This Gets A Little Messy

Genesis 8

On Saturday, Holly-Rae wrote about Noah’s Ark from Genesis 7.  She mentioned that many people believe it to be a metaphor and I was reminded that the reason someone built a replica in Kentucky is to help us understand that these stories are real.  I will admit that when I read the story, I have the same thoughts.  In fact, it’s easier to read Bible stories as metaphors, in order to  pull every ounce of wisdom from them. For example, in today’s reading, I might review the powerful imagery of ravens, doves and olive branches (Genesis 8:6-11).  I’ll reflect on them and consider how they relate to my life today.  I might even work up a strategy or two so that will allow me to be more intentional with my life.  Most of the time I stop right there.  I take the wisdom and don’t even consider, let alone contemplate, the bigger picture.  It’s easier that way.  Truth is, stopping there debases God and the Bible.   In fact, it reduces my relationship with God to a self-help guru or a life coach.  Sure, I will walk away with big thoughts about Noah’s faith and maybe even his leadership capacity.  Those are good things.  But, those are not the purpose of the stories in the Bible.  When I read it right, God reveals to me who he really is.  To get there, I have to get messy.

Getting messy means that I have to ponder what kind of being, what kind of God, has the ability to do all those things.  In fact, how can that actually be?  I have to poke at my own understanding to determine why this God would do all those things.  I have to wrestle with what is good or bad about it. Even what I like and don’t like.  I have to discover that these are things that God wants to reveal to me about himself but I have to seek them out (Luke 11:9).  In my seeking, I would discover that God is far bigger than a piddly little flood.  This was nothing for him.  I would discover that the answers I find create even bigger questions about who he is and what that means for who I am.  He would reveal to me his righteousness and holiness along side his justice and his mercy.  In fact, I would encounter the mystery of God and begin to realize that there is no way I can really experience him in this lifetime (1 Corinthians 2:7).  In many ways, I would begin to feel like a foreigner here on this earth and understand that I was created for far more than this life.  My heart would start to sing “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty” day and night, without ceasing (Revelation 4:8).

Or not.   I could just go with the metaphor theory.  Besides, I have a lot to do today.

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth

Today’s reading is John 8.

Jesus says in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Even Christians, often have trouble acknowledging the Devil’s presence in our lives and in the world. However, the Bible does not. In fact, the Devil or Satan is mentioned 90 times in the Bible. Jesus calls him the “father of lies” here which makes complete sense due the fact that the first sin started with his lie in Genesis 3:5 when he told Adam and Eve they would be like God if they ate the fruit. This is the first lie that Satan still tells us today…you are God.

This may seem silly, but when you take a step back it’s not too difficult to see in our own life and in the world today by what is found to be socially acceptable. Primarily it rears its ugly head when God tells us to do whatever “feels good” and that others should be able to do the same. We trade temporary satisfaction for joy and peace which God knows will come from following Him and restraining from what He calls a sin in the BIble. The “father of lies” also then furthers this lie by others telling us (which we then believe to be true ourselves) that we are judging others when we call what God calls a sin a sin and “that is not the Christian thing to do.” When we call a sin a sin and at the same time acknowledge that we ourselves are sinners as well needing forgiveness and that one sin is not worse than another sin (except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit) and all sin separates us from God, that is not judging..it’s speaking the truth.

The 2nd lie Satan tells us is God does not love you. Even when we acknowledge God exists and know that He sent His Son to die on the cross for us, this lie can subtly bind us from experiencing joy and most importantly keep us from truly being at peace through complete understanding God’s love . Up until the last few years, I found myself wondering at times if something didn’t go my way if it was because of a entirely unrelated sin I committed recently. While sin does have consequences in our lives and God often doesn’t stop the consequences, God does not make bad things happen to you because of something you did. Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:31 then says, “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” God is not against us. He does not punish us for sins. He says here in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you.” He does also then say,” …go and from now on sin no more.” He came with both grace and truth.

Jesus says in John 8:12…”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in the darkness, but have the light of life.” We all seek truth. That is what the world is looking for…truth. We find truth in the Word. John 1 refers to Him as the Word, and here in John 8:31 He says, “….If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Acting on how we we “feel” and the world telling us its ok for others to do the same will not set us free. This is what the “father of lies” tells us. But, Jesus tells us in John 8:34, “..Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Sin (which is what God tells us is sin in the Bible..not the world) does not set us free as Satan tells us…it imprisons us. Jesus says again in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free in deed.” Read the Word. Run to His loving arms and be free. There you will find what we all need to have peace and joy…you will find truth and love.

 

No Matter What

Today’s reading is John 8:1-19.

We will focus mostly on the first portion about the woman who the Pharisees brought to Jesus for committing adultery. They were attempting to trap Jesus by saying she must be stoned based on the Law of Moses for committing this sin. But, Jesus did the unexpected. He told them whoever was without sin should throw the first stone and not only did they not stone her, but they walked away from oldest to youngest. Jesus then told her He would not condemn her either and to go and sin no more. He gave her both grace and truth. If we are willing to walk away from our sins, He’ll wash away our sins.

John 3:17 reads…

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

About this time last year, I remember interacting with a gentleman in park in New York City on the Spread Truth mission trip. This man was brought up going to church and was very knowledgeable about many world religions. He specifically stated that He was not a Christian because he thought the idea that God would humble Himself to become man and suffer the way Jesus did was ludicrous. He said if there truly was a God, he would show his power and might and condemn humans because essentially if he was God that’s what he would do. He’s right…we can’t fathom the idea of what God did because we, as sinful humans, would show our power and judge others as the Pharisees did and expected Jesus to do. I sin a lot and in many different ways, but if I were to count each one and label by type, judging others would be near the top of the list. We expect God is like us and would do the same, but He’s not. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, therefore it’s hard to fathom what He did through Jesus.

As a child, I remember sort of wondering what the big deal was with Jesus dying on the cross at some level because other people die in the act of helping someone like police officers and fire fighters. What was the big deal about Jesus doing it? It wasn’t until I was an adult and realized that Jesus was the only person to walk the Earth without sin, and even just one sin permanently separates us from God without his perfect death on the cross (Romans 3:23). Only when I was able to wrap my arms around this and that He didn’t have to suffer for us, but willingly did and brings us together again with Him and gives us the free gift of eternal life through His death on the cross could I fully appreciate what God has done (Romans 6:23). Actually, as hard as I try, I’m probably still much like the Pharisees and the man in the park, it’s just hard to fathom.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel one of the main ways God reaches me and connects to my life is through music. This time is no different. Recently, friends and family have been directly or indirectly impacted by depression. Depression can come for many reasons, but I have to believe many circumstances are due to the weight of past sins or feeling like the person is insufficient and doesn’t measure up. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, I hope this amazing song, “No Matter What,” can bring you or them peace and comfort. Every single one of us, even those perceived to be very successful and appearing to have everything going for them, are insufficient without Him. He is enough though. He makes us whole and perfect to God despite all our failures and imperfections. No matter what.

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.

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 

Familiar Words

John 3:16. What does this make you think of? This verse is probably one of the most well-known in the Bible, recognized by believers and non-believers alike. It is certainly quoted more often than many other verses. When I read the words “John 3:16”, a few images pop into my mind. I see a person holding up a large sign toward the camera at a football game. I picture a person in a city, standing on a box at a street corner, calling out the words of this verse to anyone who will listen.

My most vivid memory, though, is from when I was around nine years old. I remember walking in downtown Boston with my parents and my sister. A man handed me a small piece of paper as our family walked by; the only writing on it was this: “John 3:16”. I wonder if he thought I knew the verse? Or maybe he assumed that I would be curious enough to go look it up, to read the words for myself. Having grown up attending church, I did know the verse. But I did not know Christ, and because of this, I did not truly understand this verse. It made no impact on me that day.

It does now.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Today, I understand those words in a way I did not, could not, 40 years ago. I did not understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ until I was almost 30 years old. So I know from experience how it feels to live life not knowing my Savior – and I know what it means to walk through life now, knowing Him. Since I became a believer, I have seen people I love put their faith in Christ and subsequently change in ways I could not have imagined. I have witnessed miracles.

Today, John 3:16 represents new life to me. Changed life. A saved life. And we need that now, don’t we? Our world needs that. Today, as you read John 3 in its entirety, pause for a moment. Be still. Think about the words you are reading; ponder them in your heart and treasure them as Mary did (Luke 2:19). Give thanks for Christ’s ongoing work in your life and on your behalf, and pray for those you know who do not yet know Him. Finally, rest in this truth: “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” (John 3:33 – 36).

I am praying for each one of you who reads this today.

Apostasy

Today’s reading Hebrews 5 and Psalm 13

The theme of spiritual growth has been a focus in In the last three readings I’ve been assigned.  Today is number four.

  1. Three posts ago was, The 5 Essentials for Christian Growth from Philippians 1:9-11;
  2. the next post was, The 3 Stages of Christian Growth (and how to avoid them) from 1 Thessalonians 5; where the topic was grieving the Spirit.
  3. the last post was, Be Strong from 2Timothy 2:2-6, wherein Paul gave us four relatable examples of what we should grow into, the teacher, the soldier, the athlete and the farmer.

Hebrews 5 closes with a warning against apostasy. Having heard enough to be teachers of Christ, there were those in this congregation that were turning back to Judaism. (Hebrews 5:12)  The Jews identified with being teachers, leaders of the blind, but here the writer rebukes them, essentially saying, you need to go back to the essentials.  You need to start again at the beginning with the basic things.

We know from 1John 2:12-16 the three stages of Christian growth:

  1. Babes. Babes in Christ know the name of Jesus.
  2. Young Men. Young men in Christ are strong. They know the Word and use the Word (the truth) to overcome the deceiver.
  3. Fathers. Fathers in Christ know God.

In my estimation, the writer was essentially saying, you think you are on stage three but you are obviously failing stage two (you are deceived).

This statement is made to the whole congregation as a preface to what the writer is going to share. In paraphrasing, he is saying, ‘I’m getting ready to go deep here.  Get ready, and know that some of you aren’t going to get it because you’re self-deceived.’  The beginning of chapter 6 then wraps up the warning to those that have heard the truth and been led astray down paths of false doctrine.  It is horrifying.  

 

God, may we all grow in You and You alone.  May we grow in Your Word and be strong, able to discern the truth and overcome the deceiver.  God would you give each of us all a thirst for your Your Word?  We need You LORD.  Amen.

Legacy Living

Who are some of your family or friends that have left a legacy with you?  Who are you leaving one with now?

We have had many beautiful, inspiring, God-centered posts on legacies. As I look back at some of these timely pieces I wanted to highlight a few allowing us to reflect and use for future encouragement.  Here they are:  Nothing New Under the Sun But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ,  Penalty Power and Promise, Ordinary People, Chasing the Wind, Foundation in Christ, Heart Right with God, Influence,  and My Father, a Glimpse into Our Heavenly Father.

These heart-touching, faith inspired posts encourage, fill you with joy, and give you a reminder of the opportunity we have everyday to leave a legacy. Paul leaves a legacy of a person who was transformed by God’s grace. Paul models actions instructed by God, he shares His words of wisdom, love, and faith instructing Timothy and us through God’s word.

While reading today’s reading of  2 Timothy 1 I think about the legacy being made by Paul and Timothy. I also reflect on the legacy left by Timothy’s family that filled into him. 2 Timothy 1:3-5.  Where some of us may have testimonies of coming to faith based on extraordinary circumstances like Paul. Others may have been filled into at a young age in believing homes like Timothy. Either way it is all good.  God is good!

3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

These verses bring me to a personal examination, What kind of faith am I leaving for our succeeding generations I’m around daily? What do my actions, words, and character show?  Keep the Faith! Our consistent, sincere, Jesus modeled focused faith leaves imprints on others.  These reminders and influences can be read in all the posts listed above.  Despite our imperfections, live out the faith we believe in God.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

So some reminders as we listen to Paul’s final letter. Abide in our faith at all times.  Like BJ said on Sunday, put on Gods armor so when good and bad circumstances happen we know how to respond. Ephesians 6:10-18 Remember the promised faith that is centered on God. James 3:17 He holds our yesterday, today, and tomorrow in His hands. Now, I know there’s no guarantees in parenting, we can model, love on, and try to do all the things we can to influence our children.  It may not work.  But, I know there is a guarantee in God.  Titus 1:2 He has a perfectly designed plan through it all.  Keep the faith! Lead, Learn, and Live out a legacy of Love for all those around you.  Your legacy is a life that is telling itself in the living.

 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

Keep and share the promise of life in Jesus Christ today.

Pray through Psalm 121 as you enter into your day.

Fight the Good Fight

Today, we begin reading the first chapter of 1 Timothy together. Paul wrote this letter to his young friend, Timothy, who Paul calls his son in the faith. This letter was written just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome, which explains the urgency that permeates it. Paul had a message to impart to Timothy and to the world, and he was eager to do so, quickly.
I was curious about what Paul would choose to lead off with in this letter, knowing the urgency behind it. I learned that He begins with truth and love. We see in verse 3 that Paul is still concerned about people teaching false doctrines in places like Ephesus: “…remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:3). Furthermore, Paul states that “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). We are to speak truth, and we are to love well.
Next, Paul shares his testimony. As we have seen throughout the New Testament, Paul never hesitates to do this! He knows full well how he was changed after his encounter with Christ and he wants to world to know Him for this reason. Paul says, “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1: 15). Paul’s statement is bold, strong and simple. And in the next sentence, we again glimpse Paul’s deep humility. He explains that, “…I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, calls himself the foremost, the worst of sinners. I believe he does this to give us hope. Our family is currently praying for six people who we love to come to know Christ; some of these we have been praying for for years. Many years. And in this passage, Paul’s words encourage me to not despair, and to keep hoping and praying for the salvation of those I love.
At the end of this chapter, Paul reminds Timothy that the road he will travel will not be an easy one. Instead, it will be fraught with frustration and even danger. Paul exhorts Timothy to, “…fight the good fight, holding on to faith…” (1 Timothy 1:19, NIV). The imagery Paul uses would have been relatable to Timothy and his contemporaries; they were all too familiar with the concept of fighting, from the gladiator fights held in the arenas of Rome to war with neighboring countries. Likewise, we too can relate. So let us push forward, persevere, and fight for our faith. And then let us join Paul in praising our Lord: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)