The Dove

While preparing for church this week at the Austin Stone, I have been studying the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1: 2-11. As I read about the Spirit descending in the form of the dove, I remembered sermons I’ve heard on the many different things the dove might represent, each preacher quite sure of their interpretation. It’s strange how confident we can be on some of the mysteries God has left for us. This weekend I’d love for you to comment about what you feel the dove means. I think we can all benefit from each other’s interpretations, and I know I’ll benefit from your background, study, and insight. I’ll start. Obviously, I don’t know what it means exactly, but my favorite things I’ve learned so far have to do with the dove being the burnt offering found in Leviticus 1. It is the offering for the poorest people. Also, as a burnt offering, it is completely consumed. I have no idea if this is why the Spirit took this form, but I love the imagery. And after thinking about it, I’m fairly sure God purposefully included a lot of direct and indirect messages in all of His choices throughout the Scripture. But I loved the picture of an offering for the poor, tying into the first Beatitude, and the complete consumption of the offering.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. And… discuss.


Promises Pt. 18

“And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of His majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth,” (Isaiah 2:19 ESV).

There is a song we sang in church when I was a kid. It was called “He Is Lord,” and had a line that went, “Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That line was obviously taken from Philippians 2:10-11. As a child, I always assumed that at the end of time, everyone who didn’t believe in Jesus would be forced to worship Him anyway. But reading this verse in Isaiah has made me wonder if that’s not quite how it will work.

This verse doesn’t say that before the majesty of the Lord, people will be forced into caves and holes. It says they shall enter. They choose to go there. This humbling, this fear, is a natural response to the presence of the splendor of the Lord. And that makes me wonder about the day which is to come. What if everyone is not forced to worship? What if God’s enemies do not honor Him that day out of compulsion? What if it is a natural response to finally coming into His presence? What if there is no other option than to respond in humility?

Either way I look forward to that day. I will gladly choose to humble myself, whether it’s a natural response or a choice. I hope I can choose to do the same today.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 17

“Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of His majesty. The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,” (Isaiah 2:10-11 ESV).

There is coming a day when the Lord will be properly exalted. He will be lifted high. Every other thing will be humbled. I have always been taught to look forward to this day and I do. I cannot wait for it to be here and now. But as I was looking at this passage this time, I realized how much of our lives will be brought low, humbled, and destroyed on that day. Only the things I have invested in Christ will remain. I could probably say a lot more but I don’t think I need to. I think it would be better for us to take a few moments quietly and examine our lives. Look at how much of your time is invested in things other than God’s glory. How much of your energy is spent on things other than Christ. And how much of you, your thoughts, your work is spent on things bringing Him honor. How might we need to redistribute our effort so that a majority of our work is not humbled on that day?

Your thoughts?

Promises Pt. 16

“Therefore the Lord declares, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: ‘Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city,” (Isaiah 1:24-26 ESV).

I read this and was thrilled by the idea of God defeating his enemies, of God avenging Himself. And then I noticed that He was talking to Israel. And He says, I will turn my hand against you. Against me? Am I the enemy of God? Well, the Bible clearly says that before I am adopted into His family, that is exactly what I am. But this statement was addressed to His family, the children of Israel. So what does that mean? Well, I think we find the answer in the next part of the sentence. “I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross…”. God fights the war against His enemy inside us. He wages war by purifying us and restoring us.

It may seem strange but I find comfort in that. I know God always fulfills His promises. So when He promises to win His war against the enemies inside me, I know that my sins, my failures, my impurities, however strong they may seem to me, are destined to be defeated. There will be a day when I will be called a city of righteousness. He said so.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 15

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave yoorbor forsake you,” (Joshua 1:5 ESV).

Imagine trying to be the shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls after Jordan retired.  Even if you are the second best basketball player to ever play the game, you’re still not good enough. That’s the position Joshua is in at the beginning of the aptly named book of Joshua.  Israel has just buried Moses, one of the most dominant characters in the OT.  He met God in a burning bush.  He led the Israelites out of Egypt.  He was a part of God parting the Red Sea. He physically saw God’s back from the cleft of the mountain. He
delivered the 10 Commandments.  And Joshua has to take his place.

Joshua has to lead the people into a foreign land.  He has to lead the army to conquer this territory.  He has to be in charge of the spiritual walk of an entire nation.  His obstacles and responsibilities are immense.  But as he takes charge, God makes him a promise. “I will be with you.”  At the end of the day, if God is with him, he is able to overcome any obstacle.  He can conquer any opposition with God at his side.

And God is on our side as well.  He will not leave us or forsake us.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 11

Moses sent a group of spies into the land of Canaan. Out of the whole group only two came back saying this was the land God had for them, believing He would provide. The rest of the nation of Israel shook in fear of the inhabitants of the land. Caleb’s faithfulness moved the heart of God.

“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it,” (Numbers 14:24 ESV).

God fulfills His plan for Israel in His promise to Caleb. I want God to look at me and see a different spirit. I long for Him to look at my life and say, “He has followed me fully.” It’s not that complicated a concept; it doesn’t take much blog space. But it takes a lot of life space. In fact it takes all of it.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 9

“God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant” (Exodus 6:2-5 ESV).

God is about to send Moses to share His promise of deliverance but before He does, He lays out why He can be trusted. He makes sure they understand what He has done for them already before He tells them what He will do next.

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord” (Ex. 6:6-8 ESV).

After establishing His faithfulness, He makes 7 promises. I will bring you out. I will deliver. I will redeem. I will take you. I will be your God. I will bring you. I will give it to you.

And then we find Israel’s response.

“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Ex. 6:9 ESV).

The people saw their own condition and that colored their belief in God’s promises. They were overwhelmed by their difficulties and couldn’t hear God’s plan for redemption. God deserved their trusted and met them in their need, but they could not believe.

Today let’s pray that we could take our eyes off our own struggles and look at all He has done for us. Let’s ask that God would grow our faith so we can hear His promises and believe His goodness.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 7

Do you ever stop to think about the ramifications of writing something and posting it on the internet? I haven’t, in the past. That’s what blogging is, right? Just spouting off whatever is on your mind. And then I wrote that blog about the argument between radio and record labels, and I realized people are reading this and it affects them. So I decided to stay away from controversial things unless I felt God had a specific purpose for it. I think He has a specific purpose for today’s promise. It may be difficult to wrestle with at first, but please stick with me and let’s walk through it together. Take a deep breath. Here we go.

If Israel and Palestine went to war, if the nations of Judaism and Islam fought, which side do you think would be the fulfillment of the promise of God? To bring it closer to home, if the United States is at war with Iraq or Afghanistan, the Christian nation versus the Muslim nation, which side is the fulfillment of God’s promise? We find an amazingly unique and overlooked promise of God in the 21st chapter of Genesis.

We have already looked at God’s promising to make a great nation from Abram’s offspring. But in Genesis 16, Sarai, his wife, has borne no children, so she offers her servant Hagar to Abram. Hagar becomes pregnant and bears a son, Ishmael. After his birth, God tells Abraham that his wife Sarah will still bear him a son, named Isaac. Hagar fears for the well-being of her son, and God speaks to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation” (Gen. 21:17b-18 ESV). God promises that Ishmael will be made into a great nation.

Guess who most experts say that nation is? Right, the nation of Islam, that heritage is from Ishmael. So, both sides are the fulfillment of the promise of God. Now, I am not trying to make any commentary on the war. I am not trying to say whose side God is on. I am merely noticing that sometimes even those we count as enemies are children of the promise, children of the Promiser, as well. And maybe that is why God not only says love your neighbor, but also love your enemy.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 6

In Genesis 14, Abram rescues his kinsman Lot who has been captured by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. Afterwards, Abram is blessed by Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God most high. Then in Genesis 15, God makes his covenant with Abram. He promises him a son and an abundance of offspring. But in the midst of it all, God says something very different.

“Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions,’” (Gen 15:13-14 ESV).

I grew up assuming bad things happen because I got out of God’s will. But here, the slavery of Egypt is mentioned in the original promise to Abram. This was part of His plan and for some reason, He wanted Abram to know about it from the beginning. God’s path was perfect but not easy. Israel spent multiple generations in Egypt, and yet here it is foretold as part of a plan. God doesn’t promise that our path will be easy, but it will be best. Our path is a small chapter in the grand story of His glory.

Your thoughts?


Promises Pt. 5

Abram was coming out of Egypt.  They had journeyed there during a time of famine.  As he came back into the land promised to him, he traveled with his kinsman Lot. After a time, the two owned too much to stay together and Abram allowed Lot to choose part of the land for himself and Abram would take the other part.  Lot chose the beautiful, well-watered Jordan Valley.  “Then the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted,’” (Gen 13:14-16 ESV).  I will give.  I will make. Future tense. These are the promises of God to Abram.

Did you ever notice that Abraham is never referred to as the king of Israel? He’s not the president or the prime minister of Israel.  He’s not the pastor or the priest of Israel.  He’s not the general or the commander of Israel. He is called the father of Israel.  That is his most important role, as a father.  And that is the promise God gives him. Yes God provides land for him, but He promises it to him and his offspring. God promises to grow his family like the dust of the earth.  Even after a moment when part of Abram’s family chose to take the better part of the land from him, God promises to give him all the land he could see and to bless and grow his family. Maybe we should take more seriously the roles we’ve been given as parents. That seems to be where God is focusing, maybe we should too.  What if God is not centered on our role at our job or at our job, but our role in our family? What if in His story, I am not known as a musician or a worship leader or as a teacher, but as the father of my kids?

Just a thought. Your thoughts?