Boast in the Lord

From the sermon at Eastview Christian Church on 6/15/14, I captured that 80% of the world’s population makes less than $2.50 per day. Interestingly enough, as this blog post and readings were permeating through my mind, one of my kids asked if we are “rich”. Compared to 80% of the world’s population, all of us in the USA are financially rich. Apart from financial riches, God also blesses us with the other “riches” such as spiritual, joy, health, and talents. Sadly, too often “riches” are thought of in the financial realm, and attributed to our own good works or success, and we use those riches for our own purposes instead of their Godly intent.

Today’s readings: Exodus 22; John 1; Job 40; 2 Corinthians 10

Recently, one of my contributions at work resulted in some kudos. As I was working on this contribution, I knew it was going to be good. I knew it would result in praise and the anticipation of the praise kept building in my heart and mind. I certainly believed I deserved it. The thing is that when I received the kudos and was under the limelight, it seemed like this millisecond in time, and poof, it was done and over. I was depressed in thinking, “that was nice, but that’s it?” I was then convicted.

No matter how cleverly I try to deny or justify my thinking, I had built up sinful pride and sought to do good so that ultimately I could attempt to save myself. I wanted the praise so that those who make decisions as to the future of my contract would be assured that their investment in me was worthwhile. I was acting under the lie that God has most things under control. It was as if my superiors miss out on something good that I’ve done, well that would be my fault, so it was up to me to be sure to let them know how good I am. What I fool I was. I was putting my trust in me almighty instead of God almighty. Consider God’s response to Job’s pride, a crushing blow to my own pride. God was challenging Job for questioning or doubting Him. God was describing some of his own attributes and basically saying that if Job had these God attributes he could save himself, however Job was a mere human fully dependent on God to save him.

All right, put on your glory and splendor,
  your honor and majesty.
Give vent to your anger.
 Let it overflow against the proud.
Humiliate the proud with a glance;
 walk on the wicked where they stand.
Bury them in the dust.
 Imprison them in the world of the dead.
Then even I would praise you,
 for your own strength would save you. (Job 40:10-14; NLT)

Unfortunately I also gave into the temptation that my works were somehow the result that I might be better than I actually am. I was boasting in myself, perhaps not verbally but in my heart and mind. Maybe no human noticed, but God did, and he revealed this to me through his Holy Spirit. Every gift and talent we have is commended, originated, given by the Lord. It isn’t ours for our own gain.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? (1 Corinthians 4:7; NLT)

One of the wonderful things about daily Bible reading and daily prayer is that this keeps God’s word and truth close to our heart. I’m so thankful that God’s Holy Spirit and word was with me, to convict me of my selfish line of thinking – and this is what we can and should boast on: He is with us always, speaking, teaching, and correcting. As a result, repentance and redemption gave me far greater joy than any words or rewards from any human, and it will always be this way; this is God’s economy. This sort of joy is so counter to what the world thinks, and I believe it is one of the many reasons this place often seems so messed up, as well as one of the reasons so many people are depressed. We celebrate the wrong things, the fleeting moments instead of the repentant sinner, the prodigal son, the life changed through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Would you consider joining me in repentance today? Every time I humbly ask “God, please reveal my sins”, he certainly comes through on this prayer, and it hurts, but the pain is temporary. In our sin, we’re living in darkness. However, Jesus, the light of the world shines his light in that darkness and through Him, and only Him, are our sins forgiven, and we’re back under the only light that matters.

Undercover Boss

Close up portrait of a retro man in a 1970s leisure suit and sunglasses smiling and laughing

Exodus 21; Luke 24; Job 39; 2 Corinthians 9

Have you ever watched the show Undercover Boss? If you have, you know that business owners and CEO’s participate in the inner workings of their businesses, in disguise so that they get an accurate and unfiltered view of what people think and do. Jesus does something similar today in Luke 24 when he joins two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. Starting with yesterday’s reading, you will recall that we experienced Jesus’s crucifixion. While many people faithfully followed him there, there are two in particular that this story covers. After painfully witnessing his death these two patiently waited for further news. They both knew Jesus and trusted him. They spent enough time with him to easily recognize him. A few days after Jesus death, however, evidence was mounting that it was over. The time had come for them to re-engage in their old lives, reconnect with their families and get back to work. The hope that they so desperately followed was now a memory. Let’s go home, back to Emmaus.

Walking side by side, the conversation is passionate. The two men cannot help but discuss what had happened over the last several days.  About a month ago, This man, Jesus, promised them a better life, offering them freedom and hope.  They dropped everything to follow him; the greatest man they had ever met.  And now, he was gone. Upon hearing the news that his body was no longer in the grave, they were literally, “amazed” (Luke 24:22). This report was so shocking that they were dumfounded and bewildered with no idea how to respond. In fact, the prophecy found in Psalm 88:8 describes the events as “a horror” to them. This is where our story turns and Jesus enters as the Undercover Boss. Joining them in their walk, Jesus wanted to remain anonymous. So, he “kept their eyes from recognizing him” (v16).  For what its worth, I have a picture of Jesus in my head with pork chop sideburns and fake teeth (kind of like this guy), but that’s not part of scripture’s description.

Being undercover allows Jesus inside the conversation. He gets to hear their unfiltered accounting of past events as well as their thoughts about the future. What he discovers is disappointing. These two men were only focused on the past. They had quickly forgotten that the Scriptures promised more. My quick review of the prophecies clearly shows that “his chastisement brings us peace, we are healed because of his wounds, and that his death removes our iniquity, (Isaiah 53).” Surely, these men had this knowledge.  But, they were anything but peaceful. They showed nothing of the freedom and healing that Jesus grants us. Instead, they lost hope (Luke 24:21). How does Jesus respond? Jesus leads them back to the Truth. He points to the promises of the scriptures and lovingly guides them back to himself.  Not just who he was, but the discovery of his resurrection as his living self.  This occurs with simple act of communion. Jesus took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.   And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:30-31).

If Jesus showed up in your life today as an Undercover Boss, what would he find? Do you display evidence of the hope and life he promises from his resurrection or are you still floundering with doubt like the two walking toward Emmaus?

10 Commandments, 2 Tablets

Today’s reading: Exodus 20; Luke 23; Job 38; 2 Corinthians 8

March 9th, 2016

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. -Psalm 119:33-35

When God gave Moses the ten commandments on Mount Sinai why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one, or three? Why two? I mean Moses was not exactly a spring chicken at the time. I could see him saying, “God, how about we reduce the font size and put this on one piece of rock? It will be a little easier on my back as I hike down this mountain.”

Mount Sinai, 10 Commandments

I heard a sermon once that said these 10 commandments were designed to guide a people and how they relate to others. That communities and cities that live by these principles are wonderful places to live, but on the other hand those that do not are not. Rather, they are quite the opposite. That the 10 commandments actually come from 5 principles with two examples for each. The first tablet held instructions for how the principles apply to relating to those above us. The second, instructions for how the principles apply to relating to those alongside us. Here is how it was explained to me:

The first principle: Others have the right to exist.

first tablet: second tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe. There are others who exist. Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from. In general, the source of the power of the second tablet’s strength lies in the truth of the first tablet.

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

first tablet: second tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution. God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships as sacred and special.

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

first tablet: second tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing. People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is His just as your neighbor’s newspaper is theirs. Here we see the link between the two: “…or lest I be poor, and steal, And take the name of my God in vain.” – Proverbs 30:9

The fourth principle: Reputation is a form of property.

first tablet: second tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Reputation made the top 5 list for how to get on with others in a productive society, it must be important. Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them, God here calls His people to uphold His reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day. It does not say “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” It says “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation as the Creator.

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

first tablet: second tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet seems to be ‘I want what I have not been given and I do not want you to have it.’ This seems to come from a feeling of “I do not want you to be better than me.”, but most, “I do not want you above me.” Coveting is stepping out of our place, it flies in the face of things like contentment and trust in God. Not honoring our parents is stepping out of the divine order with respect to those placed above us by God.

In closing here is some more scripture that points to the duel nature of the law pertaining to one’s relationship with those above us and their fellows:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36–40

Complete Confidence

Today’s Reading: Exodus 19; Luke 22; Job 37; 2 Corinthians 7

The more I’m around kids the more I realize growing up is difficult. There are so many things you think you have control of that you really don’t.  Depending on your circumstances having confidence in God, yourself, or others can be slim or obsolete. Four years ago (while on vacation) I laid in a hospital bed with my wife sitting by my side and our 1 year old walking around the room touching everything possible that a baby probably shouldn’t be touching.  As the doctor came in, she stood next to me and proceeds to tell me that they are going to need to have surgery and that with any kind of big stomach surgery there is a chance that I won’t make it. (wow) As I swallow the knot currently in my throat, I think about my wife breaking down in tears as I struggle to catch my breath while wiping tears grasping for air.  I wished I never came in.  I lacked faith. I lacked faith in many things but mainly God. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

In this moment I wish I could tell you I gave it all to God but I know I didn’t. God’s grace that I didn’t deserve poured over me and provided the strength to make it through the surgery.  Another chance to live for Him and share His love with others. My stomach was healed but there was still more work for God to do. I  lacked confidence in God and myself.  In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul encourages the Corinthians to make room in their heart for him. He understood the importance of fellowship among believers.  This also holds true with us today. God has divine appointments planned all the time if we keep our eyes open.

While recovering from surgery in Florida we got a call that our house we had put up on a whim had sold and we would need to find a place.  Our frantic 2 day online search followed by a packed 1 day search around Bloomington landed us right across from a couple who were Christ followers and attended Eastview. They then invited us to small group one night.  We had been to Eastview before but never allowed ourselves to get connected.  Long story short this offer turned into us joining their group and getting to know some fellow believers that have helped change our lives. Thank you to the couples that open their hearts to us. They have helped build up our confidence in the Lord. Small group allows you to move from a surface level relationship into holding each other as accountability life partners. Living life together where we are in His Word, laughing, loving, have crucial conversations, holding each other accountable, raising children, and following Jesus together.  We are blessed by our small groups and by the amazing other Christ followers we have met through Eastview.  As I reflect on this weeks message I’m reminded how church has helped us to see His essential light, opened our ears, and shown us the path to “Follow Him”.  I thank this biblejournal group of believers that share their daily insights into the Word and help others build the confidence that Jesus is all we need. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Like Paul who was sharing his joy with the Corinthians for opening their heart and repenting, I feel this same joy when as a group of believers we do the same repenting.  Often in our small groups we allow our vulnerability to come out. We share our true selves asking for repentance in addition to encouraging and praying  for each other to keep faith and confidence in God.   If you currently are not in one please contact me and no matter the distance we can look to start one. It will help with personal discovery, smaller communities can be more effective, deeper friendships, and maximum participation.

Francis Chan How to Have Real Community

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

~ Thank from the bottom of my heart everyone has has shared scripture, love, and encouragement along the way. Without your genuine care I would not be here today. When your confidence comes from God, no matter how unstable things in the world may get, you will always remain rock solid and secure in faith.

I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.  2 Corinthians 7:16

 

Dear Father,

I pray for complete confidence in you and your will every moment of my life. I turn it all over to you.  Whenever I am at a loss and don’t understand why certain things happen let me close my eyes and turn it all over to God since I know that He knows everything and will guide my heart. Throughout my day fill me with your love and guidance so that when I start to rely on my own selfish ways I turn to you in prayer and repentance.  Help me build confidence and show ridiculous love and be a dangerous witness to others for your Kingdom.

Amen

Too Heavy

Exodus 18, Luke 21, Job 36, 2 Corinthians 6

What’s different for me than the other Bible Journal authors (and readers, I suspect) is that I am reading most of these scriptures for the very FIRST time. Maybe this will be my last week of journaling now that my secret is out! My process for reading and responding really begins with developing an understanding of the historical context of the scripture and then reading a few commentaries to deepen my knowledge of the surrounding text.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the people in the daily readings and try to relate to each of them. Although today’s New Testament readings are rich with symbolism and connection to our modern life, I can’t get seem to let go of the story of Jethro and Moses in Exodus 18. This is the first time I’ve read this story despite three decades of Catholic education! I’m so excited to share the big message I found in a short exchange. So, in Exodus 18, Jethro, Moses’ father in law comes to visit him where “he was encamped at the mountain of God” (Exodus 18:5). They go into that tent we heard about yesterday and Jethro counsels Moses. At this time Moses has been patiently settling disputes among the people of Israel from sunrise to sunset according to God’s Law. Jethro says to Moses:

“…Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening? And Moses said to his father in law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statues of God and his laws” Moses’ father in law said to him” What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone”” Exodus 18:14-18

 Some commentaries compare Moses at this time after leading the Israelites out of Egypt as a “type of Christ” or the way I like to think of it, a “preview” of Christ. Not to say that he is in any way an embodiment of Christ, but instead that he acts as a law giver or judge among them. The scripture describes him as doing this duty in a tireless manor with great care and kindness to his people. The people come to him all day, every day, seeking advice and asking him to settle their disputes. Then Jethro arrives and throws him off his game a little bit. He reminds Moses that indeed he cannot do it alone. The task of leading all of the Israelites under God’s law is too much for one man.   Of course, Moses doesn’t throw a tantrum when his father in law speaks truth to him (like I would!) Instead he considers the advice, sees his error and makes a change. Essentially he relinquishes his role as top educator and dispute settler and delegates to a team of men as honorable as he is. How often do I want to do it all? How often do I consider myself an authority on a given topic and give tireless advice to anyone that will listen? God is sending us a direct message here that His word and law is meant to be shared among all of his people and ultimately judged by Him.

How often do we as Christians make judgments of others without first judging ourselves? Bible Gateway commentary for today’s scripture states, “Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful.” Am I seeking each day to strengthen my vertical relationship with God before counseling and making judgments in my horizontal or earthly relationships? In other words, am I in conversation with God first before correcting my spouse, friend or co-worker? The commentary goes on to say, “Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counseled.” Moses had God’s law on his lips but he wasn’t too wise to look within and be counseled on how to best share it.

Later in today’s readings Luke tells us about Jesus foretelling wars and persecution. In Luke 21:13, Jesus says:

“This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” Luke 21:13-15

 Heavenly Father,

Help us not to meditate on our words and set our answers before you speak truth into our minds and hearts. Help us to be patient with our modern “Israelites” as you have been so patient with us. Lord, we know the weight of your law is too heavy for any one man or woman. Help us to strengthen our relationship with you and avoid temptation to hand out injustice. Instead, tune our ears to the sound of your voice through others’ and help us to remember that we are never too wise to be counseled. Speak to us Lord through your word and through your people.

Have Tent Will Travel

Today’s reading link:  Exodus 17; Luke 20; Job 35; 2 Corinthians 5

When I first started camping the idea of living in a tent was compelling. Detached from the world back home, for weeks on end, I traveled through the wilderness in reasonable comfort. Over the years I had tents in different sizes and designed for various conditions. Some for backpacking, or canoe camping; engineered to sustain high winds, extreme cold, or heavy rains. I cherished my tents, for without them, traveling into the wild would have been difficult.

In 2 Corinthians 5, our bodies are compared to tents, and like tents, they lack durability. Our earthly bodies are temporary, so inadequate that we groan for something better. The heavenly body we long for will allow us to be in the presence of almighty God, but the body we have now allows God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within — if we choose.

Earthly needs, like food, clothing and shelter are used in the Bible as simple metaphors, which are reflections of more durable, holy things; helping us to understand their better eternal counterparts. Certainly it is a different life that awaits our arrival in the Celestial City, while our present lives offer glimpses of what awaits us in the better one. I believe my eternal citizenship is in God’s kingdom — a place I can choose to dwell today.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. –2 Corinthians 5:1-4

Tents provide the simplest and most portable housing. If we are nomadic wanders, the tent is perfect. But it isn’t until we build up permanent settlements of towns and cities, that we form more advanced civilizations. Ironically, Jesus speaks of, and demonstrates, the simple life of a nomad, while Paul contrasts tents to more desirable, permanent structures. I think this shows that our desire to build something better is often misplaced when we seek to build too much with the things of this life for ourselves.

Our earthly bodies are magnificently designed to serve the present needs of this life, while at the same time, housing our souls, which are destined for eternity. But earthly bodies are something much less than what we would expect of those designed for eternity. Our present bodies are referred to as jars of clay, for they are fragile; but they are also referred to as temples — sacred structures meant to receive God’s Holy Spirit. And by this we are transformed!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness ,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. –2 Corinthians. 4:6-7

Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not  your own; -1 Corinthians 6:19

In this present life we have the opportunity to build earthly kingdoms that fade away. Some fade faster than others, but most, in a sense, are gone in an instant. Alternatively, we can live life by  investing in the treasures that await us in the next. Now in a way this may sound foolish; betting by faith on a the existence of an eternal kingdom, and against the ones we might build here and now. In extraordinary circumstances, people build dynasties that last, perhaps, hundreds of years. What God offers mankind, through Jesus Christ, is a spiritual legacy that lasts forever — and an eternal home. If this offer is true, it represents incredible value. I believe the proof of this is the simaltainious offer of a better life on earth, a life filled with lasting peace and joy in all circumstances. A life of transcendence, directing our energy away from us and to the benefit of others. This even seems to line up with other belief systems; but what they don’t offer is the indwelling, transforming, life giving, power of the Holy Spirit of the living God — the comforter promised to us by Jesus.

In this life, within our tents, we are given the opportunity to experience hope, peace, joy, love, and wisdom through fellowship with the one true God. And in our struggles, when we turn to God, we grow. If we follow God into an eternal kingdom, in our surrender, we become a new creation. This is when we begin to see and experience the world in a whole new way.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! -2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Dear God, your power is supreme and your love is fathomless. Thank you for your wisdom and your Grace. Please help me to know you better each and every day, for the rest of my life eternally. Amen.

Selfishness

I Love Me card with beach background

Exodus 16; Luke 19; Job 34; 2 Corinthians 4

Over the last couple of years, have you followed the story of the Texas teenager who’s attorney’s used an “affluenza” claim in his legal defense for causing a wreck that killed four people? It was a sobering story for me.  Beyond making my heart ache for those directly impacted, it made me stop and think about my children and my approach to parenting.  What am I teaching, or not teaching them, that will impact in their behavior?  Will my influence show up as good or bad choices?

Merriam-Webster defines “affluenza” as the unhealthy and unwelcome psychological and social effects of affluence regarded especially as a widespread societal problem, such as feelings of guilt, lack of motivation, and social isolation experienced by wealthy people; extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships.

I would argue this condition is rampant in America. It extends beyond those who most of us would consider as super affluent, successful or wealthy.  For example, almost every kid in my children’s school has some kind of electronic device, gaming system or smart phone.  They wear designer clothes.  They travel often.  They want for very little.  My children are no exception.  I am a pretty average mother who is trying to teach my kids right from wrong, how to make wise choices, how to be a good friend, to love Jesus, and so much more.  These are really hard lessons to teach and to learn, especially when we are focused primarily on ourselves.  Most of the time, even if we don’t want to be, we are just down right selfish.

When I started today’s reading in Exodus 16, the first two verses hit me with an unfortunate sense of familiarity. Exodus 16:1-2 says …on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Wait a minute. God rescued the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  He miraculously parted the Red Sea, overtook their enemies, and led them safely to freedom on the other side.  Less than two months later, they were already grumbling?  Weren’t they even the slightest bit grateful for the significance of what had taken place over the last 45 days?  Like me, their true selfish nature came through.  They couldn’t see past themselves (and their hungry bellies)!

Despite their grumbling, God provided for their needs. He did so in order to try and shift their focus off of themselves to him.  Exodus 16:4, Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

Exodus 16:11-12, And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

We are made in the image of God, we are created to glorify him, and he desires relationship with us. Even so, we are often unable to resist the urge to focus on ourselves/our wants/our desires and forget that he is the source of everything we have.  As we read on through the Old Testament, we will find the Israelites struggling with this for many years.

Now jump to our New Testament scriptures for today…

Luke 19 starts with the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a wee little man (couldn’t resist singing the song in my head) with a deep rooted history of selfishness.  He was a tax collector who acquired his riches by overcharging/ripping off taxpayers.  Luke 19 doesn’t give a lot of background on why Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus, it just states that he was.  After spending time with Jesus, we see evidence of Zacchaeus turning his focus away from himself.  Luke 19:8-10, And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We don’t have the opportunity to spend time face to face with Jesus. But through his blood, we have direct access to speak to him through prayer all the time.  This is the cure for our selfishness!

Where is your focus today? Will you commit to spending time communing with God, letting him help to shift your focus to him?

There is no one like Him

Today’s reading: Exodus 15; Luke 18; Job 33; 2 Corinthians 3

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

There is no one like our God. It was only a few years ago that my human brain and emotions started to grasp this concept, and now every time I say it with all of my heart believing that it is true, I get chills, and sometimes tears. There is no one like him. He created this earth and its inhabitants. He gave us the ability to love. He designed our brains to think, to process emotion, to create, to wonder, to worship, to choose.

The more I know God, the more I love him. The purpose of this post is to share some of the attributes of God so that we may know him better, some attributes of the enemy so that we can be vigilant, and some of our proper responses to who God is and what he has done. The Song of Moses found in Exodus 15 is a beautiful poetic song and extremely robust with content. It is worth reading over and over and taking a deeper dive into. Each bullet point below lists a verse reference from Exodus 15.

Names & attributes of God from this song:

      • Triumphant; has power over the enemy. (1, 4, 5, 6, 7)
      • Strength, song, salvation. (2)
      • Masculine gender. Refers to God as “He” or “Him”. (2)
      • Warrior (3)
      • In control of the earth. (5, 8, 10, 12)
      • Powerful (6)
      • Great (7)
      • Majestic (7, 11)
      • Furious (7)
      • Holy (11)
      • Full of glorious deeds. (11)
      • His love is steadfast. (13)
      • Leader (13)
      • Redeemer (13)
      • Guide (13)
      • His home is holy. (13)
      • Purchaser; he purchased us. (16)
      • Creator (17)
      • Reigns forever (18)

Attributes of the enemy:

      • Pursuer, taker, selfish, ruthless, destroyer (9)
      • Powerless against God. (10, 12, 16)
      • Melts away. (15)
      • Filled with terror and dread. (16)

Proper responses to God: The entire song is their acknowledgement of his many attributes and deeds, but here are a few specific responses within the song.

    • Sing to him. (1)
    • Acknowledge him as our strength and savior. (2)
    • Praise him. (2)
    • Exalt him. (2)
    • Tremble (14, 15)

God’s ultimate act was to send his son Jesus to this earth, to become human but yet still God, and to sacrifice his life for our sins. How can our response to this even compare to the magnitude of what he has done? We cannot repay him so we must do what he designed us to do, worship him, praise him, acknowledge him, and with trembling hearts in awe of what he has done.

The Biggest Miracle

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Exodus 14; Luke 17; Job 32; 2 Corinthians 2

As we have seen throughout the story of Exodus, the Israelites are stuck. Stuck in part from their circumstances of slavery and partly stuck because of fear. How so? Consider their choice in living a life of slavery, making bricks for an oppressive ruler over a life of freedom. This choice often led them to death. As we read through Exodus 14, we see that they finally choose differently. They choose freedom. The result? They become trapped; hemmed in by the Red Sea in front of them and the entire Egyptian army not far behind. Not only that, the Egyptians were on horses and in chariots, brandishing spears, arrows, sharp swords and all other life removing apparatuses. They could feel their impending slaughter. It would be easy.

What do the Israelites do? Chicken out! Reverting to their old behaviors, they rely on their own, severely limited, understanding. These limitations create fear, causing them to regress to their old ways. They discard the hope they received, replacing it with the relative comfort of what they know; slavery. Thankfully, God intervenes in their weakness. He really is patient and has a deep desire to see all of us live a free life in Him (2 Peter 3:9)

The rest of the story is obvious. God steps up in a way that nobody else could, performing the life-saving and  mind-blowing miracle of dividing the Red Sea. This act enables the Israelites to walk to freedom on dry ground. Now, if you are like me, you will give a quick shout out for the Israelites and a fist pump for an awesome victory. But… it doesn’t really impact my life today. Or does it? This is precisely where our journey collides with the Israelites.

In many ways, I find myself standing around waiting for God to move between me and the enemy, so that I can live the life that I have always wanted. He waits; patiently. I am allowed to remain in slavery, maintaining the habits and lifestyle that I have always tolerated because I fear the unknown. Today, I am sure that the hitch in my Spirit is God telling me that He has something more if I will only follow. He tells me that I can be freed from my slavery in an instant, but it’s not the way that I expect.   In fact, I have been looking for a 12-step plan or a 21-day program. Instead, he provides my own life-giving and mind-blowing miracle. This miracle, however, is bigger and better than the parting of the Red Sea. God sent his only son to suffer, die and rise again. Why? So that I might be free to live life abundantly (John 10:10).  Re-reading Exodus 14 with my miracle in mind, I see:

the Lord saved ME (Israel) that day from the hand of slavery (the Egyptians), and I (Israel) saw the enemy (Egyptians) dead on the seashore. I (Israel) saw the great power that the Lord used against my enemy (the Egyptians). (Exodus 14:30-31 ESV)

Do you see it too?  Can you hear God calling you to the Cross? Remember, He has risen! It is time. Move forward. “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. His promise gives firm footing, not in mud, but on dry ground. True Freedom! (Exodus 14:15 ESV)

Where He Leads Me ~ Twila Paris

Stewardship, the Shrewd Manager and Heavenly Rewards

Today’s reading: Exodus 13; Luke 16; Job 31; 2 Corinthians 1

March 2nd, 2016

The parable of the shrewd manager can be quite strange at first glance. Only found in the gospel of Luke, here we have a master commending his servant after he steals from him and Jesus telling us to look to the thief’s example:

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. – Luke 16:9

When I read this parable this morning I felt like I was reading it for the first time. I was lost, so I went looking and found a sermon that I have tried to summarize below. For the full version, I encourage you to check it out here: Luke 16 – The Shrewd Manager by Phin Hall

An overview:

  • Lesson; v1-7, story of a clever thief who uses what he’s been given to provide for his future.
  • Problem; v8, thieves are more aware and clever about providing for their future than the the saved.
  • Solution; v9, be aware that using worldly resources to help people is tied to eternity and be shrewd in this eternal value proposition.
  • Incentive; v10-12, treasures in heaven.
  • The Root Issue; v13, because these two are fundamentally at odds, you can not serve God and stuff. Do not love stuff, steward it for God.

The Lesson. A manager is tasked to steward his master’s resources. When the master hears that the steward is wasting his resources, he gives fires him. This word ‘wasting’ is the same word used in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the son spends all the inheritance on himself. When the manager is told he can no longer steward the resources he is given one last job, to hand over the accounts. True to form the manager, with this last window of opportunity, goes to his master’s debtors and debts them to him. Saying, “quick, take your copy of our records and change $50,000 to $25,000.” And I’m paraphrasing of course but the amounts were thought to be in similar neighborhood in today’s dollars. By doing this the steward again uses his master’s resources to provide for his own future. Ensuring that after he has handed over the account he will have prospects with his new friends.

The Problem. When the master learns that the manager is again using his resources for himself, he calls him in. But instead of the response we might expect, he actually commends the manager. He points to how shrewdly the thief used this last window of opportunity to provide for his own future.  We see that the steward feels hopeless and so he contrives and acts on a scheme to lie and steal and cheat his way into a secure future. And the rich man commends him for it. Interesting. Seems odd right? “Fine work ol chap, that was quite the display of thievery. Way to look out for good old number one.” But to understand what is really happening here we need to continue on.

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. – Luke 6:8

And there we have it. Sons of light, the heaven bound, are being reprimanded for being put to shame by the thief. The rich man is commending the traits the thief displayed. The sons of this world do not think of anything but the temporal and here the rich man is saying, boy is he thinking of the temporal well and positioning himself for the temporal well. The dishonest manager had forethought, and cleverness, he leapt at the window of opportunity, he acted swiftly with all he had; and this is what is being commended. The problem is that the heaven bound, children of light, ought to know better. They, knowing of eternity, ought to have forethought enough and be clever enough and spring to action and use all we have been given to store up treasure for ourselves in heaven! If we only applied these characteristics to what has been revealed to us of eternity.

The Solution. 

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. – Luke 16:9

First let us consider that Jesus is not telling us to lie or steal or cheat. Unrighteous wealth is simply worldly resources. The things that will not last. The things that are not to be trusted. The things that will not survive the baptism. The things that will fade away. Jesus is telling us here to use all these little itty bitty things like, money, and status, and knowledge, and power, and ego, and your retirement to make friends. The same way the shrewd manager sprang to action and used everything he had to make friends that would then help him later, we are told to use all the stuff that we have been given to steward to make friends that will testify to our stewardship on the final day. I have come to believe, this is what ‘make friends’ here means. Like a cup that overflows, we are to steward the resources we have been given so that we ensure the cup is filled and then overflows. That the overflow is to be used to make friends. To help those who need help.

The Incentive. Be a faithful steward with little and you will receive much. Be a faithful steward with the things that will pass away and you will receive heavenly treasure that won’t. All throughout the Bible God is incentivizing us to receive a reward. The gift of salvation is freely given and can not be earned but there is indeed something more that I believe God desires us to earn. This offer God makes us to earn heavenly treasures is so important. God cries out to us time and time again in scripture, imploring us to hear for our own sake; that we might come to work for Him; that the cup may overflow and that the good work might be done. 

In the past, when the topic of heavenly rewards has come up in conversation I have been foolish and said something of the sort. “I just want to be with Jesus.” As if wanting anything more was selfish or somehow wrong. And while it may have sounded super spiritual, I believe it came from my being deceived. God save me. How foolish it was of me. Thank God for His word!

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Mat 5:12a). “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Mat 6:20a). “And thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4b). “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Mat 16:27). “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor 9:24-25). “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev 22:12)

Let us have a look at this from another perspective in hope it will shed some light. Imagine a you sees a man on street, homeless, broken and without hope. You invite him in, offering him shelter, warmth, food and friendship. There is nothing the homeless man can do to earn being these things you are offering him; he has no money to pay you. This is freely given and freely received. But then, in due time, you say to him “I have some work for you. If you would look after the lawn and clean up a bit around here, I will pay you generously.” How would you feel if this were the man’s response, “Oh, I don’t want to make any money, I don’t want to earn anything or do any work, I just want to be with you.”  What?!? This would be an unthinkable response, would it not?

But the question is, what is your response to God’s call to do His good work?God is offering us good work with good payment. Take hold of your temporal resources, grow them, and use the overflow to help people in need. Perhaps even draw them nigh to Him. Be shrewd to this end. Have you accepted the job God is offering you? What are your goals and plans with this job? What does your eternal retirement look like? 

Shrewd Manager

The root issue. In closing Jesus tells us what this parable is all about; that we can not serve God and mammon, often translated as money. Mammon is all the stuff. All the temporal stuff we looked at before that will not last. All the stuff that in the past I have been mislead to believe I own. When in fact, I will never own anything until, God willing and by His grace and by the shrewdness He affords me, I receive my reward. These two things are fundamentally at odds. The love of stuff is at odds with God’s work plan for his job opening. 

God would you help us? We need you LORD. Would you help us to be good stewards with the resources you have given us? Would you help us store up heavenly treasures and accept all Your good works with shrewdness? God would you bless us indeed and increase our territory, that Your hand may be with us always and keep us from evil? Would you protect us from the deception to trust in mammon. Thank you God! Amen.