Picking up Stones

Today’s Reading: John 8 and Psalm 110

Imagine sitting somewhere in these temple courts in this image of Mount of Olives above. A group is gathered to listen to Jesus share story, probably a lesson on how we should be living. Not to far into this lesson, voices and sounds of mockery, crying, and unwanted insults are being hurled at a person as they are brought closer and closer eventually, right in front of the group.  There are scribes and Pharisees who have brought a woman caught in an adulterous act and taken, in that moment, to go face to face with Jesus. While we sit there, the questions being pondered in our heads include, “Who is this?, What have they done? How long have they been doing this? or Who have they impacted by their actions?” We watch this public judgment brought by the teachers of the law and Pharisees. I imagine her outfit, the sweat, tears, dirt, and blood that is present from being dragged, manhandled, and throw down on the ground at the feet of Jesus. On the inside I can feel her pain, for her it is probably embarrassment, guilt, a helpless feeling that death could be on the way. Her face is looking down with shame that won’t allow anyone to read it on her eyes.  The last sounds we hear is sobbing as she gasps for air waiting for her fate to be decided. Others keep asking what should we do with her?  Can you picture it?

Now, think in our current lives, have you been in a similar spot? Maybe not the same situation but the same level of pain, same level of embarrassment, same level of struggle. Are you here today? Have you been here ever? Do you know anyone who is going through a hard situation?

Jesus said in  John 8:7“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I think about being there, seeing, hearing, and witnessing Jesus’s grace. Watching as one by one, those present start to leave. Verse 9 says that when they heard this, one by one they started to leave.  Older ones first until Jesus and the women were left alone.  The mention of the older ones makes me reflect on why they put and order on this event. For me,  I’m left with the thought, “I get it, who hasn’t messed up?” Our earthly lives can bring about desires that can leave you at times helpless until you lift up your head, open your heart, repent, allowing God’s grace to fill your heart.

Who am I to judge if I were to look at my own life?  

Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn, you; go, and from now on sin no more”

My study bible emphasizes the word order of this statement pointing out the significance of, “go now and sin no more”. That, in Christ, the pardon is given first, Jesus is quick to forgive, but we as individuals are accountable to stop sinning. (Jeremiah Study Bible)

I also looked back at some of my notes on a sermon that was preached on these verse once at Eastview Cristian Church where pastor Baker said,  All of us are guilty. Why do we condemn?

So I ask myself, Am I quick to pick up stones?     We have all been given God’s grace. It’s not too late.  Share this with someone today.  As you head into Thanksgiving show God’s love with grace.  Let’s not condemn or pass judgement.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, As God in Christ forgave you.

Dear God,

Thank you for your grace you have given to all of us even though we don’t deserve it.  You love us and shown us by sending your son to die for all of us. This story of your love, compassion, and grace fills our hearts and is an example of the love you have for us all.

John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Go share that light of life with others! Happy Thanksgiving.

For more on this chapter read Throwing Stones by Jon Harris     

This Is Amazing Grace   – Phil Wickham

 

 

My Father, A Glimpse Into Our Heavenly Father

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

Please forgive me, as this is the 2nd writing in a row about my family. My family is far from perfect to say the least like all families, but I could not help but think of my Dad when reading this passage. This chapter specifically talks about the treatment of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3 and family 1 Timothy 5:8. For much of the last 15 or so years my Dad has cared for widows. Two of his aunts, who were my Grandfather’s sisters, were widows with no children who lived alone for many years and then transitioned into an assisted living facility and then eventually a nursing home. They have now both passed. My Dad picked them up for church each Sunday, insisted they come to every holiday, and even made sure they had a corsage like all the other women at church on Mother’s Day so they didn’t feel left out.  Not only did he care for their physical needs and managed their finances, but most importantly, he cared about the way they felt about themselves. He cared about their dignity. I can’t help but think of how proud my Grandpa must have been of my Dad looking down from Heaven and seeing his son care for his sisters who had no one else.

It doesn’t stop there though. My Grandma, my Dad’s mother-in-law, was also in the nursing home with dementia at and around the same time. My Dad would stop by mid-morning each day to pick up and drop off her laundry and check in to see how she was doing. Even though she didn’t know who he was and wouldn’t have noticed if he didn’t come by or that her glasses were dirty, he would stop by just to bring a smile to her face and to clean her glasses every day. I know how great this made my Mom feel seeing the love her husband had for her own Mom. I can only hope that I can make him and my wife Shannon that proud someday. Now, my Dad cares for a widow who has no living relatives and is in need of someone to help her after her sister passed. I heard someone once say you can tell the character and quality of a person by how they treat someone who can give them nothing in return. Come to think of it..isn’t that what God did for us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us? He gave us something we could never repay Him for and something he didn’t need to do. He wanted to do it though. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love…” We will never be perfect and that is why we need Jesus. But, we are called to be a shadow of his image for others to see His love through our lives and actions.

I’m wrapping up my 17th unbelievable Annual Meeting in Milwaukee for my company, Northwestern Mutual, and I had the chance to hear Wheaton College legendary football coach Michael Swider speak for the second time in my life. If you ever have a chance to hear him..go! He has me crying and wanting to run through a brick wall for God, my family, and those I lead every time I hear him. He said, “Your reputation is what others think about you. Your character is what God and the angels know.” 1 Timothy 5:25 says, “So also good works are conspicuous and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Coach Swider said we all will have a meeting with God someday. We just don’t know when it is. He asked, “What if your meeting with God was tomorrow?” And it could be! What would He say to you? He knows your character and true heart. Although we only need to ask for forgiveness and believe in Him for his grace and good works cannot earn his grace and eternal life, I sure hope and pray that if my meeting is with God  is tomorrow he will say to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” I know He will say that to my Dad. What do you think he will he say to you?

 

What We Cannot Do For Ourselves…

Today’s reading is from Romans 3.

The word grace is defined by dictionary.com as “the freely and unmerited favor and love of God.” I’ve also heard it put that God’s grace means he will love us no matter what. Dictionary.com also defines a gift as “something given voluntarily without payment in return.” We learn in Romans 3:24 that we “are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Google defines redemption as “clearing a debt.” Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:20 says, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.”

Typically a writer should wait until the end to put all the pieces together in a summary, but this is big enough that I feel compelled to do it now. Put plainly, no one is without sin, and no one receives the favor, love, and forgiveness of God by doing good works. We receive God’s love and have all our sins erased though confession of sin and faith in the one who first loved us when we didn’t deserve it, his son Jesus Christ. That’s all we have to do to get right with God? Yep…that’s it. Praise God!

In his Book If, Mark Batterson puts into perspective God’s forgiveness by reminding readers of the story in Matthew 18 when Jesus equivalates God’s forgiveness to a master who forgave his servant 10,000 talents.  One talent was 180 months or 15 years of wages. Therefore, a debt of 10,000 talents was 150,000 years or 2,332 lifetimes of wages of debt forgiven! This puts things into perspective of how no number of good works during our lifetime could make us righteous before God. Thinking of what God has done for us which he did not have to do and the fact that this is something we could not do for ourselves is enough to move me to tears often.

Let’s stick to the definition theme here. Merriam-Webster’s website defines righteous as “free from guilt or sin.” Mark also discusses in If that our sins are transferred into Christ’s account and paid in full when we confess our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross, but that’s only half of it. A second transfer occurs that we often forget. Jesus Christ’s righteousness is then deposited into our account with God calling it even! Not only does God not see our sin, he sees the righteousness of his son Jesus who was without sin in us. This is told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we may BECOME the righteousness of God.”

How does all this change how we should live today knowing these things?

  1. We don’t do good works and live how God wants us to live to earn God’s grace and love. We do good works in response to God’s love and grace.
  2. We do not boast or brag of anything we do (Romans 3:27). We can only boast of his grace and tell others of our faith in him.
  3. Since no one receives the righteousness of God based on works, family lineage, race, financials status, or social status, but only through faith in Jesus, we view ourselves as better than no one else. We see everyone as a child of God who is loved by God the same as us. We realize that everyone has a desperate need to come to faith in, and have a relationship with, Jesus Christ.
  4. We live different. We live life fearlessly because we have the righteousness of Jesus in God’s eyes through faith in him. We know he’s on our side and wants the best for us no matter what. Subconscious doubts about God’s love can culminate is many fears daily, but when know of God’s abundant love and are absolutely sure of it, we can live life without worries or anxieties about today or the future.

Please say this prayer with me today..

Dear God,

                I’m sorry for my many sins. I thank you for your gift of grace through faith in your son Jesus and his death on the cross. I thank you that your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and that you see me as righteous like Jesus only through confession and belief in him. Because of what Jesus did, help me to do good so that everyone can know you and see your love through me. Help me to not draw attention to these works, except for so that everyone will know the love you showed on the cross. Help me to remember each day that I can take risks and live a fearless life to be all you have called me to be because you have made me righteous like Jesus through faith in Him. Amen.

Losing Champions

Today’s Reading: Matthew 16

I tend to have a competitive spirit when it comes to sports, games, or just about any activity. At times this desire to win can get in the way of what truly is important and the understanding of who is really winning. When I was growing up we didn’t have much so this yearning to win I imagine came from my own complex to feel the need to prove myself all the time to appear “normal”. It could also act as a temporary fix for an internal fear of failure and a want to avoid the current situation.  Where I was feeling like I was winning, I was actually losing, lying to myself, others, and denying Gods call to control my life.

As we read through Matthew 16 we close out on Jesus telling his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. I’ve written about this before after reading Luke 9 in Lose Yourself. If you have a chance look back at some of the questions posed there. Today,  I’m reminded about the change that we all pursue to cause us to grow in the Lord. That when we decide to say Yes to ourselves, we say No to Christ. If we say No to ourselves, we say Yes to Christ. Throughout our day, what are the ways to forget ourselves and our desires, and search, listen, and follow Jesus’s example.The first thing I pray for is for the recognition of more than surface level approach to others and to truly think of others first.  I need to avoid superficial situations that don’t represent God’s heart and prayerfully submit to God’s will and not my selfish desires to look past a situation. To listen, serve, and share God where you can. If not by words, our actions can speak volumes. Here are a few pointers you can think of for today.

Self-denial – try not to do things only for me – Revelation 12:11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Stop trying to run “my” life – what am I putting in my body and mind?  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Remind myself that I don’t belong to me  – submit my day to God each morning- Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Champion God’s will in everything today. Unselfishly serve others. Happily Lose!

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Do you want to find yourself? Do you want to be who you ought to be? It’s not easy and its a constant work in progress. But, let’s try to lose ourselves and grow in the dedication of our life for Christ.

 

Powerful Planning

August 2, 2016 

One of my favorite verses that I read today is Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Today’s ReadingJudges 16; Acts 20; Jeremiah 29; Mark 15

I’ve read, written, and quoted this verse many times to myself and to others. At first to me it was a reminder that God has a plan for all of us. In His plans, and according to His timing, we will be taken care of in both good and bad moments. These encouraging words can provide you with boundless hope you need to conquer any agenda, task, or adverse circumstances that at first may seem impossible. You can rest on the fact that God is with you the whole time. In our stress, pain, and hard times God has a glorious conclusion for us.

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

These next two verses is a reminder about us calling upon Him. That the plans we want may not always be the plans He has set for us.  So in our minds when we’re asking, “Why did this happen?” submit to the plan God has given to you and find ways to bless others. This is a tough one for me to swallow since I spent most of my life to this point doing everything for me.  Self confession, its not about me its about God.

In researching various interpretations to Jeremiah 29:11 I’m sent back to Jeremiah 29:1 where you will see these verses were part of a letter Jeremiah wrote to surviving elders, prophets, priests, people who had been exiled.  This exile based on their disobedience lasted for 70 years.  Imagine the wait now.  In our instant gratification world its hard to wait 70 seconds let alone 70 years. It also is a heart check to see where our obedience is.  In today’s reading God has a plan for Samson and the Philistines, Paul and Eutychus, Nebuchadnezzer and all the exiles in Babylon,  Joseph of Arimathea, and us.  Jeremiah 29:11 can be a reminder.

These Israelites were sent to exile because of their idolatry.  Exodus 20:5 tells us that he is a jealous God and how we should only focus on Him.  – God is Just

Despite the fact of their sins and ours God gives us hope that he will take you out of your current situation when we call on Him and according to His time.  – God is full of Grace

Through history you can see all the promises our Lord has fulfilled. We can trust that God will follow through on the promises made to us. The promise that we can receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.  – God keeps His Promises

So today…

  • Ask yourself, Do I continually seek Him?
  • How do I respond when God’s plans are not always the plans I desired?
  • Am I still being a blessing to others when His plans are not according to my timing?

Dear God,

You alone are our God. Please help us to focus on this throughout our days. You go before us and have divine plans set for us. Equip us to continually bless others in the midst of this day you have set before us. Help us to grow closer and closer to you as we seek you continually. Allow our responses to be full of Grace just like you have given to us. Thank you God for this day, let us follow the plan you have set for us. Amen