The Christian Life in 6 Words

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Did you know that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, it happened at night? I know most children’s Bibles depict it happening during the day, but it actually happened at night. After the Israelites crossed over, Pharaoh’s army pursued them and then Yahweh threw them into a panic. This happened during the morning watch, which was between 2 A.M. and 6 A.M.

Exodus 14:19–25

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians.”

As the Israelites were crossing over, the fire by night was between them and Pharaoh’s army. So the only light source was behind them. The way forward was dark. Pitch black. They had to trust Yahweh that the ground was dry. They had to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). And so do we. God often calls us to do things for Him and we can’t see what lies ahead, but we take steps of faith, just like Moses and Co. did.

Ray Ortlund says-

Here is the Christian life in just six words: “Not knowing where” (Hebrews 11: 8), “I know whom” (2 Timothy 1: 12). Abraham didn’t know where God was leading him, but he didn’t need to know where. Like Paul, he knew whom he had believed. And so it is with us. We don’t know where, but we know whom, and that’s enough. If you always have to know where and what and when and how and so forth, all in advance, before you obey God, then you are not living by faith in God. Living by faith in God accepts ambiguity without getting nervous, because God is the one in charge. “Not knowing where, I know whom” — that’s Christianity. (Isaiah: God Saves Sinners)

Let’s learn to accept ambiguity without getting nervous. After all, if Jesus is anything, He’s trustworthy! Especially when He tells you to cross a sea when it’s pitch black at night.

– Pastor Benji

The Bible’s Bold Print

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Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

 

Psalm 136 repeats this refrain 26x: for his steadfast love endures forever. Why the repetition? Why does the Bible repeat certain phrases over and over again? One of my Hebrew professors in seminary said, “Repetition is the hallmark of Hebrew poetry and rhetoric.” The Hebrew authors of the Old Testament intentionally repeated words and phrases. Repetition is just one of the ways that the Hebrew language makes its point and puts truth in your face. And that’s a good thing because one reason the Bible repeats itself is because we are so forgetful!

 

Another reason why the Bible repeats itself, is given by Ralph Davis:

 

“Repetition is the way the Bible writers indicate bold print or upper-case letters or exclamation marks.”

 

So the next time you come across the Bible repeating itself, think of it this way:

 

Psalm 136:1–3

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!!!!!!!!!!

Give thanks to the God of gods, FOR HIS STEADFAST LOVE ENDURES FOREVER .

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever…

 

What other phrases does the Bible repeat? Here are a few more to get you thinking:

 

Praise the LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I WILL BE YOUR GOD AND YOU WILL BE MY PEOPLE.

 

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

 

All of these repeated phrases are just God opening His heart to us! Doesn’t that make you want to read your Bible?

 

– Benji

 

Making the Prophets Hot News

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For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

Do you need some endurance in your life? How about some encouragement? Could you use some hope? Then why not turn to one of the Old Testament prophets for these? Paul told the Romans that all of the Old Testament was written for our instruction, that we might be able to endure and be encouraged and have hope. And you can get all of that even out of the prophets.

 

I was reminded this week of something Old Testament scholar Alec Motyer said:

 

“…if we do not find the inspired words of the prophets gripping, the fault must surely be ours.

 

So why are the prophets not hot news to us? Why do we find them difficult and (God forgive us) dull? The answer is ignorance and lack of effort. Since the books of the prophets are as much God’s inspired Word as, say, the Epistles, they deserve the same repeated, unhurried, thoughtful reading, which, in all parts of the Bible, allows the Word of God to minister its meaning, with increasing clarity, to our minds and so to our hearts and lives.

 

Where to get started? Use a Bible that divides the text into manageable paragraphs; read slowly; ask (and write out the answers) what is the prophet saying? And why is he saying it? These two questions will prove more helpful than merely asking when they wrote. The Bible will always become clearer to the persevering reader; the Lord blesses those who ponder His Word.”

 

If you haven’t spent any time recently studying the prophets, let me encourage you to do so. Pick one and dive in. Get a study Bible (I’d recommend the ESV Study Bible). Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and give you a renewed hunger for His word. Ask questions (and answer them!).

 

And don’t forget that the Bible will always become clearer to the persevering reader; the Lord blesses those who ponder His Word. So, persevere, ponder, and may the prophets become “hot news” to you once again!

– Benji

Jesus Loves Me and He Loves You Too

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And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15

 

In one of the devotionals that I read in the morning, I came across a phrase that stopped me in my tracks: God takes Hell seriously. I, of course, know this is true, but seeing it in writing that day gave me reason to pause. And I did just that. And I began to think of friends and loved ones who do not know Jesus. And I was reminded again that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t open their blind eyes (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), then they have no hope. So I determined to renew and rekindle my prayers for their salvation.

 

Here’s what Jack Miller said in the devo that I read:

 

God takes Hell seriously… Instead of deciding whether or not God will save someone, start by praying that the Holy Spirit will make your heart tender like Jesus. Are you tender toward people? Do you touch them with love? Are you gripped by what Christ can do for them? Pray, asking for living water for yourself, but then don’t just sit there. Make a list of five people you think are never going to get saved, and then start praying that the Father will seek them and make them true worshipers (John 4: 23). As you pray, the Spirit will open doors of sharing that will be remarkably simple—maybe as simple as “Jesus loves me and he loves you too.” (Saving Grace: Daily Devotions from Jack Miller)

 

Let’s renew our focus on the lost today. Here’s what you can do to get started:

 

  1. Pray that the Holy Spirit will make your heart tender.

 

  1. Make a list of 5 people that you know need to come home to Jesus and begin praying for them. (Why not pray right now for them?)

 

  1. When God opens doors for you, just simply tell them, “Jesus loves me and he loves you too.” You never know how that sentence can change their eternity!

 

Jesus loves me and He loves you too. Let’s go tell our friends, loved ones, and our city this good news!

 

– Pastor Benji

Tell Jesus What You Lack

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On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” John 2:1–3

 

We can learn a lot about prayer from the mother of Jesus. Mary simply said to her son, “They have no wine.” That’s one of the best prayers in the Bible! Did you know that? That’s actually one of the very best prayers in the entire Bible! That’s what the late Norwegian Lutheran Ole Hallesby says in his book on prayer, whichI highly recommend. He says this-

 

In the next place, notice what she says to Jesus. Just these few, simple words, “They have no wine.” Note here what prayer is. To pray to Jesus is to tell Jesus what we lack. Intercession is to tell Jesus what we see that others lack… I think we can all see how different our prayer life would be if we would only learn this aspect of the holy art of prayer, with which the mother of Jesus was familiar.

 

To most of us prayer is burdensome because we have not learned that prayer consists in telling Jesus what we or others lack. We do not think that that is enough. Instinctively we feel that to pray cannot be so easy as all that. For that reason we rise from prayer many times with heavy hearts… All this is changed when we, like the mother of Jesus, learn to know Him so well that we feel safe when we have left our difficulties with Him. (Prayer, p. 44-46)

 

What’s troubling you today? Just tell Jesus. Tell Him what you lack. Tell Him what you need. What are you waiting for? Why not try it right now? Go ahead:

 

“Jesus, I lack                                        . Please help.”

 

See? Prayer is not as difficult as we may think. Just tell Jesus what you need. Cast your burdens on Him and then feel the safety of having left your difficulties with Him.

 

Praying that you learn to know Him this well,

 

– Benji

Peeps!

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Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Psalm 61:1–4

Most people that I know either love or hate Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow birds that are popular (and everywhere!) around Easter. Maybe you’ve seen them in the grocery store (and maybe you’ve noticed that they keep coming up with new flavors of Peeps). Well, the next time you despise or enjoy those marshmallow birdies, let them remind you about how good and great Jesus is. That’s what David is doing in Psalm 61.

Did you notice the progression that David records in this psalm. He starts by asking the Lord to lead him to a high rock where he can be safe from his enemies. I like the way the NET Bible translates verse 2: “Lead me up to an inaccessible rocky summit!” So David makes his way in this psalm from the inaccessible rocky summit to a tower to a tent and finally under the shelter of God’s wings.

David, it seems, is moving from the safest place to a very fragile place; from the high inaccessible rocky summit to the “safety” under a pair of wings. The world, of course, would laugh at finding safety under a pair of “wings.” But the safest place is not a high rocky peak that your enemies cannot get to. The safest place is under God’s sheltering, protective wings.

Because of Jesus, God welcomes us into His personal care, like chicks under the wings of a mother bird. Now, notice the contrast: in God’s presence we have no right to come on our own merit into His tent, into His presence, but as “chicks” we have a “birth-right” to be under our mother’s wings. We have no right and no righteousness of our own to gain access into God’s presence. But when we trust in Jesus, when we are adopted into God’s family, we have every right to be there. We now have a “birth-right” to be under God’s wings. It’s where we belong and where we are most safe.

Alec Motyer is very helpful here. He says, “Loveliest of all, in our tinyness and insignificance, try being a day old chick and run to the sheltering wings.” We are tiny. We are weak. We are like day-old chicks. We’re Peeps.

That bothers us because, if we’re honest, we are allergic to weakness. But weakness is the channel that allows you and I access to God’s grace and peace. The Gospel uses your weakness as the door to God’s grace. Being helpless is what connects you to Jesus. Weakness opens the door to see Jesus. Weakness is what connects you to Jesus. Neediness is what qualifies us. The thing that we hate- weakness, helplessness- is what gets us in to Jesus!

That’s the sweet spot in life and ministry (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Realizing just how weak, needy, and dependent you are. It seems like a scary place to be, but it is reality. It’s where we are, whether we admit it or not. That’s who we are: day old chicks scampering about and running to the wings that provide us shelter. We’re just little chicks, little Peeps.

So when you see those brightly colored marshmallow Peeps this year, be reminded that they are a picture of you! Weak, but safe.

– Benji

The Angel of the Lord in a Mobile Home

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalm 34:7

 

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The context of Psalm 34, according to the prescript, is this: Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. But David never directly mentions this event in Psalm 34!

 

So David apparently wrote this psalm sometime after the events that occurred in 1 Samuel 21. Do you remember the story? David had no weapons and was given Goliath’s sword (which was apparently in storage). And David shows up at Gath, home of King Achish, with a skeleton crew of men and with Goliath’s sword in hand, but the people there mock him. This of course throws David into a panic and he’s now scared. So what does he do? He acts like he’s crazy! David begins to act like he’s lost his marbles and he begins drooling all over his beard and he starts to spray paint graffiti all over the doors of Achish’s home. Because of this, his life is spared and he flees to a cave. When others hear that David is camping at the cave of Adullam, 400 men show up! So he goes from a rag-tag group of misfits to 400+ men.

 

Alec Motyer suggests that as David recounts this “crazy man” story to these 400 men, it suddenly dawns on him that there is more to the story. David may have acted crazy and survived, but underneath it all, it was Yahweh who was with David and who delivered him. So Psalm 34 is the song that David probably slipped away and wrote after telling his “crazy man” story to his friends in the cave. And it’s in Psalm 34 that David highlights how Yahweh delivers His people. It’s Yahweh who lives, or encamps, among His people (“encamps” is emphatic in the Hebrew).

 

Alec Motyer says, “…and the LORD in effect said: If you are camping, I want to camp too!.. Look at Psalm 34:7, the Angel of the LORD in a mobile home so that he is always free to move with his people. The homeliness of Yahweh taking an earthly address, and the intimacy of His actually coming to live among His people, must never degenerate into casualness… The LORD automatically identifies with those overwhelmed by life’s sorrows. He’s close… a ‘next-of-kin’ relationship, not just being near at hand but actively making our woes His own.”

 

Psalm 34 is all about how God can’t get close enough to His people! He is near: The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

 

The Hebrew word for near is used in the book of Ruth to describe Boaz (Ruth 2:20; 3:12) who is the “next-of-kin,” the one whose right it is to take on himself all the needs of his troubled relative. That means that Jesus is our “next-of-kin” who takes all of our troubles as His own. Think about that! Whatever is troubling you today, Jesus is “near” and He takes that on Himself. Your need becomes His need. He is actively making your woes His woes. His mobile home is parked in your driveway.

 

That ought to be enough truth to get you through what you’re going through today.

 

– Benji