The Blood of Jesus

Over the years I have heard many fanciful ideas about the power of the blood of Jesus, including the exhortation to ‘plead the blood of Jesus’ over situations. I suspect many of you have as well. So let’s go to the source and see what the scriptures say about the efficacy of Jesus blood and how it applies to our lives. The concept is introduced in the Old Testament where the blood of the lamb protects the Israelites from the death of their firstborn sons.

13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:13 (NKJV)

23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. Exodus 12:23 (NKJV)

 The blood of the Passover lamb looks forward to Jesus sacrifice as the true Lamb of God. The fulfillment is seen in what the New Testament records.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (NKJV)

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10         And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8–10 (NKJV)

There are a few things here. Jesus was the fulfillment of what every Passover lamb pointed to, a final sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world by paying the price for them. We also see that Jesus was sacrificed for His people, those who would believe in His sacrifice. The result of His redemptive sacrifice is that His people have been made kings and priests and shall ultimately reign on the earth. These are things that the blood of Jesus has accomplished, and will accomplish.

Let us now look at our present day application. We know Jesus shed blood paid the price for our sins, past present and future. Jesus shedding His blood on the cross inaugurated and sealed a new covenant. We can see the benefits in how Jesus shed blood takes away our sins and in the reality of an everlasting covenant. That is, Jesus blood is eternally effective.  

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:20 (NKJV)

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Hebrews 13:20 (NKJV)

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:7–10 (NKJV)

We can see that we are called to walk in fellowship, in community with others. In this context we experience the reality of the ongoing effectiveness of Jesus shed blood. We are cleansed from sin and can walk uprightly before Him. We need to confess any ongoing sin and seek His forgiveness, which He gives. John is pointing out that Jesus sacrifice is effective and that we are called to walk together. So, here is a simple prayer I have prayed for myself and others for many years that highlights what Jesus blood has accomplished. No pleading required, just simple faith.     

“Father, I thank You that we are bound to You by the covenant made in Jesus’ blood. I thank You that His blood is continually protecting us and cleansing us from all sin as we walk in the light of Your presence.”

The Same Mind in the Lord

Currently we have a lot of conflict in our world and differing views over a lot of subjects. In the last year we have had riots, marches, protests and ongoing online battles on social media. There is a good deal of discussion of ‘polarization.’ Mores so in the US than in Canada. So, let’s take a look at how we see others.

Some of you may recognize that the title is a quote from a portion of Philippians 4:2. We know from what Paul wrote that there was some disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche (any of you have friends or children with these names?). We also know from 4:3 that these two women were co-labourers with Paul in spreading the gospel.

We learn from these two verses that people who are serious about the gospel can have conflict. We also have a record in Acts of conflict between Paul and Barnabas that led to their separation after they had been friends who journeyed together and taught together (Acts 15:36-40). What I want to address here is what we do with conflict. Howver, I am not going over the process Jesus presented to us in Matthew 18. Instead I want to look at our perceptions.

Our first impulse in addressing conflict seems to be determining who was right and who was wrong. However, that is not the most important piece. In fact, there may not be a right and wrong on some issues. We don’t know what the disagreement was between Euodia and Syntyche or whether it was resolved. We know that while Paul and Barnabas had a significant disagreement over John Mark, later Paul was working with the one he rejected.   

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), Colossians 4:10 (NKJV)

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Philemon 1:23-24 (NKJV)

In addition to traveling with Barnabas and Paul, is believed to have also spent time with Peter in Rome where he wrote down the Gospel of Mark. A record of what was passed on to him by Peter.

Paul being reconciled to Mark does not however tell us whether Paul or Barnabas was right. It does tell us that the Lord brought something good out of the conflict and there was a later reconciliation. What we need to do in our relationships is draw on His grace to walk in wisdom. We may understand scripture passages differently. We may be Calvinists and have friends who are Arminians – two conflicting theological positions. Yet if we embrace something else Paul taught, we can walk in love and fruitfulness in the midst of differing theological positions. After all, scripture exhorts us to a unity of faith and Jesus prayed for this unity. Not a unity of dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s of our theological positions, but a unity of the Spirit.

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23 (NKJV)

1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV)

We do well to consider that many conflicts may be less a matter of right and wrong and more the inevitable outcome of fallen people living in a fallen world. People have different perceptions of the same event. At times someone is clearly wrong in their behaviour but having been involved in doing mediations for decades I could tell many stories. I have seen people who didn’t want to be in the same room together suddenly have their conflict evaporate when I got them to listen to one another. I have seen people suing one another riding home in the same vehicle after a mediation. I have seen someone who was the aggrieved party offering to help organize the wedding of the person they were suing.

My point, instead of looking through a lens of right and wrong I recommend we put on our 1 Corinthians 13 glasses and take our first look through the eyes of grace filled love that,

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)   

We may find that we simply see things differently and can learn from one another – through grace filled love.

Love Acts

‘Love.’ We use the word a lot. I think it is important to look at love in the context of how Jesus framed it in connection to obedience and abiding in Him. Much has been written on the lack of distinction between Christians and others in the surrounding culture in our time. This highlights the importance of how we live before others as a follower of Jesus. So, let’s take a look at what how scripture calls us to live from what John has written.

In chapter 15 John records Jesus exhorting us to abide in Him if we are to be fruitful.  

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Clearly to be fruitful we need to abide in Jesus so we need to examine what it means to abide.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

Jesus says we abide in Him by keeping His commandments, and that as we do we will find ourselves resting in His love for us. Jesus makes an important connection between love and obedience. Jesus said His abiding in the Father’s love was an outcome of Him keeping His Father’s commands. Now, lest you think this will move us to legalism, it isn’t a salvation issue, it is a love issue. Jesus is telling us that to abide in His love we need to be obedient.  

Jesus call to obey His commandments is not a call to the Mosaic Law. It is a call to action.

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

Love in these verses is agape, a sacrificial benevolent love. Jesus said we are to lay down our lives for our friends and that if we obey His commands, we are His friend. We can interpret the laying down of our lives as dying for someone else but as Paul put it elsewhere, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). This is a better application. We love others as we live for others and seek to serve them out of that love. That is how Paul died daily. So, let’s follow Jesus and Paul, laying down our lives in love so that the world may know who we are, friends of Jesus!

Martha, Martha

Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus are famous in the church for their interactions with Jesus. Martha is famous for serving and being rebuked by Jesus for making the wrong choice of serving instead of listening, while Mary is famous for the good choice of sitting at Jesus feet and listening (Luke 10:38-42). At issue here is whether a single interaction should define our legacy and the need for a deeper look at Martha and her heart. After all, I suspect that most of us would not want our life defined by one mistake we made.

We are told to not judge a book by the cover yet for most of us Martha being rebuked by Jesus is the cover of her book! Aside from this interaction in Luke 10 it is helpful to see what else scripture tells us about Martha. To attempt to discern her heart based on what scripture reveals. let’s leave Mary out of the picture and focus in on Martha. We have the following interaction just prior to Jesus raising Lazarus.

20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:20–27 (NKJV)

We learn from Martha’s interaction with Jesus that she had faith in Jesus ability to heal and that she recognized Jesus as the long awaited Messiah (the terms Christ and Messiah are interchangeable and both mean The Anointed One). Martha was confident in who Jesus was and trusted Him. We next see Martha after Lazarus has been raised.

1Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. John 12:1–2 (NKJV)

Martha had a heart to serve and she clearly loved and honoured Jesus. It is significant as this meal takes place at the home of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-7, Mark 14:3). We can safely assume Simon had been healed as a leper would not be hosting a meal in his house. Thus we know that Martha is serving in the home of someone else. This time we have no record of any rebuke by Jesus and Martha is not contrasted with Mary who extravagantly pours perfume on Jesus. She is merely noted as one who has a servant’s heart.

A last look at Martha through the eyes of scripture. I doubt this short verse spring to mind when we think of Martha but there it is recorded in scripture for all to see.

5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. John 11:5 NKJV

Knowing that Jesus loved Martha I think there are two primary lessons we can draw from what we know about Martha. First, serving Jesus and others is good thing. After all there are numerous calls to service in the scriptures. Micah 6:8, said to be a summary statement of the Law, it is a call to justice, mercy and a humble walk with God. A call to service. The second lesson is that serving when we should be sitting at His feet is the wrong choice just as sitting in contemplation when He is calling us to action is also a bad thing. Let us embrace serving and sitting, seeking Jesus heart and the wisdom to know when to serve and when to sit at His feet.

Living Truth

Recently I was reading through Galatians 4. In this book in general, and more specifically in this chapter, Paul addresses the issue of identity. That is, how we see ourselves after salvation. Many scholars believe that Galatians is the first of Paul’s letters written in about 49 AD prior to the Jerusalem Council in 50 AD (see Acts 15). The significance of Galatians being written prior to the Jerusalem Council is that the focus there was on whether the Gentile converts had to follow the Jewish Law to be saved. The answer at the Council was a resounding no. However, Paul addressed the issue and the theological implications prior to the Council because many believers from the Jewish community were trying to get the Gentile converts to embrace circumcision and other elements of the Jewish Law.

We might wonder why someone who had found salvation in Jesus would even consider adding something else to their salvation. Yet at this time the church was less than two decades old and many of the theological positions we take for granted had not yet been sorted through and discerned by the church.

A key here is that Paul presented theological truth in Galatians 4 that needed to be internalized. He compared the old covenant with the new and said the old one led to bondage and the new one to freedom. To walk in the freedom meant truly living out of the truth of the new covenant.

4:1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Galatians 4:1–7 (NKJV)

It is one thing to know theologically that we are sons (or daughters) and not slaves. It is another to walk in that reality. I have believed for many years that Paul’s apostolic heart cry is encapsulated in a single verse in his very first letter.

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)

We can be saved, have our sins forgiven, have received Jesus righteousness instead of our own, and yet still not live like it. Paul’s heart in Galatians was not that the Galatians would receive something in addition to their salvation. His heart cry was that they would understand what they had already received! Hence his statements about adoption and being a son. Paul presents it not as something to be earned or received but as something to be walked out. 

The issue before us then is whether we understand and believe what we already have and live it out in our daily lives. Understanding our adoption into the family and Christ in us means we pursue regular intimacy and fellowship with the one who dwells in us. It means we seek to encounter Him in relationship and in relationship with His word. If we actually believe it we actually live it. I pray we as the church embrace our adoption not merely as a theological reality but as a living experiential reality that changes us and those around us.   

A Practical God

Ezra is an interesting book of scripture. We can see right from the beginning the Lord’s hand in what took place. Jeremiah had prophesied the return to Jerusalem and the Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus the king of Persia to initiate the process (Ezra 1:1). Ezra was a major instrument in carrying out this purpose and we see in this short book a balance of confidence in God and the practical preparation and working out of His purposes.

There is an idea that when it comes to the outworking of His purposes God won’t do our part and we are unable to do His part. His part was the stirring of the king’s heart to let the captives return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Ezra’s part was to provide leadership in practically engaging in the work. Once a number of captives had returned their first task was the restoration of worship.

            1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Ezra 3:1–2 (NKJV)

Worship is a practical expression of our dependence on the Lord and they recognized the need to make it a priority. This was very practical. It is like the old western idea cowboy’s held. At the end of the day you first looked after the needs of your horse before looking to your own needs as you could not do your job without your horse. I did some work in road construction my first summer out of high school and I noticed something. The good heavy equipment operators spent some time looking over their equipment at the end of the day’s work and greasing and refueling it so it was ready for the next day’s work.

Once the altar was completed they focused on the foundation of the temple.

10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord:

“For He is good,

For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.”

Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Ezra 3:10–11 (NKJV)

Later on their enemies opposed their work and sought to stop it through legal means (4:1-24). The work ceased, however prophetic encouragement rose up and they began rebuilding and at the same time sought their own legal recourse (7:1 – 8:36). They not only received an order from the king to continue their work their enemies were forced to help pay for it (8:36).

So, some lessons we see in Ezra. When the Lord is behind something He is the initiator and our job is to cooperate with His purposes and obey His leading. Our work needs to have worship as a foundational priority. Opposition is not a sign we are doing the wrong thing, it is frequently an indicator that we are in the centre of His purposes. When we encounter opposition we need to seek His face for wisdom and prophetic encouragement. While we need to understand practical legal matters and use the tools at our disposal as needed the main thing is our obedience to His calling and commission. If He is in it then we can be confident in His leading and support.

Whatever He is calling us to do let us bathe it in worship and seek His wisdom in the face of opposition.

Ministering to the Lord

The church at Antioch was different. We find this group of believers in the book of Acts. The only mentions made of Antioch outside of Acts are both by Paul (Galatians 2:11, 2 Timothy 3:11). The first mention in Acts 6:5 identifies Nicolas, one of the first deacons, as a proselyte from Antioch (a proselyte was a non-Jew who converted to Judaism). The gospel came to Antioch as a result of the persecution following Stephen’s martyrdom and was first preached to the Jews and then began to spread to the Gentiles at Antioch so the Jerusalem dispatched Barnabas to help ground them (Acts 11:19-22). Barnabas responded by leaving Antioch and going to Tarsus and getting Paul and returning with him to Antioch. The two of them taught there for a full year and it was here that the followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians (Acts 11:25-26).

Having provided some background it is time to look at Luke’s record of what made Antioch unique.

1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

Here Barnabas and Saul (Paul) are prophets and/or teachers. As the church ministered to the Lord the Holy Spirit called them to commission Barnabas and Paul in their calling. The work to which they were called was apostolic and Barnabas and Paul were commissioned and sent out by the Antioch church as apostles (Acts 14:4, 14). Other churches in Acts were birthed or established by apostles, the Antioch church raised up and released them. As a result, Barnabas and Paul were now both released into their apostolic callings and the first of their apostolic journeys began. 

In looking at what led to this unique event it is important to focus on ‘ministering to the Lord.’ First however a brief detour to the sons of Zadok. Zadok was one of the priests under David and when Absalom rebelled and drove David into the wilderness Zadok remained faithful to David, and more importantly, faithful to the Lord (2 Samuel 15:24-29). Ezekiel described it this way.

11 It shall be for the priests of the sons of Zadok, who are sanctified, who have kept My charge, who did not go astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. Ezekiel 48:11 (NKJV)

Ezekiel further describes the privilege passed on to the sons of Zadok. They could come near and minister to the Lord.

46 The chamber which faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar; these are the sons of Zadok, from the sons of Levi, who come near the Lord to minister to Him.” Ezekiel 40:46 (NKJV)

19 You shall give a young bull for a sin offering to the priests, the Levites, who are of the seed of Zadok, who approach Me to minister to Me,’ says the Lord God. Ezekiel 43:19 (NKJV)

As believers we have the incredible privilege of a daily audience with the King of creation. In this audience we have the opportunity to place our request before Him, which He welcomes. Yet, in the context of this privilege, we also have the opportunity to minister to Him to worship Him simply because He is worthy. That is how the Lord’s Prayer starts, with worship of our Father. I wonder what will happen if we as the church give more time to ministering unto Him? What might He release in our midst? Who might He commission and send out? Let’s give ourselves to it and see.

The Hope of Glory

I last wrote about the idea of Jesus drawing us to Himself and us being drawn to Him. I want to go a little further. When Jesus walked on the earth He lived in two places at once but He only acted out of one place. That may sound strange but He both lived on earth and before His Father. Yet His every action flowed out of His communion with His Father. He described His dual location this way.

John 3:13 (NKJV)

13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

He then went on to describe the place He lived from.

John 5:19 (NKJV)

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Jesus acted out of this place of communion with His Father and revealed His Father. We are called to reveal Jesus. In fact Paul expressed succinctly in Colossians the reality of the source we are to live from.

Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Jesus being manifest through us happens by our learning to live from Him in us. Paul told us that the way to do this was to recognize where to put our focus.

Colossians 3:1–4 (NKJV)

3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

I believe based on scripture that Paul stepped into this way of life from his conversion on. I don’t believe he did it without error but it is clear that he did it. He expressed it this way.

Galatians 1:15–16 (NKJV)

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,

Just as Jesus revealed Himself through Paul He has revealed Himself through many down through the centuries and wants each of us to be part of that company. In January of 2020 I felt the word the Lord gave me for the year was, “The church needs to find her voice.” I had no idea at the time how true that would prove to be. While many seemed to feel it was about voices raised in protest, over the year I became convinced it was about finding our voice in the place of intercession before Him. As 2021 begins I feel He has emphasized Psalm 29. I encourage each of us to read it because it isn’t about our voice, it is about His voice being heard. There are many voices in our culture competing for our attention. To sort through them let us get into His presence and tune our hearts to hear Him speak. Let us pray that many will be raised up who will speak His word for this hour, that we will both hear His voice through His servants and be servants through whom His voice is heard.

Persevering to Breakthrough

Living in a northern climate, we are in winter already. Having the blessing of a wood burning fireplace in the family room I have spent some time lately splitting wood. I had some large pieces of birch aging in my backyard for a couple of years. These large logs averaged about 30-35 centimetres across (12-14 inches) and were about 45 centimetres (18 inches) high. I waited until the weather was below freezing to do my splitting because even though there is very little moisture in them, they are easier to split in colder weather.

Given the size of these logs it was a real challenge and I considered getting out the chainsaw to cut them into shorter pieces. However, I never did, I just persevered in my splitting. It is hard work and I split about ten large logs over two sessions. At times I concluded some would simply not split as they had large knots from branches, but then as I persevered, they did. 

If you have spent any time splitting logs you are aware of how difficult it can be. At times the axe gets caught in a log and is hard to extricate. There can be a feeling of futility at times, yes, I felt this. However, the encouragement comes when you see a small crack appear down the side of the log. Even if it is only a quarter of the way you know that if you continue it will get wider and longer and the log will split. At times you will have a very stubborn unyielding piece of log that seems like it will never split and then you strike just the right blow and the pieces seem to burst apart and you now have two or three smaller pieces rather than one large one to deal with. It is much easier to split the remaining smaller pieces.

So, now let us look at how we can draw something of spiritual value from a log splitting experience. In writing this I was thinking of David. His story begins in 1 Samuel 16 where Samuel anointed him as king to replace Saul. In spite of being mocked by some of his older siblings he soon starts his journey to the throne by killing Goliath and subsequently serving Saul. In time out of jealousy Saul drove David away and then over a period of years pursued him to kill him. David had opportunities to kill Saul but refused, trusting the Lord to deal with him.

We pick the story up in 1 Samuel 29. David had fled to seek refuge among the Philistines with king Achish and now all the Philistines were gathering together to battle Israel and David and his men were set to go with them. To this point while seemingly serving Achish David had secretly been venturing out and raiding the enemies of Israel. David however has no way out of this battle with Israel. That is until the other Philistine lords refused to allow David and his men to go with them into the battle against Saul and David and his men are forced to separate from the Philistine army and return to Ziklag.

It is in this pending battle between the Philistines and Israel that Saul and Jonathan will die and the army of Israel will be defeated. David of course does not know this. When he and his men return to their stronghold at Ziklag they discover that the Amalekites have raided their camp, burned their fortress and taken everyone captive, including the families of the men with David.

Consider what David has been through. As a youth he was anointed king, became a warrior, served Saul and served the Lord. Hs loyalty has been rewarded by betrayal, a king hunting him to kill him and being forced to live at various places in the wilderness. In addition to his family and some loyal warriors he has also had the privilege of providing leadership to the discouraged and disgruntled who have come to him from Israel. At this point he is about 30 years of age so it has been well over a decade since he was anointed king and while he now has wives and children he is still a fugitive.

Though David has been faithful in following the Lord what was promised when Samuel anointed him king has certainly not been realized. Now we have the response of those he has been leading when they find their families have been taken captive and their camp burned.

6  Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 1 Samuel 30:6 (NKJV)

David’s own men want to stone him! However David continues his pattern and looks to the Lord. Like trying to split a stubborn log, after all David has been through, though he is unaware of it, his perseverance and faithfulness are about to lead to breakthrough. The Lord is about to undertake on his behalf and deal with Saul. This is David’s final test before becoming king.

In our own lives we likely have unfulfilled promises from the Lord and have had various tests and trials. If we have been faithful to steward these promises then we can anticipate a breakthrough. Let’s look for just a little crack in the log and persevere until we see His hand move on our behalf!

Love and Truth

In our current rancorous and escalating culture wars the greatest casualty seems to be truth. Jesus walked in unconditional love. John said that God is love and I think that those of us who know Him would agree. Even many who don’t know Him extol Jesus as an example of love. What I think we can miss if we are not careful is that Jesus also walked on the earth in uncompromising truth! The idea of truth is highlighted in the scriptures below.

10  Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. 11  Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12  Yes, the LORD will give what is good; And our land will yield its increase. 13  Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway. Psalm 85:10-13 (NKJV)

16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 (NKJV)

In Psalm 85 above truth and righteousness are linked. Righteousness conveys the idea of right conduct but it is right conduct based on His standards not ours, for example the moral precepts in the Ten Commandments or the calls to godly living in the Sermon on the Mount. We see examples of this in Jesus earthly ministry. He called us to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and said our priority should be to seek above other things His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). When we do this we are embracing truth because we cannot separate truth from righteousness.

We can see more in the gospels because Jesus didn’t avoid difficult truths. In the reference from John grace and truth are linked. Jesus graciously offers forgiveness if we fail and sin but He provide no license to continue in it. In the well-known example of the woman caught in adultery we see Jesus grace and mercy when He does not condemn the woman but instead offers forgiveness. However consider His parting words to the woman “go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). Jesus called her sin what it was, sin.

Another example from John is the man who was healed at the Pool of Bethesda. Jesus healed the man and left but later sought him out and challenged him.

14  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14 (NKJV)

The truth is that sin has consequences and in a season when we are being told by our culture to not judge or challenge popular cultural we need to embrace our calling to follow Jesus and speak truth. As Jesus did and Paul exhorted (Eph. 4:15) we are to speak the truth in love, but we are called to speak. When we respond to the call of Jesus to demonstrate both love and truth then truth springs out of the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven.