To The Church

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family!

In Revelation 2 we have hear Jesus speak to John and to four of the seven churches in the province of Asia. The words Jesus speaks to John would be the letters written for the churches then and to all of us as “the Churches” now.

The letters to the churches are of praise and encouragement, but also warnings.  So as you read through Revelation 2, listen to His words and hold onto His promises.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

To the Church in Ephesus

  • He is our right hand that holds it all in His hands. v.1
  • He knows our actions and our deeds. v.2
  • He understands our perseverance.v.3
  • He reminds us to repent when we have fallen. v.5

To the Church in Smyrna

  • He is the First and the Last v.8
  • He knows our pain and needs. v.9
  • He reminds us the devil will test us, still be faithful to receive your victor’s crown. v.10

To the Church in Pergamum

  • He holds a sharp double-edged sword. v.12 (Hebrews 4:12)
  • He will provide manna v.17
  • He will provide a white stone with a new name on it. v.17

To the Church in Thyatira

  • He knows our deeds, love, and faith, our service and perseverance. v.19
  • He gives us time to repent, are you willing?
  • If we don’t repent, we will suffer. v.22
  • I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.  v. 23

Jesus is reminding us that He truly knows us. (Romans 8:27-37)  He knows what is said and done in the dark and what is in the light. (Luke 12:3)  That judgment will be passed and He gives us the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. (John 9:39 and Matthew 4:17)

To each church and to each of us Jesus says, Whoever has ears let them hear.  Do you hear Jesus speaking to you today? Listen close, He knows what we go through every day, He is here for us, waiting. All we need to do is listen.

Dear God,

Thank you for your words that we are able to apply to our hearts each day.  God, we know you are with us always and know every detail of our being.  Help us to listen and obey your words. That in this wonderful Christmas season we remember and focus on your ultimate sacrifice of sending your own son Jesus to live a perfect life and ultimately die for our sins.  The sins we all like to hide away, let us bring them to the light and repent.   God I’m sorry when I lose faith, I’m sorry when I don’t listen.  Search my help and reveal to me all that you desire and help me to live not by my will, but yours.  Help me to open my ears, and hear your loving voice today.  We love you.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Socks

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2

When do you remember first worrying about what others thought of you and trying to fit in? For me, it was junior high. I began to really care about how I looked, dressed, and the brand of my clothes. I remember wearing some jeans and wondering that morning if I had grown and if they were long enough. That same day, someone made a comment about me having “high waters” on and then a girl who many of us junior high aged boys were fond of chimed in and said…”Looks like the tides are coming in, Chet.” You can be rest assured I never wore those pair of jeans again, and I made sure my pants were never too short again. In fact, my wife is going to chuckle when she reads this because I think this experience is why likely today I am still always asking her if my pants are too short (like even maybe just last week). Unless if’s for exceptional performance at something, nearly all of us are constantly trying to fit in. Even as adults, we are worried about what others think and follow to the norms of this world.

This world is always trying to get us to conform, even though Romans 12:2 clearly tells us it’s ok to be different, which is exactly what we will be, when we are following Christ. This world tries to tell us that we can do whatever we want and feel like because that will make us happy. This world tells us that rules and guidelines God gives us in His Word keep us from being satisfied. Do whatever you feel like..that will bring you happiness and peace. Then you will be free. However, God knows whatever He tells us is sin in the Bible will actually make us a slave, not free. Sin either initially gives us a sense of anxiety knowing we did something wrong shortly thereafter or gives us temporary satisfaction in the moment, but it will eventually bring us pain and hurt at some point in the long run. This world tells us that many things the Bible says are wrong are now socially acceptable. Things have changed since Bible times we are told, and the Evil One will even trick us into believing that some things are not a sin just because Jesus didn’t specifically address them. But, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us,” 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Evil One knows that if we discredit one piece of Scripture…he’s got us..because that means you have to throw out the Scriptures as a whole. We, as believers, must stand up and recognize that the nature of our faith is 2 Timothy 3:16 is true and as a result, we believe ALL Scripture to be true. We must then do all we can to live out the truth of those Scriptures to reveal the character of God.

Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Isaiah 59:2 tells us “..your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” But, thankfully the character of God is to give us that which we do not deserve as told here in Romans 6:23.. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We all have a God shaped hole in our heart due to our sin that only He can fill through a relationship with Him.

No matter how hard we try, we will fall short and sin, but Romans 12:1 tells us that we should do all we can to make our own body holy and sacred, dedicating it to Him and doing all we can to not sin. Romans 12:2 then also tells us that when we do this and do not conform to this world we will know the will of God. How many times do we ask ourselves why something bad is happening in our lives, others’ lives, or in our world today? How can this seemingly bad thing be good? What good can come of this? What is the right thing for me to do right now? Well, this tells us if we give our life up to Him, we will better understand His will and what is going on. Who doesn’t want that wisdom and the peace that will come from it?

For the last few years, a few guys in my office have been on me to get rid of my old plain, solid colored dress socks that match my suit and switch to wearing the crazy designed, multi-colored socks that don’t have to match your suit. I pushed back caring about what potential clients would think and wondering if someone would trust a financial advisor who dresses like this. Well, three months ago I was in San Diego and walked into a store with probably a 60 feet wall full of crazy socks. I began to think (or maybe it was the Holy Sprit’s divine intervention)..maybe it’s time. So, I did it…I decided not to conform with the regular old, plain socks and to get some crazy socks…to be different. Let me tell you after 3 months, I love wearing them. It’s actually fun, and I like not having to worry about matching. Covering up past sins which cause worry and anxiety is not enjoyable. Giving your body as a sacrifice and not conforming to this world and what this world says is right may sound boring and not fun. However, if you hear the Holy Spirit telling you to change the way your living through His Word or through Christ-centered friends, listen and take action. Turn away, and give your life to Jesus. You won’t have to worry about the bondage of past sins that make you a slave. It may be even better and more freeing than not having to worry about matching socks….

 

Wait on the Lord

1 Samuel 26 and Psalms 27

1 Samuel 26 reads like a repeat of 1 Samuel 24, that we explored two days ago with Jennifer Armstrong.  The circumstances are two different events, although  similar, with Saul once again pursuing David. David has another opportunity to kill him, yet he shows mercy for the second time.  The picture Jennifer painted of choosing reconciliation over revenge, and trusting God’s authority, is applicable to this chapter as well.

I love how Psalms 27 so clearly describes David’s experiences outlined in 1 Samuel. He shows us that putting the Lord at the center of his life removes his fears (verse 1). Surrounded by enemy armies, he declares his confidence in God’s protection (verse 2-3). Even when David had the opportunity to take control, kill his enemy, he chooses to show mercy and allow God to work how He will.  TWICE!

Like David, we can trust God to deal with our enemies. Do you have a Saul in your life that you need to commit to the Lord’s hands?  He is the supreme authority, the righteous judge, and the ultimate miracle worker.  As a mentor once told me, “Let that go… it’s above your pay grade. That’s work that the Lord will do”.

I’m so encouraged by David’s cries out to the Lord in this Psalm, seeking wisdom and leadership (verse 11) in the middle of his drama. He chooses to WAIT for the Lord, even when under duress.

In contrast, my instinct is to take action. The Lord continues to give me opportunities to be patient and wait on Him. I’m a problem-solver, coming up with a mental action plan for the 12 “what-if” scenarios I create in my mind for any given situation. Inaction can make me uneasy, even when I know that immediate action isn’t always the best solution.  Waiting – whether it’s on direction from the Lord, or for my kids to get in the car – does not come easy.

I can think of a big season of waiting in my life, while handling hurts at the hands of others. God used this time to grow my trust in Him, He provided more wisdom, and delivered hope.  He protected my heart from seeking revenge, and in time, turned it toward reconciliation.  Had I taken immediate action, the outcome would be very different.  While the waiting can be the hardest part, in hindsight, we can see the beautiful work God does. For me, more time brought more truth.  And more time and truth brought more healing.

Lord, Thank you for being a righteous judge.  Please give us an ear to hear your direction and a heart to follow. Help us to know the difference of when you are leading us to wait and when you are leading us to action. Amen 

Not of This World…

Have you ever done something to honor God’s direction and His Word, yet others didn’t see it that way?

Today’s reading is Joshua 22 and Proverbs 22. We read here Joshua gives the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh their land and sends them off. Before doing so, in Joshua 22:5, He instructs them to follow God’s greatest commandment to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind. Upon receiving their land, they built an altar as a replica of the altar the Israelites. The Israelites hear of this and prepare for war against them because they believe they did this to worship another God, believing there should only be one altar which they had, to honor the one true God. Thankfully, they sent Phinehas and ten chiefs, one from each tribe, to check it out before attacking. They learn that the reason for building the altar was to replicate the original altar of the Israelites because the Jordan River separated them from easily getting back and they wanted to not only continue to honor God as Joshua had instructed, but also to make sure their children continued to know God and love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind (Joshua 22:26-28). Not only were they concerned about their continued commitment to love God, but they were also following what Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way you should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” After learning of the real truth of the altar, they are very pleased and obviously do not attack them (Joshua 22:32-34).

Unfortunately, we may not always be so lucky when we honor God and His Word. We may or may not be attacked physically, but others may scorn us with words, gossip, and it may come between our relationship with them and others. This makes it very difficult to honor God and always follow His way because as sinful humans, we care what others think about us. However, if we follow God and His will, others will often realize this later, as the Israelites did, but if not, we must be at peace with this. We must remember that we are living for an audience of One. We are told many times in the Bible that to follow God is to not be of this world and the world will hate us (John 17:14-16, John 15:18). Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” In Mark 8:36, Jesus says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Let us pray as we start our day today…Lord, please help us to love you with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. Let us be not of this world, as hard as it will be, but let us follow you and your will for our lives, not caring what anyone thinks but you. We know we are not perfect and know we will mess up. We will likely even misjudge others who we think are not following God’s will but are. We thank you for your saving grace through your Son Jesus. We love you. Amen.

What Are You Waiting For?

Joshua 18 & Proverbs 18

Chapter 18 of Joshua continues with the land division process for the final seven of the twelve tribes.  BAM!  Joshua hits them right between the eyes with his question of What Are You Waiting For?, as he charges the tribes to go get what God has given them!  I love the different ways this question is asked in the different versions of verse 3:

  • How long are ye slack…King James
  • How long will you put off…English Standard
  • How long will you wait…New International

We do not know WHY they’re slack – or HOW LONG they planned to put it off.  We do know that Joshua doesn’t mince words and clearly he wanted them to get a move on it.  I wonder if their reasons for waiting are much like mine?

  • Comfortable – were they cozy in their current stomping grounds and life was going along okay – why shake up the apple cart?
  • Fearful – were they concerned about some of the current inhabitants of the land and wanted to avoid conflict?
  • Doubting – did they question if the Lord REALLY intended this land for them? Really, God?  THIS land, for US, right NOW?
  • Unsure to Start – maybe they were ready and willing, but genuinely didn’t know WHAT to do first. Were they waiting around for someone to give them their marching orders?

What has the Lord given you that you need to take hold of? Do you have a gift or talent ready to be used for His Kingdom? Has He put a promise in your heart that you need to BELIEVE today?  Does He have something that will bring you much joy and delight?

I can think of a specific time in my life when God put it on my heart to take the next big step in healing a relationship.  While I felt God calling me to this deeper level of healing, it was definitely uncomfortable and didn’t feel like the easiest road.  In addition to the doubts I had about myself and if this was even possible, I also didn’t know HOW or WHAT to do FIRST.

When we are called to a purpose or given something to take hold of, God doesn’t promise it to be easy and without trials.  He promises to be WITH US through it. He will guide us – sometimes right through the center of a mess, that brings us to a deeper reliance and rest in Him. He will surround us with His presence when we do not know what to do.  He will place His Word on our heart that will speak to us. He will send brothers and sisters to minister to us and share wisdom.

I love how Joshua sends out 3 men from each tribe to do the survey of the land so he can assign the 7 parts for the 7 remaining tribes.  What great wisdom! Parents have experienced this with kids – they’re more likely to split a cookie evenly when they know someone else will be choosing who gets which half.  Twenty-one sets of eyes are better than seven. I wonder how many of Joshua’s decisions were impacted by the gained wisdom from the decades spent with Moses. In addition to the Holy Spirit and the Living Word, God uses His people to pass down wisdom to future generations.

Proverbs 18 is full of challenges for us seek wisdom and understanding before taking action and opening our mouths.

He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire,
And rageth against all sound wisdom.
A fool hath no delight in understanding,
But only that his heart may reveal itself.
A fool’s mouth is his destruction,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts.
13 He that giveth answer before he heareth,
It is folly and shame unto him.
15The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge;
And the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.

Just like Moses to Joshua, and Joshua to the Israelites, God has surrounded me with wisdom-sharing people,  especially when I needed it.  At an early age, I had a mentor counsel me (drill into me) the importance of seeking wisdom, staying coachable and ‘easy to help’.  He taught me to proactively seek  feedback and surround myself with experienced Godly people. Over the years,  I’ve leaned on this huge life lesson.

Back to Joshua’s original question for us: What are we waiting for? When will we take hold of what God has for us? Let’s move forward with wisdom!

Thank You Lord, for your gifts. Thank you for making Your wisdom available to all of us.  Help us to seek wisdom through Your Living Word and surround us with believers to point us to You.  Amen.

All You Need Is Love

When Jesus speaks of the perfect life, He is very clear: “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself” -Luke 10:27. In perfect love, God desires our wellbeing, our fellowship and obedience.

Obedience is a hard word for me to hear, let alone to say or do! But obedience to God’s precepts ultimately make us better, stronger, healthier and happier. God’s law is no longer imposed, but encouraged in love. It’s not offered in oppression, but in freedom from sin through a life of tangible fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. Obedience to a perfect God is to seek the love Jesus speaks of.

Love gets more complicated when we are concerned for our well being, when others threaten our way of life, our freedom or interests. This is when we must chose between our own understanding or trusting God.

I am fascinated by the intensity of the discourse after this very unusual and surprising election. I have had to remind myself that God is eternally sovereign and we are not.

Living out our faith is about love in action, showing love without favoritism, loving the unlovable, practicing grace and gratitude. It is helpful to recognize our hypocrisy and self-righteousness, avoiding demagoguery, so easily embraced.

Personal spiritual transformation is the true source of social change. It is born in Love. God’s Spirit guides us. There is no other way.

God is sovereign and everything, even political power, comes from Him or is allowed by Him.

We have a lifetime of opportunity to live out values like kindness, humility, forgiveness, bravery, sacrifice, integrity, generosity, and compassion. We might easily claim these as our own, and overlook them in others, but love is the champion of justice and truth.

More than anything Jesus is saying to me, “trust God, surrender all to Him and love each other like there is no tomorrow.”

Perhaps John Lennon had it right; “all you need is love!”

1 Chronicles 15; James 2. Secret: Amos 9; Luke 4

Hall of Faith or Hall of Fame?

Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as the hall of faith. This is where the legacies of the heroes of Scripture are chronicled. Very different from the halls of fame we encounter in our culture today. 

Walking through a sporting goods store this past week I noticed a very large banner. An athlete up at the break of dawn, with all the ‘essential’ gear, stared into the camera with determination.  The text read simply “I WILL”. Here is another ad from the campaign. 

Under Armour I WILL campaign
Under Armour I WILL campaign

The memory of the familiar “JUST DO IT” slogan immediately came to mind and I thought ‘at least this “I WILL” campaign was a bit more transparent of a rallying cry, God willing we will have an easier time seeing it empty.’ In my estimation, when comparing and contrasting the heroes of Scripture from Hebrews 11 to this campaign, it was their faith that helped them realize they and their will were the furthest thing from true glory.

 

Extra Credit: Self Examination. From conversations with them, some teammates that went on to pursue and reach the professional level struggled with a seemingly constant battle against selfishness. These people were not selfish but their battle was against a lie that said the only way to make it was a completely self absorbed lifestyle, dedicating every moment to their bodies and skills. A constant placing of themselves, and their training, first.

Compare this to your “making it”. Ask yourself what does “making it” look like to you? Is your definition of “making it” of this world? Titles, money, position… What sort of “training” is required to always be first in your life for your definition of “making it”? Know that the world will lie to you about the answer to this question. Praise God that He has given us the truth!

From the hall of faith we get a sense of what making it looks like to our God. It is simple. It is faith. Where the first verse defines faith, the second verse speaks to the stark difference in the bases for congratulation between the ‘people of old’ and today; where faith was this bases in the ‘people of old.’ Their faith was their accomplishments, not victory on this earth, some position, or peer perception of them. It was their faith in God. Here is the big question that we all need to get right. In your life does faith in God = making it?

Suggestions for prayer: Ask the LORD to show you what success looks like. To give you a deep passion for pleasing Him in this way, a steadfastness for pursuing this with a single eye in meekness, humility and faith.

For further study: Memorize and meditate on Hebrews 11:1. Here we find the definition of faith. Such an important factor in following Christ.

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 7–8; Hebrews 11; Amos 5; Luke 1:1–38

Discerning God’s Will

A Christian is obsessed with God’s will. Our love of the LORD is synonymous with obedience to His Word (John 14:15). To know it. To do it. To serve Him is our greatest privilege. God’s Word speaks to so much but what about the things it does not speak to specifically? 

As I read today’s scripture I’m reminded of advice I received with regard to discerning God’s will: focus on His revealed will. When we are faced with decisions in life that we cry out for discernment on we need to look to scripture and focus on God’s revealed will. In the past, I have acted like a child, just wanting my answer for my particular situation. ‘Should I major in this or that… God’s word says to love people… right, right, but what about my major….’

I have heard it said that God does not care when it comes to these smaller things. You may have heard it phrased as a question; “Does God really care who wins the super bowl?” In my estimation, of course He does! I have come to believe God cares about everything (1John 4:8). I have also come to believe that God knows everything (Psalm 139:4). If God is love (opposite of not caring) and God knows everything, my faith strengthens me to believe that His revealed will contains all I need (Isaiah 46:9-10, Romans 8:28, 2Corinthians 12:9). And so by the grace of God, those who love God, can face a specific decision and know that God’s will for you is fully contained in God’s revealed will. Praise God that we need not over complicate things nor worry and that obeying God is simple and the burden light if we let it be! (1John 5:3, Ecclesiastes 7:9) #FaithForward 

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 22; 1 Thessalonians 5; Daniel 4; Psalms 108–109

Suggestions for prayer: Ask God to place on you a love for His Word and to light your path.

For further study: Make a study of all the places in scripture where God reveals His will. Copy them down and share them with your family at the dinner table (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Ask your family to join in and add to the family collection of God’s revealed will.  

The Will of the LORD Be Done

Today’s reading: Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30–31; Mark 16

August 3rd, 2016

In Acts 21 Paul ends up in Caesarea staying with Philip, the evangelist (Acts 21:8). While Paul was there a prophet from Judea came and prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind Paul and hand him over to the gentiles (Acts 21:11). Because of this Luke and those with Paul began to entreated him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12).

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

After they realized Paul would not listen to them, they submitted:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. – Acts 21:14

Reflecting on today’s reading from Acts has me asking myself these challenging questions:

  1. Do I desire God’s will or my own? Is my will wrapped up in this world?
  2. Am choosing God’s kingdom over one a kingdom of my own in this world with the things I am thinking, saying and doing? Am I today? Will I tomorrow? Who can hold me accountable in this? Have I asked them to? Do I really want them to?
  3. Am I able to discern my LORDs will from my friends advice? How can I hear God’s voice? Am I listening for it? Do I desire to hear Him separate from my desires of this world?

What other questions might we consider in applying today’s reading the things we think, say and do?

Unplanned

RMNP-BearLake-DSC07881

Numbers 21; Psalms 60–61; Isaiah 10:5–34; James 4

This last week, I had the privilege of taking my son to the Rocky Mountains. It was a short trip, justIMG_0037 three days, so I wanted to make the most of it. I had two goals. First, I wanted to spend a lot of time with him, and second, I wanted to spend some time planning for the rest of 2016.  If I am completely honest, one major purpose in spending a lot of time with Freddy is to examine how he is faring. I mean, we only have six, or so, years before he sets off for college! As a good father, I need to evaluate his planning and dreaming skills. Additionally, I want to influence what is in his head.

Among my few to-dos while I am on the road is this entry for BibleJournal.net. While reading James 4, early Monday morning, the Holy Spirit thumped my heart. In part, he reminded me that we are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) I couldn’t shake it. The Spirit instructed me, in that moment, that the reason we came to the Rocky Mountains was not to make great plans for the next several years (James 4:13). No, the purpose became clear as we approached Rocky Mountain National Park. Being absolutely captivated by its beauty, I understood that we were here to enjoy and celebrate breathtaking beauty. And that is exactly what we did. We did not sit piously and passively.  IMG_0022How could we? The majesty of His creation blasted its way deep into our hearts. In reply, we stomped and shouted throughout his handiwork. We left giant footprints as our voices echoed throughout the valley. We sang stupid songs, threw snowballs and filled the air with laughter. We saw our breath in the cold mountain air and hollered over the thunderous roar of waterfalls.  We pondered big questions like “why did God make it all,” and “why did he make it so complex?” We settled on really simple answers like “because He can,” and “so that we will never get bored.”  We stood motionless and silent, marveling at how He did it.  We worshipped!

After a long trip home, I find that I have planned nothing. Ironically, my celebration of His creation, left me with a bigger dream than I could have imagined. I want to enjoy God more.  If the Lord wills me a tomorrow, my prayer is to see his beauty everyday, right here, right now, in the place that I live. Father, show me what to look for and where to look.

I found God this week. He was with us.  He is with us. Will we be with Him?