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June 10, 2019

What I read today;

James 3-4; John 8-9; Amos 9 & Obadiah; Proverbs 11; Ecclesiastes 1; Deuteronomy 14

Some mornings I really get cut all the way to the bone with what I read. This morning is one of those days.

Recently, I had one of those really stressful days.  We were doing an operation that was high risk and high stress.  During the operation, an individual from a far away office was asking questions that were taking me away from watching the people doing the work.  After a while of trying to deal with the remote person and the job at hand, I did what most people would do.  I got angry and said some things I shouldn’t have said.

I’d like to say it was an unusual event, but anger is a problem I struggle with and have for most of my life.

And then I read James chapter 3.  Ouch.  Gut Punch Time.  But I guess that’s what scripture is for, isn’t it?  It keeps working on us, and if we take it to heart, it points us to our need for a savior and shows us grace for the many times a day that we blow it.

 

 

June 9, 2019

What I read today;

James 1-2; John 6-7; Amos 7-8; Proverbs 10; Job 42; Deuteronomy 13

When I was attending high school in the early 1980s, it was required that every High School student pass two courses to graduate.  The first course was the Constitution of the state of Illinois, and the second was the Constitution of the United States of America.  The belief at the time was that for people to be good citizens, that they needed to understand the founding documents of our country and state and the way that our government is supposed to work.

Today, you can see that we’ve moved away from the idea that we should understand what our founding documents say.  Our Congress passes laws that take our rights away from us, and our courts find new rights that don’t exist in our founding documents.  It’s what happens to a country when we forget who we are.

The same is true for our faith.  The less we worship, study scripture outside of the church, and pray, the less important our faith becomes to each of us.  It also becomes easier for someone to teach things outside of scripture and claim them to be from scripture.  We find ourselves listening to preachers who tell us what we want to hear, rather than listening to what God’s word actually says.

You can find preachers who will say that if we tithe God will make us millionaires, and some people will blindly follow them.  Some people will tell you that if your faith were stronger, you wouldn’t have cancer or be addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Before too long, it becomes easy to say that Jesus was “one way” to heaven not “the way” to heaven.

As our society drifts further and further away from the word of God, God chooses not to force himself onto us.  He lets us get lost.  That’s where things were when the prophet Amos said this;

The time is surely coming, says the Lord Godwhen I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lordbut they shall not find it.”

There is a saying that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.  Unfortunately, the history of the church is littered with preachers who prayed on those who didn’t know the word of God for personal gain.    Protect yourself by daily reading and studying what God says and praying for his wisdom and guidance in your life.

June 8, 2019

What I read today;

Hebrews 12-13; John 4-5; Amos 5-6; Proverbs 9; Job 41; Deuteronomy 12

I played baseball when I was growing up.  At first, I was not a very good player.  But as the years went by I became a reasonably good player.  The thing about baseball is that if your not careful you can lose yourself to boredom.  As the game goes on, there are extended periods where the ball won’t be hit to you.  When your team is at bat, all you can do is sit in the dugout and watch as other players take their turns trying to get a hit.  Usually, the worst player on the team is relegated to right field, so there is a little chance of a ball coming his way.

There was this one particular time that I was very guilty of not paying attention. My sophomore year, we were playing in Crystal Lake, IL.  I had gotten a double to lead off the inning and was standing at second base.  With two outs, my teammate walked and headed to first base.  I began to casually stroll to third base.  Suddenly, the catcher fired the ball to third base, and I was tagged out.  I had thought someone was on first base.  Standing there with egg on my face, my coach could only shake his head in disbelief.

I had completely lost my focus and lost track of the situation around me.

As Christians, we can be guilty of doing the same thing.  We fail to see the world around us, pulling us away from what is truly important in our lives.  We fail to see our lives crumble as we pay little or no attention to our faith.

That’s why the writer to the Hebrews tells us;

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” NRSV

I actually like the old NIV translation, which says it this way, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”

If I had been paying attention to my coach, I would have seen him put his hands up and wave me back to the safety of the bag.  In our lives, if we would fix our gaze on Jesus and listen to him, our faith would always be on steadier ground.

June 7, 2019

What I read today;

Hebrews 10-11; John 2-3; Amos 3-4; Proverbs 8; Job 40; Deuteronomy 11

We have a tendency to put people on pedestals.  We revere the founders of companies, past presidents, war heroes, and Christian leaders.

I watched an interview with a soldier name Sal Giunta.  He became the first living recipient to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.  In the interview, he refused to accept the praise being showered on him.  He continued to push credit to the soldiers around him.  Years later during a dedication ceremony for the Medal of Honor Walkway, at 173rd Airborne Brigade Headquarters in Vicenza, Italy Sgt Giunta chose to give his Medal of Honor to the Brigade in honor of his fellow soldiers.

If you take the time to read the “Hall of Faith” found in Hebrews 11, you will find several people honored.  Yet if you look at each of them and research the scripture that they play a part in, you will find that they are all regular human beings.  They are not particularly special in any sense.  They are simple shepherds or farmers trying to live each day.  The only difference between them and any of the other people alive at the time was that they put their trust in the living God.  They believed that God would give them grace and mercy at the ends of their lives.  Each of them understood that without God, they didn’t stand a chance.

The thing that truly separates these ordinary people was that God chose to use these ordinary people to change the world.  He used each one of the people mentioned in the great “Hall of Faith” to bring a savior to the world.

It’s the same today.  God uses ordinary people to change the world around us.  Small churches with people reaching out into their communities with the Love of Jesus Christ.  Offering hope to the hopeless and the love of God to all willing to hear it.

We should stop putting people on pedestals and recognize once and for all that Jesus wants to use all of us to advance his kingdom.

June 6, 2019

What I read today;

Hebrews 8-9; Luke 24 & John 1; Amos 1-2; Proverbs 7; Job 39; Deuteronomy 10

Amos goes through and gives reasons for the destruction of the nations around Israel.  He lays out what they’ve done and what they continue to do.  Each is guilty of violence, destruction, and Godlessness that is beyond argument.

But then he gets to Judah and Israel.  God’s chosen people?  How can this be?  Then God makes his case.

  • The people of Judah rejected God’s Law
  • Judah has been led astray into Idolatry just like their ancestors
  • The people of Israel value money more than people.
  • They fail to care for those in need
  • Adultery is rampant throughout society
  • The worship of pleasure is the primary motivation not the love of God
  • They were unable to learn the message of the destruction of the nations around them

Six Hundred years after the Reformation, I wonder if the church is repeating the failings of past generations?

Let’s ask the following questions;

  • Do our members search the scriptures to draw closer to Jesus, or do they come to church on Sunday and forget about what was taught by brunch?
  • Does the church worship look more like an episode of the Voice than the worship of God?
  • Are we looking at our Facebook feeds during church?
  • Do we care for the poor and needy and reach out to them with the Gospel?
  • Do we favor those who can donate more to our coffers than to those who may be poor in the wallet but strong in spirit?
  • Do we avoid those who are sick, needy or shut-in?
  • Do we focus more on our pleasure than our eternal well being?
  • Most importantly, do we present the Gospel as a list of rules one must live by to ensure salvation or is it a focus on Jesus Christ’s work of salvation on our behalf?

Maybe it’s time for a little reflection?