VIDEO Joseph’s Song

Dec 22, 2009

Do you ever wonder what Joseph must have felt when he held the baby Jesus in his arms for the first time? Well, this song brilliantly composed by Michael Card presents the birth of Jesus through the eyes and heart of Joseph.

The Pinocchio Paradox (Part 2)

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!”  Romans 6:1

“What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”  Romans 6:15

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”  Romans 7:6

So, in case you didn’t remember, I left us in a Christian paradox in part one.  We have a “real boy” born into the faith, set free by Christ and now able to call out “Abba, Father.”  However, this very “heir” of salvation is still no different from a slave.  (Gal. 4:1)

 grace I managed to get through that essay without using the word I want to write about now.  The most popular word (I think) we preach is grace.  The most popular Bible story we have loved since our youngest memories is “Noah and the Ark.”

Hopefully I can expand our understanding that grace is the reason why many of us are still in the “Pinocchio Paradox” I described in part one.

There are many ways we can mentally latch on to grace. For the record, most teach and preach rightly on grace.  Grace has forever been that by which all the other things: faith, hope and love move.  All stories from the Bible, including Christ’s are laid out in the incomprehensible expanse of grace.  Grace is the foundation of all things and is rightly preached as the gospel of salvation!

However, our tendency is to be very blind to what “much grace” covers.  Grace is still God’s counter measure for sin, death and law.  Everywhere these increased, grace also had to increase.  (Rom. 5:20)  Although we naturally drift towards thinking of grace as a reward for being good, grace is undeniable God’s response to the wicked.  (Isaiah 26:10)  An underlying theme in the book of Romans is:  Because men were good at sinning, God was better with grace.  Grace truly is God’s safety mechanism (hence salvation mechanism) sustaining all life so that righteousness can eventually be born out in all life.

The appropriate story to combine sin, grace and righteousness is Noah and the Ark.  Noah was a righteous man. (Gen. 6:9)  Yet the world was corrupt and full of violence (Gen. 6:12)  God’s matching response for much sin ismuch grace!  God would have to make the earth full of his grace.  Unfortunately for the sinners back then, God’s grace coalesced in a flood of water from heaven.  Most commentators give Noah a good 100 years to preach God’s grace and build the ark.  Noah was 500 years old when the Genesis account begins and is 600 years old when he enters the ark at the start of the flood.   And yes, God’s grace is condemnation of the world!  (Hebrews 11:7)  “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear” rings out clearly from the “Amazing Grace” we sing, too.  (Go figure.)

The end result of grace in this story is that it floats righteousness out of sin.  It separates them.  Grace has saved the righteous, but it also had an end result upon the wicked.  The wicked will never understand grace.  They will inevitably die in a healthy dose of it.

Herein lies our Pinocchio Paradox as well.  Most Christians will also spend the majority of their lives treading the waters of God’s grace.  Many end their stories as “saved,” never fully coming to what is more.  We bask in God’s salvation of grace as “real boys” – heirs of salvation, but we fail to mature into what God really intends.  God intends that we becomelife–giving spirits!  (I Cor. 15:45)  Like Jesus!  Let us continue to look again at our stories…

The story of Noah moves from salvation by grace, to life by the Spirit.  Noah sends out the dove, and it is the dove that brings back the fruit of a new life beyond the flood of grace.  (Gen 8:11)  Likewise the very story of Jesus makes a similar transition.  As a boy, Jesus grew strong in the grace of God.  (Luke 2:52)  Jesus thrived in this grace becoming wise.  So also, Paul says this type of growth makes us wise for salvation.  (II Tim. 3:15)  Yet, even in Jesus’ story of growth there came a time at which his own righteousness welled-up in fullness at his own baptismal “flood.”  There too, his story also proceeds with the Holy Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove.  (Luke 3:22)  From there on, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the new ministry of Jesus Christ.  (Luke 4:1)  noah

Jesus has come through a good 30 years of grace to a new way of life by the Holy Spirit.  It will be the power of the Holy Spirit by which Christ defeats death!  (I Pet. 3:18)  It was also this “power of the Spirit” that came to Jesus to defeat Satan and administer the gospel!  (Luke 4:13-14)  When Jesus stands before the synagogue to announce his coming to maturity he says:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.”  (Luke 4:18-19)  He then begins doing exactly what he says he will.  The last part of Luke chapter 4 is abut Jesus casting out an evil spirit and healing many (Luke 4:31-43)  The gospel continues on, but my point is made.

How many of us let the Spirit lead us to new life?  I have used Pinocchio’s story precisely because he has learned to let his conscience be his guide — much like Jesus letting the Spirit be his guide.  There is true hope for Pinocchio making a new man as he grows up.  I chose not to write about Peter Pan, because he is the boy who never grew up!  He is not the best metaphor for what we should desire.  Real boys are intended to grow up into real men from heaven, not wonderful youths in Never Never Land.  I begin to see how to use the saying “By no means!”  Shall we go on living so that grace may abound?  BY NO MEANS!  Grow up to the new way of the Spirit!

I think the scripture that best sums this all up is I Cor. 15:45.  We can hang out in God’s grace and be like Adam:  “living beings.”  Or, we can move into the new way of life by Spirit.  If we do this, we become a “life-giving spirit.”  What is the difference?  The “living being” bears his own likeness (Gen. 5:3)  The “life-giving spirit” bears our Father’s likeness via the Holy Spirit.  Pinocchio’s own likeness was wood.  In turning into a “real boy” he became like his Father’s likeness!  When we turn into Christians, Paul says we bear the likeness of the man from Heaven.  (I Cor. 15:49) J  pinocchio_gepeto

Holy Stars are singing a New Song!  But, until I know how it goes, I will go with this old stand-by:  “When you wish upon a star, there’s no telling who you are…”  That is Pinocchio’s song (and paradox); and his dream came true to his Father’s likeness!  Now let us also throw off the strings of this world that so easily entangle us, and let us run with the Spirit who guides us.  Let us liken to our man from heaven, the perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ.  (Joe’s remix of Heb. 12:1-2)  And by all means grow!  You will even outgrow the paradox.  I end with words from Paul; the parentheses are mine:

“When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish was behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part (grace), then I shall know fully (Spirit), even as I am fully known.” I Cor. 13:11-12

Part One

Jesus, Our Great High Priest

Hebrews 4:14-16

Why is it that some people face life’s hardships with confidence and boldness, but others find themselves plagued with doubts and fear of failure? One reason is that too many people have a sorely inadequate view of who Jesus is. We may know Him as the Bread of Life and the Living Water, but how many of us know Him as our Great High Priest?

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb. 2:17). Hebrews 4:15 adds, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus enters into our lives and experiences our pain, hurt, and guilt right along with us.

Have you ever been totally misunderstood when you did your best and gave your all? Consider this: Was anybody more misunderstood than Jesus? He was personally acquainted with that kind of pain. Has somebody you loved ever said no, shut the door, and walked away? You might wonder if Jesus ever felt such pain and rejection as this. Yes, He did. His own people scorned Him. Does Jesus, the sinless One, understand our feelings of guilt? The Bible says that the Father laid all the sins of the world on Him. Jesus Christ bore the guilt of all mankind.

No matter what you are facing, realize that the Savior identifies with your circumstance, and He feels every single thing you’re experiencing.

He Rides Upon the Heaven

“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.” (Deuteronomy 33:26)

Chapter 33 of Deuteronomy contains the last recorded words of a truly great man, Moses, “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10). Many times Moses had addressed the people of Israel with mixed blessing and warning, listing conditions for blessing and the inevitable results of rejecting God’s plan. But here, as he prepared for his impending death (32:48-52), Moses spoke only of God’s majestic character and the privileges of those who serve Him.

The God of Jeshurun (literally “upright,” here a symbolic name for Israel) is an active God, for He rides in His excellency across the heaven to help us, as we see in our text. He strongly acts on our behalf. “The eternal God is [our] refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (33:27). He is not like the gods of the heathen, who do nothing.

Next, He is a God of grandeur. Here He rides across the sky and the heaven; elsewhere we are told that He “rideth upon the heavens of heavens” (Psalm 68:33). He walks (104:3) and flies (18:10) “upon the wings of the wind.” “The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:3).

Finally, God is eternal. The “eternal God” with “everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27) assures us of eternal victory. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18).

Such was Moses’ God and the God whom we serve today—the One who showers us with incomparable blessings. Indeed, “who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD” (Deuteronomy 33:29) to have such a One as our God? JDM

He Knows

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:15-16

Don’t pity yourself Don’t be afraid to tell God your troubles. He knows all about your troubles. There is a little song that says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” but there’s Somebody who knows, all right. And our Fellow Sufferer still retains a fellow feeling for our pains and still remembers in the skies His tears, His agonies and cries, though He’s now at the right hand of the Father Almighty, sitting crowned in glory, awaiting, of course, that great coronation day that yet is to come. But though He is there and though they cry all around Him, “Worthy is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:12), He hasn’t forgotten us, and He hasn’t forgotten the nails in His hands, the tears, the agonies and cries.

He knows everything about you. He knows! He knows when the doctor hates to tell you what’s wrong with you and your friends come and try to be unnaturally encouraging. He knows!

With boldness, therefore, at the throne
Let us make all our sorrows known
And ask the aid of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.

Thank You, Lord, for this encouragement. Thank You that You know and understand. Amen.

God’s Promise Will Outlive Man’s Violence

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 2 Peter 3:17

Those who still read and trust their Bibles in the midst of the nuclear age have found a great truth and a message the rest of the world does not know: after the war lords have shot their last missile and dropped their last bomb there will still be living men inhabiting this globe!

After the world has gone through the meat grinder of Armageddon the earth will still be inhabited by men; not by biological freaks, but by real people like you and me.

If the world can escape annihilation only by adopting the ethics of Jesus, as some think, we may as well resign ourselves to the inevitable explosion, for a huge block of the earth’s population is controlled by Communists whose basic ideology is violently anti- Christian and who are determined to extirpate every trace of Christianity from among them. Other large blocks are non-Christian and grimly set to remain so.

The West, it is true, pays lip service to Christianity, but selfishness, greed, ambition, pride and lust rule the rulers of these lands almost to a man. While they will now and then speak well of Christ, yet the total quality of their conduct leaves little doubt that they are not much influenced by His teachings.

All this being true, still we Christians can sing at the foot of the threatening volcano. Things have not gotten out of hand. However bad they look, the Lord sitteth king forever and reigneth over the affairs of men!

Let Us Take It Personally

Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us. ISAIAH 26:12

What a difference it makes when we humans cease being general and become pointed and personal in our approach to God! We then come to see that all that God did was for each of us.

It was for me that holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. For me Christ died—and when He arose on the third day, it was for me. When the promised Holy Spirit came, it was to continue in me the work He had been doing for me since the morning of the Creation!

So, I have every right to claim all of the riches of the Godhead in mercy given. What a blessed thought—that an infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children!

He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.

All that He is and all that He has done is for us and for all who share the common salvation.

Thank You, Lord, for all that You have done for me. That You are a personal, caring God is so unlike other religions. Father, glorify Yourself among the nations of the world today.