November 30, 2019

What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 6; John 5; Hosea 5-6; Proverbs 21-22; Ezra 1-2; Deuteronomy 3

We tend to focus on silly things. Within the church, we have numerous arguments. We argue about what type of worship we should have. We get mad when the Pastor is wearing a color we don’t like. We turn up our nose at people based on how they are dressed.  We set up internal rules that are supposed to show how much we believe in God.  But rather than showing our belief in God, it usually ends up alienating someone who doesn’t look like us.

In John 5, we see a man who is paralyzed lying on a mat.  Each day his friends would sit him near the pool of water that had some sort of healing powers.  Many who were sick and paralyzed would be placed in these waters for some kind of relief.

As Jesus enters into our picture, he looks compassionately at the man and asks if he wants to be made well.  The man, who doesn’t know Jesus, is confused and asks how he can be healed if he can’t get in the water.    Without skipping a beat, Jesus tells the man to get up and take his mat and go home.  Then Jesus disappears into the crowd.

Is the church thrilled for the blessing the man has received?  Nope.  Enter the nitpickers.  They scold the man by saying, “You’re not supposed to be carrying a mat on the sabbath.”  As if God really takes a day off.

When Jesus later finds the man and reveals himself, he falls at Jesus’ feet in worship.

God is continuously working all around us.  Most of the time, we fail to see the dangers that God protects us from.  That’s how God’s love works.  Even when we don’t acknowledge God, he’s there.  When we do have a moment that we recognize as coming from God, often those who should be celebrating, play the role of Debby Downer.  But you know what happened.  You know that you’ve just had an encounter with the Savior of all the world.  You feel the love that God has given you at that moment.

What an amazing God we serve.  A God, who, in spite of our disobedience, continues to lavish us with His grace and mercy.  That’s true, Grace!

November 29, 2019

What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 5; John 4; Hosea 3-4; Proverbs 19-20; 2 Chronicles 35-36; Deuteronomy 2

Many people find it difficult to talk about the Gospel to other people. They struggle when they want to find the right words to say.  Jesus gives us an example of how to tell others about the Gospel.

The first thing that Jesus does is find common ground.  Jesus knows that by simply asking a question that the Samaritan woman will be surprised that a Jewish rabbi would even be caught talking to her.

Jesus handles her objections by reiterating that salvation is for all humanity.  He then goes on to tell her that he knows about her past.  In fact, Jesus knows everything that she has ever done.  In spite of that, he is still holding out salvation.

When the woman asks how that can be, since she’s a Samaritan and the Church in Jerusalem says that Samaritans aren’t worthy, Jesus responds that his true worshipers won’t worship in a temple or synagogue.  No, they will worship in spirit and truth.  His true worshipers will be those with a personnel relationship with Jesus.

She does the only thing she can think of.  She runs into town and grabs everyone she can.  They come running to Jesus.  They are all looking for a place to go without condemnation.  The people are seeking a home where they can find healing for their consciences and souls.  They are seeking a place of refuge from the world of rules and requirements.

Jesus forgoes food and water and spends two days with these people in a town that a reputable Jew would not even dare to enter.  But Jesus did.  Jesus offered hope and healing to those in Samaria.  He still offers that grace and mercy today to everyone who can hear his voice.

 

November 28, 2019

What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 4; John 3; Hosea 1-2; Proverbs 17-18; 2 Chronicles 33-34; Deuteronomy 1

The story of Josiah in 2 Chronicles has always amazed me.  God had showered the Jewish people with grace upon grace.  He promised Abraham that the number of his descendants would be more than the sands of the sea or the stars of the air.  God promised that he would rescue the people from Egyptian slavery.  He promised them the promised land.

Yet, here we find that the Word of God is found, sitting on a shelf, collecting dust in the very temple of God in Jerusalem?  How can this be?  God’s people had forgotten God’s Word?

We know from the rest of the book of Second Chronicles that King Josiah would lead a short-lived revival.  Sadly, within 20 years of Josiah’s passing, Babylon would invade Judah and carry much of its population into captivity.

How could the people who were so blessed by a gracious and mighty God fall away like this?  Simply put, they took God for granted.  They pushed God to the back of their minds and then to the far corners of their lives, and finally, they simply forgot what it was they were worshiping.

Throughout the years since Jesus’ death, we have witnessed the same phenomena over and over again.  Jesus becomes compartmentalized in our lives.  The church becomes something we do, not about someone we worship.  What we believe starts to become less about who we are and more about what we do for God.  As we drift further and further away from the Words of Scripture, our lives become engulfed by a society that doesn’t understand the values that God gives the Christian Church.

Much has been made about the decline of the church in the United States and Western Europe.  As the Church becomes more like the society that is self-centered and inwardly focused, we see less and less reliance on what God is trying to tell us, and it becomes more about what we can get from God.  What we see now is either a church focused on pointing out faults or a Church that acts like a self-help guru proclaiming God will bless you if you do certain things.

We seem to have forgotten that the Church is about proclaiming that Jesus Christ brings us salvation from Sin and Death. We forget that Jesus looks for a personnel relationship with each one of us.  An intimate relationship.  The church doesn’t seem to want to teach that Jesus calls each one of us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.  Moreover, many in the extremes of the Church have forgotten Jesus’ message to love one another, to put others above ourselves, to show mercy and forgiveness.

When we consider this, should it really be any surprise when we witness rising levels of violence in our nation today?  Does it make you understand why we see the level of discourse decaying in our society and even now extending into the Church itself? We no longer view those we disagree with as children of God who have intrinsic value.  Instead, we see them as evil and seek to diminish their worth.

So what do we do in times like these?

History truly does show us the way.

Throughout his missionary journey’s, Pauls would enter into a community, preach the scriptures about the messiah, and proclaim the good news.  He would then focus on the growth of new believers through prayer and study.

When the reformers of the 1400s and 1500s sought to change the church from the works righteous church it had become, they focused on getting the Word of God into the hands of the people of God.  Versions of the Bible were taken out of Latin and Hebrew and put into the ordinary people’s languages. They sought to grow the church by helping God’s people to become closer to God on an individual basis and re-teaching the idea that we are saved by grace, not by works.

When John and Charles Wesley began the Methodist movement, it was centered around small groups who met to pray, study, and hold one another accountable in their spiritual walk.    Those small groups led to circuit riders crisscrossing the United States and led to the ultimate creation of the Methodist movement in the United States.  While Wesley was an incredible preacher and writer, his genius was the creation of these small societies where real spiritual growth could be cultivated.

The Church must get back to its roots.  We must go back to the idea that an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ is not a one day a week affair.  We must rebuild the concept that our walk with God is a 24/7 walk.  Our focus should not be on the pharisaic pointing out of an individual’s sins.  But helping individuals to find the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives and helping them to become closer to Jesus Christ each and every day of their lives.

By helping believers grow in their walk with God, the Church can be the force that leads us out of the cycle of hate that we are living in today.

November 27, 2019

What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 3; John 2; Daniel 11-12; Proverbs 15-16; 2 Chronicles 31-32; Numbers 36

In John chapter 2, we see the story of Jesus turning water into wine.  It is easy to focus on the miracle.  This is, in fact, the first miracle that Jesus does while he is here on earth.  But I would like to focus on something else about this miracle.

Our life is Christ on this earth is similar to the wedding with the old wine. When we first come to Christ, our lives change.  Jesus gives us blessings upon blessings.  We are immediately Justified because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Jesus promises to walk with us every day during this life.  We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to draw us ever closer to God.  Jesus changes our hearts from a heart that runs from God to a heart that wants to, more and more, know God.  Jesus blesses us with love, grace, and mercy in ever-growing amounts.

However, Jesus promises us much more in the next life.  At the moment our soul departs our body, Jesus promises us that we will be with him.   Like the thief on the cross, we will be in paradise with him.  Jesus promises there will be no more darkness, no more sickness, no more suffering, and no more tears.  We won’t struggle for money or shelter.  We won’t worry about our jobs.  God will supply our every need as we worship our Lord and Savior every moment of every day.  We will have that perfect fellowship with him that we can’t achieve in our lives.  All of our guilt and shame will disappear in a moment when Jesus welcomes us to our new heavenly home!

Just like the new wine tasted so much better than the old wine, our lives will be far and away better when we are in the presence of Jesus.

In this miracle, Jesus is showing us that the best is yet to come!

November 26, 2019

What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 2; John 1; Daniel 9-10; Proverbs 13-14; 2 Chronicles 29-30; Numbers 35

I love the sunshine.  I’m not a fan of winter or cold weather.  I love the feel of the sun on my skin and the brightness of the day.  Gloomy, cloudy, and dark are just not my style.  From that, you can probably figure out what I think of daylight savings time.

By this time of year, I get up in total darkness, drive to work in darkness, and within an hour or so of getting home, it’s dark again.

Darkness makes things difficult.  After dinner, when I go to take the trash out, you can’t see what is in your way before you get to the garbage dumpster.  It gets really tough when going into the bedroom.  Especially if I come from the well-lit living room.  I’ve stubbed my toe more times than I like to admit because you can’t see anything.

Recently, I’ve started to use my cell phone to give me some light.  I don’t use the flashlight, I only light up the home screen.  The small amount of light provides enough visibility so that I can safely navigate my way through the dark bedroom to my nightstand.  It’s incredible how just a tiny amount of light can light your way.

As Jesus begins his ministry, the world is a dark place.  Pagan religions rule the day.  The Samaritans are looked down upon by the Jewish people.  The Jewish religion has become a class system with rules, so cumbersome it is nearly impossible to follow.  The hated Romans occupy much of the known world.

Into this darkness enters Jesus.  Jesus walked into this world to heal the sick, proclaim forgiveness and to show love and grace.  He showed the world a better way.  Jesus taught the world who God was.  He showed his healing touch to the woman who was bleeding, to the centurion’s servant, to Peters’ Mother.  Jesus reached out to the poor, the prostitute and the tax collector, and the ordinary person, to show them that God’s grace was intended for them!  He shut down the self-righteous and rewarded the humble.  He explained that love was expected no matter what day of the week it was.

The spark that Jesus provided changed the entire world.  Light entered the world, and humanity was changed forever through the teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While today’s world may seem dark and cold, we can light that world up with the love of Jesus.  We can bring light to the cold reaches of our planet and bring healing and love to all around us.  We need only to rely on the spirit of Jesus.

A bill is working its way through the Illinois legislature that would end daylight savings time after March 2020.  Daylight savings time may finally end.  However, the light that Jesus shines will never be extinguished!

November 25,2019

What I Read Today;

2 Corinthians 1; Mark 16; Daniel 7-8; Proverbs 11-12; 2 Chronicles 27-28; Numbers 34

Promises, Promises.

We live in a world of broken promises.  Our politicians routinely run for office making promises that they know they can’t keep.  People make wedding vows only to break them.  Our society promises that if you spend thousands of dollars on an education that you will have money, houses, and great jobs.  Yet many of our graduates end up living at home when they can’t find work.

However, we serve a God who keeps his promises.

He promised that he would send a savior to save us from our sins, and he sent Jesus.   Jesus promised that he would rise again after three days.  Jesus promised that we would be forgiven.  Jesus promised to be with us to the very end of the age. Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit to guide us.  Jesus promised that all who put their faith in him would be saved.

While we live in a world of broken promises, Jesus keeps his word and his promises will never be broken.

November 24, 2019

What I Read Today;

1 Corinthians 16; Mark 15; Daniel 5-6; Proverbs 9-10; 2 Chronicles 25-26; Numbers 35

In Numbers 35, God gives Moses the final instructions for the conquest of Canaan.  In verse 52, God tells Moses that the Israelites are to drive all the inhabitants from the land and destroy all there places of worship.

Why would God do that?  Isn’t he a God of love?  I thought he was supposed to be a God of mercy and grace?

In verse 55, God explains why this is important.  God knows that the worship of the Canaanites will entice the Israelites.  The allure of the practices of the land will cause the people of Israel to abandon the one true God and follow false gods.

When an alcoholic finally stops drinking, the addict must stay away from Bars.  Not only that, sometimes he has to leave behind the friends and family members who drink socially.  The temptation to take that first drink is so enticing that the addict shouldn’t even be in that room.  If the addict goes back to those places, he is far more likely to fail and begin drinking again.

When we come to Christ, there are things in our lives that we realize we need to get rid of.  We have addictions as well.  We have our own pet sins that stick to us.  When we come to Christ, leaving those sins is difficult.  Sometimes nearly impossible.  We spend our lifetime struggling to rid ourselves of those things that God wants us to leave behind.

God knows that we will fail.  God expects us to do everything in our power to live a life that is pleasing to God and leave the rest up to the grace that Jesus gives to us.

However, it’s still important to recognize that if we get too chummy with the world around us, the world can cause us to fall away.  It’s just utterly too enticing.  The call to pleasure and self-service is incredible in today’s society.

That’s why God tells us to get rid of the things of the world. To be in the world but not of the world.

Is there something in your life that is getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus?  Spend some time today looking for ways to get rid of the obstacles between you and Jesus!