Wave Walker

Matthew 14:25-31

Two weeks ago our family had a trip to Wisconsin, where much of the time was spent on the water, swimming, skiing, tubing, etc. When my 8 year old was out on the water skis, we could see her from the boat smiling and singing this song from Citizen Way:

I can’t help but think of Peter singing (shouting) this song as he was helping to build the early church! From the moment he was called by Jesus to be a disciple and follow him, he was a learner. Peter asked all the questions, had doubts, and had real fears. Jesus continued to surprise Peter with his parables, life lessons, and responses to his questions – even down to Jesus telling Peter he would deny him three times. Can you imagine? And then to experience everything Peter did through Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and then the Holy Spirit coming to them. He had quite a testimony! As he was building the early church with Paul, I have to think that his time walking on the water with Jesus was huge in his faith journey, and a point he could always go back to. When things would begin to crumble around him, Peter could remember that he is a wave walker! Jesus not only did miracles in front of Peter – he did miracles THROUGH Peter.

When I asked my daughter what she knows about the real story of the wave walker, she quickly replied that Peter was in a boat and a storm came and Jesus was there and walked to the boat from the shore. He gave Peter the power to walk on the water, and as soon as Peter took his eyes off Jesus he would start to sink. But if he kept his eyes on Jesus he would not sink! I love the matter of fact faith that kids have – it’s humbling and challenges me to not overcomplicate things. . Pure and simple, keep our eyes on Jesus and we can be wave walkers too!

What miracles has Jesus done in your life? What’s your anthem of praise for who He has created you to be?

Overcoming the World

I’m on vacation as I write these words to you today.

Beach, family, relaxation, unwinding, nice meals, reading, sunrises, sunsets, cool night breezes, games, laughs, meaningful conversation, silly conversation, trying new things, exploring, people watching, travel adventures, reflection, worship.

Those are some of the first thoughts that come to mind as I reflect on our time here. Then as I read today’s verses, there is this theme of overcoming the world and commentary from Matthew Henry summarizes these verses quite nicely:

He cannot be satisfied with this world, but looks beyond it, and is still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. We must all, after Christ’s example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin. – Matthew Henry

As I questioned in my prior post: “With all that is in my life, am I seeking up or seeking the things of this Earth?”

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5)

Even on vacation, there is the temptation to want more, but as I surrender to Christ and say “I want you more than things”, I find true relaxation, true rest.

I take 1 John 5:5 to mean that we can try as hard as we want (on our own) to deny ourselves the things of this world. We can try to be good people as some religions or human wisdom suggest, but those plans are flawed because humans aren’t perfect.

Believing that Jesus is the Son of God brings us down the path of truth in recognizing that through His perfection and sacrifice, we too can overcome the world.

The world is often like a garbage dump overflowing and stinking. It is messed up because of the lies we’re told, the lies we buy into, and the false hope we often seek, but God has a different plan and he can help us recognize his ways are better than the world’s ways in how we spend our resources (time and money).

Here are some of the things I think the world is saying as compared to what God has to say:

World Says

God Says

Keep your kids busy. Sign up for as many activities as possible. You want them to have every opportunity to get ahead, right? God rested (Genesis 2:2).

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33)

The Bible is too restrictive and too hard to follow. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Want more? Work harder. It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2)
If I had just a little more… 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Let someone else take care of the poor. I give enough through taxes.  44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:44-45)
Buy this and you’ll be happy. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)
You can do it yourself or simply, “you’re on your own”. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

What is Love

Today’s reading:  1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

When I was in junior high, I had Steve Camp’s Fire and Ice cassette tape. I bet I listened to that thing a hundred times.  The five songs on the front side of the tape that is.  I never turned the tape over because the songs on the back weren’t nearly as good (I’m laughing as I write this.  Do you remember waiting forever for a tape to rewind?  What about fastforwarding and trying to guess how long was long enough to get past the song you didn’t like?  Oh how thing have changed.)  As I read today’s scripture, it took me back to Steve Camp’s 1984 duet with Michelle Pillar – Love’s Not a Feeling (the 3rd song on side 1).  The chorus went like this:

Love’s not a feeling, oh, we’ve got to learn
To get past our emotions to the meaning of the Word
Love’s not a feeling we can lose or throw away
Lord, give us the courage to live it every day, oh…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak7xi3OnjpY

If love isn’t a feeling, what is it? What is the meaning of the word?  What does it mean to “live it every day”?  1 Corinthians chapter 13, often referred to as the love chapter of the Bible, describes love as a choice.  As you read this passage, notice love involves taking an action or abstaining from a self-centered action every time.  It is definitely not passive.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Our scripture in 1 John identifies actions God takes to demonstrate his love.

  • God creates – because he loves, God creates people in his image to love others. (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God cares – because he loves, God sent his son to pay the price for our sins; the sins we’ve committed in the past, those we commit today, and those we will commit in the future. (1 John 4:9)
  • God offers himself – because he loves, God makes a way for us to spend eternity in his presence. (Romans 10:9)

Notice these actions aren’t a once and done kind of thing. They are written in present tense, as God is living and active in our lives today. Now the call to action – because God loves, we ought to love one another. What are ways you can be patient with others, kind to others, rejoice in truth, bear others burdens, believe in others, hope with others and endure with others today? This is love.

Love, in deed

A Trilogy from Another Brother:

1 John 3:17 – 24

But if anyone has the world’s goods sand sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

Have to admit that I read this morning’s verses several times and came up with:  “it says what it says”.  So, what do you do when you have no other trains of thoughts…you go with movie themes.

Verse 17, Trading Places

I would like to think that if any of us saw someone in need, that we would respond in a generous way.  How far would we go out of our way to help others?  How far could we go out of our way to help others?  There are so many aspects to both of these questions.  If I spent all of my time helping others, how much would I have to share with them?  Yet, there are some that their spiritual gifts are giving and are SO amazing at it.  There are also some that thrive with what God has given to them and thrive at sharing with others.  What this verse speaks against is having the means and doing nothing with it.  Don’t go down that road:  don’t be Louis Winthrop III toward the beginning of the movie…be Billy Ray Valentine toward the end of the movie.  “Mortimer…we’re back in business!”

Verses 18-20, Forrest Gump

“I may not be a smart man, Jenny…but I know what love is.”  Forrest was really good at walking the walk…once he learned to walk.  He showed love to his mama, Jenny, Bubba…and little Forrest.  He loved his momma through obedience…loved Jenny by never giving up on her…loved Bubba by going back in the thick for him (it’s like a snake jumped up and bit me)…and loved little Forrest by “fixing his breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day”…and putting him on the bus with Dorothy Harris.  Forrest didn’t talk the love game…he flat out lived it…with passion!  You could see the love for Lt. Dan in the excitement for his gain:  “Lt. Dan, you got new legs!”  May we be generous and genuine in our love for someone in our circle…or someone running from one coast to the other coast that we don’t know.

Verses 21-24, Pinocchio

In this verse, we need to let The Trinity be our Jiminy Cricket.  I think we all believe in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus or we wouldn’t be reading this.  These versus tell us to believe in the name of Jesus and that we can have a clear conscience in Him, with the Holy Spirit in us.  Is there much more exciting and inspirational than verse 24:  “Those who obey God’s commandments live in fellowship with him, AND HE WITH THEM.  And we know he lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us.”

Have a blessed Wednesday and please pray for all of the students and teachers starting another school year.

MT

Children of God

Today’s Reading: 1 John 3:1-3

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We are blessed to have three beautiful children.  Jackson, Marshall, and Gianna.  Just 5 weeks since the birth of Gianna I can still pause and reflect on the amazing gift of birth.  Yet, no matter my love for them, it doesn’t compare to our verses today. I’m reminded about the love of our Father. reading our verses today reminds me of the love from our Father.  He loves us and our children more than we can imagine, inviting us into His family forever.  Just like when I paused to remember the birth of our children it’s more important to pause and land of the fact that we are part of God’s family. He’s adopted us  How amazing is that?  Our children, our siblings, our parents.  No matter our last names, origins, or any other family dynamic we are members of God’s family.  Amen!

Ephesians 1: 4-7 says  4 even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 

Often people will say we are  images of our parents, or our children have various characteristics that are similar to our caregivers. Actually,  we are reflections of our Heavenly Father.  We are reflections of our Father now, and we always will be.  This is something we should be growing towards each day.  It’s not easy. Our Christian life is a journey of growing more Christlike daily.

I remember running away from home when I was younger, I remember times when I didn’t want to come home when I was out doing my own things, I remember even times when I didn’t claim my family.  I was set on the world and the lies it can bring making you believe you can do it all on our own.  The truth is we have a Father.  A Father who loves us before we knew ourselves, who loves us now more than we can ever imagine.  A Father who calls us His own. One day we will come face-to-face with our Lord.  What an amazing day this will be.

Philippians 3:20-21  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

This Hillsong Worship song reminds me of our verses today. Enjoy!

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Free at last He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

 

Yes I am!

John’s Caution for the World

Todays Reading : I John 2:15-17

John has the distinction of being one of the most known apostles and known as the eyewitness of Jesus Christ.  In many of the historical accounts, it shows that the apostle John was first a disciple of John the Baptist and then was called to be a disciple of Christ after Jesus’ baptism.  So John was there with Jesus from his baptism, talked with him, saw him heal, heard him teach, watch him being tried and crucified, met him risen, and saw him ascend into heaven.   In this letter, John is addressing the church and modeling a method in which to acknowledge and battle against the flesh and heresies.  At the time that John writes this letter he is nearly 90 years old. He has had blessed life and continues to shine the gospel into the dark places of the church and our lives.

 

I John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

I John 4: 14-16

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

 

As we look at today’s reading with additional support from later in the letter we have some defining moments in our faith and our reality. John instructs us to not love the world or anything that is in the world specifically: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

These three items are always present in our daily lives.  We all have been a victim to these items at some point and time because we are part of the flesh.  According the Life Application Study “The lust of the flesh is – gratifying the physical desires; the lust of the eyes – craving and accumulating things; the pride of life – obsession with one’s statue”.  These items are detrimental to us if these are the end goals and there is no thought of God or others.  God wants us to make him the main goal and prize for ourselves.

When I look at both passages it is almost impossible to truly love anything in the absence of God because God is Love and whoever lives in love lives in God.   God wants us to show discipline and control of the body, give unconditionally, and humble our selves to the service of the kingdom.  We have to be vigilant and ready to show God’s love in the world at all times.  May God allow us to continue to hold these teachings, so that we may be able to continue to shine the light of God into our journey.

Love People

 

1 John 2:7-11

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.  This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.  Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.  They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

The Apostle John calls the people he is writing to “Dear friends.”  John was writing to remind his dear friends about an old commandment they have known from the beginning.  This is also a new commandment that is true in Jesus and those who believe in Jesus.  

The old commandment John is referring to is found in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus gave His followers the second greatest commandment to follow, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  He also told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another: (John 13:34).  Loving our neighbor is not optional, it is a command.  All of Jesus’s commands benefit all people.  Loving people is living in the light and proves a person is a true believer in Christ.  A person who says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in the darkness of sin.  The person loving his brother lives in the light and does not stumble.  The person hating his brother walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because no one can see in the darkness.  The test for genuine Christianity is loving people.

This time of year is BUSY!!  No matter the age of your kids, as a parent you are running around getting everything needed for “back-to-school”!  From the sports physical to school supply list, it is never ending.  I am the first to admit that I get caught up in my own family and getting things done.  Then, I read todays reading and it was a HUGE reminder to me.  I need to stop!  God does not command me to make sure everything is perfect for my kids to go back to school.  He commands me to love my neighbor.  What have I done for any of my neighbors recently??  

This was made clear to me 2 weeks ago.  My husband travels out of the country frequently and on a Wednesday, he found out he had to leave on that coming Sunday for Germany.  He was to be gone for 2 weeks.  This was not a happy surprise to me.  We had end of the summer things we were going to do as a family and he would miss sending his son back to college.  After a bit of time and discussion I came around and decided to make the best of the situation as there was not much I could do to change the fact that he would be gone.  But, one thing that God wanted to make clear to me is that my neighbors cared about me!  The day after he left I received an email from Starbucks.  I had to reread it a few times, but it was from my friend!  She sent me a Starbucks gift card to enjoy with my kids while Tim was out of the country.  She said she knows from first hand experience how it feels when her husband is gone and wanted to make sure I knew she was thinking of me!!  Wow!  When I saw her a few days later I told her how thoughtful it was and she told me how she follows through with every thought she has about how she can bless others.  I was honest, I said, “I have lots of thoughts, but I don’t usually follow through.”  But, I also said that her love for me showed me tangibly what that means, and I will do much better at following through to actually show others that I love them.  

This is our commandment!  That we love one another!  Both, physically and tangibly.  What have you done to go above and beyond to show someone that you care about them?  If you love your neighbor, you are living in the light!  

Choosing to love people well shows the world what God is like.

He is our Advocate

1 John 2:1-6

Whenever I’m in trouble, it always helps to know another person is on my side. When I was little, my big sister (who was almost never in trouble) could be a big help to me if she had my back when it came to my parents. As I got older, depending on the circumstances I would usually go to my mom with my problem first, working her over to my side somehow before my dad got involved. If she was on my side, even a little bit, it made things go smoother when I had to fess up with Dad. As an adult, when different things came up and I wasn’t sure how to face them alone, my dad was my go-to. I remember when I was 16 I got a letter in the mail with a traffic citation, claiming I had driven past a stopped school bus. I was terrified. I knew that was a major infraction, and I had no idea what to do. My dad wrote a letter regarding the issue, and the ticket was dismissed without me ever having to step foot in front of a judge.

The character of Christ depicted by John in today’s passage is that of an advocate. One who not only takes on our sin so that we are not burdened by it, but who also intervenes on our behalf with God the Father. How comforting is that??? John is clear – he’s giving us instruction and warnings so that we may not sin – but immediately following tells us that if we do (or rather, when we do) that we are not on our own. If we confess our sins to him, Jesus without fail advocates for us with our Lord. What an amazing thing that is.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

No Matter What

Today’s reading is John 8:1-19.

We will focus mostly on the first portion about the woman who the Pharisees brought to Jesus for committing adultery. They were attempting to trap Jesus by saying she must be stoned based on the Law of Moses for committing this sin. But, Jesus did the unexpected. He told them whoever was without sin should throw the first stone and not only did they not stone her, but they walked away from oldest to youngest. Jesus then told her He would not condemn her either and to go and sin no more. He gave her both grace and truth. If we are willing to walk away from our sins, He’ll wash away our sins.

John 3:17 reads…

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

About this time last year, I remember interacting with a gentleman in park in New York City on the Spread Truth mission trip. This man was brought up going to church and was very knowledgeable about many world religions. He specifically stated that He was not a Christian because he thought the idea that God would humble Himself to become man and suffer the way Jesus did was ludicrous. He said if there truly was a God, he would show his power and might and condemn humans because essentially if he was God that’s what he would do. He’s right…we can’t fathom the idea of what God did because we, as sinful humans, would show our power and judge others as the Pharisees did and expected Jesus to do. I sin a lot and in many different ways, but if I were to count each one and label by type, judging others would be near the top of the list. We expect God is like us and would do the same, but He’s not. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, therefore it’s hard to fathom what He did through Jesus.

As a child, I remember sort of wondering what the big deal was with Jesus dying on the cross at some level because other people die in the act of helping someone like police officers and fire fighters. What was the big deal about Jesus doing it? It wasn’t until I was an adult and realized that Jesus was the only person to walk the Earth without sin, and even just one sin permanently separates us from God without his perfect death on the cross (Romans 3:23). Only when I was able to wrap my arms around this and that He didn’t have to suffer for us, but willingly did and brings us together again with Him and gives us the free gift of eternal life through His death on the cross could I fully appreciate what God has done (Romans 6:23). Actually, as hard as I try, I’m probably still much like the Pharisees and the man in the park, it’s just hard to fathom.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel one of the main ways God reaches me and connects to my life is through music. This time is no different. Recently, friends and family have been directly or indirectly impacted by depression. Depression can come for many reasons, but I have to believe many circumstances are due to the weight of past sins or feeling like the person is insufficient and doesn’t measure up. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, I hope this amazing song, “No Matter What,” can bring you or them peace and comfort. Every single one of us, even those perceived to be very successful and appearing to have everything going for them, are insufficient without Him. He is enough though. He makes us whole and perfect to God despite all our failures and imperfections. No matter what.

The Jews and the Gentiles

Acts 13:  42-52

In today’s reading, we have two very different groups of people.  As Paul and Barnabas are teaching, the focus is shifting to the Gentiles and away from the Jews.  As we read this story, we can picture a mass of people, “the whole city”,gathered.  There are opposing forces.  The Gentiles are grasping the word of God.  They are believing what Paul and Barnabas are saying.  They are “coming alive”.  They are joyful.  You can hear them cheering and rallying.  They are believing in eternal life.  They are hearing “these things”.  I interpret “these things” to be the word of God and his teachings.  Paul and Barnabas are preaching, teaching and spreading God’s word.  They are true disciples for the Gentiles and are showing them the way.  What a wonderful scene we can envision in this story.

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

On the other side, we have the Jews.  They are starting to oppose the word.  They are turning away from Paul and Barnabas.  The word “scoff” is used to describe their actions toward the Gentiles.  We read about the Jews’ “jealousy”.  They are definitely struggling and may not know where to turn.  They are not cheering and are rallying against God’s word.  They are misinterpreting “these things” to represent what they want to become.  How sad to see them turn away.  Why do they feel they cannot follow?  How did they become so filled with this jealousy?  God does not want them to turn away.

As we view these contrasting styles of what I will call “group think”, it appears easy to me to sway with the Gentiles.  However, in the moment, it may not have been that easy.  The Gentiles were certainly on a upward path and staying true to God’s word and course.  Do we do that in our every day lives?  Or do we turn away, being filled with jealousy?  The next time you are confronted with a situation of contrasting styles, which group will you follow?  Or will you be the leader and stick with your beliefs, morals and values?

As you carry on your day, may you be filled with the positive feeling of the Gentiles.  Don’t let negative feelings take you away from God’s word!