June 15, 2019

What I read today;

2 Peter 3 & 1 John 1; John 18-19; Micah 5-6; Proverbs 16; Ecclesiastes 6; Deuteronomy 19

When we were kids, my Dad always told us that if we told him the truth, our punishment would not be as severe as if we lied to him.  I’m a Dad, I’ve been a youth leader, and today I have to supervise people, and I have to tell you that I don’t think there is anything more frustrating than having a person stand in front of you and tell you a bald-faced lie.  That breach of trust is so hard to take that the relationship between you and that person will take a long time to overcome.  You simply can’t trust them after that. In the back of your mind, you wonder if that person is telling you the truth or not.

It’s worse when you think a person is a friend of yours, or you’ve done a lot to help that person, and now you find out that what they told you to your face, wasn’t what they were saying behind your back.

While that is bad, it’s even worse when we are lying to ourselves.  When we convince ourselves that we are holy and sinless when, in fact, we are not.

That’s what John is telling us in 1 John 1 vs. 5-10:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus 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 who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and 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.”

I become nervous when I hear people say things like, “I’m not doing anything wrong.”  The problem today is that we have become so self-absorbed that we don’t take time to look inside ourselves.  When Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, it wasn’t to provide us with a rulebook to follow.  It was to provide us with a mirror to look into our own souls.  It was to point out the fact that we are, indeed, sinful and unclean.  Jesus was telling us that we were not able to take part in our own salvation.  When you hear someone say that they are, “A Good Person,” that’s code for I want to make my own rules up.

God sits in heaven and shakes his head.  Even after Jesus clearly came to save each one of us through his work on the cross, we still want to establish our own righteousness.  We still don’t get it. We stare in the mirror and lie to ourselves.

The older I get, the more I come to realize my need for a savior.  The more I come to understand that I am a sinner in need of Jesus grace and love.  Maybe it’s growth, or perhaps it’s just life beating me up.  Either way, the words of 1 John come back to me telling me that since God knows who I am, I should make peace with who I am also.  I should understand by now, that I am not one who can stand before a holy God, without Jesus standing there next to me.  That’s the message of 1 John chapter 1.

June 14, 2019

What I read today;

2 Peter 1-2; John 16-17; Micah 3-4; Proverbs 15; Ecclesiastes 5; Deuteronomy 18

Peter starts off his letter in chapter 3 with a statement that might stun some people.  It goes like this:

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” NRSV

This was a radical statement for Peter’s time.  If God gives us everything, then what we do really doesn’t matter, does it?  In every religion, at the time, each person was responsible for performing some work to attain his salvation.  Even at that, salvation was only achieved if the gods were satisfied with the tasks that were presented.

Is he really saying that we don’t have to worry about meeting the requirements of the law?

Peter goes on in verse 4 to say this:

“Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.” NRSV

Did you get that first sentence?  God had given us his great promises so that we can escape.  He has given us the gift of forgiveness for our past sins.  He has cleansed our conscience through his work on the cross.

When Jesus asked Mary this question, he was posing it to you and me also:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” NRSV

In Websters Dictionary, the definition of given is described as, “presented as a gift: bestowed without compensation.”

When Jesus makes a promise and gives us a gift, it is ours.  We needn’t worry that some mistake we make in our lives will cause that gift to be taken away from us.  Jesus knew who we were when he made that promise.  He knew everything we would do in our lives before this event.  Yet he said it anyways.

The People of Peter’s time kept trying to add to the promise of God requirements to be saved.  Peter’s reminder here is that it’s not about what we do; it’s about what Jesus did for us.

Peter goes on to describe how we should make every effort to support our faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control.  He urges his readers to be eager to confirm their election as Jesus followers.  Not as a means of earning God’s Favor.  But as a means or growing in grace and to keep us from falling back into old habits.  Peter was talking about Jesus desire for us to grow closer to him as we go through life.  He was pointing us to a life filled with abundant grace and mercy.  A life of joy in the spirit of God focused on the love that Jesus has and continues to pour out on his children.

There are so many out there trying to put obstacles in the way of our life with Christ.  So many using the gospel for personal gain and trying to live lives of luxury at the expense of the people who sit in their pews on Sunday or watch them on TV.  But that isn’t Peter’s message.  Peter is telling us to hold firm to the promise of Jesus.  He’s telling us to be like Jacob grabbing hold of Jesus and not letting go.  He’s telling us to be like the woman who suffered from bleeding who reached out and touched Jesus cloak, knowing that his grace and mercy would heal her.

That’s trusting in the promise of Jesus.  Don’t let anyone get in between you and that promise from God!  NO ONE! NOT EVER!

June 13, 2019

What I read today;

1 Peter 4-5; John 14-15; Micah 1-2; Proverbs 14; Ecclesiastes 4; Deuteronomy 17

In the 14th and 15th chapters of John, Jesus goes on a long discourse.  He’s preparing his disciples for life after his ascension to heaven.

But what he says changes the very fabric of the world forever.

First, he tells his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled in chapter 14 vs 1 then later in Chapter 14 vs 27 he leaves his peace with them.  Jesus knows that there will be stress and trials throughout our lifetimes.  But he also tells us that he’s got this.  He’ll walk us through even when we screw things up.  Jesus is going to be there for us and he promises that in the end, he’ll help us to overcome.

In Chapter 15 he focuses on the commands he’s leaving his disciples.  The command to love one another.  The command to look at all people as children of a loving and caring God and to reach out to them with the simple truth of the gospel.  To understand that love will overcome hate.  But, to be realistic in understanding that the world is a hateful place.  Servants of Jesus will face trials.  The world will not understand God’s love and grace and will reject it.  But our mission remains the same, Love one another no matter what.  Jesus even promises to send us the Holy Spirit, to strengthen us for our mission of holding out the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

Finally, back in chapter 14 in verse 6, he tells us what to focus on.  Our mission is simple and easy to tell.  We don’t need deep theology degrees we simply need to tell the truth to the world.  That truth is spelled out in verse 5;

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”” NRSV

Our single mission is to tell everyone that Jesus came to this earth to save lost mankind.  Our past doesn’t matter, our deeds don’t matter, our failures don’t matter!  The only thing that really matters is that Jesus stepped out of Heaven to save you and me.

Our hearts don’t need to be troubled by past sins.  Our future is secure because of what Jesus did for us!  We don’t need to walk in fear of the world, because Jesus has already defeated the true ruler of the world, Satan himself.  We can now live our lives for Jesus and can freely extend our arms out to the world proclaiming the love of the savior of the world!

2 Chapters of John proclaiming the most powerful life-changing truth mankind has ever seen!  Reviving the aching relic of the church starts right here!

June 12, 2019

What I read today;

1 Peter 2-3; John 12;13; Jonah 3-4; Proverbs 13; Ecclesiastes 3; Deuteronomy 16

After all these centuries we still don’t really get who God is.  It’s hard to understand why a loving God would allow all this suffering to go on.  Why would a merciful creator allow gun violence, sexual assault, abortion, murder, war, genocide, hunger, starvation, and death to continue unabated?  Why doesn’t he just come down here and straighten this mess our right now?

Jonah felt that way.  He didn’t want to go to the evil city of Ninevah.  Jonah tried to run away.  He did everything in his power not to go.  Then when God relented and showed mercy when the people of Ninevah repented, Jonah couldn’t believe it.  How could God let them off the hook?

The problem for us is that we have a hard time understanding the true nature of who God is.  We don’t really understand what God desires.  We think of God as some sort of superhuman policeman who’s patrolling the word trying to even the scales.  The truth is that God is a loving father who wants all of us to be saved.  He wants all people to come to him in spite of what they’ve done.  God, wants humanity to reach out in the night to him and to grab hold of him with all their might.  He wants each of us to be free of the guilt and weight of our sins so that we can truly serve one another and God.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t square with our inner being.  We see a group of people who are doing evil things, and we want justice.  We want to see them punished.  No mercy for them, just punishment.  An eye for an eye suits us more than extending grace does.

We forget that our mission is to allow God to use us to extend grace and mercy to the world.  After that, it’s our job to sit back and allow God to work the results.

Jonah didn’t understand that.  He got angry when God didn’t do what he wanted.  God showed him that he had no right to be mad for something that he really didn’t labor for.  Jonah was the vessel that God used to preach to the people.  Jonah preached God’s word, and that was it.  The Holy Spirit did the convicting.  If we remove our own wants and desires and trust God to do the work and trust that God’s plan is wiser than mine, our lives would be much simpler.

June 11, 2019

What I read today;

James 5 & 1 Peter 1; John 10-11; Jonah 1-2; Proverbs 12; Ecclesiastes 2; Deuteronomy 15

In John 11, we see the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Many tend to focus on the actual miracle of Lazarus resurrection, but there is really a lot to unpack here.

In verses 1-6, Jesus is told that Lazarus is seriously ill.  We listen as we learn that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus very much.  The Bible confirms that Jesus cared for the ordinary people of the world.  He loved them very much.  Lazarus circumstances were not a result of some sin he’d committed but a consequence of the sin-filled world that we live in.  No matter our circumstances, Jesus love for all of humanity is constant. If our loved one is called home, they go to meet Jesus, and we can find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus never gives anyone a raw deal.  He will love all believers through all eternity.

In verses 7-16, Jesus gives his disciples a lesson in patience and trust in God.  We have a hard time understanding that God’s timing is always perfect.  He knows what we are doing in spite of what we have come to believe.  His disciples couldn’t understand why Jesus waited.  Then we Jesus told them that Lazarus was dead; they couldn’t understand why Jesus would risk his life going back to a place where the Jews had just threatened to kill him.  It made no sense.  Jesus was teaching his disciples that trust in him was paramount.  We may not always know the how and why of what Jesus is doing.   But we do know that there is still a reason and Jesus knows best.

In verses 17-27, Jesus comforts Martha with the promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead.  He tells her that belief in Jesus is a get out of jail free card for sinners.  Trust in Jesus is how we can live our lives with the assurance that no matter what happens to us, God is there for us.  No matter the struggle, there is a prize at the end.  We get to live eternity with our Lord in Heaven for all time.

In verses 28-37, Jesus is overwhelmed by Mary’s grief. Not because of the death of Lazarus.  No, Jesus grief comes from looking at all of Lazarus grieving friends and seeing the result of the death and destruction sin causes in our world.  Jesus feels the pain every time one of us loses a loved one.  Jesus knows that the loss of a loved one is painful, and Jesus weeps when he sees the pain we are going through.  Some will always say, “If God is so good, why didn’t he stop the pain.”  Jesus responds, “trust me, I always have your best interest at heart.”

In verses 38-44, Jesus shows his power with the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus.  Imagine the shock when a dead man came out of the tomb. In our lifetime, we all understand that each one of us will eventually see the end of our lives.  We will leave our loved ones and move onto the next world.  Miraculously we will hear the voice of Jesus saying come forth.  We will fall into the arms of Jesus who waits for us on the other side.

In verses 45-53, we see that sadly, not everyone will see Jesus for the Savior that he is.  Many will look at Jesus and see something else.  They will see a God who is attempting to wreck their fun.  A God who will take away the things they have.  Their response will be total contempt for Jesus in spite of being witness to the joy he brings to his followers.

In one short passage of scripture, we see the compassion and love that Jesus has for all his followers.  It is our job to share that amazing grace and mercy of a loving savior with all of the people of the world.