Monthly Archives: August, 2010

Reflections on the Quest: Utterly Astonished at Jesus

“They were utterly astonished, saying, ‘He has done all things well'” (Mk. 7:37).  They (the crowd) were amazed at the works of Jesus.  He was healing the demon-possessed (7:29) and the deaf (7:35), and His fame from previous miracles was spreading (6:13, 44).  Jesus was gaining rockstar status!  Believe it or not, there was a time when Jesus was more popular than the Beatles!  When He wanted a little peace and quiet, He could not find a place (7:24).  Everyone wanted a touch.  Everyone needed Jesus.  Has that changed?  I think not!  Everyone has needs.  Everyone needs Jesus.   Please allow me to encourage you to consider the person and works of Jesus Christ.  Without a doubt, “He has done all things well”!  Meditate upon Him and, after doing so, run to His throne to find the mercy and grace you need today (4:16).  Be utterly astonished at Jesus today and draw near!

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Reflections on the Quest: Straining at the Oars

I have been fascinated with the historical account of Jesus walking on the water since my earliest days as a Christian.  After twenty years, it is humorous still to read of the disciples thinking Jesus was a ghost!  Something struck me this morning that I had not thought much about yet from this account (I am referring to Mark’s recounting of the event in Mark 6:45-52).  While Jesus was alone on the shore (Mk. 6:47), He saw the disciples “straining at the oars” (6:48).  And what does Jesus do?  Does He quickly, magically appear and calm the waves?  Does He rebuke the sea from His beach chair?  No; He calmly walks across the water,  and in perhaps a bit of play, acts like He is going to cruise right past the boat.  Don’t miss the two miracles in this situation.  Jesus actually walked on the water.  Jesus really did stop the wind and–consequently–the waves.  Don’t miss the purpose of the miracles.  Jesus was communicating His identity to His disciples–an important part they missed in an earlier faith lesson (the feeding of the 5,000 [see Mk. 6:52]).  But also do not miss the fact that Jesus allowed (yea, even planned for) His disciples to strain at the oars for a while.  The account reminds me of what Jesus did when He heard that His friend Lazarus was very sick.  Rather than run to His friend’s aid, our Lord and Savior delayed for two entire days (Jn. 11:6).  You probably know why Jesus did so.  It is the same reason He left His disciples straining at the oars.  Jesus was seeking to glorify God (Jn. 11:4)!  In the case of Lazarus, God was glorified in what was said at the tomb and in what transpired after the stone was rolled away.  A dead man came back to life and walked (Jn. 11:44)!  In the case of the tired disciples, God was glorified as the light began to flicker over their heads.  They responded with amazement (Mk. 6:51)!  Matthew tells us that he and others worshipped Jesus and called Him “God’s Son” (Mt. 14:33).  Good stuff!  I hope you love studying the Bible as much as I do!  Want a little application before you move on to another website?  Keep rowing.  Jesus told the disciples to go to the other side of the lake (Mt. 14:22), and they obeyed.  They were doing what they were supposed to be doing, and they were doing so amidst challenging conditions.  The wind picked up.  The waves grew.  The disciples strained.  I like that.  I like their radical obedience.  I like their faithfulness.  Things a bit tough for you?  Keep rowing.  Does Jesus appear to be on the shore while you are in the storm on the lake?  Keep rowing.  Do what you are supposed to do.  My guess is that Jesus is going to show up eventually and–on the authority of Scripture–I can promise you that God rewards faithfulness.  So–keep rowing.  Glorify God today and you will glorify God when He arrives.  And–just so you know, you are not alone on the water; that’s me in the boat on your left straining at the oars.

Reflections on the Quest: Beautiful Songs

As I write this entry, Jodi is singing the kids their songs.  Cascade is trying to sing along with her.  The boys are giggling.  Celena is laughing as well.  I am filled with joy knowing my four children can go to bed with the assurance that they are greatly loved.  When I finally muster my strength, I’ll get out of the recliner to pray with them at their beds.  We call it “tying their emotional strings.”  Each night I pray that they might go to sleep knowing that they are safe and loved.  I pray for sweet dreams, and that they will get all the rest they need for tomorrow.  They’re still singing the beautiful songs.  I wish you could hear.  Thanks for taking a peak into our home during “the bedtime routine.”  If the kids are as tired as I am, the house should be quiet soon.  That will be nice.  I hope you had a good day.  I was sleepy through much of it but pushed through and was able to be productive.  Hopefully I glorified God in my actions and reactions, in my words and deeds.  And for those moments when I failed to, I claim the blood of Christ!  I attempted to persevere.  I trust you did as well.  Thanks again for the visit.

Reflections on the Quest: Compassion Leads to Truth

I was struck this morning at the connection between compassion and truth as I studied Mark chapter six.  “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like a sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (6:34).  It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of knowing and believing that which is true.  As Jesus gazed upon the crowd, He understood that their greastest need was to hear and receive the message He was proclaiming–the arrival of the King and kingdom (Mk. 1:15).  This is our task as well.  If we are the disciples of Jesus (disciples literally means “students”), we  should look compassionately at the crowds (those around us) and teach them about our Teacher.  We should care that others hear and receive the truth.  Then, we should prove that we–ourselves–have heard and received the truth by serving those we teach.  After teaching for some time, Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish (6:35-44).  Their biggest need was truth.  Their next important need was food.  If we will open our eyes today to those around us, we will see needs as well.  Everyone needs truth.  Let’s share it.  Everyone needs practical help, even if it is just a word of encouragment.  Let’s share it.  Thanks for reading!  Have  a great day!

Reflections on the Quest: Drawing Near to God

When I can, I am slowly reading Charles Hodge’s three-volume Systematic Theology.  It is a labor.  It is not easy to read like Wayne Grudem’s systematic text, nor is it filled with doxology like Calvin’s classic Institutes of the Christian Religion.  However, in my quest to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), I decided that–as far as it depends upon me–I would read this massive work before I die and meet Dr. Hodge personally! As you know from previous entries, I am teaching the book of Hebrews in our adult Sunday School class at church (this morning we had a great time looking at chapter seven).  Several weeks ago, we discussed the awesome truth that Jesus–rather than ourselves–is the Author of salvation (2:10).  Today we saw that this Author also has the power to keep saved all those who draw near to God the Father through Him (7:25)!  How is He able to do that?  The text gives us two answers.  First, Jesus is able to keep His sheep because His almighty power is just that–almighty power!  He is so strong that no one can pluck His sheep from His hands (John 10:29).  Second, Jesus is able to keep His sheep because [the argumentation of the author of Hebrews in this verse] He lives to intercede for them (7:25)!  At this very moment, Jesus is representing His people in heaven, proving to be our [believers] successful advocate (1 John 2:1)!  Back to Hebrews, chapter seven…here’s the NASB rendering:  “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25).  This morning I ended our discussion by challenging us to continue drawing near (an action mentioned twice in Hebrews 7 [over 5x in the book]).  Today I attempted to draw near to God by attending church, using my spiritual gifts, and reading Charles Hodge.  What about you?  Allow me to close with the wonderful promise of James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Reflections on the Quest: A Caring Community

Have you ever heard of Samaritan Ministries (not to be confused with Samaritan’s Purse, the ministry which promotes the program “Operation Christmas Child”)?  Samaritan’s Ministry is a co-op of believers who covenant together to help each other when medical needs arise.  If you would like more information about this possible alternative to traditional insurance, look for them on the web.  The reason I mention this ministry today is due to the over-whelming support we have–and continue to–receive in relation to some outstanding medical bills we incurred when I had my TIA in February.  Although God’s people scattered around the country are not required to help with this particular need (I was not an active member when the TIA occurred), they have been sending both encouraging notes and checks for weeks.  We are thanking God for the hundreds of dollars that have been so graciously given, and for the kind words of encouragment.  I thought I would share a few with you today.  Someone from Indiana wrote, “Just a small gift to off-set the cost of your recent medical expense.  May God strengthen you during your journey here and give you a joyful longing to be with Him in the next.”  Another wrote, “May His Spirit fill your days with a sincere love for life…A peace that passes all understanding…And a joy that will touch those around you.”  Finally, an individual from Washington wrote, “God is walking beside you and guiding your steps. He will give you the strength you need.”  Good stuff!  Don’t you love it when fellow believers help you to set your mind on things above (Col. 3:1,2)?!  I sure do!  I need the encourgement lest I become discouraged (Heb. 3:13).  On this particular Tuesday, I am praising God for Samaritan Ministries and for the kind Christians who–simply out of compassion–have blessed us!  I look forward to “paying it forward” in the future!

Reflections on the Quest: Pressing On

I have a very gifted friend who led worship at a church we attended several years ago.  He wrote a song based upon Philippians 3:10 which he titled Pressing On.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  There’s our example.  Here’s our exhortation:  “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1).  This morning I taught Hebrews, chapter six in the adult Sunday School class at our church.  Although we discussed the “falling away” verses (6:4-6) which serve as a serious warning to individuals looking at Christianity from a relatively close distance, I labored to illustrate the main purpose of the chapter.  Like the previous chapter, the author is passionately attempting to move the believers from a position of immaturity or inactivity to one of godly maturity and diligence (6:11, 12).  His intense hope was that they finally transition from the breast (5:12 [elementary teaching about the Christ; 6:1]) to the buffet (solid food [5:12]; the word of righteousness [5:13]).  Consequently, he told his “beloved” friends to guard against spiritual sluggishness by imitating those who have persevered in faith and patience (6:12).  His example, of course, is Abraham (6:13-15).  Though not perfect, Abraham persevered.  Are you?  How would you describe your spiritual condition at this point in your life?  If you are on the outside looking in (very familiar with the things of God; not opposed, but not committed), be warned.  Hebrews 6:4-6 contains a somber message.  Be sure you do not transition to the point of no return (“impossible to renew”).  However, if you are on the inside, if you are a believer who is desirious of knowing Christ more and showing Christ more (producing visible fruit [6:7]), press on!  Show diligence.  Imitate the godly men and women of the past and present.  Take hold of the hope that is set before us (6:18).  In other words, let’s keep maturing!  It’s worth the effort.  Early morning times of devotion and large chunks of time devoted to gathering with God’s people at a local church are not wasted.  Anything which helps us to know Jesus more and show Jesus more is good.

Reflections on the Quest: Humid Praise

I am having a difficult time liking August!  This humid Tennessee heat has just about done me in (I cut the grass today)!  If given the opportunity, I do believe I would jump at the chance of relocating to the South Pole!  Can anyone relate?  I love September when the temps begin to drop and footballs begin to fly!  I suppose that August has its positive points such as the beginning of a new school year (we had a great first week at RCA [Rhea County Academy]) and the birthdays of some very special people.  Other than that, I’m not sure I’d vote for its continuance.  But having said that, I find myself extremely grateful today for God’s manifold blessings.  He has been so very nice to me.  As I mowed the lawn, I began to thank Jesus for His gifts.  Some of the gifts I mentioned were my wife (Jodi is the complete package!), my kids (happy, healthy, funny, smart, good-lookin’ [from their mother, of course]), employment (RCA & Bryan College), a great church (Grace Reformed in Red Bank), a house (pictures available on Facebook), etc.  I could continue.  Though sapped of physical energy, my spirit is enthusiastic with humid praise.  I trust the same is true of you.  If you are a Christian, you have ample reason to rejoice!  Even if your list of earthly blessings appears shorter than mine at present, your inventory of heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:18) is countless!  Join me in “glad adoration” today!

Reflections on the Quest: 1 Down–179 To Go

Our first day of school is “under our belts.”  We had a great day at RCA today.   God very much blessed our many meetings and prayers this summer.  For that, I am grateful.  Both students and teachers arrived on campus this morning ready to begin our eighth year as a school.  I very much enjoyed reconnecting with everyone.  The RCA family is an awesome collection of individuals.  So–although I am tired out from our first day, and although I know 179 days are ahead of me, I am rejoicing in the goodness of my God.  How was your day?  Let me know of the blessings you are experiencing!

Mind if I recommend a You Tube video to you?  I just watched it.  Once you get to the You Tube site, search for:  Dr. Richard Ganz – God’s Holiness (Sermon Jam).  Good stuff!

Reflections on the Quest: The Fruit of Fellowship

At the end of another Lord’s Day, I find myself thankful yet again for the local church we attend.  Several years ago, God led us to help a friend in Chattanooga “plant a church.”  After accepting the pastorate of a dying church, my friend Wayne Layton began faithfully preaching through the Word of God.  This morning we had almost forty people present.  Jesus is slowly building His Church at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Red Bank, TN.  Wayne’s faithfulness reminds me of another friend–Carter Johnson of Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Dayton, TN.  Carter has been a faithful shepherd of Jesus’ flock, and Jesus has blessed.  He always rewards faithfulness.  One of the results of faithful preaching and shepherding is the fruit of fellowship.  Although our church is small, we enjoy wonderful Christian fellowship.  We genuinely enjoy being together.  What a blessing it is for us to be part of such a healthy church!  I hope the same can be said of you.  A lot of churches cannot be described as healthy.  Many pastors cannot be described as faithful.  If those crucial aspects are present in the church you attend, thank God today.  We need the local church, and if the local church you attend is healthy, you are blessed indeed!  Have a great week!  Rhea County Academy officially begins its eighth year Monday night.  If you would, please pray for us.  Thanks!