Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Anointed by the Spirit

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I recently read about a Harvard physics lecturer, Dr. Greg Kestin, who conducted an experiment from a small boat on a choppy lake. When he poured just one tablespoon of oil onto the lake, it quickly spread over the surface of the water, calming the lake in an area measuring half an acre. Since olive oil spreads to just one molecule thick, it can cover a wide area and create a slick surface that prevents the wind from gaining traction with the water, thus quieting the waves and whitecaps.[1]

You may be interested to know that one biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit is oil. Coming off the heels of Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove (Luke 3:22), Jesus stood up in the synagogue of His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4). As He strode to the front of the crowd, He unrolled the scroll containing Isaiah 61:1-2 and read these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

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The oil of anointing stands as a physical representation of Jesus being given the Holy Spirit to perform miracles in His ministry. This same theme reappears in Acts 10:38 when Peter is preaching about Christ, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Jesus' anointing with the Holy Spirit was as mysterious as it was unique. Jesus was as much man as if He weren’t God and as much God as if He weren’t man. In His divinity He was omnipotent, yet in His humanity Christ became impotent. The Spirit was given to empower the Son in His humanity, but the Spirit was also given as a visible, confirming sign to the people of the Son’s divinity. Jesus is the model for what it means to live one’s life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just as He received the Spirit at His baptism, so we receive the gift of the Spirit when we are born again by faith (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). When we’re anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, our words, deeds, attitudes, and influence spreads further than we know, much like the oil on the surface of the lake. When the Holy Spirit uses us, we never know how far or how wide the ripple effect will extend—either geographically or in time. One simple word or deed for Christ, touched by the Spirit, may directly or indirectly touch someone elsewhere in the world without our knowledge, and it may have a chain reaction that continues until Christ comes. If you are a Christian, the question is not, "How much of the Holy Spirit do I have?" Every believer is indwelt by the same Spirit (Eph. 4:4). The real question is, "How much does the Spirit have you?" -DM  

[1] David Jeremiah, “One Tablespoon of Olive Oil,” Turning Points, April 2017, p. 35. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Eternity in Their Hearts

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“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecc. 3:11).

The human heart has a deep-seated longing to transcend our finite, earthly existence and to know the eternal God. The God-shaped vacuum at the core of our being demands to be filled. We have an itch for eternity that can only be scratched by the Divine. As Augustine said, “God has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”

The phrase “eternity in their hearts” means God has placed a big question mark deep in every man’s soul. This is proven by the fact that anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has an innate sense of the eternal—that this world is not all there is. The Egyptians erected the pyramids, Native Americans labored over sacred burial mounds and the Romans built huge mausoleums. Why? They each were in their own darkened way grappling to work out the eternal longing imbedded in their heart. Their mythology told them that time was merely a dress rehearsal for eternity.   

Don Richardson wrote a fascinating book entitled, Eternity in their Hearts based on Ecclesiastes 3:11. In this survey he presents more than twenty-five examples of missionaries all over the world who discovered cultures completely cut-off from Christianity. Yet all these tribal groups which were detached from civilization worshipped some kind of transcendent being. In an eerie way, these primitive people had deep longing for God, even if their religious rituals were misguided.

For example, Richardson tells about his experiences with the Sawi tribes of Dutch New Guinea—the headhunters whom Richardson went to evangelize in the 1950s. Though the bloodthirsty Sawi people prized war and violence, they also had a sacred ritual for reconciling two warring tribes. The chief’s own son would be offered to the other tribe as a “peace child.” Richardson saw this ritual as a parable of the Gospel, in which the Chief of all chieftains made peace with the lost tribe of humanity by offering up His only Son. Richardson’s thesis contended that, “Every human being has eternity in their heart and that winning people to Christ is a matter of discovering what piece or part of eternity they are familiar with and then helping them connect the dots to Christ.”[1]

According to Solomon, humanity is caught between time and eternity, thus the best way to spend our time is to live it in light of eternity.  As finite creatures we cannot understand the times and the seasons, the beginning from the end, until we have a personal relationship with the Creator of time. The great mystery is that God accomplishes His purposes in time, but it will not be until we enter eternity that we will begin to comprehend His total plan.  As Vance Havner has said, “The things we don’t understand about life—God puts a note on them that says, ‘I’ll explain later.’” 

The New Testament counterpart to Ecclesiastes 3:11, is Romans 8:28, “For we know that God works all things together for good to those that love Him and are called according to his purpose.” In other words, from the Divine perspective there is no ugliness in the events of our lives, only light and dark brushstrokes from the paintbrush of the Master.

I once heard Dr. Erwin Lutzer, of Chicago’s historic Moody Bible Church, tell the story about a trip that he took to an art museum.  He said that as he was looking at a painting by the master artist Rembrandt he noticed an ant crawling across the surface of the canvas.  He thought to himself, “How did that ant get up there on the painting?” Then he said, “There was no way the ant had any idea that he was walking on a priceless piece of art, to him it just looked like a muddled splotches of brown and grey.”  Lutzer commented that that’s what life is like when you have a narrow perspective.  We are like the ant unknowingly walking across a masterpiece. However, God’s sees the total picture. When we see a muddled composition it’s because we are too close to put things into perspective. Eternity is the only correct vantage point to judge time. 


[1] Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1981). 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sherpa named "Dad"

Just as Mountain Climbers Need a Sherpa, So Children Need a Father

Mount Everest is as beautiful as she is deadly. Standing at 29,029 feet this monolith can create its own weather patterns with frigid temperatures, white-out blizzards and hurricane force winds. The crevasses, ice falls and narrow paths are a labyrinth of lethal traps. At over five-miles above sea level, the air is thin and altitude sickness is a constant threat for climbers. However, amidst all this danger are breathtaking vistas of God’s creation. The challenge of a lifetime and her unparalleled majesty is what draws so many intrepid souls to risk life and limb to plant their personal flag on its summit.  

Most climbers wouldn’t try to scale the slopes of Everest alone. They hire special guides called “Sherpas.” The Sherpas are a unique people who, for generations, have inhabited the Khumbu Valley, the national park surrounding Everest. Because they have been living in the area for so long, they have developed an ability to function at very high altitudes. Whereas most people start to have oxygen problems above eight thousand feet, they have an amazing endurance up to about twenty-three thousand feet. Since the Sherpa guides have trekked Everest many times, they are experts when it comes to knowing the weather patterns and the best time to climb.

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Hillary and Norgay

In May 1953, two men became the first in history to climb to the top of Mt. Everest; Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand beekeeper and explorer, and his Sherpa guide from Nepal, Tenzing Norgay. They reached the summit together and attained instant international fame. On the way down from the 29,000-foot peak, Hillary slipped and started to fall. He would almost certainly have fallen to his death, but Tenzing Norgay immediately dug in his ice-axe and braced the rope linking them together, saving Hillary’s life. At the bottom the international press made a huge fuss over the Sherpa guide’s heroic action. Through it all Tenzing Norgay remained very calm, very professional, very uncarried away by it all. To all the shouted questions he had one simple answer: “Mountain climbers always help each other.”[1]

Reflecting on this, I realized that God placed “Sherpas” in every family. His name is Dad and he is just as indispensable to his family as Norgay was to Hillary. Children need their fathers, like inexperienced climbers need the Sherpas, to guide them and to help them avoid the perils and unwise decisions of life. But they also need their fathers to help them appreciate the wonders that await them on the upward journey to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.

Listen to the words of Solomon writing to his son in Proverbs 4:10-12, “Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”

Fatherhood is the most amazing journey where Dad’s guidance and wisdom can lead a family from earth to heaven. Dads direct the destiny of their children. They are following in your footsteps. Where are you leading them? Are you leading them to a relationship with Jesus? Are you showing them how to find The Way to heaven?

Consider the words of this poem, by an unknown author:

“Walk a little slower, Daddy!” said a little child so small.
“I’m following in your footsteps and I don't want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast, sometimes they're hard to see;
So walk a little slower Daddy, for you are leading me.

Someday when I’m all grown up, you’re what I want to be.
Then I will have a little child who’ll want to follow me.

And I would want to lead just right, and know that I was true;
So, walk a little slower, Daddy, for I must follow you!”


[1] Adapted from Roland Warren, Bad Dads of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 176-178.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Advocate

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From a Florida prison cell in June 1962, Clarence Earl Gideon wrote a note asking the United States Supreme Court to review his conviction for a crime he said he didn’t commit—stealing $50 worth of beer from a pool hall. He added that he didn’t have the means to hire a lawyer.

One year later, in the historic case of Gideon v. Wainright, the Supreme Court ruled that people who cannot afford the cost of their own defense must be given a public defender—an advocate—provided by the State. With this decision, and with the help of a court-appointed lawyer, Clarence Gideon’s case was retried and he was acquitted of felony theft.[1]

But what if we are not innocent? According to the apostle Paul, we are all guilty (Rom. 3:23). But the court of heaven provides an Advocate who, at God’s expense, offers to defend and care for our soul, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Jesus is our divine defense attorney who comes to us offering a freedom that even prison inmates have described as better than anything they’ve experienced on the outside. It is freedom from sin and shame. Whether suffering for wrongs done by us or to us, we all can be represented by Jesus. By the highest authority He responds to every request for mercy, forgiveness, and comfort. Jesus, our Advocate, can turn a prison of lost hope, fear, or regret into the place of His presence.

Bible commentator, John Phillips says it like this: “When Satan comes before God, he comes as “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10).  This is one instance in which he does not come to tell lies about us, even though he is the Father of all lies…Sad to say he comes to tell the truth about us.  But, he gets nowhere.  The Accuser is met by the Advocate and all He has to do is raise His pierced hands and Satan is silenced.”[2]

There is one critical difference in this courtroom from all others—the one holding the gavel is your Heavenly Father, the defense attorney bears scars from paying your fine and the defendant (that’s you) happens to be loved unconditionally by both. Are you beginning to see the picture here? The courtroom is stacked in your favor.  If God be for us, who shall be against us?


[1] Mart De Hann, “The Advocate,” Our Daily Bread, 9 February 2017 <https://odb.org/2017/02/09/the-advocate/>
[2] John Phillips, Exploring the Epistles of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2003), 41.