November 9, 2019

What I Read Today;

1 Corinthians 1; Matthew 28; Ezekiel 22-23; Psalm 128 & 129;1 Chronicles 24-25; Numbers 18

Western civilization has changed considerably since the beginning of the 20th century.  In the 1800s, a college education was generally reserved for the upper classes.  Lower and middle classes were resigned to a fate of manual labor or were trained into a specific trade.

In the 1960s, an effort was made to allow more people in the lower and middle classes to seek a college degree.  Pell grants and government-guaranteed student loans came into existence.  Our high schools began moving away from trade programs like welding and auto mechanics.  As the years progressed, high schools started moving towards Advanced Placement Courses and Honors programs to assist students in obtaining better college entry.

Employers began to place more and more emphasis on education, as well.  Jobs which formerly required high school educations, such as police officer and water treatment operator, now were requiring bachelors degrees.

The idea was that as our society became better educated, we would become a better society.  Hate and violence would reduce as the poor in our society lifted themselves out of poverty.

Fifty years later, the results aren’t proving the theory out, is it?  As we’ve devalued the working-class jobs that used to sustain us, the divide between rich and poor has become even more pronounced.  The middle class has grown smaller and smaller.  Instead of growing closer as a society, we’ve now become more divided.  The divide is now showing up in every facet of our lives.

While education is essential, it’s wisdom that we seem to be lacking.

Paul discusses this very problem in 1 Corinthians 1.  God isn’t interested in your educational background.  God is interested in your heart.  God chooses the people who have a simple faith.  A faith that trusts God to be God.  God’s love for us inspires us to rejoice in the saving acts of Jesus Christ.  Many today will proclaim that Jesus was an excellent teacher who had great ideas, but they will reject him as Savior.  Intellectually, they simply can’t wrap their arms around the fact that God would send his own son to pay for our sins.  It makes no sense.  It is just that foolishness that Paul is talking about.

Knowledge is important.  But a relationship with Jesus will make life complete, both here and in eternity.

November 8, 2019

What I Read Today;

Romans 16; Matthew 27; Ezekiel 20-21; Psalm 126-127; 1 Chronicles 22-23; Numbers 17

Our lives can be filled with incredible stress and anxiety.  Many live “paycheck to paycheck” and worry that at any time, their world can come crashing down around them.  Suicide now kills 2.5 times as many people than murder in America.  The stress we put ourselves through can lead to disease, alcohol and drug abuse, and worse yet, suicide.

The pain felt has affected even clergy members.  The recent suicide of Jarrid Wilson in California is a warning to all that stress and anxiety can affect anyone.

The words in Psalm 127 vs. 1-2  tell us that these problems are not new to humanity.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved” NRSV

The world we live in says we should seek possessions, success, and fame.

Our God says we should trust him and give our worries to him.  Through the darkest times in my life, I have always believed that God would get me through.  The times when I have struggled, the most have been the times that I chose to go my own way and not trust God.

This world is a dark place that will crush you unless you have Jesus’ love surrounding you.

If you know of someone who is fighting depression and anxiety, get help.  If you suspect that someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

God cares too much for each of us to not do everything we can for a hurting brother or sister.

November 7, 2019

What I Read Today;

Romans 15; Matthew 26; Ezekiel 18-19; Psalm 119 & 125; 1 Chronicles 20-21; Numbers 16

The longest chapter of the Bible is Psalm 119.  176 verses comprise this long chapter.  But the richness that this chapter contains deserves a long slow read.  Psalm 119 details how to be a happy and joyful Christian.  It spells out how we are to live our life.  It details what we should do in those moments of weakness when we fall short.

First, to put it in simple terms, we are to rever God’s Word and commit to storing God’s Word in our hearts. God’s Word is the medicine that allows us to remain free of the influence of our society.  God’s Word is how we can hear God speak to us.  God’s Word is how we learn how to please God.

Second, we are to apply God’s Word to our lives.  It’s more than just reading and gaining head knowledge.  It’s about taking God’s Word into our hearts and seeking to follow God’s plans and commands.  It is about a struggle against our internal urges that pull us towards Satan and the world in which we live.  It’s a process of allowing God’s sanctifying grace to change how we behave and how we act towards others.  It’s about living a life that is pleasing to God.

Third, in those moments when we fail, God’s Word gives us peace in knowing that Jesus is there to pick us up and put us back on the path of righteousness.  It is the hydrocortisone for our guilty conscience, allowing us to heal and be restored to the right relationship with God through Jesus.

Finally, God’s Word is the story of how God sought to save humankind through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  It is God’s love letter to all of humanity.

Carve out that time listening to God and taking God’s Word into your hearts.  Remembering that God always gives us back more than we ever give him.

November 6, 2019

What I Read Today;

Romans 14; Matthew 25; Ezekiel 17; Psalm 123 & 124; 1 Chronicles 18-19; Numbers 15

In Numbers 15 vs. 37-41, God instructs the people of Israel to tie a blue cord to the fringes of each corner of their garments.  The idea was that as they went through the day, they would see the cords and would constantly be reminded of God’s commands.

So let me ask you a question.  As you go through each day, what reminds you of the grace that Jesus has bought for you?  Do you think about Jesus’ sacrifice?  Do you show mercy to those around you because of what Jesus has done for you?

I challenge you to find some way to remind yourself regularly of what Jesus has done.  Maybe carry a card in your pocket.  Perhaps find a piece of jewelry or a wrist band.  Keep a scripture calendar on your desk. Maybe find a small cross that you can see somewhere near you. Something you can look to throughout the day.

Don’t do it for appearances.  Keep it discreet.  Something only you know about. Your reminder to yourself of what God has done for you.

Let’s each one of us try it next week and see what that does for our outlook on life.  Let’s see if we can find a way to re-focus our day on Jesus.

November 5, 2019

What I Read Today;

Romans 13; Matthew 24; Ezekiel 16; Psalm 121-122; 1 Chronicles 16-17; Numbers 14

Matthew 24 describes a time of war, famine, pain, and anger.  Many times this chapter has been used by some to describe the end of the world.  Throughout the years since Christ’s resurrection, the world has undergone times of turmoil and struggle.  It’s easy to get caught up in the pain of a current period and think that the end is near.

Today, we see turmoil all around us.  Turkey invading Syria to exterminate the Kurdish people.  The Syrian government using chemical weapons on its own people.  The war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  Terrorist attacks around the world.

Here at home, our political system is in shambles.  Political infighting has taken the place of doing the people’s business.  Our health care system has become a for-profit nightmare for many with chronic diseases.  Social media has become a breeding ground for the kind of speech that is so crude and mean-spirited that just a few years ago, we would not have accepted it.  Now it’s become normal.

Yet, even in times like these, the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 are filled with hope.  Jesus promises that he is here now and will be coming soon.  He is well aware of the situation and promises that his followers can take confidence that he is in control.  The love of our savior outweighs the anger and despair of our society.  Even when it seems that the light of Christ has gone out, he still gives his people the strength and the joy to carry on.  In verse 35, he says that his words will never pass away.

Our job, in times like these, is to continue to hold out the love of Christ.  The one thing that can combat all the hate, anger, and despair, is the love of Jesus Christ.  People need to hear about the savior of the world. They need to know about Jesus, who stepped out of heaven to pay the debt of sin for each one of us.  The same Jesus who now wants to give us a relationship with him.  The Jesus who waits with open arms for mankind to turn back to him.

Our joy remains because Jesus lives!

November 4, 2019

What I Read Today;

Romans 12; Matthew 23; Ezekiel 15; Psalm 118 & 120; 1 Chronicles 14-15; Numbers 13

What does God want from us? Does he want our money? Does he want our worship? Maybe he wants our church attendance? How about our work in various committees? Helping the poor? Spreading the Gospel? Our obedience to the commandments of God?

All of these things are wonderful on the surface. But that’s not really what God wants. In Romans 12:1 Paul tells us that God wants our entire being. Our hearts, minds and souls completely devoted to God. He wants our thoughts to be centered around God.

Our world makes that very difficult. So many things are pulling at our being every day. Our jobs, our families, even our volunteer activities. Making things even more difficult we have so many possibilities for entertainment that we end up wasting our time on things that harm our relationship with God rather than help it.

God’s not asking us to give up things we enjoy. He’s simply asking us to focus our minds on doing things that please him and giving our hearts to Jesus in worship at all times.

November 3, 2019

What I Read Today;

Romans 11; Matthew 22; Ezekiel 14; Psalm 116-117; 1 Chronicles 12-13; Numbers 12

Our faith does not come from membership in a church.  Many believe that we check off boxes to complete the tasks that are required for salvation.  Here’s the problem, faith is deeply personnel.  It’s a belief that you and I have in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.  It has nothing to do with belonging to a church, even though that’s an important aspect of our spiritual growth.

In Ezekiel 14, the people of Israel and Judah have fallen into a trap.  They’ve come to believe that because they are descendants of Abraham and because they go to the temple, that somehow those deeds require God to accept them.

But God warns the people through the prophet Ezekiel that he sees inside of our hearts.  He knows that the people have placed many things above God.   While they attend church regularly, they leave with God’s word, not affecting them.  It doesn’t change them. There is no relationship with God.

It’s easy to fall into this trap.  We get caught up in the things happening around us, and quickly we find ourselves falling further and further from Jesus.  That’s why we need to continually remind ourselves that Christ comes first.  We have to stop and spend time with him.  Seeking out his will for our lives.

The world around us can overwhelm us.  We need to keep God in front of our minds and continuously be on the lookout for anything that is getting in the way of our relationship with God.

It takes time with God to hold back the tide of the world from drowning us.