Fear the Lord and Obey His Commands

Today’s reading:  1 Samuel 12, Psalm 13

Samuel faithfully served God’s people as their spiritual leader for many years. Our text today covers the farewell address Samuel delivered as he prepared to pass the torch of leadership on to Saul.  Saul was the first earthly king to be appointed over God’s people.

Samuel’s opening remark (verse 1-2) reminds God’s people that appointing an earthly king to reign over them was their idea, not his. Why would he begin with this statement?  God knew an earthly king was not in the best interest of his people.  Nevertheless, he gave them what they wanted anyway.  Although it wasn’t the direction he would have chosen, Samuel also obeyed God and anointed Saul as their king.  Samuel continued to be their spiritual leader, offering guidance on how to keep their hearts right with God – fear the Lord and obey his commands.

If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good!  But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors (1 Samuel 12:14-15).

Have you ever read the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings? If you have, you know God’s people did not heed Samuel’s counsel.  For almost 500 years, they were ruled by 42 different kings and one queen.  By my count, only 8 of these 43 rulers (>20%) followed the ways of the Lord.  The rest were anywhere from kind of bad to downright evil.  Ouch, those are some pretty severe consequences!

Can you think of a time in your life you’ve had a similar experience? A time when you asked God to give you something that wasn’t in your best interest, but he gave it to you anyway?  How did it turn out for you?  If you’re like me, you probably suffered through some consequences you wish you’d have avoided.  Perhaps you live with a little regret.  May I offer these word so of encouragement today?  Stop agonizing over your poor choices.  It isn’t too late to confess and get your heart right with God.  Fear the Lord, obey his commands, and he can bring good out of your poor choices.

Consider this – if God’s people had followed his ways throughout the Old Testament, would they have needed salvation through Jesus Christ? Aren’t you glad God had a plan to use their poor choices for good?  Aren’t you glad he still has a plan to use our poor choices for good?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

The choice is yours

Today’s reading:  Joshua 16, Proverbs 16

Remember in April of 2016 when I told you I am an “accounting dork”, love using numbers to tell a story, and often can’t resist the urge to count and/or reconcile most everything?  As we started to read about how the Promised Land was divided among the tribes in Joshua 13 this week, I found myself with a familiar urge to reconcile.  In the book of Genesis we read about Jacob’s 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes amongst whom the Promised Land was divided in Joshua 13-19, who are the same 12 tribes cited in Revelation 7 where we read about the preservation of God’s people during the end times.  In theory these tribes should be the same in all three books, but they don’t reconcile exactly:

Genesis 29-30 Joshua 13-19 Revelation 7
Rueben Rueben Rueben
Simeon Simeon Simeon
Judah Judah Judah
Levi Manasseh Levi
Dan Dan Manasseh
Naphtali Naphtali Naphtali
Gad Gad Gad
Asher Asher Asher
Issachar Issachar Issachar
Zebulun Zebulun Zebulun
Joseph Ephraim Joseph
Benjamin Benjamin Benjamin

Hmm… We see inconsistencies with Levi, Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim and Dan.  Are you curious as to why?  I certainly was, and went digging to see what I could figure out.  The three factors I think account for the inconsistency between Genesis and Joshua are:

  • In Genesis 49, Rueben, Jacob’s firstborn son, lost his birthright when he slept with his father’s concubine. Jacob gave the birthright to Joseph, firstborn of his second wife Rachel. Remember, a birthright is essentially a double portion of inheritance.
  • Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons in Genesis 48.
  • In Joshua 13:33, we also learned that no land was given to Levi, the tribe of priests. Here is how I reconciled the tribes in Genesis to Joshua:
12 Sons of Jacob in Genesis 29-30
+2 Add Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were adopted by Jacob (Genesis 48)
-1 Take away Joseph, as his double inheritance was accounted for by his sons
-1 Take away Levi, as this priestly tribe did not receive land (Joshua 13:33)
12

Reconciling the tribes in Joshua to the tribes named in Revelation was a little harder. Why were the tribes of Levi and Joseph added back?  Perhaps because land is no longer the “inheritance” of Christfollowers under the new covenant?  Perhaps just to reconcile back to 12?  I’m not totally sure.  I do, however, understand why the tribes of Dan and Ephraim were removed from the list of God’s people in Revelation 7.  It is because these tribes were worshipping idols (See Judges 18:30-31 and Hosea 4:17).  The Bible is clear, those who worship idols are not God’s people and should expect nothing but judgment from God. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).

Here is how I reconciled Joshua 13-19 to Revelation 7:

12 Tribes who were allocated land (Joshua 13-19)
+2 Add back Levi and Joseph
-2 Take away Dan and Ephraim (Judges 18:30-31, Hosea 4:17)
12

Now we know where everyone went, and we mostly understand why. So what?  What is the benefit of this exercise?  I believe it illustrates God’s incredible patience, and willingness to use imperfect people to accomplish his purposes.   It gets messy sometimes, but don’t be deceived. God will accomplish his purposes with or without us.  We can either choose to be part of his plan, or he’ll leave us behind and move on.

The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster (Proverbs 16:4).

Strategic Planning

Today’s reading: Joshua 4, Proverbs 4

Today as I was preparing for my first staff meeting of the year, I pulled out our 2018 Annual Operating Plan to review.  This plan sets out the goals and objectives my department intends to achieve over the next twelve months.  While important, and intended to guide our actions in the near-term, this plan doesn’t tell the whole story.  In fact, without a view to our organization’s vision, mission and strategic plan, it could seem fairly trivial.  When looked at as part of the bigger picture, however, my department’s Annual Operating Plan with its specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound objectives helps keep us on the right path.  While we can’t achieve our aspirational state in just twelve months, we can certainly derail it if we don’t make progress on our Operating Plan this year.

As I opened Proverbs 4 to prepare for today’s post, Solomon’s words took me back to strategic planning. In 1 Kings, Solomon articulated his aspirational state when he asked God for wisdom. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people (1 Kings 3:9).

Do you have a strategic plan? Not one for your team at work, but one for you personally?  Have you articulated your aspirational state?  If not, what guides your daily choices?  May I challenge you to consider following Christ as the vision and mission of your life?  The words of Proverbs 4:18-19 describe an aspirational state I believe is worth pursuing.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:18-19).

Likewise, the words of Proverbs 4:25-27 describe tactics to guide your daily choices.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.  Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil (Proverbs 4:25-27).

My refuge

Today’s reading:  Psalm 142

Psalm 142 was written by David in a cave where he was hiding from Saul.  Scared, confined and alone, David was nearing rock bottom.

Have you ever felt no one really cared what happened to you?  I have felt this way more times in my life than I’d like to admit.  As I’ve grown older, I’d also like to say that turning to God has become instinctual in these types of situations.  But alas, my natural, sinful reaction begins with self-reliance nearly every time – I withdraw from others, get inside my own head and begin to churn the issue.  I evaluate the factors I can control versus the factors I can’t control, then come out with a game plan.  It isn’t uncommon that my plan, at least initially, is built on my own views and opinions, as I have kept to myself and failed to seek God’s guidance or even the wise counsel of others.  This self-reliant attitude is not from God.  While it may give me temporary hope by helping me define what I’m going to do next, it seldom results in a God-honoring, happy ending.

Today’s text in Psalm 142 gives us insight into David’s reaction to this type of a situation. Rather than relying on himself, David declares God as his refuge, his safety and shelter.  Let’s take a look.

I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble
(Psalm 142:1-2).

David began by seeking God’s help – he didn’t withdraw or silently churn the issue inside his own head.  Hebrews 4 tells us that this is right where God wants us. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life
(Psalm 142:3-4).

David was honest with God – he confessed that he was overwhelmed and helpless.  Again, this is right where God wants us.  My body and my heart fail, but God is my heart’s rock and my share forever (Psalm 73:26). He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me
(Psalm 142:5-6).

David declared God as his refuge – his only hope. Did you notice his words at the end of verse 5 – “my portion in the land of the living”?  Following Jesus is not just to secure our place in eternity.  Rather, he is our source of help and hope every day.  Like a shepherd, he is constantly watching over and caring for us.  Jesus said, I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11 Common English Bible translation).

Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me
(Psalm 142:7).

David anticipated God’s answer to prayer and turned his focus from himself to God – he knew God’s deliverance wasn’t just to make his life easier, it was for God’s glory.  David affirmed God’s goodness and prepared to praise his name.

I’ll be honest, when I started this post, I began by approaching it somewhat academically.  But as you know, God has a way of speaking to us when we least expect it.  The more I worked on the message of Psalm 142, the more personal it became.  Over the last few years of my life, I’ll admit I have felt more useless, helpless and unfulfilled than I can remember feeling at any other time in my life.  David’s model in the seven verses of Psalm 142 is just the reminder I needed – Get out of my own head.  Turn my focus from myself to God.  Patiently rely on him for direction and deliverance.  Praise his name.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

The Parable of the Sower, Soils

Today’s reading:  Mark 4, Psalm 128

As I studied Mark 4 this week, I found myself in familiar territory.  I’ve read these parables and stories about Jesus and his followers many times.  Even so, I was still struggling with what the message of this post should be.  I went to my Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House), as I often do, for help.  There I found a few good reminders about Jesus’ use of parables.

  • Using familiar subjects to teach spiritual truths required Jesus’ listeners to engage their hearts and minds to understand the story. This engagement made the message meaningful to those who were open to learning. To those whose hearts and minds were closed, the message remained hidden.
  • Jesus’ parables generally had one main point. When reading them today, we must be careful NOT to go beyond what message Jesus intended to teach with the story.

So there I sat with Mark 4. Were my heart and mind engaged?  Was I open to learning?  I worked on…  The chapter begins with the Parable of the Sower, or the Parable of the Soils, as it is identified in my Bible.  Verses 3-8 tell the story, then verses 15-20 provide the interpretation.  Jesus said, the farmer is the one who brings God’s message to others, while the seed represents those who hear the message.  He went on to explain the four different types of soil on which the seeds may fall:

  • Hard soil – those who hear God’s message, but Satan lures them away before they accept it.
  • Rocky soil – those who joyfully receive God’s message, but don’t grow deep roots. When they run into persecution, they fall away.
  • Thorny soil – those who hear and accept God’s message, but the pull of earthly desires keeps them from maturing and producing fruit.
  • Good soil – those who hear and accept God’s message, then multiply and yield a great harvest for God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ message here was all about the soil, and how it represented the condition of our hearts, right? Our hearts clearly need to be like the good soil in order to be pleasing to God.  Seems pretty straight forward, but therein was my struggle.  Do the four types of soil represent four different types of people, some are pleasing to God and others are not?  Does this mean some receive salvation and some do not?  Perhaps our hearts may have represented a different type of soil at different times of our life.  If this is the case, is it possible to lose our salvation?   I wonder if different types of soil may even be present in our hearts at the same time.  Do you find yourself more open to apply God’s calling in some parts of your life than others?  For example, do you easily respond to God’s call to worship him and fellowship with other believers, but at the same time you struggle to sacrificially give of your time and money in service for his kingdom?  Hmmm… If the only type of soil pleasing to God is the good soil, how will any of us ever measure up?  Does salvation require a heart of 100% pure, good soil all of the time?  Maybe this parable isn’t as straightforward as I originally thought.

As I continued to study, the light bulb finally came on…  Jesus’ message in the Parable of the Soils isn’t really about the soil at all.  Rather, the Parable of the Sower is truly about the Sower!  See, left to our own devices, our hearts will never be 100% pure, good soil.  Even so, God continues to lavishly scatter the seeds of his gospel message on our unworthy souls.  Our only hope is Jesus Christ, our Savior.  His sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sins.  It is only through him we can ever measure up to God’s standards.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).

 

Peace

Today’s reading:  Psalm 122, John 20

I spent this week in Columbus, OH on business. Because it really doesn’t save time to fly, and since it is a lot less expensive, I just picked up a company car and drove the 5.5 hours.  For some reason this week, I found the drive to and from Columbus very nostalgic.  It was either the Christmas music to which I was listening or simply the power of suggestion (as I smiled when I saw the I75 sign for Toledo, OH), but it brought back memories of driving to my Grandpa and Grandma York’s house in Toledo for Christmas when I was a little girl.

Back in the mid-1970’s I don’t remember having anything but a radio in the car. We probably listened to it quite a bit, but I mostly remembering singing on long car rides.  As preacher’s kids, my sister and I grew up in church.  Hymns, Christmas carols and praise & worship songs were about the only songs to which we knew all the words (we also knew the words to The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, but that is a story of stern motherly discipline for another time).  We sang our hearts out on those rides.

As I read Psalm 122 this week, it made me think of singing songs on the way to Grandpa and Grandma York’s house at Christmas. Psalms 120-134 are referred to as Songs of Ascent.  These were songs of praise and worship to God sung by Jews who were walking to Jerusalem for annual Jewish festivals.  The city of Jerusalem sits on a high hill.  No matter where you’re coming from, you have to travel uphill to get there, thus the name Songs of Ascent.

Psalm 122:6-9 talks about peace. Very fitting for a time of year when it is common to hear the word peace or phase peace on earth.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity
(Psalm 122:6-9).

Vocabulary.com defines peace as a stress-free state that comes when there’s no fighting or war; everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.  I’d say this is a pretty common understanding of the word “peace” in the 21st century. The peace about which the Jews were singing in Psalm 122, however, was much more than just the absence of conflict.  According to the Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House), the Jews were singing about a peace that brought completeness, health, justice, prosperity and protection.  This isn’t a peace this world can provide, but one that can only come from faith in God.  This peace is the confident assurance that God works all things together according to his divine plan; a comfort that he has every situation under control.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we read through John 14- 17. These three chapters are often referred to as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – his guidance to the eleven disciples (sans Judas) after the last supper, before his crucifixion.  Jesus was trying to prepare them for life without him.  The disciples still didn’t completely understand his plan, and it was causing them anxiety.  Think about it.  These eleven men left everything to follow Jesus, and now he was talking about leaving.  How could they be at peace?  Can you identify with their fear and unrest?  Jesus comforted the disciples with these words:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Rise, let us go from here (John 14:27-31).

Do you see Jesus’ words of peace? – “…for the prince of this world is coming…he has no hold over me…”  Knowing that Jesus has all power over Satan is the source of our confident assurance.  Jesus is our peace.

Loving Jesus

Today’s reading:  John 12, Psalm 114

In 1992, Gary Chapman introduced us to The 5 Love Languages.   His guidance to better understand the different ways people give and receive love, and then adapt our style accordingly, has helped countless couples foster lasting love relationships for more than 25 years.  Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are as follows:

  • Words of affirmation – showing someone you love them by building them up with encouraging words.
  • Quality time – showing someone you love them by giving them your undivided attention.
  • Gifts – showing someone you love them by giving them gifts.
  • Acts of service – showing someone you love them by doing things for them.
  • Physical touch – showing someone you love them by holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc.

The opening story of our text today teaches us a lot about loving Jesus. The setting was a dinner party in Bethany to honor Jesus, who had just raised Lazarus from the dead.  The hosts were three of Jesus’ close friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Each loved Jesus very much.  The actions of these three friends show us all five love languages in action.

  • Words of affirmation – When Mary first encountered Jesus, she affirmed her love and complete trust in his power with her words.  When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).
  • Quality time – Lazarus showed his love for Jesus by spending quality time with him.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him (John 12:2).
  • Gifts – Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus feet.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3).
  • Acts of service – Martha showed her love for Jesus by serving the meal.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him (John 12:2).
  • Physical touch – Mary wiped the perfume on Jesus’ feet with her hair.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3).

The story goes on to reveal Judas’ rebuke of Mary for the extravagance of her gift to Jesus.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages”. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:4-6).

Judas pretended to care about taking care of those in need as a cover for his own selfish motives.  It is likely Jesus knew Judas was stealing money from the disciples’ fund, although the Bible never records Jesus addressing it directly.  He simply told Judas to leave Mary alone.  Do you think Judas forgot Jesus could see the true selfish motive of his heart?

What does Jesus see when he looks at the true motives of your heart? Does he see a deep, extravagant love for him that you demonstrate through various love languages?  Or does he see a deep love for something else that you cover up by saying you love Jesus and “doing the right things”?  If the latter, don’t be discouraged, there is still hope.  May I encourage you with Paul’s words to the Church in Ephesus?

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that (Ephesians 5:2 MSG).

 

Rules of the Game

Today’s reading:  Matthew 7, Psalm 80

Last September, I told you about my workgroup engaging in the Gallup organization’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 exercise. Remember how I told you I didn’t like team building exercises because I’m always afraid the leader is going to make me hug my co-workers, hold hands or do something else I don’t want to do?  A whole year later, I want to be sure you know I have not changed.  I still hate these exercises.  I do, however, recognize their value.  That’s why I keep coming back to them.  Understanding why I am the way I am, and why I tend to do the things I do, helps me appropriately adapt to a variety of situations.

In Strengthsfinder 2.0 one of my top 5 themes was competition. I am energized by it.  Not really for the joy of competing, but because competitions produce a winner and a loser.  Understanding the rules of the game drives me to plot, plan and strategize on how I can win.

Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 are referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”.   This sermon, which he delivered early in his ministry, is arguable the most complete teaching Jesus gave on what it takes to follow him.  These are the rules of the game, they tell us how we can win.  This sermon covers various subjects – our attitudes, our responsibility to influence, murder, adultery, divorce, giving, prayer, worry and judging others – just to name a few. These are all ingredients in the overall recipe of what it takes to be a true Christfollower.  As we wrap up Chapter 7 today, I want to focus on verses 21-23.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

This sounds pretty harsh. Jesus had just devoted an entire sermon to describe how he expected Christfollowers to act in a variety of situations.  But he wanted to make sure they didn’t miss the main point.  People who called themselves Christfollowers and who were following all his rules, but didn’t have a relationship with him, were still lost.  The same is true for us – it isn’t enough for us to just talk about Jesus.  It isn’t enough for us to go to church.  It even isn’t enough for us to serve others in his name.  Jesus wants to be in relationship with us.  This is the most important rule.  In order to win this game, there is no other substitute.

Overhyped

Today’s reading:  Luke 24, Psalm 72

My birthday is on Tuesday. As I was reading Luke 24 and preparing for my post this week, I reflected on one of my favorite birthday stories from two years ago.  I’ve told you this story before, but I believe it is worth repeating.

For my birthday two years ago, I decided we would go to my favorite fondue restaurant in Lincoln Park. We reserved a hotel, headed up to Chicago, got all dressed up, and took a cab to the restaurant.  This was going to be so much fun…

After the first cheese course arrived, my 11 year old started in. “Hey, I thought this was going to be nacho cheese.  This is nothing like I thought it would be.  Nacho cheese would have been way better than this stuff Mom.”  The second course came, and we had fun cooking our meat, seafood and vegetables.  Other than a minor fire started from trying to deep fry the garnishing greens, the second course was a success.  On to dessert – chocolate fondue.  Who doesn’t like a huge vat of melted chocolate with pound cake, marshmallows and fruit to dip, right?  Well, my kids were disappointed the dipping sauce was dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  As we got back in the cab after dinner Freddy summed up his sentiment well.  Five spirited words – “YOU OVERHYPED THIS PLACE MOM!”

Our assigned reading has us in Luke 24, the account of Christ’s Resurrection, today.  It is significant.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Christian faith.  In fact, without it there wouldn’t be a Christian Faith.  Unlike my favorite fondue restaurant, the significance of the Resurrection cannot be overhyped.  Why?

It revealed Christ’s power over deathWe know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him (Romans 6:9).

It secured our victory over deathBut God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

In 1976 the late SM Lockridge preached a sermon titled That’s My King! Do You Know Him? to a congregation in Detroit, Michigan.  Forty years later, this message continues to be impactful and inspiring message to many audiences.  May I ask you to use one of the links below to either listen to or read an excerpt from this sermon, then stop and reflect – is this someone who’s life, death and resurrection could EVER by overhyped?

That’s my King, I hope he’s yours too.

Audio – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX_7j32zgNw

Text – http://across2u.com/ThatsMyKing.html

Truth and Love

Today’s reading:  Luke 10, Psalm 58

Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” the 2016 international word of the year.   Oxford defines it as – relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.  Thinking over the past 18 months or so, are you surprised that this word is so prominent?   Think about the 2016 Presidential election, the current political climate, fake news, and countless sports figures and movie stars taking the stage in protest.  I could go on and on, but it is exhausting.  Go back and read the definition again.  Did you notice the words “personal belief”?  While our 21st century culture may not have consensus (or really care) about truth, you cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ and buy into this agenda.

Today’s scripture in Luke 10 gives us beautiful illustrations of Jesus commitment to truth and how he demonstrated it through love.  First, he sent out 72 men to prepare several towns for his visit.  According to verse 3, he knew they were going to encounter troubles.  He sent them out with supernatural power to overcome Satan and his evil ways (Luke 10:19), yet he still instructed the men to humbly come in peace and to approach those they encountered with love and gentleness.  “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.  Whatever house you enter first, say Peace be to this house” (Luke 10:3-5). “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’ “(Luke 10:8-9).

Even though Jesus sent the men to influence with love first, he also instructed them to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to truth by sternly warning those who rejected it.  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town (Luke 10:10-12).

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 also demonstrates truth and love, just in the opposite order. When the expert asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed to the truth. He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).  When the expert went on to challenge Jesus on details by asking whom he would consider a neighbor, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  A parable that demonstrates our responsibility to demonstrate love and compassion to others in need, regardless of their demographics.

In a person, Jesus Christ is truth and love. He doesn’t care about influencing public opinion, rather he cares about people and the life-saving grace God offers to those who put their faith in him.  Jesus Christ is the antithesis of post-truth.  Likewise, anyone who claims to have put their trust in him and is committed to following his ways must submit to his truth and act in love.