man praying in a cave

A Still, Small Voice

Can you imagine what it would have been like to witness the events that took place on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal? Can you picture the false prophets dancing around, slashing themselves, pleading with their god to send fire down to burn up sacrifice? All the while, Elijah stands there mocking them and their gods saying, “Where is your god? Is he in the bathroom or is he asleep?” And then, finally, can you picture hearing Elijah’s prayer and the LORD’s miraculous answer? What an incredible display of God’s power and might!

I often pray for God to answer my prayers in a similar manner. I mean, I want to see him move in power! I want to see Him victorious over His enemies! I want the world to know that He alone is God! It seems to me that a “Mount Carmel-like” miracle would do the trick, right?

But, if I am honest, I’ve never seen anything that comes close to this in my life. I am not saying that it can’t happen, I just have yet to see God move in this manner today.

For a long time, I had difficulty understanding the events that took place after the definitive victory at Mount Carmel. Elijah flees in fear after Jezebel makes a personal death threat. He finds protection and safety in a cave at Mount Horeb, the place where Moses met with God. After asking why Elijah was there, the LORD tells Elijah to come out and stand in His presence. Suddenly, a powerful wind comes, followed by a strong earthquake, followed by more fire from heaven. But, the Scripture says that the LORD was not in these things.

Then, Elijah hears a gentle whisper. He comes out to meet with the LORD who speaks to Him gently: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

And what was Elijah doing there? Why was he running from Jezebel after he had just witnessed the LORD defeat the several hundred prophets of Baal? It seems to me that when God’s judgement didn’t come upon Jezebel in Elijah’s timing, Elijah wondered if God was still working. By answering Elijah with a still, small voice God taught Elijah that He didn’t need natural disasters or miracles to prove His power. Even when Elijah couldn’t see it, God was still working.

Maybe you need a miracle today. You really need to see God’s mighty hand move. Or perhaps you have been praying for God to manifest His power in a Mount Carmel fashion. Let me encourage you to remember that God is God even when we don’t hear the roaring thunder. He is still on His throne even when we don’t see the flashing lightning. And He still speaks today, even if it is a still, small voice. Don’t be afraid when He is quiet. He is still the LORD God Almighty.


Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18-19

Song for reflection and prayer:

Nothing is Wasted on Jesus

The Road the Cross: Nothing is Wasted on Jesus (A Poem)

Nothing is wasted on Jesus

Not a second, not a word, not a dime

If given in faith, He will bless them

And multiply them all in His time

Nothing is wasted on You, Jesus

So I will pour out every drop in my jar

Although the oil is costly

It is worthless compared to what You are

Nothing is wasted on You, Lord

Not even a kiss of utter betrayal

You embraced it with humble submission

Knowing that good would prevail

No, nothing is wasted on Jesus

Not a second, not a word, not a dime

For Jesus is greater than all

Of heaven and earth’s riches combined


Based on Matthew 26:6-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to the Cross: Jesus' Authority Questioned

The Road to the Cross: Jesus’ Authority Questioned

“What gives you the right?” Have you ever heard this in an argument before? It’s a question of authority. It means the other party wants to see your credentials. They want to know by what authority are you able to speak and behave in such and such a manner.

Jesus was asked this question by the “chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders (Mark 11:27).” They had just witnessed Jesus “clean house” in the Temple and they were enraged. They wanted to find a way to kill Jesus. Not only did this man from Galilee claim to be the Son of God, now He was threatening business!

The easiest way to prove someone is a fake is to ask for their credentials. If you go to the doctor you will probably see his diplomas hanging up somewhere in his office. If you don’t see the diplomas…well, you may want to consider changing doctors. I don’t know about you, but I like to know that my doctor has earned the right to put “Dr.” before his name.

But, Jesus did not hand over any identification or diplomas to these people when they questioned Him. Instead, he gave them a question of His own. He asked, “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me (Mark 11:30)!” We know from the following verses that this question created a huge dilemma for the leaders and scholars. If they were to say that John did by the authority of heaven, everyone will ask why they didn’t believe him. If they say it was by some human authority, the people will become very angry. That’s because many people believed John to be a true prophet of God. To save face, they answer Jesus with a “we don’t know.”

Friend, Jesus doesn’t need a business card to prove to you He is God. First, the works of Jesus testify to who He is. Second, the Father spoke from heaven about His Son, Jesus. Third, John the Baptist made clear that Jesus was far more than simply his cousin ( see John 5). People can try to dance around the truth like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. People can even play it safe by saying “we don’t know,” but it won’t change reality. Jesus’ opponents didn’t want the truth; they wanted an excuse to keep things the way that they were.

Maybe you are reading this and you are not a Christian. Please, whatever you do, don’t straddle the fence. Either Jesus is God or He is a liar. Either His authority is from heaven or it is man-made. However, if you are honestly seeking the truth you only arrive at one answer:

Jesus is Lord of all! 

And if you’re still looking for credentials…look no further than the empty tomb. We will talk more about that very soon.

 

 

 

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14


Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Have you ever expected something to be so great, but when it finally came you were utterly disappointed?

A few years ago, I sat down to lunch with my wife and mom at a restaurant that I enjoyed eating at when I was little. I decided to order the fried chicken dinner that day. When the waiter brought it to our table it looked so delicious. I couldn’t wait to dig in! However, once I took a bite I knew something wasn’t right. The chicken tasted of cleaning chemicals—a far cry from buttermilk and spices. Even though my plate looked like the one in the menu, in reality, it was all for show.

When Jesus became hungry on his way to Jerusalem, he thought he would find some sustenance from a fig tree along the way. He saw the leaves on the tree from a distance. That was a good sign; that meant figs! For fig trees, the leaves and fruit come at the same time. A fig tree doesn’t blossom, instead the fruit is the blossom; it is an inverted flower. But, when Jesus came to the tree He saw that there were no figs for Him to eat, and He cursed the tree. Apparently, the leaves were all for show. The next day, the disciples found that the tree had withered (Mark 11:20-21). Truly, no one would ever eat from that tree ever again.

Now, was this story simply about a fig tree? No, I don’t believe so. It believe it is a lesson for us all. For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a physical representation of their spiritual condition. From a distance things looked great! Just the day before, people were cheering and laying down their cloaks. They were claiming things were ready and in order for the Messiah’s coming. But, upon closer inspection, it became abundantly clear that this was not the case. Do you remember what Jesus did later this same day? He drove out the money changers from the temple courts. The temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer.” Jesus said that it was, in fact, a “den of robbers.”

Like this fig tree, we can be “all leaves and no fruit.” We may look like the greatest Christians to ever walk the face of the earth from a distance, but if Jesus came close would he find any fruit? Is our faith genuine and thriving, or is it all for show? Perhaps the better question is: “when will Jesus’ patience run out before He sends His judgement?”

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

When you think of a king what comes to mind? I immediately think about someone with the most power, wealth, and authority in the kingdom. I can almost picture the kings of old riding their chariots through the streets with their swords sheathed to their sides. Trumpets are blaring and flags are waving. The people cheer and bow before him as he passes by.

I can almost hear the thunderous sound of the war horses as these kings led their armies into battle. I can picture them fully armored, ready to take on their enemies. You won’t see them crying. If men have to die in order to ensure the king’s victory, then so be it.


Now imagine this:

You are a young Jewish person living in Jerusalem. You’ve heard a rumor that a man from Nazareth raised someone from the dead who had been dead four days. Suddenly, you hear from a distance people you know crying out:

Hosanna (Save)!” 

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

The people are talking about the promised Messiah! They are quoting Psalm 118! Could it be that the anointed one has finally come?

You make your way through the crowd to get a closer look. You see people paving the road with palm branches and their own cloaks. This means victory! Your heart is pounding now! And then you see him…and…you’re confused….

You were expecting to see a great warrior who would be able to take on the Romans. But this man they call Jesus doesn’t look like a king. He looks like any other rabbi in town. He isn’t riding a horse; he’s riding on a donkey. He looks like a man on a business trip, not like a man preparing for battle. He isn’t leading an army, just a rag-tag group of his disciples. And to make matters worse, he’s weeping (Luke 19:41-44)! 


It is true that Jesus did not look like an earthly king. That is because He wasn’t ushering in a kingdom of man; He was ushering in the kingdom of God! He wouldn’t do it with the strength of horses and swords. The Christ would do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ focus wasn’t on destroying the works of the Romans. He came to destroy the works of the true enemy of God’s people—the devil.

And though no one asked Him to, Jesus came to save us from our sins. He died for us so that He could be the king of our hearts. Under the rule and reign of our sin, we will surely die. But, if we trust in the Resurrected King then death will have no victory over us!

The people of Jerusalem missed the Savior in their search for salvation. I pray that we would not make the same mistake. As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, praise God that He didn’t give us the messiah that we wanted. Instead, He gave us the Messiah that we needed.

My God Sings

My God Sings

Often when I am driving in the car by myself I will sing praises to God. When it is just me I don’t have to worry about how loud I am being or feel self-conscious when my voice cracks. Sometimes I’ll sing an old familiar hymn like “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Other times I will sing spontaneous songs of praise. They may not be the most beautiful songs ever written, but they express the cry of my heart in that moment. I love singing unto God. I think it is one of the sweetest privileges we have as believers. It is amazing to think that God not only hears our prayers, He also listens to our music.

He hears each note sung and every chord struck. Like a father watching his child play at his first piano recital, I can picture our Heavenly Father with a big grin and a camcorder in His hand. He loves every second of our songs written for Him. They bring a smile to His face. And He never forgets them; He never tapes over the footage.

Rest assured that God isn’t phased by a wrong notes. He doesn’t cringe when our instruments are a little out of tune. You see, God listens to more than our music; He listens to our hearts. We can play all the right notes, but have the wrong motives. We can have our instruments tuned perfectly, but our hearts not tuned “to sing [His] grace .” We don’t sing to impress God or earn His love. We sing because we love Him. We sing because we are free. We sing because He is worthy of our songs and so much more.

And all the while, He is singing over us. Read the words of Zephaniah 3:17 carefully:

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.

The Lord of All Creation is so delighted in us, His children, that He sings songs of rejoicing! Even with all of our sin and repeated failures, He still delights in us. Friend, if the god you serve isn’t singing, he isn’t the One True God. A god who isn’t rejoicing over his people is probably a god who shouts only words of condemnation. But the God of the Bible remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12).  I pray that these verses would be a reminder to us all of how much God loves us.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a song coming on…

The Fragrance of Christ

The Fragrance of Christ

 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. 2 Corinthians 2:12-16a NLT


In the ancient days of Rome, whenever a military general won a major victory for the empire, he would be celebrated and paraded through the streets of Rome. One of the ways people would know that the triumphal procession had begun was the sweet smell of incense coming from the pagan altars throughout the city. For the people of Rome this was the scent of victory. There armies had prevailed over their foes! However, for those who had been captured in battle this scent meant utter defeat. It was the aroma of certain death.

The Apostle Paul said that we are the fragrance of Christ among all people (2 Corinthians 2:12-17). Take a moment to ponder this truth. We smell of our Savior. We are like perfume wafting all over the earth. The aroma testifies to the fact that Christ is victorious over sin and death. They are defeated foes! To some, we are the most pleasing fragrance that they have ever known. But to others, we smell as putrid as a rotting corpse. Either you want to wear the perfume for all of eternity or want nothing more than to rid yourself of the stench.

Brothers and sisters, if this is who we are in Christ then we be about going. We must go where the fragrance of Christ has never been encountered. In some parts of the world, they haven’t even caught a whiff of Jesus. The have no idea that Jesus has won the victory. The only thing worse than someone thinking the fragrance of Christ is revolting is someone never getting the opportunity to decide for themselves. The Lord is diffusing His people in all the world to make Christ’s name known. Church, what good is perfume if it never leaves the bottle?

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 2

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote briefly about how there is no sin or death in heaven. Today I want to talk about some of the implications of this reality. How does the absence of sin affect the nature of our eternity in heaven? What does this look like exactly? Here is part 2:

There is so suffering or pain in heaven.

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

While there is much we don’t know about the reality of heaven, we do know that it is a place of eternal happiness. According to this verse, there are no saints in heaven crying about anything. There are no saints dealing with back pain or emotional trauma from their past. Furthermore, there is no indication that the saints of God will be haunted by their sins for all eternity either. Truly, the former things have passed away. In heaven, every wrong will be made right. Every sickness and pain will be healed. That is why it is important that we set our minds upon the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-2). Perhaps the Lord will heal us of some physical ailment here on earth. Even if He does, we could get sick again. And eventually we will die. But, when when we “wake up” in heaven we will never have to worry about pain, sickness, or sorrow ever again.

Have you ever stopped to think about the unemployment rate of heaven? There won’t be any work for nurses or doctors because we will be completely healed by the Great Physician. Counselors won’t have any clients because every saint will talking with the Wonderful Counselor. Even florists will be out of a job because there will be no headstones to put flowers on. We will be alive forever singing praises to the Resurrected Savior.

In other words, there will be no hindrances to our eternal worship of God. In fact, we will have even more to thank God for once He wipes away every tear from our eyes. The wiping of our tears won’t be His dismissal of our pain and suffering experienced in this fallen world, it will be the comforting touch of our Father who says, “Come here, my child. Everything is going to be alright.” What an incredible promise Revelation 21:4 is for those who are in Christ Jesus. Amen? I will leave you with the words of Charles Wesley in his hymn entitled, “Away with our sorrow and fear.”

Our mourning is all at an end,
When, raised by the life-giving Word,
We see the new city descend,
Adorned as a bride for her Lord;
The city so holy and clean,
No sorrow can breathe in the air;
No gloom of affliction or sin,
No shadow of evil is there.

Not Every Miracle is Holy

Not Every Miracle is Holy

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Exodus 7:11-13


If you were a kid growing up in the early 2000’s, you probably saw this scene play out in the movie The Prince of Egypt. There is a song in the movie called “Playing With the Big Boys” where the magicians and sorcerers of Egypt go head to head with Aaron and Moses. In reality, it was a match up between the Egyptian gods and Yahweh, the God of Israel—unholy vs. holy.

Aaron’s staff turning into a serpent was nothing special to these magicians. They were able to do the same thing by appealing to their occult practices. Recently, I have heard similar testimonies from my Thai Christian friends. One friend said that he knew someone who had severely broken his arm in an accident. Instead of going to the hospital, this man visited the local witch doctor. According to my friend’s testimony, the man’s arm was at least visibly, if not completely, healed.

As we read through the 10 plagues in Exodus, we see that the magicians were able to duplicate several miracles that Aaron and Moses did. They were able to turn water into blood and bring frogs up onto the land. However, once the third plague (gnats) came, the magicians were no longer able to recreate the miracles. In Exodus 8:19, they tell Pharaoh that “this is the finger of God.” The magicians realized that they were outmatched. But, they should have realized it when their serpents were swallowed up before.

Satan has some power and lots of tricks. He is able to do some miraculous things, but he never does them with good or holy intentions. So, why does he do them exactly? Because this is what people want to see (Matthew 16:1). They want the miracles without Jesus. They want healing without having to call Jesus, “Lord Luke 17:12-18).” They want power to carry out their own sinful will and desires (Acts 8:18-19); whereas, the Holy Spirit gives us power to do the will of God. Satan will try do whatever he can to deceive people all the way to their destruction. And the miraculous things the devil is doing in the world shouldn’t be thought of as counterfeits. They are so real and believable that even the elect will be led astray by them, according to Jesus (Matthew 24:24).

As pastor David Guzik has said: “Miracles can prove that something is supernatural, but they cannot prove that something is true.” The only thing we can trust is the goodness and truthfulness of God’s Word. Everything he does is holy and righteous (Psalm 145:17). Trust Him in everything. Seek His face more than His hand. Test every miracle against the Word of God because even our senses are affected by our fallen nature. Today as you reflect on the wonder-working power of our holy God, remember the words of the psalmist, Asaph:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Psalm 77:11-15

Our God is a Gardener

Our God is a Gardener

Many Christians are familiar with Jesus’ I AM statement in John chapter 15, but few remember Jesus’ “my Father is” statement in the same chapter. Many of us have  memorized John 15:5 in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” But have we memorized verses 1 and 2 of the same chapter? They read:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Did you know the Heavenly Father is a gardener? He’s got pruning shears in His hands. And according to Jesus, He actually uses them. He checks on each of His branches to see how they are doing. If they aren’t bearing fruit, He simply takes them away. Why? Because they are already dead. They can’t and won’t bear any fruit if they are dead. Jesus teaches that these branches will eventually be gathered up and burned (John 15:6).

Now if a branch is bearing fruit, the Father doesn’t just leave it alone. He doesn’t walk on by. No, he starts pruning and does so in love. He rejoices to see that the branch is producing fruit, but like every good vinedresser He desires to see even more. A vinedresser glories in the fruit of his labor, right? He doesn’t want just any fruit— He wants to see healthy, ripe, and abundant fruit. It should be our desire to bring glory to the Father by bearing the most beautiful fruit the world has ever seen. After all, this is how we prove to be His disciples (John 15:8). But, if this is going to happen, the Father has to use His shears. It can be a painful process; in fact, it will be a painful process. But ultimately, if it for our good and His glory. English theologian and Bible commentator, John Trapp, had this to say about God’s pruning:

And if it be painful to bleed, it is worse to wither. Better be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.

This is true, is it not? What is a cut compared to fire?

In the end, this all boils down to bearing good fruit. But, don’t forget the verse I said you probably already memorized, John 15:5. We can’t bear any of this fruit on our own. We must be abiding in Christ. Like branches to a vine, we must be attached to our source of life if we are to live! Praise the Lord for sending us His Spirit to help us to abide in Him.

Finally, remember that when the Father is pruning, Jesus never leaves us. He is with us through all the pain. He clings to us ever so tightly. And it isn’t just that He is close by or near in proximity. Rather, we are truly in Him and He in us.

John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you…”