April 20, 2019

What I read today;

1 Corinthians 4; Matthew 20; Jeremiah 44; Psalm 110; Ezra 3-4; Leviticus 26

We find Jesus walking out of Jericho with a large crowd around him at the end of Matthew 20.  Two blind men are sitting next to the road begging.  They are not a pretty site.  They can’t care for themselves, they smell, and quite frankly they don’t look the type of people who Jesus should concern himself with.

Yet they know Jesus is there.  So they start to beg for his help.  They want to see.  They are shouting so loudly that it’s making quite a commotion.  The church-going folks have no idea what to do, so they do what comes naturally.  They tell them to shut up.  In spite of the admonition to keep quiet the men start to shout louder.

Then Jesus calls them to him.

Stunned the crowd suddenly turns directions and guides the men to Jesus who promptly heals them.

What do we do when we see people who need Jesus, but they don’t look like us?  Do we point them in Jesus direction or do we shuffle the other way?  Do we want them to stay quiet or do we want them to turn to Christ?

Sometimes those who are the most unlovable are the ones most in need of Jesus healing touch.  Don’t turn them away because they don’t fit in!

April 19, 2019

What I read today;

1 Corinthians 3; Matthew 19; Jeremiah 43; Psalm 109; Ezra 1-2; Leviticus 25

In Leviticus 25 we hear about the year of Jubilee.  Every 7th year was a Sabbath year.  The land was allowed to rest, and the entire people are given time to worship and honor God.  People were to return to their families and their native lands for a year of worship.

In the 50th year (7 sets of 7 year periods) the Israelites would celebrate the year of Jubilee.  In that year Indentured Israelite servants were to be set free, and those who had sold their property because of financial difficulties were allowed to re-acquire that property.  It was almost like a time to hit a reset button.

Strangely, there are very few references to the year of Jubilee taking place.  Human greed may have gotten in the way of celebrating the year of Jubilee.  Truth is that we don’t really know if that year was ever truly celebrated or not.

But how many of us, if we had the chance, would hit a reset button and go back to a time and place where we made some big mistake in our lives.  How many would wish to declare a do-over?

I’ll bet many of us wish we could.

I believe that the year of Jubilee is God’s way of telling us that there was going to be a day when he declared a do-over.  A day when creation would be set back to before Sin and rebellion entered his perfect creation.  A new day when we would all be able to proclaim with one voice the beauty and majesty of what our God did for us.

That day would actually occur some 4000 years later on a hill in Jerusalem.  In a place called Golgotha.  On a day when God himself in the form of his son Jesus would sacrifice himself to allow each of us to have a do-over.  On a day when God would turn away from his own son and put all the sins of the world onto him.  A moment in time when Jesus would say “it is finished” and a day when the curtain separating mankind from a holy God would tear in to and allow each one of us to enter into the presence of God.

Jesus death on the cross signals a new Jubilee.  A period of time when we all can hit the reset buttons of our lives and become new creations made in the image of Jesus himself.

That’s a Jubilee worth celebrating every day of the year!

April 18, 2019

What I read today;

1 Corinthians 2; Matthew 18; Jeremiah 42; Psalm 108; 2 Chronicles 35-36; Leviticus 24

Some people like to focus on Matthew 18 vs. 15-20.  They like to use these verses to invoke church discipline.  They miss the points that are brought up in the majority of the chapter.

It is the remainder of chapter 18 that actually focuses on our behavior not the behavior of others.

Verses 1-5 remind us to walk in humility.  Not to think highly of ourselves.  Not to behave in a manner that causes others to think less of our Lord.  Christians, of all people, should recognize that all of us are unworthy and that it is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus that we are saved.

Verses 6-7 instruct us to not allow our behavior or attitudes to cause someone else to turn away from Jesus Christ.  Is our behavior or attitude off-putting?  Are we finger pointing at other people or pointing our finger to direct people to Christ?

Verses 8-9 force us to look at our inward behaviors, thoughts, and actions.  Are we putting things ahead of Christ and his mission?  Are we doing things out of selfish ambition?  Are we focusing so much on our own self-righteousness that we miss the point of the Gospel?

Verses 10-12 show us how God feels about all mankind.  It tells us that God wants all of us to come to the knowledge of him and to be saved.  We should look with love on all people in spite of their actions and circumstances.  No matter how unloveable we must love.

Finally, Verses 21-35 order us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  We don’t forgive anymore.  We hold grudges, and we use those grudges to get even.  That’s not how God intended things to be.

While verses 15-20 are also relevant, they should be viewed in light of the rest of the chapter.  Instead of focusing on the church’s role in discipline maybe we should concentrate on our tendency to Gossip instead.  Maybe God is also telling us that if we are genuinely wronged, then we should be willing to go directly to that person and talk with them instead of talking behind that persons back.

When you read Matthew 18 next time try and focus inwardly on our own actions not outwardly on the actions of others.

April 17, 2019

What I read today;

1 Corinthians 1; Matthew 17; Jeremiah 41; Psalm 107; 2 Chronicles 33-34; Leviticus 23

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.  We have a considerable amount of knowledge today.  Our society is more educated today than at any time in our history.  We have more college degrees, more people graduate high school, more access to information thanks to the internet and in general have a higher level of literacy than at any time in our nations and worlds history.

Yet what do we do with that knowledge?  Often we use that knowledge to build monuments for ourselves or enrich ourselves.  We use our knowledge to rule over someone else.

In our churches, we argue about our knowledge.  We argue about interpretations of various scriptures.  We dispute amongst ourselves and point fingers at one another to make ourselves seem smarter than we really are.

In Corinth, it was no different.  Arguments had arisen in the church about who to follow. Paul, Apollos or Cephas.  Paul would have none of it.  Arguing about which sect is more knowledgeable is nothing new.  But Paul answers it with the line that has lived for over 2000 years.  “We preach Christ Crucified.”  It is now and always has been about Jesus Christ and his redeeming work on the cross to save lost humanity.  When we devolve into arguments about which church we go to or which scholar we follow we forget the simple truth that is really about God who stepped out of heaven knowing he would sacrifice himself on a cross to save each one of us.

That’s true wisdom.

April 16, 2019

What I read today;

Romans 16; Matthew 16; Jeremiah 40; Psalm 106; 2 Chronicles 31-32; Leviticus 22

Can we really believe that God almighty, the creator of the universe, the king of kings really watches over and cares about us?  After all, we’re sinful human beings aren’t we?  We know in our hearts the wrong we have done.  We’ve lied, and we’ve hurt people.   We know in our hearts what is right yet we fail to live up to God’s standards.

Psalm 106 begins by telling us what can make us happy.  But then it goes through the history of Israel.  A long history whereby the nation would slip into Idolatry and greed and then fall apart only to be saved by the hand of God.  This cycle repeated itself up until the moment Jesus returned.

But in spite of their our actions verses, 43 through 48 tell us of a merciful God who stands with his arms wide open waiting to accept us back into his loving embrace.  Yes, we stumble, and yes we fall.  But God is always there waiting to guide us safely back to him.  Jesus promise was that all who believed in him would be saved.  Trust in that promise.  When you stumble turn back to God.  He’s always waiting.

 

April 15, 2019

What I read today;

Romans 15; Matthew 15; Jeremiah 39; Psalm 105; 2 Chronicles 29-30; Leviticus 21

I was a member of the US Air Force serving in Germany in the summer of 1990.  We had been in Germany for over 2 years at this point.  We had lived through numerous war games, midnight recalls, a series of terrorist bombings around Germany, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie England and many other interesting things.  Then the Berlin wall fell.  Suddenly, everything changed.  We all fell into a false sense of peace.  Then on August 2nd of 1990, the world changed forever.  Iraq invaded Kuwait.  When your 27 and for the first time faced with a possibility of having to participate in a real war, that’s heady stuff.  People on the base were literally freaking out.  Funny thing is that in spite of all the war games we played and all the recalls and drills many of the people on base had entered the military after the end of the Vietnam war.  The majority had never seen anything like what was happening.

But many of the Senior Non-Commissioned-Officers who had been in Vietnam would calmly tell all the younger staff to relax.  My boss, in particular, would look at people and say to them “God’s got this, it’ll be Ok.”

Imagine a person who’d seen real action, the metals on his chest proved it, years earlier, who’d lived through 2 tours in Vietnam telling people that it was going to be OK.

In Jeremiah, I imagine Ebed-Melech was probably pretty worked up. If they were killing the king’s officials, he had to be wondering what they were going to do to a guard in the king’s court of the guard who was a foreigner.  Yes, he feared God, but I wonder if in the back of his mind he thought of himself as an unworthy person not provided the same protections as God’s “true” people.  I wonder if that was why God sent a message to a foreigner.  While the nation was being punished for its idolatry and its temple, walls and palaces were being destroyed, God chose to send a message not to a priest, not to a king, not to one of the super religious, but to a humble guard.  A word of hope that said, you’re going to be all right.  I’m with you.  You put your trust in me, and I will not let you down.  Life is your prize.  Life with me for all eternity is yours.

In our darkest moments, the same message applies to you and me.  I’m with you.  Trust in me.  It’s going to be all right.

April 14, 2019

What I read today;

Romans 14; Matthew 14; Jeremiah 38; Psalm 104; 2 Chronicles 27-28; Leviticus 20

In Jeremiah 38 King Zedekiah faced a real crossroads in his life.  Babylon was about to overcome the remaining pieces of what once was the proud empire of Israel.  Zedekiah had not been a particularly good king.  Worship of Baal and Chemosh had continued during his reign.  People had turned away from God and were now facing the judgment that God had promised generations earlier. Yet the king turned to God’s prophet Jeremiah for answers.  In the final moments of his reign, Zedekiah finally turned to God for answers.

Jeremiah’s answer was not what the King was looking for.

Jeremiah told the king to surrender.  Jeremiah told the king that if he surrendered he would live and the city wouldn’t be burned to the ground and that he and his descendants would live.

It should have been simple, shouldn’t it?  Instead, Zedekiah feared the people around him more than he trusted in God.

Do we do the same thing?  Am I doing the same thing?  Do you and I fear what others might think of us more than we trust in our loving and merciful father?

In this life, we are given a choice.  We can surrender our lives to God, or we can reject God and live life our own way.

It’s a simple choice.