September 14, 2019

What I read today;

Hebrews 5; John 10; Jeremiah 10; Psalm 44; 1 Samuel 27; Exodus 29

Family farming is in a real state of decay today.  Large corporations have continued to take over smaller family farms at an alarming rate.  As urbanization and industrialization have occurred throughout our society, fewer and fewer young people consider farming a trade that they wish to enter.  As parents move into retirement, the children no longer want to remain on the farm, and the farms are either subdivided or sold to corporations.

As the family farm slowly fades into the past, so does the notion of farming as a desirable career.  Corporations no longer wish to pay the minimum wage, and now we bring unskilled labor across the border to do work that our sons or daughters used to do.  It’s no longer a desirable job.

Funny thing is that it really wasn’t that desirable a job in Jesus time either.  Long hours were spent battling the weather, predatory animals and in some cases other shepherds.  The constant battle to find water and food for the sheep was difficult.  Like today, you get the feeling that the owners of the sheep had persistent problems getting good people to work for them.  It was not uncommon for the sheep to be abandoned and found wandering around.  When that would happen the owner of the sheep would be the one to find and rescue his floc.  The owner was the one who had the vested interest in protecting his floc from trouble and keeping his floc safe.

Jesus compares himself to the shepherd.  Jesus is the owner of our souls.  He is the one who protects us from the attacks of the world and Satan.  Jesus is the one who gave his life for all of us.  He has a vested interest in making sure that each one of us makes it to his heavenly destination.  Jesus has bought us with his very blood.  He has claimed us as his own, and he has vowed that he will not lose one of us no matter what we do or what happens to us.

Let that thought be your prayer of thanksgiving as you go through your day today!

John 10 vs. 27-28, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” NRSV

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September 13, 2019 – What’s In Your Heart?

What I read today:

Hebrews 4; John 9; Jeremiah 9; Psalm 43; 1 Samuel 26; Exodus 28

Have you seen all the different Capital One Credit Card commercials?  “What’s in your wallet?” various different actors ask.  It’s a catchy commercial, isn’t it?

In Jeremiah 9 vs. 23-26, God asks a slightly different question.  God asks, “What’s in your heart?”

You see the people of Israel and Judah had become comfortable.  They’d grown lazy spiritually.  They forgot that worship was supposed to be about praising a God who’d done miraculous things for them.  Circumcision was supposed to be a reminder of what God had promised them.  Everything was supposed to be about God’s love and compassion.

Instead, the spiritual life of the Jewish people was turning into a cold checklist of things to do.    Get kid circumcised, check.  Get sacrifice for church on Sunday, check.  Go to worship, check.  On and on it went until it became nothing but a cold exercise.

God wasn’t impressed.

We need to check ourselves.  Is our worship stagnant?  How’s our prayer life?  Do we have a devotional life where we search the scriptures?  Do we attend bible study?  Do we put some real effort into growing in our Christian Faith?  Do we have a place to serve?

If God were to write a tag line for a commercial, I wonder if it would go like this, “What’s in your spiritual life?”

September 12, 2019 -What Does Your Soul Really Need?

What I read today;

Hebrews 3; John 8; Jeremiah 8; Psalm 42; 1 Samuel 25; Exodus 27

It’s easy to become depressed and despondent when we see the headlines every day.

  • A hurricane just destroyed parts of the Bahamas.
  • 3 Mass shootings
  • Death of a young boy from child abuse
  • Gang violence in Chicago

It just never ends.  We grieve for the state of our society.  We wonder why God doesn’t do something.  We wait for sanity that never arrives.

as Psalm 42 says our souls long for God.  We wish he’d come now and take us away from this crazy world and give us eternal rest for our souls.  We want to see the sign of Jesus in the sky that signals the end of all this madness.

But it’s not time yet.

So the Psalmist leaves us with these parting words:

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” NRSV

Continue to praise our mighty God.  He knows what is happening and his plans are perfect.  In the midst of the madness, souls are coming to Christ.  In the chaos, God is finding those who are his.

Praise God and continue to thirst after him!  He will not let you down!

September 11, 2019 – What Makes God Angry?

Hebrews 2; John 7; Jeremiah 7; Psalm 41; 1 Samuel 24; Exodus 26

When I was growing up, there was a point when you knew my father and mother had simply had it with my brother, and I.  Anger settled in, and we were both in big trouble. It happened more than once.  Usually, it was sparked by a long list of offenses that continued right up until the moment one of them would utter, “that’s enough.”  I’m sure you probably experienced something similar in your home growing up.

In Jeremiah 7, God announces that he’s had enough.

People in the church seem to be under this misconception that they can come to church on Sunday and then head off to work like there is no effect on their lives whatsoever.  It’s a problem we see over and over again.  It’s on full display with our politicians who like to declare themselves religious but then vote against laws like the “Born Alive Bill.”  I’d like to ask some of them how it is you can claim to be Christian but then refuse to vote for a bill that simply says if a child is born alive and outside the womb, you can’t kill it?  How does that work?

Look at the list of offenses that Jeremiah sites in chapter 7 vs. 9.  “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known.” NRSV 

He then goes on in vs. 30-31 to talk about how far the idol worship had really gone, For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.” NRSV

Look at our society today.  Can you see us in these verses?  When we have to pass laws to keep people from charging $50 for a case of bottled water and $10 a gallon for gas during a hurricane, what does that say about us?  When we see the mistreatment of people at our southern border and corporations demanding that they are allowed to pay them a substandard wage to make more profit do we see ourselves in these verses?  When our countries divorce rate has hit 50% and people are now allowed to have extramarital affairs without consequences thanks to no-fault divorce laws,  do we see ourselves in these verses?  When our politicians run on platforms that you know they cannot deliver on to get votes and then shift to the center to win the general election do we see ourselves in these verses and then get into office and do nothing to help the ordinary citizen do we see ourselves in these verses?  When we realize that according to the CDC in 2015, 638,169 abortions were performed do we see ourselves in these verses?  When elderly people have to choose between eating, the rent, the electric bill or life-saving medicine do to price gouging from our corporations, do we see ourselves in these verses?

When we go to church on Sunday, does it affect our lives?  Do we see God and draw nearer to be with God?  Do we work to become more Christ-like in our daily lives?  Do we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us as we make decisions?

Or is our worship empty and cold, and does it have no effect on us whatsoever?

September 10, 2019 – To Whom Shall We Go?

What I read today;

Hebrews 1; John 6; Jeremiah 6; Psalm 40; 1 Samuel 23; Exodus 25

Jesus had just fed 5000 people and walked on water.  Yet in a few minutes of his next teaching, he would see a number of his followers walk away.

The people believed that he was to be installed as an earthly king.  But Jesus wasn’t here to fix their worldly problems.

When he told them to stop looking for solid food or earthly solutions but instead look for pure spiritual food, they did not understand what he was talking about.  They kept missing Jesus point.

Jesus wasn’t trying to fill their stomachs.  He was trying to fill their soul.  He was looking to fill the empty hole inside of each one of us.  Jesus was seeking to give us a relationship with God himself that would last through every trouble and trial.  He was giving us the knowledge that if we trusted in Jesus, our sins were forgiven.  Jesus was telling them that it was God’s will that all people be saved.

But they couldn’t get past the temporal image of eating and drinking.  So stuck in the land of the flesh that they missed the message of the spirit completely.

After the vast crowd dispersed, Jesus looked around at the few remaining disciples and asked, “What about you?”

Peter’s response is still sung in many churches each week.  They are the words that we direct our response today:

John 6 vs. 68-69 – “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”” NRSV

September 9, 2019 – What’s My Motivation?

What I read today;

Philemon; John 5; Jeremiah 5; Psalm 39; 1 Samuel 22; Exodus 24

What motivates us to follow Jesus?  Why do you do it?  Is it because your family did?  Maybe it was because you were raised in the church?  Could it be that you enjoy the interaction with the people in the church each week?  Is it out of a sense of obligation?

Or is it that you love Jesus?

Paul is in a tricky spot. Like it or not, slavery is legal in the Roman world.  I get the feeling that Paul really wasn’t all that thrilled with the practice.  The problem that Paul is in is that escaped slaves when they were caught, were subject to horrific punishments.  Onesimus has become a trusted friend and follower of Christ.  He’s confided in Paul that he has escaped a slave owner who Paul knows.

Now, what do you do?

So Paul appeals to the one thing that should make a difference.  The love of Jesus Christ.  Paul tells Philemon that he could order him to free Onesimus.  But if he commands Philemon to release Onesimus, and he does it, would it be out of a sense of duty, or out of a sense of love?

God doesn’t want us to follow his commandments out of a sense of duty.  A sense of duty is what we do to avoid being punished.  It’s that idea that if I disobey the school zone speed limit and I get a ticket, I’ll have to pay a fine.  So I obey the speed limit in the school zone.  It has nothing to do with the love for the children in the school zone or their safety, it’s only out of fear that I obey so that I want to pay a fine.

No, Paul wants Philemon to do this because he has found the love of God in his heart.  Paul uses this as an opportunity to teach Philemon about how God wants us to treat each other, especially within the family of God.  He wants Philemon to release Onesimus out of thanks for what Jesus did for Philemon.  In the same way, Jesus wants you and me to obey God because it is our heart’s desire to please God.

The difference between grace and the law is simple.  The law is a list of dos and don’ts that we follow to avoid punishment.  Grace is what we do please our savior because of what he’s done for us.

September 8, 2019 – Avoid Stupid Controversies

What I read today;

Titus 3; John 4; Jeremiah 4; Psalm 38; 1 Samuel 21; Exodus 23

On the 24th of August, the Democratic party did something no political party has ever dared to do.  During their summer meeting, the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution praising the values of the “non-religious” people.  They praised these voters for championing things like LGBT rights and immigration.

But they didn’t stop there.

They then went on to add language criticizing religous or evangelical voters.  The claim was that the evangelical community had been guilty of denying civil rights to LGBT people and immigrants.

The fact that a major political party in the United States just condemned religious people should have sent the religious community to its knees in prayer.  It should have caused us to wonder aloud if we had failed. In the United States, it has long been claimed that Social Security was the third rail of politics.  Touch it and you die.  Reality is that while Social Security is important at no time in our 250-year history would an American Political Party dare to call out the religious of this nation.

But something is different today.

For the past 40 years, the church has spent an incredible amount of time making sure that everyone knew what we condemned.  From abortion to gay rights we have stood on the street corners screaming “repent” to anyone who would listen. We have spent an inordinate amount of time pointing out the errors in our society but not really spent any time trying to be a part of the solution.

In Paul’s letter to Titus in chapter 3, Paul lays out how he wants Titus to behave to society.

In the very first verse, he starts by telling Titus to remind everyone to be subject to the rulers and authorities and to be obedient and do good works.

How does our church do in that matter today?  We resist, fight and argue.

In the second verse, he tells Titus to “speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling and be gentle.”  Hmm, how do we do with this one?

In the third verse, he reminds Titus not to look down on people because simply put, we also are sinful human beings.  Of all the people on the planet, we should be the ones who understand what it is to be forgiven.

In verses 4 and 5, Paul reminds us that what we need to be proclaiming is the love of God that appeared in the form of Christ Jesus to save us all.  We then need to get out of the Holy Spirits way and let it do the redeeming work of Jesus.

Finally, in verse 9 and 10, he tells Titus to avoid stupid quarrels about the law and those who continue to make those arguments.

What Paul is saying here is that our job is to tell people about the Love of God that came in Christ Jesus.  Our job is to tell everyone we can that Jesus did come to the earth as true man and true God and that he died to make a way for all of us to enter eternity.

Once we’ve done our job it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change the heart.

You have as much of a chance of changing someone mind by standing and shouting as you do of winning a Facebook or Twitter argument.

That would be none.

So simply put, let people see your good deeds, tell them about the love of Christ and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.