The Cure

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

As I read the Bible I’d like to be able to compare myself and say I’m like some of the heroes of the Bible such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul, or even some of those in the New Testament who by faith believed that just by touching Jesus’ cloak or by Him saying the words they, or a member of their family, would be healed. Unfortunately, I find I’m much more like those in Luke 20 who try to challenge and question Jesus and have selfish, impure motives. Here in this chapter we have the chief priests and scribes who question Jesus’ authority to which Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants and later says is Luke 20:45-47 that they exalt themselves and take advantage of others. We also have in this chapter spies sent by the chief priests and scribes who try to test Jesus and ask if they should pay taxes or not, and we have the Sadducees asking Him an irrelevant question about whose wife someone will be in the afterlife.

Instead of just trusting in Him and having peace in the fact that he defeated Satan and sin through his resurrection and will permanently defeat Satan and sin through His second coming foretold in the book of Revelation, I find myself trying to figure out at times why God is letting certain things happen in my life and in the lives of others around me and why He lets the terrible things we see on the news in the world around us happen. This questioning of Him and asking why is clearly Satan impeding and getting us to focus on the problem, not the solution…Jesus!

In his book, The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson discusses how miracles are happening all around us, but we don’t focus on them, we focus on problems. He discusses that we may feel like we are sitting still right now but the Earth is spinning on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour and the Earth is hurtling through space at 67,108 miles per hour which is not only faster than a speeding bullet but is 87 times faster than the speed of sound. He jokes that even if you didn’t feel like you did much today you traveled 1,599,794 miles through space! He asks, when is the last time we thanked God for keeping us in orbit or said to God, “Lord, I wasn’t sure we would make the full rotation today, but You did it again!” He talks about how the biggest miracle we see daily is really our own life. There are chemical interactions that must take place perfectly in our body every moment for us to be alive and that our brain is performing 10 quadrillion (I didn’t even know that was a number!) calculations per second. We aren’t just surrounded by miracles each day he says, we are one. Just look in the mirror.

This helps us clearly see that when we lose sight of God in our lives, we focus on all the bad things happening and ask why. We focus on the irrelevant like those in Luke 20, as opposed to looking at the miracles he’s performing this very second. And most importantly, this keeps us from focusing on being thankful for the greatest miracle He performed which was sending His perfect Son to die on the cross and to be raised to life to permanently defeat Satan and our sin bringing us back together with Him and giving us eternal life which He didn’t have to do.

Help us focus on You. Jesus…you are the Cure!

Jesus is Tempted

In today’s scripture covering the words of Jesus, we look at Luke 4. This is a continuation from yesterday’s message in Luke 3, where John the Baptist taught about repentance, turning from sin, and being baptized. Luke 4 picks up after Jesus’ baptism and goes right into Jesus being tempted by Satan in the dessert. I love this picture of the human side of Jesus, and I’m going to look across the other gospels to show this full picture, because I love everything about this passage!

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record different aspects of the temptation. Most bible scholars agree that Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, during which time Satan was tempting him. At the end of the 40 days, Satan tempted him with three specific things that are recorded in detail (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-18).

The situation is intriguing from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit directs Jesus to go to the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus was sent there for a purpose! A lot of times I think we create and walk right into our own messes – we made choices that lead to the storm we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of… But there are other situations that truly pop up out of the blue, and we are left scratching our heads with questions like… Why am I here? How did this happen? What am I supposed to make of all of this? Just maybe we are led there for a reason. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into this temptation for a purpose. And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to places that have tempting situations. Why? Why would He do that? God uses victory over temptation as an example for others. What example is God using in your life for others? Is there an area you need to take a more black and white stand, as an example for others? Are you tempted to stay silent when you need to speak truth into a situation?

Next, we look at how Jesus was tempted. Sounds pretty familiar to the same types of things we are tempted by… physical needs and desires (bread), power (the world), and lastly, He was tempted to test God (throw Himself off the mountain).  Jesus was tempted in the same ways that Satan tries to tempt us today. It’s pretty cool that Jesus walked before us and showed us exactly what to watch for!  When you think of these three areas of temptation, is there one you need to take hold of today and claim victory?

How? How can we overcome? BAM – Jesus shows us! He responds to each temptation by reciting scripture (we find it in Deuteronomy) back to Satan. What an awesome example for us to keep the Word of God in our hearts and overcome Satan. Do you have some go-to scriptures that you can use when you’re feeling tempted? Here are a few of mine:

Keep thy tongue from evil. Psalm 34:13

Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. Romans 12:19

Whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are lovely, think on THOSE things. Phil 4:8

Fear not, I am with thee. Isaiah 41:10

Depart from evil and do good. Psalm 34:14

My God will supply all your needs. Phil 4:19

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Luke 6:27

As cheesy as it sounds, I like to say them out loud. There’s power in verbally declaring victory over the enemy!

The last piece of Jesus’ temptation is His Father’s care and compassion. After Jesus endured the temptation, God sent help (His angels) to comfort and minister to Jesus. I really don’t know exactly what this means (not much is explained), but I’ve always envisioned some sort of angel cheerleading situation. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, GOOOOOO JESUS! Oh, and I also picture them carrying lots of bread. All the bread. As a grain-a-holic myself, my version of this story is with a satchel full of naan, baguettes, bagels, all of it. I mean, Jesus was fasting for awhile!!  In all seriousness, when we are in the middle of a temptation, we can look forward to being replenished by our Father. God will restore our weary souls. Can you look back and see this provision in your life?

God is so gracious to give us this fully-man Jesus to walk before us and show us how to do life on earth. It’s no coincidence that this temptation by Satan occurred right after Jesus’ baptism.  The enemy doesn’t want us to gain any ground in our faith walk. When we declare our commitment and belief in God, the enemy will work to shake us. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and be ready, armed with the Word of God!

Go into all the world…

Today’s Reading: Mark 16

As we finish reading through Mark focusing on the words of Jesus has been so many Holy Spirit filled words Jesus spoke that have been so timely and encouraging throughout Mark.  They have been great reminders to help get me back on track and stay focused on an eternal perspective instead of worldly.  Today, in Mark 16 we hear from an angel.  The angel tells Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, “Do not be alarmed… that He has risen, and will see Him again.  The three of them leave trembling and astonished.

According to later manuscripts verses 16:9-20 did not get included.  In the few bibles I reference, Mark 16:9-20 captures the essence of our calling as he reminds His disciples.

V 15 And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

We all have opportunities to share the gospel.  Many times I have this opportunity and blow it.  Maybe it’s my own “self talk” that gets in the way of proclaiming His glory.  It could also being a mindset of bringing someone to Christ by use of the “just right” verses that roll off the tongue just the way I planned.  The truth is I have failed this many times.  A recent conversation I’m planning to continue is with a person that questioned stories found in the bible based on the belief that all you had to do was be good. This conversation could have started a few weeks ago but, I was waiting for that perfect moment. I had planned on asking a faith  We started talking about the bible and the truth behind it.  I quickly started to minimize the conversation as He shared his belief in the human Jesus but not in the spiritual context.  For me, I could really speak only in that moment what I had seen, heard, and felt in my own life.  I could talk of my old life and my new life with a relationship with Jesus.  That we have been made by Him and for Him. How will I finish conversation we started last week? I can share what I believe.  Telling this young man who I believe Jesus is  and what HE has done.  This can all lead into the grace God which can be shown through all of us and how this grace can be given to us all when we repent. Stephanie talked about the victory shown by Jesus when he overcame death.  That Jesus paid the price so that all who believe in Him can be forgiven and live an eternal life.

Here are a few verses to help encourage and support you in a conversation today

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:15 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

 

So today an opportunity will come up to share the good news of Jesus. Jesus will be with you in this conversation. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.  Be a brave ambassador and share your person story with others in lives.

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.

The Sabbath

Matthew 12

In Matthew 12, Jesus tackles both the Pharisees misunderstanding of the law and the Sabbath.

Keeping the Sabbath holy was one of the Jewish laws that was taken very seriously. And an easy target for the Pharisees to use against Jesus, as He was performing miracles on the Sabbath. Read through this chapter – do you wonder if Jesus had any sarcasm in his tone? Or were His responses simple and straightforward?

John MacArthur delivered a sermon in 1986 that has stuck with me the past 20 years since I first read the transcript. The focus of the sermon is making decisions when things may be gray. In the intro he shares a humorous story from his youth:

There are people who think that if you do anything on Sunday other than sit and read the Bible, you have entered into sin.  When I was a little guy growing up, I can remember when you were not allowed to do anything on Sunday that even remotely resembled recreation.  We came home in our Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, with the little stiff collar, and a little tie, and sat on the couch all day.  Couldn’t read the funny papers, couldn’t read the sports page, couldn’t look at television, couldn’t go out in the yard and play catch, couldn’t take a walk.  We sat.  The only sin we could commit, and we could commit that sin all we wanted, was the sin of gluttony. We could literally gorge ourselves on Sunday.  And, of course, most of the women spent all morning cooking up this massive meal by which we sinned all afternoon, but couldn’t – but couldn’t run it off.  And so we were stuck with the consequence of our evil.  But that sin was tolerable.  

When we read Matthew 12 (or even John MacArthur’s experience) we may scratch our heads and think “come on, Pharisees, WAKE UP”!  You’re missing the spirit of the law by focusing on the letter of the law! Jesus came to fulfill the law – what is so hard about this to understand!

But when we start to examine our own hearts and even the modern church, we can still find ourselves in a place of judgement and missing the intent of God’s ways. As much as we want to be everything but a Pharisee, our perfection-seeking, works-based theologies can lead us to the heart of a Pharisee.

This past spring I was in the thick of a marathon training cycle, filled with Sunday morning long runs. I love my time on the road – time to think, pray, meditate, sing, focus, oh…and RUN! At the same time, these runs left Sunday mornings a scramble between getting my family to church on time, not being exhausted the rest of the day, etc. While I love the run, it did make my Sundays “fuller” than I would prefer. I mean, nothing says rest like a 20 miler before 9am church! In this same cycle, my training “rest days” of no activity for muscle recovery were Fridays. For some reason, Fridays were anything but restful. While I wouldn’t be pounding the pavement, the days were full of other responsibilities that were anything but restful.

I left the training cycle with an idea.

As much as we try to protect our Sundays as a Sabbath and day to rest in the Lord, oftentimes it’s just NOT. Between the rush to church, serving others at church, prep for the week ahead, and other commitments, it’s never a true and full day of Sabbathing.

Idea: What if our family had one day set aside as a full and complete true Sabbath day.  No commitments, school, sports, activities, training. No place to go, no chores, no laundry, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not even church. Technology free. Meals prepped, clothes laid out, ready to Sabbath. Just people spending time with the Lord, doing whatever the day brought with time praying, listening for promptings from the Holy Spirit, dreaming, sharing. Doesn’t that sound so wonderful!? We have a Saturday selected this fall and we are going to make it happen!! I don’t want to wait for a vacation away for a true full day of resting in the Lord.

Do you have any ideas on creating a Sabbath experience in your world?  Here are some additional passages about the Sabbath:

Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Leviticus 23:3, Mark 2:27, Hebrews 4:9, Romans 14:5, Colossians 2:16-17

 

Holy Ground

Today’s reading is Luke 18:2-8 and Psalm 127.

Psalm 127:1-2 reads..

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

How often do we try to “build our house” without the Lord? In reflecting back on the prayers throughout most of my life, my prayers have typically involved asking for forgiveness for my sins, thanking God for dying on the cross for me, and praying for others’ needs of which I’m aware. While asking for forgiveness for my sins and believing in His death on the cross is sufficient to go to Heaven and praying for the needs of others is noble and something God wants…I don’t think that’s all He wants.

John 15:5 reads..

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Meriam-Webster defines Lord as “one having power and authority over others.” God wants to be Lord of your life, not just some of your life, but all of it. God doesn’t just want some of your heart, he wants all of it. It says clearly in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing.” God wants our marriage, our kids, our careers, our finances, our health…he wants EVERYTHING. He wants to be Lord of all those things. He wants us to surrender all of those things to Him and His lordship (authority)..not just our sins.

Why do we hold back our personal needs and desires from Him and not ask Him for help, guidance, and wisdom in all these areas of our life? Why do we not acknowledge he’s already in control of these things anyway and ask Him for help?

Here are a few potential reasons…

  • We don’t think he really cares about our needs..big and small. Why would he be concerned about little old me? However, Psalm 139:13-14 tells us He knit us together in our mother’s womb, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. Matthew 10:29-30 tells us that not even a sparrow falls without God knowing and even the hairs on our head are numbered.
  • We fear He won’t answer our prayers the way we want which may in turn cause us to question whether He really cares or even question His sovereignty. My Mom always told me as a child God answers all prayers. However, he just may not answer them in the exact way we ask them. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We must trust and believe this.
  • We may wonder why even bother because of past prayers that we feel were unanswered and may even hold animosity towards Him due to this. But, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We never know the good that may come out of things we feel are really bad in our eyes, and I’m sure all of us can think of some prayers we thought were unanswered but later realized it was actually a good thing.
  • Either our desires are truly selfish or we feel because they benefit us in some earthly way they must be. Just because something benefits us doesn’t mean it’s selfish necessarily. We can use earthly gifts and blessings for His glory when we consciously think about it, give Him the due praise and glory, and then use those gifts for His glory.

Truly surrendering all to Him means we are doing all for His glory and not ours. We give all areas of our life to Him and His lordship. It’s not about us, and it’s never been about us. It’s about Him.

Once we surrender it all to Him, He will truly bless us. Abraham and Sarah waited until age 100 for Isaac. Can you imagine how precious and coveted this child was to Abraham? God then asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son he had waited all this time for. Not until the very last second when Abraham had the knife raised did God stop Abraham. Not until he knew Abraham was truly going to give his most prized possession to Him did God stop him. Then, God tells Abraham because he obeyed him and did not spare his beloved son he will surely bless him and give him more offspring than the sand on the seashores. He surrendered it all, and God blessed. Check this out in Genesis 22.

Maybe God is holding back things from you because you are holding things back from Him. You are not asking Him for help and giving it to Him. He’s waiting until you give them all to Him and will use them for His glory. He loves you enough to not give them to you until you do because He knows that’s when you will be truly satisfied and fulfilled..when you give it all to Him. He’s waiting for you to go “all in” with Him.

We read in Luke 18:2-8 where an unrighteous judge gave a persistent widow justice against her adversary because she kept asking him to do so. The question is posed that if an unrighteous judge will give help because you keep asking, won’t God if you truly cry out to Him for help?

Romans 8:32 reads…

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

What more does God really need to do than give us His only Son to show us His love and tell us we can bring him all our troubles surrendering all to Him? If today someone else sacrificed themselves or their son for my life, would that not tell me all I needed to know about their care and love for me?

Surrender your entire life to Him…not just some areas…all of them. Ask Him for help. Do not build your house in vain. Make every area of your life “Holy Gound.” It’s what He’s been waiting for. It’s what you’ve been waiting for that will give you peace and comfort that surpass understanding.

Let us pray the words of the song Holy Ground below by Passion/Melodie Malone..

“…Come and have your way Jesus.

Chains fall.

Fear bow.

Hear now.

Jesus, you change everything.

Lives healed.

Hope found.

Here now.

Jesus, you change everything….”

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

As we continue through this series of parables, we come to a moment where Jesus pauses and asks his disciples if they get the parables up to this point (verse 51), to which they reply a simple yes. I try to put myself in their shoes – would I have the faith to say yes? Or would I have had ten follow up questions to better understand? Even though we know that the disciples didn’t FULLY comprehend everything Jesus was telling them, they knew enough and had the faith to answer yes. And then we come to verse 52 where Jesus shares a parable about all of the parables!

In this mini parable break, Jesus is encouraging them to not replace everything they learned before with all of these new teaching and parables. Instead, add these new parables and teaching with the old (law).  Similar to how we have both new things in our home along with family heirlooms. One doesn’t replace the other – it’s all part of the collection.

I will admit that I have tried to line up God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. The bright light that we can’t look upon and need to remove our shoes for, with the man that is fishing and eating with the lowest of the low. In my heart I believe and know they are one and completely unified, but sometimes my brain goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the two and figure it all out.

Recently a preacher shared this and it’s SO TRUE! Our human (barfo) nature wants our view of graceful bear hugging Jesus to deal with our own sin…. And we want OT fire + brimstone God to show up and deal with people that sin against us.  OUCH – that was a ZINGER! I can think of a time I had those thoughts.

Truth be told, they are perfectly unified. Balancing OT (law, teachings, etc) with the NT (parables, grace, etc) is similar to understanding the trinity. What a beautiful mystery!

Does anyone else love Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth about “now we see through a glass darkly…” – I can not WAIT for heaven, when it will all be crystal clear. Will we be like the disciples and simply say “yes, we understand”, or will we have a million questions?

As Jesus continues to fulfill the law, with his teachings and ultimately his sacrifice, my prayer is that we can have wisdom in balancing the old and the new. The Psalm that is assigned with today’s reading is Psalm 111. I love when the two readings come together so beautifully. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me in light of the parable about parables.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

God caused us to remember the law in the Old Testament and Jesus’ parable of parables reinforces this. As we seek wisdom and understanding, knowing who God is and having fear and respect for Him is our first step in understanding.

 

 

The Word

Today’s reading is Matthew 7:28-29 and Psalm 91.

I’m a big sports fan, but I don’t listen to sports talk radio. Why? I just don’t really see the point. All they do is just talk about their opinions on something that just happened in the past…a game just played and what a player or coach should have done or what a player or coach said after. They also talk about who they think will win an upcoming game or which player is better than the other. But, the bottom line is this…none of it matters. They don’t play the game, and they don’t have the authority to make any decisions to effect outcomes.

Matthew 7:28-29 reads…

“And when Jesus finished these saying, the crowds were astonished by his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.”

It’s almost like the people knew at this point after the Sermon on the Mount the scribes were like the sports talk radio people who could just talk and Jesus was a player or coach who could actually do something about it.

John 1:1-5 reads…

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:14 reads…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.”

The people knew and sensed Jesus was different. They weren’t just hearing someone talk about God..they were hearing God. He had authority. They were hearing the great “I am.”

I find it very interesting John 1 refers to Jesus at “the Word.” I’m not going to claim I fully know the reason, but I think it’s because everything contained in the book we call the Word is ultimately about Him. From Genesis to Revelation, it all points to Him. And more than anything…the book we call the Word now is our living authority until He returns.

I’ve been to church my whole life and figure I’ve probably heard around 1,500 sermons in my nearly 35 years of life and not to take away from any pastors who I’ve heard preach, but you know when my relationship with God really started to grow? It was when I began to be in the Word daily (preachers and pastors did absolutely help influence adoption of this spiritual discipline). The Word guides us. The Word is our one source of truth (and grace). The Word has authority. The Word causes us to have a relationship with the Word, Jesus.

When I get lackadaisical about being in the Word and miss days, I feel empty. I feel anxious. I feel stressed. I need my GPS. I need my one source of truth and authority. I need Jesus. Then, I have confidence. Then, I have peace.

Psalm 119:105 reads..
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feed, and a light unto my path.”

Isaiah 26:3 says..

“You keep us in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”

Let us pray…

Dear God..,,please help us to come to the Word daily as our one, true source of authority. Please help us turn to the Word to grow in our relationship and oneness with you. And thank you for sending the Word in flesh for us to see and for giving us the written Word as our guidance system until the Word returns.

 

**Additional thoughts- I love the accessibility we have 24/7 to the Bible through apps. However, in my humble opinion, I believe there is enhanced impact in opening the physical Bible and reading it in addition to the app or the few verses that might be referenced, and even included, right in the text of your daily devotional. When you open the actual Good Book, as opposed to an app or just reading the verses listed in the devotional or blog like this, there is something that says/feels…this is different than just another blog, app, article, or website I go to on my phone or tablet. This book is the one and only source of truth in my life. This book is the Word.

From Forgiven to Forgiver

Mathew 6:12 and Psalm 75

I have LOVED the past week’s focus on prayer. Ever since BJ shared for the next several days, we get to assess our theology and see how it is revealed through our prayers’, I can’t stop thinking about what my prayers say about my theology. It’s been equally humbling and challenging for me to ponder.

As we move through the Lord’s Prayer, verse 12 STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This feels like one of those perfectly timed, witty, strategic responses that Jesus would use to turn hearts in an instant. You know… you who have no sin, throw the first stone. {insert emoji with big shocked eyes}

The first half of the verse – YES, PLEASE – we all want the perfect forgiveness that God promises.  The second half – YIKES – I do NOT want God to forgive me AS I forgive others.  Wait…does the “as” mean “like” or does the “as” mean “at the same time”? Either way, NOT IDEAL!!!  Jesus hits me right between the eyes with this one.

We have the first half of this where we need to verbally ask God for His forgiveness, and the second half calling us to forgive like He does. But how? How do we model His forgiveness? And how do we seek forgiveness from God (and others)? God doesn’t require perfection when we seek forgiveness from Him…yet we can struggle forgiving others when they don’t seek our forgiveness in a perfect way.

Forgiveness comes easier when the trespasser asks for it, shows true sorrow, and wants to change. Forgiveness flows more freely when they humbly come with an understanding of how their offense harmed you, and they seek restitution or some way to make things right.  There aren’t excuses, justifications, or accusations. Wow, if every sin against us could be committed by a perfect forgiveness seeker, this would all be so much easier!

At the same time, our own forgiveness-seeking conversations with God can be pretty pathetic, would you agree? I know mine are! And yet, He forgives us. Every time! Immediately! God forgives us amidst our imperfect forgiveness-seeking!  He blots out our sin (Acts 3:19) and removes it as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12).

When we are on the other side of this, acting as a forgiver, it can be much harder when the trespasser doesn’t perfectly seek forgiveness, or even worse, they don’t acknowledge the trespass at all. And yet, we are still called to forgive.

Why? Why does God care if we forgive others? I believe it’s because He knows that an unforgiving heart harms us more than it ever will the person we aren’t forgiving. God calls us to forgive others, for our own benefit. You remember as a kid when your parents would give a consequence and say it’s because they love you? Yeah, this feels like one of those times. God calls us to forgive others, not just because He loves them and forgives them too, BUT BECAUSE HE LOVES US. He wants unity for us. He wants peace for us. It’s for our own good, even though in the moment it is HARD.

And How? How do we forgive people in our world?  The only way is with the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s not in our sinful nature to forgive, but by the grace of God, we can extend His forgiveness to others. We can’t go solo on this one… I know when I have tried it on my own, it is imperfect and short lived.  My version of forgiveness becomes a cheap imitation. It’s like lipstick on a pig – and the lipstick WILL COME OFF. And my unforgiving, vengeful, pig heart is what’s left. Do you know what I mean?

I don’t know where this scripture lands on you today. Maybe you’re in one of these places – or maybe all of these places (hello, self):

  • What sin do you need to confess to God today? Let’s die daily to sin, call it what it is and confess it.
  • Do you need to TRULY BELIEVE in His promise to forgive you? If you’re seeking forgiveness over and over for the same sin, TRUST HIM. He wants you to believe that He forgave you the moment you first repented and sought forgiveness.
  • Are you struggling to forgive someone today? We may choose and work toward forgiving someone (on the daily!), and the healing and reconciliation still take a lot of time and effort on this side of heaven.
  • Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone today? Romans 12:18 calls us to live peaceably with everyone as much as we are able, and to be reconciled to one another (Matt 5:23-24).

Thank you, God, for your forgiveness, even in the middle of my own imperfectly forgiving heart and imperfect forgiveness-seeking. Thank you for modeling forgiveness for us. God, I need YOUR POWER to truly forgive with my whole heart + mind. I confess to you that I imperfectly forgive and I need your help. Create in me a pure heart!  Move me from being Forgiven to also being a Forgiver! 

 

 

 

The Big D

Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63

I will admit, I LAUGHED OUT LOUD when reading this month’s outline for the Bible Journal project. A deeper focus on one topic, maybe just one verse. I scroll down to my assignment: April 14th, Divorce, Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63.  Lord, you really are just hysterical sometimes!

My parents are divorced, I married someone that is divorced, and my own marriage has been on the brink of divorce. I don’t know if this makes me a subject matter expert, or so completely biased that I’m the last person that should be journaling today. HA!

As Jesus addresses all of the different topics in His sermon on the mount, He explains, clarifies, and helps us find FREEDOM in living more fully focused on God. Specific to divorce, He reminds us that when separating/leaving your spouse, you need to give a legal certificate for divorce (don’t just stop living with them). He explains that without the actual certificate of divorce, you would be causing sin (adultery) if/when the person remarries. He also reinforces the acceptable grounds for divorce – adultery.

Clearly the Lord takes marriage vows seriously. They’re not only vows made to one another, but to Him. He doesn’t want them broken, and when they must be, He wants order even in the brokenness.

The topic of divorce brings a lot of controversy – today, and apparently ALWAYS – both in and outside of the church. I’m guessing it’s because divorce is the result of sin, which begets more sin, even beyond the divorcing party. Family and friends can find themselves judging, gossiping, harboring bitterness, anger and hatred. Divorce can really bring out all of our ugly. And all of our opinions and infighting.

I wish none of us ever had to study these verses or apply them to our life’s circumstances. I’m no stranger to the heartbreak and pain of divorce. It’s real, raw, and just plain awful. The wounds run deep and the healing is rarely linear. While I don’t have the answers, I will share a few general points of encouragement based on some of my experiences:

If you are a child of divorced parents, please believe, more than anything, that this is not your fault. Whatever sin was in your parent(s) lives that led to this, it’s not what you wanted and not what God wanted. I hope you know that God wants to help you heal from all of the hurts this brought you. I pray your parent(s) can repent and seek forgiveness from God and from you and relationships can be restored. Most of all, I pray that you can have a deep relationship with your heavenly Father that brings overwhelming love into your life. He loves you, and He knows every tear you have shed (Psalms 56:8).

If you are considering separation/divorce, or already in the middle of it, please, take your time.  Seek biblical counseling and cling to any amount of hope you can find. Remember, God is still in the business of making miracles!  Go to the word and pray for direction. God doesn’t contradict Himself – the Holy Spirit won’t press upon your heart to move in one direction that is contrary to Jesus’ spoken words.  Our God is a perfect way-maker – even when we can’t see a way, He goes before us.  I can’t always get my mind around the long-term picture, but I can trust Him in this moment, right now.

If you are divorced, and there are any areas you still need healing, cry out to the Lord. Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce, almost all parties harbor feelings of failure, guilt, resentment, or unrest. Seek the Lord, He is the best healer and perfect forgiver – He doesn’t want us stuck in a pit of bitterness, shame, sin, or self loathing. He wants to make you whole in Him. All of our life experiences can be used to glorify Him. Revelation 12:11 exemplifies how we can be OVERCOMERS – by Jesus’ blood + our testimony of His work in our life.

If you are a friend or family member of someone in the middle of a divorce, I have found the best support can be listening and praying. Take a step beyond praying for them, and actually pray WITH them. When asked for advice, leverage the scripture on the areas surrounding divorce. Encourage biblical counseling. Be a source of hope and healing. Try to not get sucked into gossip and slander. Take time to cover yourself in the Armor of God before offering any words.

We know that all sin is unrighteousness against God, whether it’s the sin of gossip, divorce without basis, lying, etc.  On this side of heaven we may feel the consequences greater of one sin compared to another – but it’s not in our wisdom to rank them and put each others’ sins above or below our own.

Wherever this heart-pouring on divorce finds you, you can forget all of my thoughts and opinions and remember this:

God wants everything BUT divorce in His relationship with YOU. He wants us reconciled to Him in a committed relationship for eternity! People will fail. God does not fail. He won’t let you down – He’d rather die than live without you!