August 15, 2019

What I read today;

Galatians 1; Luke 4; Isaiah 46; Psalm 6; Ruth 1; Genesis 46

People had crept into the Galatian church.  It was a small group at first, but it grew.  They began advocating this idea that you couldn’t be saved unless you were circumcised.  Slowly, it grew until the controversy swept the entire group.  Before you knew it, the idea that Jesus had done all the work for us was washed away, and confusion reigned.

Why would people allow this to happen?

It’s always the same.  You have to look a certain way or act a certain way.  You have to dress a certain way.  Time and again, we have fallen into this trap of adding rules to the Gospel.  We like to compare ourselves with others.  It’s the old, “I may be a sinner, but I’m better than him.”

But it allows doubt to creep into people’s minds.  The subtle destruction of faith begins with the idea that I must do something to ensure I’m saved.  Once that sets in worry follows.

But that’s not the message of the Gospel.

The Gospel is clear.  Jesus did all the work for us.  He saved us by the shedding of His precious blood on the cross.  He did it by living the life we could not live and sacrificing himself for all our sins.

All that is required of you and me is to put our faith and trust in him.  Our lives will change as we surrender to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts.  But the battle is over, and the price has been paid!

We are forgiven children of God!

August 14, 2019

What I read today;

2 Corinthians 13; Luke 3; Isaiah 45; Psalm 5; Judges 21; Genesis 45

Look at what John did in Luke 3.  He condemned the religious show-offs and told them to practice what they preached.  He told the tax collectors not to extort others. John told the soldiers to treat people fairly, not to blackmail them or make false accusations. He wasn’t afraid to take on a king, even if that meant going to jail.  Most importantly, he pointed them to Jesus.

So let me get this straight, John’s message was that we should be the best human beings that we can, avoid legalistic judgmentalism, treat your neighbors with respect and kindness, and put your faith and trust in Jesus?

No wonder John drew crowds.


August 13, 2019

What I read today;

2 Corinthians 12; Luke 2; Isaiah 44; Psalm 4; Judges 20; Genesis 44

Isaiah 44 verses 9-20 give us a picture of how silly it is that the Israelites were worshiping idols.  Isaiah describes the lifespan of a tree.  It was planted by a man, grew thanks to God, and chopped down.  Some of the wood used by a carpenter for his work.  Some of it used as firewood to cook over and keep warm.  Then for some reason, the rest of it was fashioned into the shape of a figure and worshiped.  Seems pretty silly, doesn’t it?  How did ordinary wood end up being worshiped?

What do we worship today that doesn’t make sense?

Do we worship pleasure?  Some of us do.  We chase after a good time and party like rock stars.  We can’t wait to get to the bar or the beach or some other fun place.  We work all week and then spend our money on having fun.  Our motto is to eat, drink and be merry!

Do we worship possessions?  Do we own houses, cars, 4 wheelers, jet skis, and other toys?  Do we have so many toys that we have to buy bigger houses to hold them?  Is our motto he who dies with the most toys wins?

How about career or status?  Do we spend countless hours at work trying to make more money and climb the corporate ladder?  Is our life centered around the next promotion?  Do we revel every time we receive a bonus for spending all our lives tied to our employer?

Everything I’ve talked about is fleeting.

At some point, our bodies will rebel against our attempts to find pleasure.  We’ll reach an age where we just can’t enjoy those things anymore.  Our liver will give out, or our bodies won’t allow us to be as physically active.  Age will eventually take all of those things away from us.

Our possessions will eventually wind up collecting dust.  A fire could destroy them in an instant.  When we die they’ll be auctioned off, given away or just thrown out.

Our career and status will disappear, at the very least, upon our retirement.  But the reality is that in this world we live in they can disappear with the stroke of a pen in a board room.  A layoff can hit, we can cross the wrong person in our organization, or one of our ideas doesn’t work and all the work we’ve put into building ourselves up in someone else’s eyes is gone.  Just like that.

The things that we idolize and chase today can be gone in an instant.  We can be left in ruin and despair with a moment’s notice.

The only thing that truly lasts is our relationship with God our father.  The only thing that goes with us to eternity is our relationship with Jesus.  The only possession we can truly pass on to our children and grandchildren is that knowledge of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for us and how much God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.

The only thing we should truly worship is the God of the Universe!  Give him thanks today for all his grace and mercy!

August 12, 2019

What I read today;

2 Corinthians 11; Luke 1; Isaiah 43; Psalm 3; Judges 19; Genesis 43

In the late 1990s had a two-year stretch where things just seemed to go from bad to worse.  In 1998 I found out my employer had done something quite unethical.  I made the decision to leave the company and start a consulting agency.  In spite of what the individual had done, I felt loyalty to the company.  So after I  made the decision to leave but decided to give my employer ample notice.  That’s when things went wrong.

I was fired before I had an opportunity to get the necessary certifications set up with my new employer. Since I had no income or health insurance and had a diabetic daughter, I made the decision to call a competitor of my former employer who had been trying to hire me for years.  He immediately engaged me.  Two days later, I received a FedEx package stating I was being sued for taking a job with a competitor.

My lawyer said that there was no case, but I could leave a $1000 retainer with his secretary.  In other words, this was going to be costly and painful.  We wound up settling, he paid me a severance package, and I ended up opening my agency.  But then things went from bad to worse.

People I knew wouldn’t speak to me.  Former coworkers stopped talking to me.  People in the industry I worked wouldn’t return my calls.  People who had said they’d hire me for consulting work suddenly backed out.  We proved two years later that my former employer had been attempting to blackball me.

I wound up taking a job in a factory, then later a call center, just to pay the bills.  There was never enough money, and it was nearly impossible to keep the lights on and a roof over our head.  My wife was forced to go back to work.  Even our combined wages didn’t keep up with the salary I lost.  I didn’t sleep for months.

I had to keep going for my wife and daughters, but there were times that I wanted to quit.  My wife never blamed me, but the guilt I felt was incredible.

One thing kept me going during all this turmoil.

It was the promise that God would get me through.  He never promised it would be easy, but he promised to get me through.

The words of Isaiah 43:1-7, give us God’s promise to always be with us through every storm:

But now thus says the Lordhe who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia, and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” NRSV

August 11, 2019

What I read today;

2 Corinthians 10; Mark 16; Isaiah 42; Psalm 2; Judges 18; Genesis 42

My wife and I have the same birthday.  August 3rd we were celebrating our birthday in a German Restaurant when I happened to look at my phone and see headlines flashing of another mass shooting.  This one in El Paso, TX, at a Walmart.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up on August 4th only to discover the second shooting in 24 hours in Dayton, OH.  Then in the midst of this, we hear that the City of Chicago had multiple mass shootings with at least 9 dead, I’ve read reports of more, but the numbers don’t match, and over 50 injured.

Now comes the inevitable screams for action.  “We must find a way to stop this now,” people are shouting.

But the problem is complicated, and no one really wants to address the root problem.   Our problem is a heart problem, not a legal issue.  It is a problem caused by societal ills that no one wishes to address.

50 years ago our companies decided to make more money by closing down it’s US manufacturing plants and sending jobs overseas.  This forced our people into lower-paying jobs and forced both parents to work.  As time went on, we then saw the advent of video games and cable tv and things that were previously taboo for younger children to watch now became acceptable.  Then as people worked more and more hours, we began to move away from the idea of community.  Where I grew up neighborhood block parties that happened several times each year began to disappear. As people started working longer hours to live the American dream, our church attendance began to deteriorate. As personnel computing became prevalent in the 1990s, the internet became all the rage.  Then shortly after 2000, smartphones and social media came into existence.  Things that everyone believed would bring the world together actually ended up dividing us even further.

The fabric of what held us together was slowly disintegrating right before our eyes, and we didn’t even notice.  As crime began to increase, we did the only thing we knew to do.  We piled on laws designed to stop the violence.  In 1994 the US Government passed Drug laws that incarcerated thousands, along with assault weapons ban.

Then in 1999 came the Columbine shooting.  In spite of all our bills to prevent this from happening 2 young men walked into a school and gunned down their fellow students before being killed by law enforcement.  The story has now been repeated so many times we have become numb to it.

We now look to how we can pass more laws to prevent this even though what we did in the 1990s failed so miserably.

A segment of our society has been marginalized.  The outcasts and loners have been pushed to the fringes and succumbed to hate and violence.  They are angry, and when the circumstances are right, they explode into a rage-filled attack.  They are usually white, middle class and have suffered some sort of parental trama.  They are loners and outcasts.

They have given up hope.

Which is why it is now more critical than ever that the church reach out.  We’ve been hiding in our church buildings wringing our hands over issues that don’t really matter while people around us are hurting, hiding, and suffering.  It is time that the church takes the message of Isaiah 42 outside of the beautiful buildings and begins to reach out to those who so desperately need it.  We have to combat the anger and rage that so permeates our world today with the message of Jesus Christ.  We have to continue to tell our members that each one of us is responsible for a message of love and hope.

God can heal this hurting land of ours.  Are we willing to be the hands and feet that God can use to perpetuate that healing?


August 10, 2019

What I read today;

2 Corinthians 9; Mark 15; Isaiah 41; Psalm 1; Judges 17; Genesis 41

Psalm 1 vs. 1-2, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers, but their delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law they meditate day and night.”

How can a book change peoples hearts and minds?  What is it about a particular book that can alter the course of human events?

The Bible is unique in the history of mankind.  Parts of the Bible were written over 4000 years ago.  Yet the story is uniquely unified.  The theme is about the fall of man and God’s plan of redemption of mankind.

Christians must read and learn from the feet of Jesus.  His words found on the pages of the Bible.  When we read and study we are developing our relationship with God and drawing closer to Jesus.

August 9, 2019

What I read today;

2 Corinthians 8; Mark 14; Isaiah 40; Job 42; Judges 16; Genesis 40

We come to the end of the book of Job.  It’s not one of my favorite books.  However, I think the entire can be summed up in Job 42 vs. 7 when God expresses his anger towards Jobs 3 friends.  Why is he angry?  He’s mad because he’s being blamed for Jobs misfortunes.

Too often, there is the reaction within the church that when a person endures a hardship that God must be punishing that person.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We face difficulty for several reasons.  It could be that we have a genetic defect that caused us to get cancer.  It might be a behavior that we won’t shake that makes us an addict.  Maybe it’s our upbringing that makes us violent.  Or it could be that we are sinners living in a sin-laden world.

The reality is that we live in an imperfect world. Diseases, accidents, and bad behavior are part of the world we live in.  God is not punishing us when things go wrong.  But when those times of trial do come, he does allow it to strengthen our faith and trust in God.  If we let them those things become a part of our faith life.

Today we hear preachers talk about faith like it’s a wishing well.  We toss the penny into the fountain, and God will pour out blessings to us.  But that’s not the way things are in this world.  Eventually, we will all get sick.  At some point, we will all face death.  Other times we will live with the tragic death of a close friend.  All of this is a part of our human existence and will not change.

What our faith does for us, however, is give us hope.  It provides us with the confidence that Jesus is walking with us through the trials and tribulations.  It allows us to believe that God is in control and that when we come out of the other side we will either be with him in Heaven or our faith will be strengthened because of what we’ve overcome.

Sin has made our world imperfect.  But be strong because our Savior has given us the promise that he’s here with us and will guide all of our steps, mistakes, and actions so that we will spend eternity with him when our struggles are over.