It was the chance of a lifetime—if they only knew how it would end up! These four fishermen were going about their business as usual. Their family business was a stable income for the most part.
Then along comes a compelling offer of a new career. They had seen this extraordinary man before and even heard some of his teaching. But now, he singled them out with a personal invitation, “Come with me. Hang out with me and learn from me. Work with me to change the world!” This was no part-time job but a full commitment. They would eat, sleep, and travel together with Jesus, learn from him and seek to become like him.
Did they hesitate? Not a bit! They left their boats, nets, income, security and all—and followed immediately. No thoughts of keeping options open or waiting for a better offer. It was an exciting life—often perplexing, dangerous, fulfilling, and blessed.
When Jesus calls, it’s time to go. No delays, no regrets! Being chosen for His team is an awesome privilege.
Who is King of the Jews? That is the big question at both the beginning and the end of Jesus’ life.
Magi came seeking the newborn King of the Jews. But Herod was already occupying that title, and he would tolerate no rivals. Jesus’ parents barely got him out of town before Herod’s forces swept in and massacred the baby boys in an attempt to be sure no other “King of the Jews” could threaten his throne.
Thirty-three years later, the same question arose. The religious elite, jealous of Jesus’ popularity, insisted that he be executed on the grounds that “he claims to be Christ, a king.” (Luke 23:2) After grilling Jesus, Governor Pilate is still hesitant to condemn a man who seems to be innocent. Then Jesus’ enemies play their trump card: “”If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” Finally he asks the religious leaders, “Shall I crucify your king?” Their response: “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:12-16)
But Pilate (or I prefer to think it was God, acting through Pilate) had the last say when he prepared the accusation to be posted above Jesus’ head on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
So who was king of the Jews—Herod, Caesar, or Jesus who was rejected by both the political and the religious establishment? Jesus is the only one of those who was a Jew. And He is the only one who is alive today. One day Jesus’ own people will finally acknowledge Him as their true King. What a day that will be! God’s people from the Jews and Gentiles united together under Jesus as not only King of the Jews but King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Poor Lot! He’s taken in a couple of strangers (actually angels in human disguise) who showed up in town needing a place to stay overnight. And now at his door is a howling mob intent on gang-raping those angels. When Lot refuses to allow this, they accuse him of being intolerant and judgmental: “…he dares to judge us!” (Does this sound familiar now?) God was about to destroy Sodom for their wickedness, but first He had to get Lot out of there. So the angels grabbed Lot, his wife, and their two daughters by the hand and dragged them out of town before calamity hit. (Genesis 19.)
And Noah—another divine evacuation. “Yahweh observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So Yahweh was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.” (Gen. 6:5-6) So He decided to wipe clean the earth and start from scratch. But first He had to get Noah and his family to safety. Once they were in the ark, God shut the door before calamity hit.
This earth is ripe for another catastrophe as human wickedness reaches the point of no return. When will it happen? Based on these two examples from Genesis, we can speculate about what might happen, and what will become of the godly minority. Peter does have some appropriate words about this:
I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he … destroy[ed] the ancient world with a mighty flood.
And by the same word, the present heavens and earth …are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.…The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief…On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. (2 Peter 3:3-14 NLT)
Infinitely high and holy, yet not remote.
Intimate, yet demanding reverence.
Self-revealing, yet beyond comprehension.
No matter how much we study and learn about God, it is just the tip of the iceberg. This is the God whose universe extends way beyond the visible universe 14 billion light years beyond us. (See the link in my previous post.) No matter how powerful a telescope or microscope could be made, we could never approach the limit of God’s incredible creation. Here’s a beautiful description of His greatness:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
And yet we see this same God becoming a newborn baby in a feeding trough—and later publicly executed as a criminal—to win our hearts and make a way for us to be with Him forever!
I am delighted to love and serve a God who is so great I could never wrap my mind around him—but whom I can embrace with my whole being as I feel His arms around me. What a wonderful mystery!
Want to see something amazing? Here it is: http://atlasoftheuniverse.com/ Click on the top line that says “12.5 light years from the sun” and keep on going to see layer upon layer of universe until our own solar system and even galaxy are dwarfed into nothing, and we “see” way out to 14 billion light years from the sun. It claims that there are 30 billion trillion stars in the visible universe!
Now imagine what kind of God made all this—and still cares about little ol’ me and you!
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky displays what his hands have made.
One day tells a story to the next.
One night shares knowledge with the next
without their voices being heard.
Yet, their sound has gone out into the entire world,
their message to the ends of the earth.
He has set up a tent in the heavens for the sun,
which comes out of its chamber like a bridegroom.
Like a champion, it is eager to run its course.
It rises from one end of the heavens.
It circles around to the other.
Nothing is hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6)
Jonah is a fascinating book, a masterpiece of literature, and a powerful illustration of God’s character. Let’s look at the characters and their responses to God.
Jonah—a “prophet of God” with definite ideas of his own about what is and isn’t appropriate for him—or God!—to do. (Ironically, he’s the only one in this story who would not cooperate!)
Pagans of two sorts—the ship’s crew and the inhabitants of Nineveh—who readily responded to God when confronted with His power.
Forces of nature (“props”) that did as they were told in order to fulfill the purposes of God—a huge fish, a leafy plant, a worm, and a hot east wind. God used these to both give and remove His protection of Jonah.
I do have to smile as I read about Jonah’s temper tantrum in chapter 4. Like an unhappy two-year-old lashing out, trying to beat up on his longsuffering dad.
But God can take it. His great heart shines through this whole story:
–Dealing patiently (though severely—who wants a ride in a fish’s belly?) with his rebellious servant.
–Sovereignly arranging the affairs of the world to accomplish His purposes.
–Loving and forgiving the wicked and the ignorant: “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
It’s a new year, and I’m starting to read through a new Bible. (This one is the “God’s Word” translation. I enjoy reading different versions because it lends freshness. It will be given to one of my grandchildren later with all my notes and markings.)
Each time I re-read this precious Book, I ask the Author to teach me something I hadn’t seen before, or that I had forgotten. And He does! Here’s what I saw this morning in the first chapters of Genesis:
Did you realize that of the very first three people who lived on the earth, each of them were given special instructions by God about something they should not do, each chose to do it anyway, each was visited by God for reprimand and punishment (banishment)—but was not killed.
I think this chart helps me see it better:
What an amazing God we have—full of love, wisdom, justice and mercy!
Communion Sunday today. We were reminded that this is not fast food.
It’s fine dining—an intimate meeting of friends, lovers–the Lord and me.
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. (Revelation 3.20 NLT)
It’s a family dinner shared with my brothers and sisters, hosted and paid for by our Father.
It’s the appetizer for that great Marriage Supper of the Lamb when all of God’s people from all ages finally join together at His table for the glorious feast that inaugurates our life of unending bliss with the Lord. (Revelation 19:9)
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
I’ve been perusing the lists of the Most Admired Men and Women in my home country that are just coming out now for 2013 as well as those for previous years. I would love to know what criteria people use to choose them. Interestingly, Billy Graham is one of the few non-politicians listed. “Graham has appeared in the top 10 list far more often than any other man, making his 57th appearance this year,” according to Christianity Today. This man’s life of integrity, courage, faith and simplicity has been a shining example to several generations. (My dad attended one of his first meetings back in LA before Graham was famous, and my family attended another in the mid-60s.)
Wondering if any of these lists include historical figures, I did find someone’s list of their Top 10 Admired Women throughout history. The earliest of these dates back to the first century, Boudica, “a queen of the Iceni people of Norfolk who lead an uprising of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.”
What surprises me is that none of these lists include Mary, the mother of Jesus. Maybe it’s just too obvious. Maybe it’s just taken for granted that she occupies that place so they don’t think to include her. This was obviously the opinion of one woman in a crowd where Jesus was teaching who just couldn’t help herself and blurted out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!”
But what a surprising answer He gave:
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
So…if I listen and read what the Bible teaches and then obey it, I make God’s “Most Blessed Person” list, sharing the honor with Billy Graham and many others who have been obedient to God. I hope this includes you, too.
Isn’t that much better than making the list of some fickle human for any given year?