July 29, 2020

What I Read Today:

Hebrews 3; Acts 1; Joel 2; Psalm 29; 1 Chronicles 10; Genesis 32

When times of unrest comes some people will drop into a default mode.  For many people that mode could be despair, anger, or fear.

Our current days are no different. 

The model is the same.  To those who don’t like the political party in power, they see dictatorship around every corner.  Some will see communists around every corner.  Others will see the rebirth of the Nazis.  Lawlessness, anarchy, and chaos will cause fear in many.

Some will turn to Biblical Prophecy for answers.  They will point to verses like 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and declare that the end of times is drawing near.  They may be right.  But if they are right, what does God expect us to do, in times like these?  Does God expect us to live in fear of his coming?   

Joel 2 tells us what God expects of the church in days like these.  

Verses 1-11 describe the scene.  He describes days like these as days that cause people to tremble.  Days of darkness and gloom with a blackness that devours the air.  The feeling of living in a desolate wilderness.  Anguish will set in.

Yet in verses 12 to 17 God calls us to prayer and repentance, instead of fear. You see days like these are indications that the church has failed.  We’ve failed to make disciples.  We’ve failed to call out our leaders, on both sides of the aisle, for not living up to God’s standards.  God’s calling us to stop relying on our planning committees and our strategic planners and drop to our knees in repentance and start relying on the spirit of God.  That’s what God is telling us to do.  We can’t change the world with our own power.  We can’t change the world with our programs and plans.  Only God’s spirit can change the world and we need to go to God in prayer and repentance first.

Joel goes on in verses 18-27 to tell us that God is a gracious and merciful God who’s looking to give us more than we could ever ask for.  He loves us and wants the best for all of humanity.  He’s not a God who lives for the chaos and punishment that some believe.  No, he is a God who yearns to bestow grace and mercy to all mankind.    

Verses 28-32 include verses that Peter used to describe the day of Pentecost.  But he also goes on to describe what will happen when the days of this earth are over.  The fearful site of the sun being blackened and the moon turning to blood.  But at that moment, All who call on the name of Jesus will be saved.  The point of the prophecy is not fear but victory.  The victory of our Jesus over sin and death.  At that moment everyone who calls on Jesus’ name will be saved. 

Our job is not to spread fear, but to spread hope!  Our job is to tell the world that Jesus loves them and has come to save them!  That’s our job! 

July 28, 2020

What I Read Today:

Hebrews 2: John 21; Joel 1; Psalm 28; 1 Chronicles 4-9; Genesis 31

When I was a young boy my Mom and Dad got me a new bike.  It was a Gold Schwinn with a banana seat.  I was so proud of that bike.  I loved to take my bike and ride around the neighborhood during the hot summer days.  I felt like I had freedom.  I was only supposed to go a couple of blocks from the house, but I’d keep pushing out further and further from home.

One particular day, I was riding my bike a couple of blocks farther than I was supposed to from the house.  I didn’t know the area and I hit a hole in the ground.  I flipped off the bike seat and landed badly on my ankle.  The swelling started immediately.  I could stand but it really hurt.  At this point, I realized how far from home I really was.  Struggling to stand I pulled my bike up and used it as a crutch.  Each step was agonizing.  

The only thing I could think of was getting back to that home that I had been pushing further and further from.  I knew that when I got home my parents would take care of me.  All I could think of was getting home.

It seemed like it took forever.  When my mom saw me hobbling up the hill by our house she ran and helped me.  The next thing I knew I was at the doctor’s office being told I hadn’t broken my ankle but it was a bad sprain.  When my dad got home, he went out and fixed the bent wheel on my bike.  

Psalm 28 tells us that our God is there to pick us up when we fall off the bicycle called life.  He hears our cries when we fall and struggle to pick ourselves up and limp back home.  He runs to help us crawl up the hill to our spiritual homes.  He shields us from the pain.  He puts us back together no matter how far we have wandered away from him.  He fixes our broken souls.  He tapes up our wounded hearts.  

That’s the God we trust in.  That’s the God who loves us!

July 27, 2020

What I Read Today:

Hebrews 1; John 20; Hosea 14; Psalm 27; 1 Chronicles 3; Genesis 30

Psalm 27 shows us how to maintain hope in spite of whatever is happening to us in our lives.  

David starts off by reminding us that if God is for us, what should we be afraid of?  Not even death, poverty, or hunger can separate us from God’s loving embrace.

Because of that David focuses his efforts on seeking God’s face.  He remains focused on living his life not for today but for his eternal life.  Because he understood that this is what God truly wants from us.  He also knows that God won’t turn us away when we seek him.  

David knew that he could trust his God.  We also know that we can put our trust in God as well.  God will be our strength and our redeemer through all things.

July 26, 2020

What I Read Today:

Philemon; John 19; Hosea 13; Psalm 26; 1 Chronicles 2; Genesis 29

When you read John 19 do you feel the venom?  How about hatred and anger?  Pilate could feel it.  He could see it.  Even this cold Roman Governor had a hard time understanding exactly what this man in front of him had done to garner this much hatred.

I mean think about it.  What exactly had Jesus done to the religious leaders?  He hadn’t told people to stop tithing.  Jesus never told them to stop attending church.  He told the people several times to obey their leaders.  

What rules had he broken?  Yep, he violated the Sabbath by healing people.  I’m not sure if anyone had been executed for that crime in a long time.  

Of course, it was something much deeper.  Jesus was bringing to light the failure of the leadership.  He was showing people that what they were preaching was not what God wanted.  Worse yet, he was piercing the very souls of the religious leaders, and rather than repent and turn to Jesus they chose the path of violence.  

Not much has changed, has it?  The world still doesn’t want to hear that they need a savior.  Yet here he stands with his arms wide open.  Pray today for the world to turn back to God.  We need him more than ever.

July 25, 2020

What I Read Today:

Titus 3; John 18; Hosea 12; Psalm 25; 1 Chronicles 1; Genesis 28

I don’t believe that people truly want to remember all of the scriptures.  Many like to cherry-pick the verses that work for them and disregard those they disagree with.   During the Coronavirus outbreak, we’ve witnessed some interesting behavior.

Here in Southern Illinois 2 churches that I know of, one near Carbondale and another in Litchfield defied orders to remain closed and both suffered serious outbreaks that landed several members in the ICU.

In Universal City, Texas, Pastor Ron Arbaugh wished he could do things over again after 50 of his members were sickened.

Fights have broken out between local churches and denominational leaders, over being asked to not sing, being asked to wear masks, and being asked to stay 6 feet apart. 

This is a unique situation. How does the church respond when asked to shut its doors or modify its practices during a health crisis?

Titus 3 gives us some insight into how we should behave during times of crisis.

Titus 3:1-2, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”  ESV

Let’s start with obedience to rulers and authorities.  There is a difference between being told you can’t worship your God and being asked to stay out of a building.  We have come to believe that worship of God is about attendance in a sanctuary.  We have come to believe that the traditional way of worship is the only way of worship.  Songs, liturgies, handshakes, and hugs are mandatory.  So now we’ve come to view any change in that worship as an attack on our way of life.  Inside the church, we’ve had whole churches split over something as silly as changing to a new hymnal.

Now when the government comes along and says you can’t meet in groups of more than 10 or 50, people believe that they are being persecuted.  The reality is that Americans have no idea what persecution really looks like.  We’re spoiled rotten. Persecution can be found in places like North Korea where you get shot for owning a Bible.  Or China where you go to jail for teaching anything that the state doesn’t approve.  Or Africa where warring tribes kill people over what church they attend.  Or how about Iran where converting to Christianity carries a death sentence.  That’s persecution.  Being asked to watch church on TV, or wear a mask and not hug one another is not persecution.

The second issue that Paul discusses is that we should be ready for every good work.  Shouldn’t the church have been looking for ways to serve during this crisis?  Some did and continue to do excellent work.  Some made masks, put together food banks, and helped with basic needs.  Unfortunately, the more vocal chose to argue and they got the headlines.

It is our Christian duty to love our neighbors.  If that means wearing a mask, then we wear a mask.  If that means finding new ways to worship to protect the most vulnerable then that’s what we should do.