There is only one chapter in the book of Jude, and it is this chapter that we will focus on today. First, though, I have to confess that I don’t think I have ever heard the word “Jude” and not thought of the Beatles song. Ever. Even now, the lyrics are running through my head! So, now that we have that out of the way…and now that most of you are humming along – let’s dig into this book together.

First, you might be wondering – as I was – who Jude was. Interestingly, most scholars believe that Jude was the brother of Jesus. Jude humbly downplays this relationship, however, by simply referring to himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude 1:1).

Jude initially intended his letter to focus on salvation. In Jude 1:3, however, we learn that he changed his mind: “I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” False teachers had infiltrated the church and the culture. Jude says that these people have “come by in stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:8). Jude then refers to Sodom and Gomorrah, cities known for their sexual immorality, and compares the contemporary false teachers to the immoral citizens of these two cities by saying that their agenda is like “glory dragged in the mud” (Jude 1:8, MSG).

It is no secret that in many parts of the world, Christianity is currently being dragged through the mud. Jude reminds us that the apostles of Christ spoke to this, saying, “…there will be scoffers living according to their own ungodly desires” (Jude 1:18) Not only will there be false teachers, but these people will “cause divisions…” (Jude 1:19).

Jude does not leave us without a solution, however. Instead, he suggests a path forward. He advises us to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God…” (Jude 1:21). He also advises us to “be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin” (Jude 1:23, MSG). We have probably all heard this before: we must love the sinner while not tolerating the sin. This is not easy, and I don’t expect that it ever will be. But in this time of swirling chaos in our culture, we must continue to boldly proclaim the truth of God and His Word.

I love how Jude, the brother of Christ Himself, ends his letter to his readers with a benediction, a blessing. This is my prayer for our reading community today: “Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)


     When my kids were little, they used to love to try to stand on their heads.  They couldn’t, of course, because they were only toddlers at the time – but they sure loved to try.  I think they enjoyed looking at their little world from a different vantage point:  upside-down.  This idea of looking at life from an upside-down perspective is what I first thought of when I read chapter 23 of Matthew, our scripture for today.   

In this chapter, Jesus speaks plainly to the scribes and to the Pharisees.  These men were known to be the most religious group of people in the land at the time.  But instead of praising them for their devotion, Jesus calls them out for their hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy occurs when a person does not behave according to the moral code that they say they believe in.  Many times, hypocrisy looks like living an upside-down life:  focusing on the non-important while ignoring the essential.  Let’s take a look at an example from Matthew 23.

First, Jesus tells these religious men that they are actually being impediments to God’s kingdom, and that several of their behaviors are holding other people back from becoming followers of Christ.  For example, He says, they are more concerned with their outer appearance than they are with the condition of their hearts (Matthew 23:25 and Matthew 23:28).  Jesus tells them clearly to, “First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:26).

Jesus also told the scribes and the Pharisees that they were guilty of ignoring some of the basic tenets of Christianity, such as justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23) and focusing instead on tithing to the exact penny.  Indeed, He tells them, tithing and keeping accurate financial records is important – but, “the basics are required” (Matthew 23, verse 24, The Message).

These religious people, then, were living upside-down lives.  They were professing to believe one way, yet behaving in a way that directly opposed those beliefs.  They were like my kids standing on their heads, really – looking at life from the wrong perspective.  Eventually, my toddlers tired of being in this position and stood back up, a little dizzy but none the worse for wear.  The scribes and Pharisees, though, were adults who were held responsible for leading others in spiritual matters, which is why Jesus called out their upside-down behavior – their hypocrisy – in no uncertain terms.  The thing about hypocrisy, though?  Those around you, and those around me, are usually able to see right through it.

I love how Jesus’ reprimand is recorded in The Message version:  “Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?”  (Matthew 23, verse 24b, The Message).  Maybe it is because I’m a writer, but verse 24 really spoke to me.  Am I, are we, focusing on the wrong things?  Are we focusing on the punctuation rules, and not the telling of the story, His story?  I know that I am certainly guilty of this!  And so I’m thankful to read that Jesus also offers hope, saying that He wanted to bring the people of Jerusalem to Him as “a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Matthew 23:37).  He only asks that we be willing to change our behavior and turn back to Him.  This repentance, this turning back, begins not in the posture of a toddler’s headstand, but in a posture of prayer.  Join me?

A New Covenant

But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.Hebrews 8:8-9

As I read about this New Covenant I wonder: Why did we need one? How does it work?

God once made a covenant with His chosen people. These were the descendants of Noah, and the children of Abraham. He promised to bless them and save them; and to save the world through them. They, in exchange were bound to his law, essentially the Ten Commandments. Law that focused primarily on loving God and each other, putting God above all while striving for purity and relying on ritual sacrifice to receive God’s atonement for sin.

As I read through the book of Kings and 2Kings, it reinforces the tremendous disappointment God experienced in the almost constant rebellion of his people. Though God appeared at crucial times, rescuing His chosen people, offering many signs and wonders, still they turned away — worshiping other gods, sacrificing their children, and leaning on their own understanding.

The New Covenant came despite God’s disappointment, perhaps even because of it. It came as an expression of His constant love for people. This is not His plan “B” but the final reconciliation, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Considering our tendency to rebel, it’s remarkable God extends salvation to us. When we receive God’s grace, in an instant our sins are washed away and we are made righteous by faith! No longer under the power of the law, we are set free in Christ and given freedom to pursue a relationship with the one true God. A holy God who declares our innocence, though we are guilty. A self-sacrificing God, who takes our place on the cross and dies for our sins so we don’t have to.

The New Covenant is based on an act of love that restores the fullness of God’s intended relationship with us — His created beings. Once set free from sin, we are able to pursue holiness in the power of God’s Holy Spirit and a life in the presence of a living God who offers everything we cannot attain on our own. In this way we are blessed with peace, freedom, power and joy in the truth and security of an eternal, dynamic relationship with the very creator of the universe! This is the New Covenant. Thank you God!

Reading: 1 Chronicles 1–2; Hebrews 8; Amos 2; Psalm 145

Law of Love

Today’s Date: 8/23/2016

The Beatles were onto something when they sang the song All You Need Is Love . But Paul says it best in Romans 13:8-14

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 15; Romans 13; Jeremiah 52; Psalm 31

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Being asked to Love others is the only way we even come close to showing God our appreciation for sending His own son to die for us. Let’s refer back to John 3:16 where we find out exactly how much God loves us.  So as believers, we are asked to love one another.

How hard can it be? Honestly,.. hard, because naturally we attempt to make excuses as to why or what others do to not allow us to love them. We can gratify the desires of the flesh without understanding that the day could be on hand when our worldly bodies won’t be able to share this love.

God wants us to hold no debts except for the debt of Love to others.  So as we work diligently to cut out our own or our children’s financial debt never lose sight of the debt of Love that doesn’t impact any bank statement. Our only obligation here is to love our neighbors.

Loving others as ourselves is a deep love that covers everything to make sure all needs are met.  Helping and loving others means that your secure in yourself enough to make sure that you love your neighbors. James 2:8 says to love thy neighbor like thyself.

In order to show this love you need to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ“.  There are many references to putting on a new self. Ephesians 4:24 talks about a new self created in the likeness of God; In addition Colossians 3:14-17.  We can also show this in be baptized. Galatians 3:27. Second, we model the same qualities that Jesus had while on this Earth. (Love, Humility, Truth, Service) Here is where you could go with the acronym W.W.J.D. Ephesians 4:17-32

We must make sure we are getting dressed everyday – taking off sin and putting on the righteousness of Christ.  It is an everyday love that we need to put on new each day.  We need to keep God’s promise of a new self close to not allow  worldly things invite us to enter into jealousy, anger, mistrust, being negative against others for whatever previous mistakes you or they made.

The night is far gone; and the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12-13


Dear Father, I am thankful that You are love. That You have woke us up from a sleep that only focused on ourselves. We rejoice that You demonstrated incredible love for us in the flesh through your son Jesus Christ. I pray that we share this great love with others. We are forever changed because of this love and I know that it extends to those around us because You have enabled us to love deeply. Today, I pray that You let Your love flow through us and touch those around us. May the love we give be a blessing and a light for Your kingdom. Amen

Love ~ Chris Tomlin

Fellowship of the Word

“I’d rather spend every Sunday of my life hanging on a cliff to rescue someone than spend more time sitting in a pew next to hypocrites that talk about what they will do to better themselves and the world when they get around to it.”  – Shannon L Alder

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 2; Psalms 83–84; Isaiah 30; Jude 1

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. -Jude 1:17-23

As I attempt to stand against the tide of culture and the temptations of the world, it is my honor to have good friends who share this journey. Those, who by the grace of God, fight the battle to stand among the righteous, endeavoring by surrender and perseverance, to win the race for the greatest prize in all creation. So it is to my fellow bible journal.net writers I say, “thank you!”  Each of you hold a special place in my heart, among others with whom we share this journey of faith. image

This is a remarkable journey. Amidst the delusions of life, my faith in Jesus Christ stands out as a metaphysical and experiential reality of Divine proportion. Life is but a series of existential crises for us all. Thankfully, God has not only spoken the universe into existence, but he has also placed His profound truth in the hearts of all people, to be discovered and responded to through His revelation in nature; law; and powerful examples from others (Psalm 19). God offers a complex, yet simple, written history of His plan for the restoration of a fallen world. Truth is offered to all and begins with the desire to know who God is; and is bound in the decision to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two things don’t always happen at the same time, as I can attest.

What is remarkable, is how God’s plan is tailored specifically for each of us. It is a plan based upon who we are, and upon who God is. It is a plan that challenges us to become the “people we were designed to be” (Jon Harris). imageIn the process of pursuing this plan, as we learn to love God and others, we find supernatural joy and peace in our lives. As we live lives of faith, following the path of Jesus, we are transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, and it is in this transformation that we gain spiritual traction, moving faster into the arms of God.

It is extraordinary how common it is for believers everywhere to experience divine appointments; holy conversations; God’s perfect timing; peace that transcends all understanding; and a true and lasting joy. Interestingly, this common experience is still unique to the individual. Our precious identities are not lost in Christ, but there they are found!

Despite this truth it hasn’t always been easy for me to see it.

They say to the seers, “See no more visions !” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” -Isaiah 30:10-11

Yet beyond all the confusion, among the many voices that surround us, it is from the best examples of believers (above all) and acts of love from others who seek the light, that Christ is seen. This is the truest, straightest and most illuminated path to the richest fellowship with God.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John14:6


So thank you to: Jillian Koch McGriff for your brilliant words and empowering faith; Jennifer Armstrong for your sharp mind and insightful teaching; David Lafrance imagefor your open heart and amazing faith journey; Michael Somers for your wisdom, dedication and perseverance; imageJon Harris for building people up through constant encouragement; and BJ Armstrong for your mighty faith, vision and leadership. Each of you have enriched me in countless ways in the past five months of writing. Thank you! May God continue to bless you and your families with wisdom, truth and power from His Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Putting God First – My Testimony

Reading Link: Leviticus 6; Psalms 5–6; Proverbs 21; Colossians 4

One of the hardest things I have ever had to do is to make God first in every aspect of my life. This should be easy, right? Especially since God, the ultimate creative power, put everything into motion. Honoring God should be automatic, but it’s not. Because God is invisible, getting to know Him has been challenging. Because He is personal, He gets me, even better than I get myself. Remarkably, God desires fellowship with people, which becomes possible by faith through Jesus.

But I Through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. -Psalm 5:7

As a child, I had a simple and easy faith which prevailed even through some early hardships. Then, when I was fourteen, my step father John died unexpectedly at thirty seven, I was devastated. He had been one of my closest freinds, my mentor and the present father I had lacked for the seven years since my parents had divorced. My faith was derailed. Instead of trusting God to help me work through my grief, I turned away dissapointed and angry even though God was there for me. I replaced my faith in God, with faith in me.  A big mistake!

In the next fourteen years, my rebellion was filled with the pursuit of what I thought was freedom in order to pursue my pleasures. Then, to prove my worth in the world, my efforts eventually led to self glorification. I was going to do everything on my own, and take all the credit. This was comical really, considering how proud I was of the many aspects of my life which I had no control over. Being born into a certain family in America, in my time, or benefiting from some ancestor ‘s success from the 1800’s, or the countless people who helped me out in so many ways that I never even asked for. These were all beyond my control. Looking back I see even my limited achievements often occurred in unexplainable ways, yet I still took the credit. Luck or destiny, either way these were blessings, not accomplishments. Truthfully, despite all the glory I tried to claim for my self, I was never consistently happy, and it was never enough. There were many great highs, but they were always followed by lows; and the saddest thing was this: my life was simply slipping away as I drifted further from discovering my true purpose.

Fortunately I rediscovered the God of my childhood who was still patiently waiting to restore the fullness of the fellowship I had once enjoyed. And still I hesitated.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. -Proverbs 16:9

With open arms, like the father of the prodigal son, God has welcomed me back to His family. Making me whole in Jesus, forgiving all, and asking for the surrender of my will; not for Him, BUT FOR ME! And still, I’ve hedged my bets, tentatively investing in my relationship with God despite everything I have learned. It is only in my full subordination to God’s will that I receive the full measure of His blessing

God does not ask us to give Him everything, for everything is His. He simply asks us to recognize this fact, and live accordingly. We Are His creation, each splendidly unique. One of a kind as David LaFrance eloquently pointed out on Tuesday.

Once reconciled we begin to discover God’s plan for our lives. Each of us was created for a special reason; to uniquely point the way to God, to glorify Him like no other person could. Only in our genuine relationship with God do we find true freedom and purpose. This is the greatest life we will ever know!

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. -Proverbs 21:31

So what am I waiting for?

Light in the Darkness


Links to today’s reading: Exodus 31; John 10; Proverbs 7; Galatians 6

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? -Job 38:19

Early one morning I was trying to understand the multitude of world religions; many of which were compelling in some way. Could different belief systems be pointing to the same God like some people said? Was it possible to reconcile these without taking glory away from God, not ignoring the urgency and importance of sharing God’s story? I believed truth was found everywhere; but that didn’t mean everything was true. If there was a specific, profound, absolute truth that all people could discover, I wanted to know it; if it was applicable for everyone, I wanted to share it.

As I contemplated the idea of truth, the image of a large stone temple atop a great pyramid popped into my head. There were hundreds of meticulously cut stone steps, leading past sprawling terraces, to the massive doors of a mighty fortress on high.

Along the steps, and throughout the terraces, were statues of great men and women that had lived extraordinary lives, and of the world’s great beasts, elephants, lions and bears, all carved from the finest marble.  On each terrace were courtyards where splendid gardens grew; these were also decorated with statues of animals, and jeweled models of planets, solar systems and galaxies. Attached to well shaped trees were reptiles, mollusks and insects, formed from precious metals.

The air was heavy with moisture and the smell of spring and nectar. As inviting as this place was, something very important was missing — there was no light. None. The world that surround the Temple Mount was enveloped in total darkness, leaving the sojourners to wander these grounds, and climb the great steps; forever groping in the dark. They spoke to each other, describing the statues and models, which they often felt with their hands. Each believed they described a greater truth about this world they were blind to; some in wonder, some in humility, and some with arrogance. Each in their own way believed that something pointed the way (perhaps even offering a key) to the entrance of the temple, a thing, somehow, they knew in their hearts. Inside the temple, they believed, resided every good thing which was missing from their present lives. And each was certain that the entrance was at hand, calling out to the others, “come hither.”

One day the door of the temple opened, and out shone the most brilliant light, blinding the sojourners at first. Then, at the door of the temple, a lamb appeared, wearing a crown of light and calling out, “follow me.”

Now as the sojourners’ eyes adjusted to the light, they saw the things they had been describing to each other for the first time. Some were embarrassed that they had been so sure about the location of the door, or the ridiculous descriptions of things they could only feel. Others, when they saw the lamb at the door, immediately bowed down, knowing it was he who had opened the door to the fortress they had been searching for. Those who knew the truth then arose, and climbed the stairs to the entrance, there they were embraced by the king, who welcomed them. Surprisingly, many of the others remained behind, in disbelief. They were certain that which they had described in the darkness was still true; clues that would someday reveal the key and the door. Then the lamb called out, “come to me,”over and over to those who remained, but they could not hear. Eventually the door closed, and the darkness returned forever.

When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12