Converted Coward

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

Are you a converted coward? When I first read this I had to read the chapter a couple times before I landed on this word fear tucked in at the end of verse 17.  The word fear I would associate with coward.  The words fear and coward are not popular these days.  It seems often you should’t show fear or let anyone call you a coward because you won’t say or do something.  But here, Peter talks about fear as a healthy respect for an all-powerful Lord. That ultimately God, who is the only judge, will one day make an eternal decision. In having the reminder of eternal decisions I reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproach, in needs, in persecution, in distress, for Christ’s sake. For when i am weak, then I am strong. 

 

So how am I passing the time while I’m on this Earth? What does our pilgrimage on Earth look like? Honestly, many days and hours I can take for granite when I get caught up in my own desires.  My prayer is to consider this short time on Earth. Like verse 24 say, All people are like grass, and all their glory is like flowers on the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall This reminds me that the kind of fear Peter is talking about encourages a healthy reminder of God’s holiness and judgement as believers.    It’s been timely to land on 1 Peter 1 for today’s reading.  Peter provides encouragement for any suffering we may be going through as Christians.  Maybe you have some suffering going on today.  I would encourage you to continue to read 1 Peter 1 & 2.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We pray to be converted cowards.  To be reminded daily that you are coming back and each day is our opportunity to live out our lives obeying your truth with sincere love. That in each day we are fully alert to your presence and the promise that you are coming back and our hope is set on You! We believe in your words and ask for belief in our unbelief moments.  Lord, in our struggles we can reminded that you are near.  We love you and thank you for people like Peter who was there through your suffering and suffered himself when he struggled with his own beliefs.  Help us to remember our identity in you, that we may seem like exiles on this earth but will be part of your family eternally.  God I can selfishly fall short, please continue to build a coward that fears you and makes a difference in how I live.

Amen

Walk the Talk

Walk the Talk

Todays Reading:  James Chapter 1

As we enter the heart of summer, I am reminded of the years of the past with the down home family reunions. Being from Texas, we would have big family reunions that would last for the entire weekend.  The reunion would start with a gathering of relatives on Thursday evening.  On the following day, we would have a fish fry that would be sponsored by a cousin who would have just caught the fish that morning.  On Saturday, we would have the big gathering and barbeque, where you met family that you scarcely, if at all remembered.  But this was the purpose of the gathering, to meet your family from two to three generation past, present, and future.

Some of my precious and memorable moments were the conversations that you would have traveling to the reunion or during the late nights around the fire or in your great-aunt’s living room or kitchen.  These are the times you hear about your father’s youth or the cousins’ shenanigans. You also gain so much wisdom just by listening to your elders. For instance, here are some southern nuggets of wisdom: “Don’t let someone else pick your shade tree” and   “Let’s sit down and chew the fat”.  These are sayings that mean to choose your own way of living and being and let’s sit down and chat.

As we have traveled through our Biblejournal journey, we can see a little of the family reunion unfolding. Jesus, in all the gospels, is the gentle father who gives us advice and teachings in many forms: parables, examples, and direct action.  Then we have the uncles: Peter, Paul, John, and James.   Each of the uncles will give you different advice at different times and in their own fashion.  Paul is the uncle that has traveled the world and has different experiences that will relate to everyone in their own specific way.  Peter is the uncle that is calm and tells you the stories of times with Jesus and how things will be to come.  Then we have Uncle James.  He is the uncle that gives you the stories and then tells you the truth of the matter. He is the apostle that loves yet direct to the point.  This is sometimes the favorite uncle because you always know what he is thinking. James is the uncle that forces us to “Walk to the talk”.

Everyone has the opportunity to grow and mature. Sometimes it is easy to comply with the rules and policies.  At other times, it is harder to follow the rules to the law.  James asks us a Christians to not only know God and Christ, but to actually live, as we love them.  Throughout the book of James, he is reinforcing us to take deliberate and intentional actions to live our lives so that others may see God’s love in us.

A couple of nuggets that James gives are:

  • Steadfastness: verse 1-4, 12
    • The true essence of a person is not discovered without some adversity or trails. When we are in the midst of hard, difficult, and challenging times this is the opportunity that we should be thankful and in awe of God’s presence in our lives.  It is once we have overcome that we are stronger and more capable of greater results.
  • Ask God for Wisdom: verse 5
    • God is a loving Father and will give freely all that he has, but we have to ask for the gift.He is ready to give wisdom, knowledge and peace when we ask it.  We have been conditioned from the exit of Eden to shy away from God, but this is the time that he wants to bless us and we have to be sure of our relationship that he WANTS to bless us
  • God is good and perfect and doesn’t want to tempt us : verse 17
    • We as humans and Christians are fallible and will fall often. It is not that God wants us to fail, but the desire of our hearts sometimes quiets the voice of God.  His presence is always there and he will give us an alternative whenever we are tempted, we just have to listen and be receptive.
  • Quick, Slow, Slow: Verse 19
    • This sounds like a dance routine, but it is the verse “Be QUICK to hear, SLOW to speak, SLOW to anger”.
  • True Religion
    • James puts the purest definition religion:
      • James 1: 27: religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
    • Doing good to those who are not able to provide for themselves is the Truest Religion

May we blessed to listen and follow these recommendations from James to bring God’s grace and love to those we interact with. Amen

 

What Drags You Down?

                   

                                                                                                        

What drags you down in life?  In different seasons there are all kinds of events, troubles,  and scenarios that can stop you in your tracks and slow you down.  Growing up, I was a swimmer.  Everyday you would find me in the pool for a few hours.  Back in the day we would train wearing multiple suits to create “drag”.  I remember sometimes layering up to 5 suits, the outer ones being old, deteriorated and disintegrated.  It seemed that the more suits you wore, the cooler you were:)  Jump 25+ years down the road and wearing multiple suits at practice is not the cool thing anymore.  Now, you get to buy a drag suit.  The above picture is a drag suit and even the girls wear these in practice.  

Funny how the extra drag of a suit prepares a swimmer for a race.  On race day of course you wear the one fastest suit you own that is as tight as possible.  You shave any extra bodily hair  and when you enter the water you feel like you are slipping through the water with ease.  After all the training and now stripping the extra weight from the drag suit, you feel 100% sure that you will swim faster than you ever have before.  

The purpose of this drag suit is to weigh you down and make it harder to swim.  In todays reading of Hebrews 12 we hear the writer telling us about living with extra weight and things that drag us down.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (bold, mine)

We trained hard for many hours a day in the drag suit, but ultimately we had to strip off the extra weight and drag to swim the ultimate race.  God asks us this in life everyday! We are training to get to our ultimate joy awaiting us in heaven.  Everyday we have to strip off the weight that drags us down.

What does it look like for you?  What is it that weighs you down?  Stress?  Pressures to keep up with the neighbors?  Work?  Family relationships?  Friends?  The list is endless, whatever takes our eyes off of Jesus has the potential to weigh us down.

Everyday we are living out the race of life.  Are you living well or weighed down with lots of baggage and sin?  To get rid of the extra weight, the answer is pretty clear, we have to focus on Jesus.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…”  

This is the beginning of Hebrews 12 verse 2.  We have to look at the example of Jesus.  The verse goes on to tell us what that example was.  The example is Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Jesus focused on the finish line.  The joy of being at the right hand of his Father, having accomplished all that the Father sent him to do.  

To win the swimming race, I had to take off all the extra suits that weighed me down.  We can only live our best life when we strip off every weight that slows us down.  If these things that weight us down are never addressed, we may never finish the race.  Our sins may be like the drag suit and prevent us from living with freedom and endurance.  

Thank you Jesus that we don’t have to run this race alone.  As we run the race set before us and hold strong to our faith, may we find encouragement that we are not alone.  In fact, we are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses who have been there before us.  We have people cheering us on, reminding us that the prize is worth it.  Maybe you are being called to be the cheerleader for somebody else?  To help encourage a neighbor or friend, to help lighten their load?  

Faith

Today’s reading is Hebrews 11.

Growing up, I always considered my father a true hero, and still do. As a member of the Illinois National Guard, I watched him live selflessly and sacrificially for the sake of his country and fellow Americans, and always admired the pride with which he served. However, living the life of a soldier left its mark on our whole family as well: we often went weekends, weeks, or on longer deployments, entire years with the man of the household away. Many important events and times together may have been missed, but the honor and rewards of his service were worth all the sacrifices we made.

One of the powerful tenets by which we express our beliefs as Christians is faith: the trust we have that in our sovereign God and His promise, sealed through the blood of His son Jesus Christ, that we will be greatly rewarded in Heaven for the lives we lead for Him here on Earth. Faith is something we exercise in our lives as Christians. As Paul aptly put in Galatians 2, “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” But in applying this faith to our daily lives, we can sometimes use guidance. Even the Jewish Christian to whom this book of the Bible was originally written needed encouragement and help in doing so. Mocked and persecuted by the Roman ruling armies, they often found their faith leading to difficult lives, something that has not changed these days either.

Like me with my father, there is a certain gift in having heroes to follow the good examples and actions of. In Romans 11, the author understands this value well. And like many of us, they point to many figures across the Old Testament as exemplary heroes who acted bravely and virtuously, all thanks to one common trait: their faith in God. Many familiar tales are recounted: Noah’s faith led him from the world gone astray and towards salvation. Abraham was led to new lands, fathered children when he never should have been able to, and trusted God even up to obeying commands to sacrifice his son. Moses endured the difficulties of his fellow Israelites and led them to freedom and glory. The walls of Jericho crumbled before those who believed! In the same way we look to these believers as examples of living faith, the early Christians here did as well. And as their faith is bolstered in reminders of the benefits of faith, we too are strengthened by the lessons we see here as to what true faith is.

First off, what true faith is not. It is not easily quantified, as we see in verse 1; faith is trusting in the unseen, what can not be measured or understood. Often we see that God is beyond understanding, not that we should not try to explain Him through reason, but that He is bigger and more profound than our feeble reasoning can grasp. We can never see or understand or reason with what will come to be, but through faith and trust in the Lord we know we will be rewarded for the trials and tests that come our way.

True faith is also not about immediate results, not trusting in a quick reward. We see that the trials these Old Testament figures were not short ones, but often lifelong battles and tests of endurance. As verse 13 says, “all these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Although when we follow God we may not be immediately rewarded, we have heard many great promises from Him. We know living our lives in service to Him stores up unfathomable treasures in Heaven and glorifies Him above all else. Our faith lets us see that even we do not yet see the benefits of our actions, or often face adversity from the world because of them, God is pleased with us and is preparing great rewards for our faith beyond this life.

Of course, faith is also not easy. While the miracles faith has performed are listed in verse 32, the pains and heartaches inflicted upon believers are told as well. Living our faith may mean clashing directly with the ways of a broken world. We may see this most often as being teased, jeered, or called a number of despicable things for our belief, but many may experience exile, torture, and murder for being faithful. Despite the world’s crushing opposition, we know our God is unbreakable by any such trifle. Even when met with such trouble, these Old Testament figures live bravely and refuse to back down thanks to their faith. With trust in God, we can face these extremes as well knowing we too will be rewarded.

Now, these heroic tales also cast many uplifting reminders of what faith can do, which frankly is a much longer list than what can’t be done. We see here that faith is certain, as verse 1 says: “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Even though what we believe in can not be seen or measured conventionally, our faith in the Bible as God’s word for us provides all reason one could ever need. We know through our faith that the examples we see in this passage are factual, actual depictions of God’s tangible work in our world. Our faith tells us we can be certain our God can accomplish all this and infinitely more.

Faith is clearly a testament of glory as well. In living out our faith, we act as living signs, pointing others towards the glorious God we serve. The God we know, as we are reminded here, is more powerful and radiant than comprehensible. The mighty acts we see here are all gifts from Him, as are the gifts of our own. Sure, in our daily lives we may not endure flaming furnaces and escape the mouths of lions as these Old Testament heroes, but in the small trials and tough choices we face, we act as living testaments to a living God when we abide in Him. In faithfully following Him in times that matter, we fully display His wisdom and glory for all to see.

Of course, above all else we hold dear, faith is worthwhile. When we keep our steady faith in the Lord our God, we can endure anything. As the end of this passage tells us, “God had planned something better for us.” All trials and temptations we may face, be it torture, or imprisonment, or death, could not compare to the eternal future God has planned for us after this life. In our faith, we know that this is true: that eternally dwelling with Him is worth any sacrifice. I pray that you may think about what problems you may face today, and think about how the Lord will be there to help you through. Through your faith, may you know that the Lord has promised you a bright and shining future with Him despite what may come. One day, we too can join these Old Testament heroes in God’s presence, and share the same gifts they have received beyond this life. So in times of need, run to Him for guidance, and in times of praise, thank Him for a promise you can faithfully abide in.

What Would You Do?

Today’s reading is Hebrews 2.

Has your boss ever assigned a task for you to complete you felt was “below you?” Did you grumble or complain to them or someone else….or at least under your breath at a minimum? Did you do the job to the best of your ability? I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play golf at the course I grew up working on as a kid with my Dad, brother, one of my nephews, and my son the last few days. As we told many funny stories about things that happened while my brother and I worked out there, I couldn’t help but think of one story which wasn’t necessarily funny as I read Hebrews 2. It was my 3rd summer working there, and I expected to be moving up to tasks like mowing greens and fairways. While I did get the larger responsibility to change the cups and hole location daily, I was also assigned tasks to pull weeds out of flower beds while a few of the other workers who started the same time were assigned other, more dynamic tasks. Although I would like to say I did it cheerfully, I was not happy. I felt I was above that task after a few years of working there and doing what I felt was a better than the other guys at whatever I was assigned. In fact, after a few weeks of this, I just went and found another job working construction for my Dad’s best friend.

Let’s just say I’m glad Jesus didn’t have the same mindset and find another job like me. We are told here in Hebrews 2:10 that Jesus was “for whom and by whom all things exist.” Yet, we are then told in Hebrews 2:14-18….

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned this before in past writings, but when doing street ministry a few years ago for Spread Truth, one gentleman said he didn’t believe the Gospel because no God would lower himself to do what Jesus did. Essentially, he said if he were God that’s not what he would do. Well, he was right, none of us likely would because we are not God, and we can’t imagine the love He has for us and what He did. At age 18, I was already “above pulling weeds,” so how I can I fathom God coming in the flesh and suffering a brutal and painful death on my behalf, taking my place, when He didn’t have to? I can’t. But, I can get on my knees and just say thanks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTYe9sWYKdo

 

 

 

It’s Not Our Job

2 Tim 2

Our kids are in their twenties now, but several years back our daughters told me how frustrated they were with me for not making their brother behave the way he should have. We tried…believe me we tried everything we could think of to steer him, but the truth was, he made his own decisions. As parents, we could alter his environment but we could not alter his heart. We could use consequences to get a certain result, but we could not force him to think differently about a given situation. I started with this example, but the truth is that we all face this issue with the people in our lives. Do you ever wish you could change the way someone thinks about a certain issue? Have you ever tried to reason with someone to get them to see truth instead of oppose it? How about trying to move someone to be more passionate about something they already believe in but don’t show much action in? It happens with people at work, at church, in our families, in friendships, and sometimes even in chance meetings with others.

 

Second Timothy is a letter written by Paul at the end of his ministry to encourage Timothy in living out the Good News and sharing that Good News with others. In vs 22-25 Paul says to Timothy, ”Pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn truth.” These few verses are beautiful Godly guidelines to live by. As I am in relationship with anyone, I should first “pursue righteous living” aiming my heart at God and working to be “faithful” so I can love others and be at “peace” with them consistently. I must “be kind to everyone”. So simple, but so much more difficult to execute…I must be kind to EVERYONE. (Including the ones who annoy me, the ones who hurt me, and the ones who are indifferent to me.) I need to be prepared, willing and “able to teach” God’s truth to everyone in my life. I am also instructed to “be patient with difficult people”. I have work to do in my own heart before getting to the “gently instructing those who oppose truth” part. Lets be clear here about the fact that these verses are talking about people who oppose God’s truth, not people in my life who oppose my opinions. There is a difference.

 

Verse 25 is powerful when considering conversations or relationships with people who oppose God’s truth. I think we sometimes get sucked into conversations or arguments that get heated because we want so desperately for people to understand God’s truth. Did you catch the second sentence in vs 25? “Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” It’s not our job to change people’s hearts. We are not capable no matter how good our intensions or how strong our theological argument is. God is the only one powerful enough, yet gentle enough, to know how a person actually thinks, and reveal truth to that person which changes their heart.  This is why Paul tells us to “gently instruct” and then turn the person over to God and pray that He might change their heart. This may seem to be simple…just pray for the person… but faithful prayer is not a onetime thing.  Have you prayed faithfully for anyone in your life? Do you know the time and energy it takes to be faithful? Can you count the number of years you have prayed for a specific person to see truth? In my experience, and listening to others who pray faithfully, asking God to reveal truth to another person is usually a long-term proposition. If you are currently praying for someone to know God’s truth, I want to encourage you today to stay faithful. Asking God to change their hearts is our only hope. It is the only thing besides loving that person that we can do to affect real change. In my early years of praying, I used to think that God got sick of hearing the same ask for truth in someone’s life day after day after day. Now after more experience, I have come to realize that my prayer for myself day after day after day is for God’s truth, only as much as I can handle today, to change me. As I have experienced the freshness and renewal of that prayer and His work in my own life, I can pray the same way for others with deep passion and strong hope.  It doesn’t feel rote or repetitive. It is strengthens my relationship with God because I know His desire is the same for that person.

 

This morning can we take a few minutes to ask God what truth He wants to instill in each of us today? Can we consider committing to praying faithfully for someone we love to be open to God’s truth in their lives?

1 Timothy 1

Recently I was having a conversation with a lady in a courtroom. She had been found guilty of several crimes and was waiting for her sentencing, unsure whether she would be headed home or to jail for up to a year. Through the conversation she shared other struggles she was facing and her hopelessness. I invited her to come to church and suggested that she may be able to find useful resources through church that would benefit her family. Her response was, “Oh – I can’t go to church, that’s for religious people. People like me don’t go to church.”

Timothy says “…though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But 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 Tim 1:13-16

Sometimes I wish there were magic glasses that I could put on which would allow me to see only what is inside a person without the distraction of all that is on the outside. God is able to do that – appearance means nothing to him. How “religious” someone acts does not impress. He gave mercy so that through His mercy to us we would be an example to others of His perfect patience.

How do you think non-believers perceive Christ’s love and mercy through you?

 

 

 

 

 

Leaders Teach

Titus 2

Last week, I found myself in a debate about leadership.  The cause in question was about who the leaders are.  Sure, leaders can easily be identified as the ones in charge.  That title, of course, does not necessarily make them leaders.  It might simply make them the boss.  Today, our assigned reading is Titus 2, but I would encourage you to read all three books of Titus.  In them, Paul teaches us about leadership.  In addition to outlining the leadership traits we need to develop as Christ-followers, he also identifies who the leaders are.  In short, Paul determines that everyone who is a Christ-follower is a leader.

Before we get too far, I would like to share with you a definition of leadership that I have adopted.  It comes from the founder of Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller.  He describes a leader as someone who teaches people how to think so that they can get what they want when they want it.  It’s that first part, that I have come to love.  A leader teaches people how to think.  Paul breaks this down for us in Titus.

First, he encourages us to “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching.”  The ESV translates wholesome teaching as “sound doctrine.”  For Christ-followers, there is only one source; the Bible.  The foundation of this BibleJournal exercise is built on exactly that.  Our core values include the following.

Second, Paul encourages us to be above reproach.  Specifically, he says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”  Titus 2:7-8

Finally, and perhaps most important is the reminder that God’s grace makes it possible.  Godly leadership is simply not possible on our own.  This is a fact that C.S. Lewis understood clearly.  In his book Mere Christianity, he explains it perfectly.

the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about. And this applies to my good actions too. How many of them were done for the right motive? How many for fear of public opinion, or a desire to show off? How many from a sort of obstinacy or sense of superiority which, in different circumstances, might equally have led to some very bad act? But I cannot, by direct moral effort, give myself new motives.  After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.

All Christ-followers are called to leadership.  I am blessed beyond measure to be part of this BibleJournal.  A team of leaders that are committed to teaching Biblically, living properly and experiencing God’s grace daily through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Godspeed to you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (p. 193). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Superhero!

Last week, our church hosted kids 9-11 years old at a Superhero themed camp in the great outdoors. Truth be told, superheroes in modern culture aren’t my forte. While they’re all the rage right now, I could maybe identify two superheroes by name in a 3-man lineup. EEEEK – stick with me, all you Marvel fans out there – yes, I googled that.

 

So what’s a dork mom to do when she’s trying to hang with the cool kids all excited about superheroes? I don’t know, put on a mask and cape, and give yourself a cool super hero name! Double EEEEK! I couldn’t even think of a cool superpower!

But here was the cool thing about this camp – you know where this is going, right? JESUS is the ultimate, matchless, most powerful superhero EVER!!! And HE is a superhero I do know something about and has come to my rescue. I could write the never ending sequels to all the times He has saved the day and saved me.

 

While we swapped stories, sang songs, swam, hiked; we also learned about our Superhero Jesus! These kids just melted me and brought my heart to a much needed child-like place of faith. During one evening of devotions we shared in our small groups who some of the superheroes are in our life. I had one camper share that her parents were her superheroes because she was adopted from St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and born with medical problems. Her mom couldn’t take care of her, so her parents stepped in and adopted her and gave her a better life. Another one of my campers shared that her mom was a veteran and served in the military protecting people, and she was her superhero. These girls get it – they recognized at an early age how they had superheroes in their life. People that protected them, defended them, cared for them, even at their own risk or loss. These are people that are following Jesus and showing His sacrificial love. We learned an awesome song at camp with this verse: Jesus, You’re my Superhero, You swooped down and You rescued me”.

 

Jesus is our first and best Superhero, perfectly demonstrating how to love the unlovely, grace the sinner, and protect the weak. And while we can never perfectly mirror Jesus, we sure can strive for excellence! 1 Peter 1:16 encourages us to “Be Holy, for I am Holy”.

 

And as we open up to our reading for today – the entire book of Philemon (one chapter), we see Paul following in Jesus’ footsteps. He serves as a superhero to Onesimus, standing in the gap between Onesimus & Philemon, the recipient of this letter. Onesimus (I’ve heard it pronounced oh-NESS-i-muss) was a slave that ran away from Philemon, and while on the run he became a Christ follower, taught by Paul and loved by Paul. Paul sends him back to Philemon with this letter, vouching for Onesimus, building up his character, taking on his debt, and asking for him to be received how Philemon would receive Paul himself. He asks all these things in love, rather than requiring it from Philemon, as his superior in the early church.

 

This is a really cool letter to study with so many little glimpses of Jesus shining through. Paul humbles himself when he doesn’t have to. He has a heart for reconciliation between people he cares deeply for. Paul is willing to assume the debt or restitution of Onesimus – interceding for the people he is leading.

 

While we never know exactly how this situation ends, we do know that Paul was very confident that Philemon would respond favorable to Paul’s request of reconciliation (vs. 21). And at the very end of this letter we get one more little clue of reconciliation in Paul’s world. He sends greetings from Mark – who he was separated from in the ministry for a period of time due to a disagreement (Acts 13 & 15) and yet here we see that they have reconciled and Paul is sending greetings on Mark’s behalf. I love this picture of how the Holy Spirit leads people to reconciliation, and sometimes uses one another in the process.

 

Have you had someone stand in the gap for you, vouch for you, take on your debt when they weren’t responsible? Maybe someone backed you in the workplace, or stuck up for you in school. We are surrounded by superheroes that are following Jesus’ footsteps – from organ donors to foster parents, teachers and firemen. Take a moment and reflect on and thank God for the superheroes He has sent your way. These people are the gospel message in action – standing in the gap and interceding for us just like Jesus did at Calvary. Our perfect Superhero took on our sin debt, vouched for us, pleaded for our forgiveness, all while we were still sinners. Jesus is our Superhero!

Actions vs. Words

Last night I dreamed I was on a ship amidst a serious storm. There were monstrous waves which ultimately caused the ship to capsize. I was trapped inside with water draining into the room. There was no way out, this was it, death by drowning was imminent. I would meet my creator within moments.

Did I get it right? Have I lived a life worthy of my calling? Should I be in fear or at peace? Am I truly saved? What if…?

The bottom line is, have my life’s actions spoken louder than my words? I proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ, but do I live it out? And what are the results of my actions?

While fortunately we are not saved by works, our actions and the fruit we bear (good or bad) reflect the lives we lead. Empty words are like water vaporizing into the sky on a hot summer day.

In today’s reading in Colossians 1 we have actions and results:

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives (Colossians 1:6a)

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. (Colossians 1:10a)

So it is with Christ as he took action: Christ rescued us, transferred us, purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

We were once enemies of God. Separated from him, but Jesus took action and brought the result of mercy and grace: Reconciliation with Him through his death.

 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (Colossians 1:22)

What actions is God calling you and I to right now? Who do we need to love and serve today? Who do we need to forgive or to ask for forgiveness? Do our actions today and every day reflect true gratitude for the magnitude of what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives?