in the end (because let’s be honest, most people really don’t like change–even good change).  One seasoned pastor told me early in my ministry, “When you’ve got equal numbers of people mad at you on each side of an issue, you’re probably right where God wants you to be.”  It’s funny but true!

No doubt it’s the same in your workplace, home, school, or circle of friends.  Whether you’re a kid or a grown-up, we all battle with the need to be accepted, to be approved and to be included, and that can easily turn into the tyranny of man.  We can revert to living at the beck and call of others, failing to set appropriate boundaries, and living in fear of letting someone else down, and even flirting with sin because we want to “satisfy the crowd.”

This verse reminded me of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 NIV).

My prayer for us this week is that we will be servants of Christ, living for His pleasure and not by the tyranny of man.

In Christ,
Pastor Andy

Tie Up A Strong Man

“In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house” (Mark 3:27, NIV).

Jesus speaks these words in response to an accusation from the teachers of the law that he was using the power of Satan to drive out demons.  But Jesus points out that the power of evil cannot be used for good.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Jesus is casting out demons and bringing freedom from oppression, not by the power of Satan, but by the power of God that has overcome the evil one.  Jesus has come into the “strong man’s” house to plunder it.  He has invaded the kingdom of Satan and is setting the captives free, healing the sick, caring for the poor and hurting, and generally wreaking havoc in Satan’s plans for evil.

These words called me to reflect on my own life.  Am I a house divided?  Do I ask God for redemption, but hold back areas I don’t want him to touch?  Do I have “strong men” protecting things in my life I don’t want Christ to plunder?  If I truly desire freedom and victory, I may need to deal with a “strong man” in my own life.  My prayer for us this week is that we will tie up a “strong man” and allow the Lord to plunder our hearts, to invade our lives, and to wreak havoc in our sin.  Because the thing about Jesus is, after he breaks up our sin and drives it out, he puts us back together and makes us new.

In Christ,
Pastor Andy

You Belong to God

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21, NIV).

In Matthew 22, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.  If Jesus had said, “Yes,” then many of the Jews would likely reject him as a Roman sympathizer.  But if Jesus had said, “No,” then he would be in violation of the Roman law and could be arrested as a rebel instigator.  Jesus’s answer not only evades their trap but stumps them in the process (sometimes I wish I could think on my feet as fast as Jesus with a quick and clever reply)!

Jesus asks them to show him a coin and asks whose image is stamped on the coin. “Caesar’s,” they replied.  So Jesus tells them to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.  Caesar has his little kingdom, his domain that is marked by his image; and God has his Kingdom, his Domain that is marked by his Image.  Coins bearing the image of Caesar might belong to Caesar, but human beings bearing the image of God belong to God.

As I read this, I was reminded whose I am.  Yes, I’m a citizen of the US.  Yes, I’m a pastor of LakeView Church.  Yes, I’m a husband and a dad.  But I belong to God; his image is stamped on my soul.  I should give time, money, thought, energy, and effort as is appropriate in each domain–work, home, country, etc.  But my heart and soul belong to God, and it is to God that I give my very self.

My prayer for you this week is that you would remember one very important reality: You belong to God. This week, give to God what belongs to God.

Heritage Matters

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

The Gospel of Matthew begins with 17 verses of genealogy–lots of names that can be tedious reading.  There are many such passages in Scripture, and while we may not find them overly interesting, they are nonetheless important.  As Matthew 1:1 points out, the purpose of this family tree is to show that Jesus is directly connected to both David and Abraham.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham (then named Abram) in Genesis 12, that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  And, Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7, that David’s descendant would reign as King forever.

By charting out Jesus’s family tree and showing his readers that Jesus is directly descended from both Abraham and David, Matthew shows us that Jesus is in fact qualified to fulfill both these promises.  Then, starting in verse 18, Matthew shows us that not only is Jesus the son of Abraham and the son of David but that he is also the Son of God.

As I read these verses, I was prompted to ask myself, “Where did you come from?  What is your background?  Never forget your heritage, no matter how far you go.”  I believe that our pasts, whether good or bad, can be used for good in God’s greater plan.  None of us were accidents, although some of us were surprises :-), we each were carefully planned by the Creator himself!  Where we’ve come from shapes who we are and is all part of God’s sovereign plan.

My prayer for us this week is that we will find the time to take a moment and consider our heritage.  Where have we come from, and where are we going?  What legacy do we want to leave as a heritage for our kids and grandkids?  May the Lord lead you to use your past to bless another this week.

The Lord Is About to Pass By

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11a).

I’ve had a few mountaintop experiences in my life, when the presence of the Lord was unmistakable, powerful, tangible, and overwhelming.  I will never forget a time shortly after I started leading worship when the presence of the Holy Spirit was so heavy (literally) that most of the worship team ended up on their knees—we couldn’t stay standing under the weight!  In the Old Testament, the word most often used for the glory of God is kā·ḇôḏ, which means “heavy.”  And while I think that these encounters with God are memorable and very special, I also think they tend to be somewhat rare.  More often than not, when the Lord passes by, I find it easy to miss his presence entirely—perhaps I was too busy or focused on other things.

My prayer this week is that we, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, will get to stand in the presence of the Lord.  Maybe it will be one of those special and rare mountaintop experiences where the kā·ḇôḏ of God’s glory weighs heavy in the room.  Or maybe it will be a still small voice whispering God’s assurance to your soul.  Either way, for the Creator of the Universe to grace us with his presence is truly a blessing, and I pray that blessing is yours this week!