Too Smart

Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44). The crowds, attracted by Jesus’ power, are more amazed than ever. The Sanhedrin, scared by Jesus’ authority, are more homicidal than ever. The crowds welcome Jesus as King. The Sanhedrin plot to kill him (John 11:53). They made plans to kill Lazarus as well. Too many people believing in Jesus because of him (John 12:10-11).

Jesus raises a man from the dead. The Sanhedrin want to put them both to death. 

Jesus exercises supernatural authority. The Sanhedrin want to protect their temporal authority. 

Now it’s what we know as Palm Sunday. Jesus has made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The crowds may have seen him as the Messiah come to his people. We see him as the Savior come to all peoples.

John 12:19 records the frustrated words of some Pharisees, members of the Sanhedrin,

See, this is getting us nowhere.

Look how the whole world has gone after him!

The whole world has gone after him.

The whole world.

Every culture in the world, anthropology teaches, have some sort of God or gods. People everywhere—no matter their language or location—know somehow that there is life outside of this life, power beyond know power, and some creator/s that formed humanity and all the earth.

As Romans 1:19-20 says, “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Not all of of those peoples believe in Jesus. Not all of them have even heard his name. Yet all of them know there is someone or something else.

All except one. One group of people patently deny the existence of God: atheists.

It is a strange phenomenon, however, that there is only place in the whole world of billions of people you find atheists: among the highly educated.

Universities, whose very name come from Latin meaning “one truth” referring directly to biblical revelation, have redefined truth and made it relative. When truth is relative, when the Bible is not authoritative, and when you are adrift in the sea of humanism, you can explain away that which seems contrarian, doesn’t fit your worldview, or makes you uncomfortable.

The whole world may go after him—Jesus—but not you. You can deny him.

Too smart for your own good.

Too smart to know God.

Until He Became Strong

Sixteen years old and king. Better than The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Uzziah was King of Judah.

Upon his father’s death, Uzziah was the people’s choice to become the tenth King of Judah. Rebuilding what had fallen during his father’s reign was a great start (2 Kings 14:21-22). Expanding the kingdom through a series of military conquests, Uzziah became famous as far away as Egypt. He strengthened and fortified the kingdom with new infrastructure. His army was highly organized and powerful, even developing impressive new weapons technology (2 Chronicles 26:6-15).

“His fame spread far and wide,” says 2 Chronicles 26:15 NIV.

And, as the HCSB translates the same verse, “He was marvelously helped.” By Sovereign God. 

Until. Until you read the next phrase, “Until he became strong.”

Reading on as the NASB translates verse 16, “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God.”

Or as the NLT translates, “But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God.”

Strength became arrogance. Power became pride. Arrogance and pride bred sin.

Strength and power are morally neutral; they can be agents of good or bad equally as easily. It is the person who posses them who determines their application.

Uzziah got too big for his britches. He was King. A sovereign ruler. But he defied God. The Sovereign of All Creation.

Was personal power his tipping point? Or was there more?

There was more. For a long time, but not always. A ballast. A ground. An anchor. A guide. A lesson for us.  

2 Chronicles 26:5 tells us that Uzziah “sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”

Uzziah had accountability in the form of Zechariah the Prophet. Presumably older, Zechariah, was a mentor, a discipler, a spiritual director, and advisor to Uzziah. As long as Zechariah was around, as long as Uzziah sought a personal relationship with God, then Uzziah was prospered marvelously.

No checks, no accountability, no spiritual guidance, no Zechariah and then Uzziah—intoxicated with strength and mistaking God’s blessings for his own power—hastened his own downfall. Uzziah directly affronted God, was cursed with leprosy, and was separated from everyone for the remainder of his life. He lost his throne. He lost it all.

What can we learn from Uzziah and Zechariah?

A leader’s power is like electric power; it is destructive unless controlled.  

  • What are the controls in your life?
  • Who are you accountable to?
  • What are you accountable to them for?
  • How often do you seek accountable guidance?
  • How humbly do you respond to such guidance?

You may not see yourself as powerful or strong, but you need guidance just the same. Humbly seek accountability that you might be marvelously helped.

(Image, The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy, Rembrandt)

All Flop

Our toaster - I don't know about yours - has an interesting feature.

When it's not plugged in & you put in a slice of bread & push down the handle, it flops the bread right back atcha.

Unplugged, our toaster is all flop & no pop.

It won't toast without the power.

It won't even keep slices down.

Are you living with all flop & no pop?

What's your power supply?

Jesus declared, "All authority has been given to me," in Matthew 28:18.  Authority is the power to act.  He's got all of it.  He'll use it for you.  If you seek him.

Are you plugged in to Jesus?

  • If you do not have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus, then click here to learn more.

  • If you do know Jesus as Savior, then ask yourself if you are plugged into & relying on him.

And, leave a comment below, did you go try the flop/pop thing out on your toaster?  I wanna know.

Certain Conclusion

One of the great privileges & sacred trusts of being a pastor is being close to the brokenhearted.  Yes, a privilege, because Scripture says, "God is close to the brokenhearted."  Brokenhearted hurts.  That's one ugly compound word.  But your broken heart - in the hands of God - is good.

In the past two days I have heard two stories of God's amazing goodness to the brokenhearted in the face of enormous trials.  Two children given a new life through adoption.  One child growing where doctors thought no hope.

Three precious children.  One certain conclusion.  God can.

We will not always know why.  Or why not.  We will not always know when.  We will not always know how.

But we can know.  That as God chooses.  By His grace.  In His providence.  Through His power.  God can.

Press play below.  Rejoice in & be reminded of the certain conclusion.  God can.

Don't Cry

Not long after that, Jesus went to the village Nain. His disciples were with him, along with quite a large crowd. As they approached the village gate, they met a funeral procession—a woman's only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her, "Don't cry." Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, "Young man, I tell you: Get up." The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother. They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, "God is back, looking to the needs of his people!" The news of Jesus spread all through the country.Luke 7:11-17, The Message
Don't cry.
You are already a widow.
You only son has just died.
You'll have no means of support in our society.
Yet, I tell you, Don't cry.
"Don't weep. Don't sob. Don't wail aloud," are more accurate translations & more accurate for this situation. Have you been there? Let your memory of the past or your imagination of the future take you there with that widow. Have you ever been so heartbroken? Too many questions? Few answers? Life smoldering about you? Stability banished? Uncertainty stalking? Weeping like breathing? Pain unbearable?Yet, Jesus. Yes, Jesus was there in Nain. God in flesh. And "his heart broke." Splanchnizomai (splanhk-nid-ZOH-my) in Greek from the root of "spleen" or "guts." Translated as, "compassion, heartbroken, take pity," or the like, it is used in the entire New Testament only 12 times. Other than in Luke 10:33 of the Good Samaritan, a parable of the character & actions of Christ followers, all 11 other mentions are of Jesus himself. Jesus was stirred up. He alone was heartbroken this way. Sick to his stomach. Moved with compassion. By suffering. By pain. Yes, Jesus. God in flesh.
My daughter skins her knee while playing. In her pain, she'll weep & wail loudly. My built in Daddy response is, "don't cry." I can hold her. I can clean & bandage her cut. I can comfort her. But my abilities stop there.
When Jesus says, "don't cry," he alone has the ability - the power - to change the very situation. He can heal. He can restore sight. He can raise. And, for the Widow of Nain's son, he did. As God willed, Jesus did. Jesus raised the dead man.
This doesn't mean God will remove all my pain, or heal me, or make everything in my life right whenever I ask. Jesus didn't heal everyone or raise all the dead he happened upon either. Those are questions of God's providence that I can't understand. He is God. I am not. Based on this Scripture I do understand:
God knows my pain.
He, the God of the entire universe, is moved with compassion for me.
God. Heartbroken over me.