Harsh words

John 18 and Psalm 120

Heavy. Heavy hearted. Those were the words I thought of early Sunday morning when I read this chapter in John. Betrayal. Trial. Denial. All harsh words. Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end. Everyone was surprised, yet it had been predicted. We read several times in John of Jesus predicting his death. Tracy outlined for us in her writing on Wednesday the confusion and eventual heartache his disciples must have been feeling:

“They are so taken back by this news that they don’t even think to ask Him where He is going. They are shellshocked and can only deal with how this is affecting their lives. Then Jesus continues by saying that it is actually best for them if He goes away. How can this be? He IS the ministry, how can they continue to teach and convert people to faith in Him if He is not with them?”

So on the night when he was going to be betrayed, he and the disciples crossed the Valley of Kidron and Jesus went to the garden to pray. He knew what was happening yet he was in a quandary as he did not want to end his time on earth. He knew this moment was planned, yet still difficult. After his prayer, he found his closes friends sleeping, not keeping watch as he had directed them to do. I’m sure he was disappointed.

Then, Judas and the gang of captors arrived. Jesus knew. The disciples went into defense mode. In that moment, they did not grasp what was transpiring right in front of them. Had they not been told or warned as to what was happening? Yet they were caught off guard. Simon Peter retaliates by going after the Roman guard, almost try to cut off his head but instead hits his ear. He would lay down his life for Jesus and was showing his loyalty. Yet, Jesus did not want that help or defense from Peter at that time for he knew this moment was part of God’s plan. He knew all things.

The betrayal. Judas gives Jesus away with a kiss. It is a bit odd to me. He is handing him over to be killed yet gives him a kiss? I am sure the guards knew which person was Jesus. He didn’t care about Jesus at that moment, or did he? He didn’t. He wanted the money. Judas was greedy. “I am He”, says Jesus. We don’t read about it in this verse but we know Judas’ guilt overcame him and he could not live with himself.

The trial. Jesus is hauled away. Taken to Annas first, he was questioned. This encounter did not go well:

19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Then, he was sent to Caiaphas for an additional questioning. In this particular chapter, we are not given details about his encounter as we move quickly into the meeting or trial with Pilate. Since it was early on the morning of the Passover, Pilate had to come out to meet Jesus. Interesting detail that Pilate wasn’t on his throne, he wasn’t sitting in his “office” ruling the meeting. He had been told many things about Jesus and was finally meeting him.

29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?

Pilate did not want to crucify him. He was confused. Pilate finds not reason to charge him with a crime. He does have a chance to set him free but he knew the people would riot.   And so, as the crowd demands, he sets Barabbas free. (Sigh…..)

The denial. Lastly, we come to Peter. Poor Peter. He watched his best friend and leader be captured. His mind is racing: could I have saved him, should I have done more, can I somehow release him from the guards, will I speak with him again. He is overcome with panic and fear. He is first questioned by a servant girl:

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

Strike One. They are standing around the fire trying to warm themselves. Peter did not run away though. He was standing with servants and officials. He is asked again.

So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

Strike Two. He still remains. Now, Peter must have been more on edge. He is waiting though. Could he help Jesus? Would he be released?

“Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Strike Three.   The story foretold to Peter by Jesus has come to life. Peter’s denial. He runs away weeping for he never thought he would deny Jesus.

Dark days. Yet, we will read on and come to a brighter time, Jesus’ resurrection! All this, the Betrayal, the Trial, and the Denial, all lead to our salvation.

The woman at the well

John 4

I am always intrigued when I read this story. It seems like such a random encounter, two people meeting at a well, just like if two people struck up a conversation at Starbuck’s. However, I doubt any of Jesus’ encounters were random. This setting was not just “a well”; it was Jacob’s well. These meetings were part of the plan of touching so many individuals in unique ways, with unique circumstances at unique points in time when people needed him most.

When you read this story, you could almost picture the drama involved. A man starts talking to a woman. My first reaction would have been to walk away either out of fear or just being uncomfortable. She did not leave. Jesus spoke to this Samaritan woman at the well, which, as a Jew, was against his customs.

It was said to have been a very hot day. He and the disciples had travelled part way from Jerusalem to Sychar on their way to Galilee. Jesus came to the well for a drink, and in the middle of the day, the Samaritan woman was there drawing water. Why was she there in the middle of the day? Well, we can ascertain that she didn’t’ want to talk to anyone. Given her storied past filled with five husbands, she knew people talked about her and she most likely was not a popular female in town.

When he asked for a drink, she must have been confused for he had not jar or anything to lower down into the well for the water. Was he asking to use her jar? Her unclean jar, thus making Jesus unclean? Confusion! He carried on by not really taking a drink but describing to her “living water”. He was sharing the word and giving her forgiveness so that she too could have eternal life. He shared with her that he knew the story of her husbands. Again, shock. The conversation continues and she speaks about her faith in the Messiah. Jesus answers with “I who speak to you am he.”  I would have been thinking, “Is this really happening? Is this real?”

Three outcomes occur: 1) the Samaritan woman is given forgiveness based on her faith and understands now the living water of eternal life. Jesus saved her through grace. 2) She goes to share the word with others, to be a disciple. 3) Jesus shows that he does not judge. He went against some long standing “rules” to make a difference in this woman’s life and to heal her of her storied past. How amazing and wonderful.

I walk away from this reading with the thought of what a conversation can do to transform someone. Could you and I make a difference in a stranger’s life or even their day? Could we influence an acquaintance who maybe we don’t know that well but if we took the time to chat, we might influence his or her day? I know I need to try harder as I shy away from these types of encounters.

As you read this message today, see if there is a way to make a difference. As you read Psalm 106, please pray:

Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!

“Let the little children come to me”

Can you recall your Kindergarten or First Grade teachers? I can. After a week of Lab School at Eastern Illinois University where I had attended preschool, my parents decided to move me to the public elementary school, Mark Twain. Mrs. Triplett was awaiting my arrival and had two girls, Lisa Grant and Gina Eads, with her at the door. What an impression they made on me, welcoming me, ensuring I had a great start to Kindergarten. I can still visualize the picture of them standing there and then recall they brought me over to the sandbox in the room as my parents left.

My other vivid memory was Mrs. James, my first grade teacher. She had a checker system for being good – 3 checkers and you received an M&M. She had all kinds of interesting plants and animals in her room. We had an extensive unit on Ecology and went on a ton of field trips. I still pay attention to Walking Sticks, Praying Mantis and Monarchs based on her science units.  She invited the entire class over to her house to bake Christmas cookies. I can still picture Mrs. James. What an impression she had on me!

As I thought about other teachers, I recall one of my favorites, Mr. Gochenour, fifth grade. If you could recite all the states and capitols, he gave you a “huge” Marathon candy bar.  He also taught the entire class how to Disco Dance – Ha!  As my school years progressed, I don’t recall many of my junior high teachers and just have a few favorites from high school. I had to have a conversation with my mom about my teachers to try to help my memory! What that told me was how influential teachers were in my early years.

I think that is true today for our children. I know my kids school habits, friends, thoughts about school and confidence were formed by their teachers at Northpoint. I thank Mrs. Kraft and Mrs. Kerber for their influences on my boys.

The other visual this chapter gave me was our Children’s Sermon. I smile each week as the children go forward for a message from the Pastor. How influential that person is and can be with these little people. I can recall my father practicing his children’s sermons on me at a very young age. He wanted to make an impression and leave the children with a brief yet important thought of the day.

As we look at Matthew 19 today and as with many of the chapters in Matthew, there is so much content. Many chapters contain multiple messages, words of inspiration, parables, guidelines and reprimands. Matthew 19 is no different. “Let the little children come to me”. We all know this verse well.   The disciples were trying to keep the children from bothering Jesus. However, he “rebuked” them.   He understood the important influence he could make on their lives as such as early age. How impressionable the children were and he wanted to take the time to impart his words on them as well as provide healing to those in need.

As we go about our daily lives, let us be thankful for people who make an impression on our children, from teachers to pastors. May we also take time to make our own impressions on young children, those we know and even those we do not know. Even a smile or a compliment makes a difference.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” You can finish the song out loud or in your head.

Extra reading:  Psalm 92

We are Blessed!

Matthew 5, Psalm 78

We are blessed! Shout it outloud!  We are blessed!  How nice to start a Friday knowing God has blessed us! I can just imagine Jesus, standing on top of the “mount”, preaching to a huge crowd who had gathered to hear his word.   Everyone might have been hushed so they could hear his words. People in attendance could have been just like us, those seeking mercy and grace, those seeking knowledge on how to live, and those seeking forgiveness.   Jesus takes the opportunity to teach his disciples and the crowd how to live a faithful life, to be joyful, happy, full of love and wisdom, and how to please God.   The Sermon on the Mount is obviously one of the most famous, impactful sermons Jesus delivered. Honestly, it is one we should hear every week. It just has a calming effect every time I hear it or read it and it is for everyone, no matter what state of mind or condition you are in.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

He blesses those who are humble, those who are being persecuted or bullied, and those who are sad. He brings realism to the message by addressing all types of feelings people of that day may have been experiencing. He had the foresight though to understand these feelings would continue to impact people on earth, just as they do today. I read through these Beatitudes several times and what strikes me is the word “blessed”.   The definition of “blessed”:

1 religion

a :held in reverence :venerated

  • the blessed saints

b :honored in worship :hallowed

  • the blessed Trinity

c :beatific

  • a blessed visitation

2 :of or enjoying happiness; specifically,  Christianity :enjoying the bliss of heaven —used as a title for a beatified person

  • the blessed Virgin Mary

3 :bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune

  • a blessed event

He wants everyone to feel his powerful word. He wants the crowd to feel as if he is reaching out to help each and every one of them. He addresses those who may be struggling with life and reminds them they are blessed.   We are pleasantly reminded of his message of happiness, of being honored, and of having good fortune. Sometimes, when times are a bit tough, I make a little list of my many blessings. It helps put things in perspective and brings me back to center. Maybe it’s a rough patch or some bad news, but the blessings list helps remind me that we are still blessed by God. I think the next time I have a down day or a down week, I will open right to the Beatitudes, for God offers us his blessing. He is here for us.

 

The Pursuit

The pursuit of excellence. The hunt for the prize. The victory of a game. Have you ever been in pursuit of something, knowing you have to work really hard to achieve it? How about training for a marathon, running it and savoring the moment you cross that finish line? Have you ever lost something, spent hours trying to find it (I am thinking of my mother and her constant “pursuit” of finding her glasses 🙂 ), and then you are so pleased when you do, even if it’s just for a moment? How about that one photo from your childhood that you just have to find, digging through bins or an online album? Or have you ever even had that moment where you are trying to remember someone’s name from your past and it comes to you in the middle of the night? All these examples may spark even a little adrenaline rush. We have little things and big things we chase after all the time.

In today’s story, Luke 15, Jesus uses parables to relate to his pursuit of Christians or pursuit of turning sinners into Christians. He first gives us the parable of the lost sheep. He relates to our desire to find something that is lost. Wouldn’t we all go find that one lost sheep even if it meant leaving the rest of the herd behind? And then, rejoice, we find that lost one. Maybe there are some in the world who wouldn’t go after that one lost sheep, but many would chase down that one sheep.  He wants us all celebrating one sheep or one Christian.

Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The second parable also appeals to many people. The parable of the lost coin. Would we not try to find that lost coin if we lost one and knew it was on the ground, in a corner, if we could just find it.

‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Hunting for little things is sometimes frustrating, but we do it, right? These first two parables are interesting as they relate to “things”.

The third parable tugs at us, particularly those of us who are parents and those of us who may still be very close to our parents. The parable of the lost son. In this story, the son is lost. Lost in the world, off to find his way, do his own thing, throw away his money all to pursue his selfish ways and gain “freedom”. While away, his loyal brother works hard, pleases his father and does what he views is right. When his father celebrates the return of his brother, the eldest is made. He does not think it is fair! He has been the one doing well, fulfilling his father’s wishes, God’s plan for him. But he can’t help himself and is upset. His father calms him but acknowledging his hard work, loyalty and commitment, but also helps us understand the need to celebrate when a lost sole is found.

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

All three parables help us understand God’s pursuit. His hard work to help sinners become Christians. His hard work to help Christians remain Christians. To help the believers who sin to confess their sins and to continue on his path. His job is so hard some days! And if you don’t think so, pick 10 (or 100 or 1000) people in your head. Think of all God has to do for each one of those individuals. Wow. Yes he chases us down. He is on for the chase, the hunt, the game of pursuit of people.   Thankfully, he does not give up, whether the task is large or small.   He rejoices and celebrates each and every one of us he finds.  He puts his hands in the air and signals VICTORY!

**Special note:  This photo was taken during the Boston Marathon the year after the bombing.  As I wrote this post, I was looking for someone crossing the finish line, and then I remembered this sign of triumph as I saw my kids at the last turn.  The idea of pursuit reminded of the many days of training (pursuing) with my good friend Teresa Herbert.  How pleased we were to finish – yes, hands in the air!  She is running Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, and I know she will have her hands in the air as she crosses the finish line after months of pursuit.  May God watch over her and all the runners.  May God continue to provide opportunities for us to raise our hands in the air as Christians coming together in victory and may we respond to the pursuits he places in our paths.

Additional reading:  Psalm 64

Christmas in September

As we awake to this first day of fall, we have an awesome story to read. Luke 2. The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. A fantastic and familiar story for all of us. Yet as we look at the news showing the destruction of islands, and coastlines, destruction of homes and so many lives lost, destruction of cities from Hurricanes to Earthquakes to more Hurricanes to terrorist attacks, it doesn’t seem like our moods should be happy.  It is hard to watch this devastation on TV and know so many are suffering.  However, I believe God gave us today’s verse to try to give us peace and hope. We can take a few moments and soak up the words of this special and most important story.

 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

We all have images of this very sweet and tender moment. Yet, as we look at the journey to Bethlehem, it was most likely treacherous and filled with anxiety for Mary and Joseph. Joseph was doing was what right, obeying the law and bringing his wife-to-be across the countryside to be registered. He knew the journey might be difficult, yet he persevered, only to find no room at the Inn. I’m sure at times he was scared and didn’t know what would happen to them. Here he was with Mary who was pregnant. The angel of the Lord visited him. He was following the instructions by taking Mary as his wife. How complicated it may have seemed for him. Yet, he had faith and followed the path God had outlined for him.

After the birth of baby Jesus, they were visited by shepherds and magi, celebrating the birth. Joseph then continued on the path laid out for his family.  It was time for Jesus to be consecrated as was part of the Law of Moses. I haven’t always read past the story to appreciate the miracle of Simeon:

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[
d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
 

Another sign from God. Part of the broader plan. Joseph and Mary had to be moved by all that was happening, maybe a little scared, especially when Simeon told Mary that Jesus was destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against. I would have been a bit apprehensive.

Follow Simeon up with Anna, the prophet, who gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Another sign. I am certain they marveled at all that continued to transpire. As they moved forward with life and raising their son, there were many more events and interactions that occurred, including the story of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus preaching in the temple.   We don’t know all the details but another sign of what God had in store for Jesus as our savior.

Coming full circle, I hope as you read Luke 2 today, you take time to reflect on how blessed we are to have been given the story of baby Jesus. It comes during a tumultuous week, maybe for you personally, but also for our nation and for the world.  There are angels amongst the ruble such as Simeon and Anna, trying to help others move forward.  This Christmas story, along with many others, gives us hope and peace to continue to persevere and believe.  It may not give us answers as to why?, but it gives us a quiet sense of peace and calmness.  I hope you smile when you read the Christmas story on this first day of fall.  Enjoy your day!

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Psalm 50

False Teachers

2 Peter 2 and Psalm 36

When I read these words the first time, I wasn’t sure where to start. I definitely prefer a more positive message. After rereading again (and again), I found hope and bit of a happier note in the Psalm.

As we start into the readings today by Simon Peter, he writes about false teachers and their destruction. False teachers started to spread rumors and teachings that were against God’s word. From what I am envisioning, these “teachers” were standing on street corners, preaching their views. They were trying to capture the hearts and minds of “depraved” people.

Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings;

If the people were weak or wanted to hear a different view or wanted to have someone support their wrongdoings such as greed, they listened to these false teachers.  However Peter points out that they will be fall into harm’s way.

13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.

Peter then goes on to tell of the many times God overruled these types of people and lead good or evil. As I was reading the examples of Lot, Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, I also thought about Moses. As he was leading the people out of Egypt, God demonstrated his power by parting the Red Sea and then collapsing it back in on the “evil” people. We read these examples of how God does have a plan to take care of those who follow his word.

17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.

Kind of harsh, but in a way comforting. It also reminds us that he is the judge. He will handle it. We don’t need to try to take over his “job” and condemn the evil. He’s got it.

As we read Psalm 23, the message is consistent. For those who don’t follow God or who don’t “fear” him, God will handle it. We hear his word:

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.

Again, I find comfort in this message. It’s all in God’s hands.  Let us take rest in knowing God has it under control even if we don’t see it right away.  We need to be patient.  Good can triumph over evil.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
    your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
    nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
    thrown down, not able to rise!

 

 

 

James

The Book of James contains 21 epistles.  “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” is the author and is writing this book to the twelve tribes who are scattered throughout the land due to the persecution in Palestine at that time. James is encouraging the people to remain faithful and to endure and be patient through trials and tumult. Sounds familiar to scenes we have recently seen in the country and in the world. We all need encouragement to keep the faith, to persevere.

Many of the references to James conclude that this James is the brother of Jesus. He is faithful and notes he is a servant of Jesus Christ.

This book was most likely written about 70 AD. It was only gradually accepted into the New Testament. It is noted that these readings will be similar to what we read back in Matthew and Luke. We will most likely find many short themes or thoughts. Some think he purposefully addressed many topics with short passages. Others state that he wrote in no particular order, only in response to what was happening to his people. It will be interesting to read and determine our thoughts on his order.

The part I am looking forward to reading is on justification and salvation. Justification by faith. One other theme called out will be the anointing of the sick.

I found this quote interesting:

“The Letter of James also, according to the majority of scholars who have carefully worked through its text in the past two centuries, is among the earliest of New Testament compositions. It contains no reference to the events in Jesus’ life, but it bears striking testimony to Jesus’ words. Jesus’ sayings are embedded in James’ exhortations in a form that is clearly not dependent on the written Gospels.”[17]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_of_James

We can get started in this first Chapter reading about trials and temptations and also listening and doing. James 1

Related to this verse, we read in Psalm 22 about trials.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.[b]

James and the people of that time may cry out with this same theme? Why have your forsaken me? Why aren’t you helping me? Why aren’t you listening to me?   People of our time may be asking the same thing?  And finally, we ask God:

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,

People of all times ask God for this strength to help us persevere through trials and through rough patches. May we learn from James and from our Psalms reading that it’s not just us today. It was people long ago and people along the way.

 

 

 

The Epistle of Hebrews

This week I have the opportunity to introduce the epistle of Hebrews to you. The author of this book is unknown however many sources suggest it is again Paul. (Second vote was for Barnabas.) From a theological perspective, Paul seems to be the favorite. However, it is noted that this book was written in Greek which Paul had not been doing up to this point.

The other interesting debate is whether Genesis or Hebrews is the oldest book in the Bible. Or was it Job? Hebrews was written before the fall of Jerusalem and is estimated at around 70 A.D. The comments clearly state that it is hard to determine because the Bible is not in chronological order. It is a group of books edited together. That point made me stop and think for a minute. As we read through it, the readings seem to be in a good order in terms of thoughts and themes, logically grouped for reading and studying. It is also noted that this book could have been written for those looking to follow Jesus or those straying back toward Judaism. You be the judge.

So on to the actual text. The writings or letters are aimed at the Hebrews and those with wavering faith (sounds like Paul?). The focus is on Christ’s superiority. I think this will be an interesting read for us as the book will highlight what is referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. We have so many Hall of Fames in today’s world, I am looking forward to this version of the Hall of Fame.   Is there a place for you there? I personally have a lot of work to do, however, I do feel I know some people who could qualify.  In this book, Christ is highlighted as being superior. He gave his son to die for us so that our sins are forgiven and that we might have eternal life. Hard to dispute this fact!

This book highlights Timothy as being one of the “Hall of Famers”. I would agree after we just completed all the readings and teachings of Paul as he was coaching Timothy. The book goes on to not only highlight other Hall of Famers, Abraham, Moses to name a few, but it goes on to help us with everyday life:   temptation, faith, obedience. And recognizes we may slip in our daily lives. It will remind us who we can turn to refresh and restore us.

A few points to look for as you read ahead

  • Jesus is supreme
  • Listen to Christ
  • Jesus is the One we go to
  • The Blood of Christ
  • Examples of Faith
  • Strive for Jesus

How about it! Can’t wait to get going!

As for our Psalms reading today, Psalms 8, this reading makes me feel calm.  On Saturday long runs early in the morning, it is thoughts such as these words that make the run much easier.  With the sun coming up, I do think about how beautiful the earth is and how we should spend more time enjoying the splendor….”birds in the sky”, “how majestic”.  If you are reading this in the early morning, I encourage you to look outside at that sunrise and read this Psalm aloud.

Have a great Friday!

Sources:

Into thy Word: 

Introduction to the Word of Hebrews

 

Paul and his verbs

Wow. 1 Timothy 4 is filled with instruction. The second portion is filled with lots of verbs:

  • Command
  • Teach
  • Don’t
  • Devote
  • Do not neglect
  • Be diligent
  • Watch
  • Persevere

Paul seems to be getting shorter in his messages and stronger here in this verse. How can we tackle all he is asking us to do? Let’s start with the view of Paul as Timothy’s coach and as our coach. The first part of this chapter tries to point out that some will go astray. He could be talking about the people of Ephesus but he also is showing us that it could happen to people we know today. He is clear that demons and temptation will take people down a different path in life, an ungodly life, those focused on using God’s gifts in the wrong manner. He reminds us that everything he created is good. That’s a great way to start each day, isn’t it? Remembering all we see, have, do was created by God and is intended to be good, not evil or for evil use.

 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Paul then asks us to work on our discipleship, helping others learn and grow, and helping others stay on the right path. If we are “…nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed…”, then maybe we can help others learn about this good teaching. I think we can do this in many situations. I tried it out this week and received a good response (not always the case I know). One of my friend’s took her oldest to college way far away. I sent her my favorite verse Jeremiah 29:11. I have never really had an in depth conversation with her on this subject of religion so I was taking a risk, but I wanted to show I share her anxiety. It worked. She was caught off guard and very thankful.

Back to Timothy.  Paul then moves on to coach us to not only focus on physical training, but to focus on our spiritual training. In some cases it is easy to go out and run or go to the gym, but shouldn’t it also be easy to sit down and read the bible or go to church on Sundays? Doesn’t seem to be as easy. We have to train ourselves, get in the routine (our Bible Journal community), and continue to track our progress.   He reminds us to put our hope in the living God, the living word and spirit.

Lastly, Paul goes to his strong verbs. Even though some of us are young :-),  I think he really means all people who might be young in studying the word or young in sharing our faith with others or truly young in age. He wants us to be confident in our ways and in our voice, not letting others overshadow us. He wants us to set an example for the nonbelievers and believers in our speech, in our conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

And don’t take it lightly or think you aren’t worthy. I take this as speaking openly or testing the waters when it might seem uncomfortable. Or if it’s too hard to speak, put your faith into action.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1

Lastly, one of my favorite verbs.  Persevere! That’s hard, but if we go back to the first part of this chapter, we don’t want to be one of the ones Paul refers to as abandoning the faith.

I wish you well today as you:

  • See everything God created as good
  • Coach others
  • Stretch to show your faith even if you might be “young”
  • Watch for signs
  • Continue to persevere in following God’s path