Baruch

Today’s reading is Jeremiah 36, 43, and 45 with a focus on Baruch.

Who was Baruch? Most know of the prophet Jeremiah, but may not know of Baruch, his scribe. Not only was Baruch given the task of writing down the prophecies God gave to Jeremiah, but he was also given the task to tell the Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and his officials what the prophecies said about the fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar when they would be taken into exile as a result of their idolatry and turning away from the Lord. I have to imagine Baruch’s thoughts when he was writing this down for Jeremiah. He was likely thinking this not good and probably wondering who the pour soul would be that had to risk his life to deliver this message….only to find out that pour soul was him!

What else was Baruch thinking? Was he scared for his life? Was he wondering why it had to be him? Was he bitter that although these were Jeremiah’s words, he was the one who had to risk his life and deliver the news? Was he thinking…why me? Whatever fears, anxieties, and maybe even bitterness Baruch had about delivering this message, he must have faced them and let God use him as His servant because he did in fact deliver the message. While we don’t know his thoughts, we are potentially given some insight that he may have been wondering some of these things and really thinking, “What’s in it for me?” In Jeremiah 45:5, God speaks directly to Baruch through Jeremiah and says, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing great disaster upon all flesh, declared the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places which you may go.”

Is your life in a spot right now where you are wishing you had accomplished more worldly success and you are not where you thought you would be at this point? Have you been a “behind the scenes” guy or gal like Baruch without much notoriety? Let us remember what the world, and what we being in the world, view as success is not what God views as success. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:30 and Matthew 20:16 that the last will be first. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have big goals and aspire to be all God’s called us to be and use the talents and gifts He’s given us. If that means we are to be CEO, then that’s great. These verses also tell us the school cafeteria worker, the garbage person, the ditch digger, and the retail worker are viewed just the same in God’s eyes and potentially must greater if they are living for God’s purpose and His Kingdom instead of the world. Jesus says in Matthew 21:28 that even the Son of Man (Him) came to serve and not be served.

If we have not achieved the worldly success we desire or have faced financial or health hardships in our lives despite the fact that we believe we are doing most things right and living for Him and wondering why and “what’s in it for me?”, let us remember that God has given us “life” like Baruch and everything we truly need which is forgiveness from our sins through Jesus so we can live with Him for eternity. This is the greatest gift we could ever be given….for eternity is much longer than the life we are given on this Earth, whatever suffering or challenges we face or lack of worldly success and accolades while here. Do you also believe you have not been living for Him to this point? Well, He gave His life for you and forgives you, and now you have the option to give your life to Him from this day forward. Let us all pray for clarity on where we are today in our relationship with Him and for wisdom on where He wants us to go from here.

Mordecai…Do you know him?

Today’s reading is Esther 3:1-15, 5:9-6:14, and 10:1-3 with a focus on Mordecai.

I have to admit, sadly, that I was more familiar with the major league baseball pitcher and manager from the first half of the 20th century, “Three Finger” Mordecai Brown, than I was with Mordecai from the Bible. I at least knew the major league pitcher and manager had three fingers but couldn’t tell you anything about Mordecai in the Bible until this post. A famous comedian Rodney Dangerfield main punchline was always that he didn’t get any respect. Well, I feel like Mordecai might be the “Rodney Dangerfield” of biblical heroes who stood up for God and what was right despite the risks. Many of us know about Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, and even Rahab to name a few, but may not know much about Mordecai. Although I don’t think Mordecai himself would really care, what he cared about doing what was right in God’s eyes for God’s glory, despite the risks and lack of notoriety. We can learn from this and should strive to do the same.

If you like soap operas or just a good drama, take the time to read this entire book of Esther. I’ll try to sum up who Mordecai was and what he did as briefly as I can. Mordecai took Esther, the daughter of his uncle Abihail, as his own daughter because she had no father or mother. This was after King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews from Jerusalem during the rule of King Ahasuerus while the Jews were still exiled. Not only had Mordecai sacrificed to help make Esther his own, but he also helped her behind the scenes to rise to queen while her Jewish beliefs and lineage were hidden. He went to great risks to foil a plot from some of King Ahasuerus’ own men to kill him, even though he received no credit. Like the more well-known Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he refused to bow down anyone other than God when he did not bow down King Ahasuerus’ right-hand man Haman. As a result, Haman plotted to annihilate all the Jews across the land and eventually hang Mordecai. However, Mordecai convinced Esther to potentially put her life at risk by asking her to reveal her Jewish lineage by telling King Ahasuerus about Haman and his plot to kill all her fellow Jews and him. After much time had passed since the event, the King learned it was in fact Mordecai who exposed the plot some time earlier to kill him and saved Mordecai’s life, as well as all the Jews, promoted Mordecai to his right-hand man, and ultimately hanged Haman instead.

I’ve heard the quote before, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” This is what Mordecai did time and time again, despite the risks to himself, all the Jews, and Esther who he raised and obviously cared so much for. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Mark Whitacre speak on two occasions. You may recognize his name as the FBI informant who exposed the ADM price fixing scheme in nearby Decatur, IL and may have even seen the movie with Matt Damon starring as him. I admittedly have not seen the movie, but what you may not know (I’m not sure if it is in the movie…) was that his wife, Ginger, told Mark that if he didn’t go to the authorities, she would. Although Mark did and was responsible for initially helping to expose the scheme, he did not fully cooperate with authorities and served 9 years in prison while the average stay of the others involved was only 30 months! Do you think Ginger who gave up a wealthy life and who was now raising their children alone without her husband and their father might have regretted her decision and might have been bitter about the others’ lesser sentence? I don’t know if any of these thoughts crept in, but I do know that she prayed for her husband consistently throughout this time. Ultimately, Chuck Colson, who was guilty as part of the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal, witnessed to Mark while he was in prison, and Mark gave his life to Christ. Mark now travels the country sharing his story and witnessing to thousands about the saving grace of Jesus he received which they can also receive. If Mark doesn’t go to prison, or has a shorter sentence, it’s likely he doesn’t find Christ, nor help others find God’s grace through sharing his story. This all started by Ginger Whitacre doing the right thing and encouraging her husband to do the same.

While we may not be in the situation to step in the middle and stop criminal activity, we are faced with opportunities each day to stand up for God and His Word. The world keeps telling us that there is no right and wrong and everyone should just do like they feel, seeking pleasure and whatever makes them happy. It’s their choice, right? If we don’t agree, we are looked at as being in the wrong. Well, God is clear in His Word what is right and what is wrong, and we must not let the world convince us differently. We must also let the world know what God’s Word says is truth, despite the risks of being ostracized and despite the fact that we who are witnessing and standing up for God are also sinners in need of God’s saving grace ourselves. Like we learned from Mordecai in the book of Esther and Ginger Whitacre, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”

If you want to read more verses on how we must not heed to what the world says is right, despite the risks, check out James 4:4, Matthew 10:22, John 15:18, Matthew 24:9, Galatians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18, and finally Matthew 5:10-12.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

Elisha

Today’s reading is 2 Kings 2, 4, and 6 as we focus on the prophet Elisha.

A famous movie line many know from the movie Top Gun is, “I’m not leaving my wingman.” Maverick, the movie’s main character, learned his lesson after leaving his wingman earlier in the movie for selfish ambition which led to a bad outcome. When he made the decision later to stay and protect his wingman, putting others’ needs above his, good things happened, and he ultimately became the hero. Elisha was the long-time servant of the prophet Elijah. As we read here in 2 Kings 2, Elijah tells Elisha to leave him 3 separate times because Elijah must travel further. However, Elisha stays true to his master, his mission, and purpose by staying with Elijah to the very end. And what happens, but he receives a double-portion of the same prophetic gifts Elijah had. As we read on, not only does God help Elisha perform many miracles in the Lord’s name, but we see God protect him with horses and chariots of fire, who we can assume to be angels, in 2 Kings 6:15-17 when the king of Syria sends his men to kill Elisha. A few weeks ago, we read about how God rewarded Ruth for her steadfast loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi which led her to not only receiving gifts at the end of her life, but also naming a book after her and becoming part of the genealogy of Jesus. We also know about the prostitute Rahab who showed courage to protect the prophets of Israel and as a result is referenced throughout the Bible and who also became part of the lineage of Jesus. The people we just mentioned showed an unfailing courage and trust in God for their lives. Over the past weeks we have also read in the Old Testament about many kings and rulers who abandoned God and things didn’t go so well for them.

Here is my question…what is God asking you to do in your life to serve Him, your family, and others in His name that is not an easy decision and choice to make requiring great faith and trust in Him? It could be helping a friend or stranger in need, a financial change or commitment, dedication of more of your time to person or a cause or even your own family, or could be a change in career direction. Whatever it is, I can assume it’s not easy. It may put your time or money at risk which are two things I know I hold far too tightly far to often because wrongly I see them as 2 of my most valuable resources which in my mind are also scarce. However, God sees our spiritual gifts to serve others in His name as being way more valuable and has no limitations on what He can do if He sees fit financially…and His timeline is also eternity. I have seen it time after time, and we can also see in the Bible, where it may not come for a very long time, but God rewards this faithfulness to Him and his purpose in ways we could never imagine. Yet, it is still very hard to completely trust and follow Him and His will for our lives. No, these choices will not get us to Heaven, only belief in Jesus’ loving sacrifice on the cross will (Ephesians 2:8-9), but scripture does tell us we will be rewarded when we get there (Revelation 22:12, Revelation 2:23). In what way, I’m not sure…but isn’t hearing Him say to you, “Well done my good and faithful servant” enough?

See His Vision.

Work His Mission.

Live His Values.

 

 

 

 

Hannah

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 1:1-2:21 with a focus on Hannah and what we can learn from her.

Hannah was the wife of Elkanah. Hannah could not have children, and this deeply saddened her. However, in her distress, she prayed for God to give her a son and vowed to give him to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10-11). The Lord answered her prayer by giving her Samuel who she presented back to Lord, leaving him in the temple to learn under Israel’s ruler and priest Eli. Later, God also gave her three more sons and two daughters. Even though Samuel was not in the bloodline of Eli, he became Eli’s unlikely successor and leader of Israel because Eli’s sons were “worthless men” (1 Samuel 2:12). She gave her problems and pain to God, and He did even more than she could ask or imagine.

The first part of 1 Samuel makes it very clear that Hannah was a sad woman for years because of her inability to have a child. This brought the question to my mind…is it a sin to be distressed or sad because of something you want but are not receiving? I believe that initially it is not a sin to be sad or distressed because of something you want because the Bible is clear that Jesus was without sin and yet in Luke 22:43-45, Jesus, knowing of the pain he would suffer on the cross, was in “agony.” In fact, He was so distressed that he perspired drops of blood as he asked God to “remove this cup” from him in Luke 22:42. God gave us the ability to feel sadness so I don’t think it in and of itself is a sin. The question is…where do your thoughts go from there, and to whom do you go? What do you do when you feel sadness or stress or anxious? Maybe God allows us to feel sadness at times so we go to Him.

Jesus went to His Heavenly Father in prayer, and “prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). At the same time, He also said, “not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42).” Hannah, not having yet the example we now have from Jesus, did the same…she went to the Lord in prayer.

“She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” 1 Samuel 1:10

She tells Eli….

“I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:15

It is then that Eli tells her the Lord will grant her a child.

Although it says Hannah had “great anxiety and vexation” in 1 Samuel 1:16, I think we gain more insight in how she may have prayed that prayer asking for a child when we see how she prayed another prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 where she gave great praise and adoration to God. It is clear that she knows there is no one like Him. He is in control, and He is the one who she worships. Christian musical artist Toby Mac recently posted on his Facebook account, “Worry is worshipping the problem.” That is powerful. It is clear that Hannah still worshipped God and knew He was in control during her sadness. Feeling sad and having anxiety in and of themselves must not be sins since Jesus had these feelings, but worrying that consumes you constantly and thus worshipping those problems, and not going to God, is. Ask yourself, as I am definitely asking myself today, am I worshipping my problem in my worrying? Or, am I giving my problems to Him, worshipping Him in adoration of His greatness and sovereignity, like Hannah did in 1 Samuel 2:1-10?

We must also ask ourselves, is what I want for His glory or mine? Also, am I willing to give that blessing to Him when I receive it? And, do I FULLY believe that he can and will answer this prayer? Finally, can I find peace in whatever His will is and trust His will is what is truly best? I could do multiple other journal entries to each one of these questions, but I’ll sum it up briefly. I believe God answers Hannah’s prayer because as we can see through her prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-1-, she knew she served a mighty God, full of wisdom, who could do anything.  And despite her sadness, she says she will give her son that God gives her back to God for His glory in 1 Samuel 1:11! Can you imagine wanting something that bad for that long and then just giving it right back to God when you receive it? Then, she follows through. And God blessed her and Samuel for that by making Samuel an unlikely leader of Israel and by giving her five more children.

Let us follow the example Hannah set here and the words of Paul…

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4-

Let It Go

Today’s reading is Exodus 1:1-2:10 with the focus being on Moses’ parents.

We don’t know much about Moses father other than that he was from the tribe of Levi from the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob), so we will focus on his Israelite mother which we will call his birth mother and his Egyptian mother which we will call his adopted mother.

To set the context for our discussion we want to quickly review that Joseph has passed and the current Egyptian Pharaoh was fearful of the Israelites due to the number of them and thought they may side with another enemy of Egypt in the future, so out of fear he enslaved them. He also ordered that any male babies be killed at birth. Moses’ mom hid him for three months until she could hide him no more, then she let him go on the Nile in a basket. Although we don’t know Moses’ mom’s name, we know how highly God thought of the bravery of her actions and her trust in God to protect him because her actions are referenced in what some call the chapter of faith all-stars in Hebrews 11 which mentions some of the Bible’s biggest heroes who exhibited great trust in God through their actions.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  

Hebrews 11:23

Moses’ sister followed her baby brother Moses down the Nile and saw that he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. She took a very brave step as well to follow him and then approach Pharoah’s daughter and ask her if she wanted her to find an Israelite mother to nurse the baby to which she agreed. Unbeknownst to the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ sister directed her to Moses’ birthmother who nursed him and stayed with him for a period of time. Although she could have maybe tried to escape with him wanting to keep him, and who could blame her being his true mother, she likely realized his opportunity to have the best life possible was to give him back to Pharaoh’s daughter to become his adopted mom. She put her son’s needs in front of her own, and most importantly, trusted that if she gave him away God would take care of and provide for him. She was willing to let go of that which she loved so greatly, her son, and give Him to God, not so different than the way Abraham was willing to let go of and sacrifice Isaac.

How often do we hold too tight to the people, circumstances, and things in our life, instead of giving them to God with faith, fully trusting Him?

Hebrews 11, which we referenced earlier, starts with the following….

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

We must ask and trust in God without doubting…

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:6-8

This also defines faith has having no doubt whatsoever.

By the outcome of Moses’ life being protected, and with God doing amazing things with him similar to God doing big things with Isaac after Abraham let go, I would have to be lead to believe that his mom asked God with big faith and full trust to protect him and to do big things with him for God’s glory. That is exactly what God did.

Take some time to reflect today, what do you need to let loose of and fully give to God with faith and without doubting? My guess is that when you do let go, your desires will come true. But even if not, one thing is certain…you will have a peace that passes understanding by trusting in Him and His perfect plan for your life and circumstances….whatever the outcome is.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

What Does Adam Have To Do With Me?

Today we start a new series of focusing on people from the Bible, and appropriately today, we begin with Adam as we read Genesis 1:26-2:17.

As I read these verses, I asked myself….what can we learn from God’s creation of Adam and his message to him? What does that mean for me today? Two themes jumped out to me.

Theme #1

Find your identity through God in Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’” As a side note, the use of the word “our” is the first sign of the Trinity and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there in the beginning. John 1 also reiterates that Jesus, the Word, was there in the beginning. Genesis 1:27 also reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.” The word image means shadow or shade. If God created us in his image, similar to Him, that tells us how highly he thinks of us and how much he loves us. He didn’t have to make us in His image similar to Him. He could have made us completely different. He created us because He wanted a relationship with us. That is why we exist. We should find our identity, and take peace, in that.

Theme #2

God gives us responsibilities that we are called to fulfill and calls us to use our God-given gifts and abilities to the absolute best we can.

In Genesis 1:26 He says….”And let them have dominion over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…” He reiterates this again in Genesis 1:28-30 and again in Genesis in 2:15 which says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it.”

What has God put you in charge of? What responsibilities has He given you…your family, money, career, and other things? Maybe you are young and not sure if any of these fit yet, but He has given you the responsibility to “work,” and use your God-given abilities and talents to the absolute best you can. And yes, He has given you some great talents and abilities to use in a big way… whether your realize it yet or not because He created you in His image! Colossians 3:23-24 are a few of my favorite verses. They read, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for human beings. Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what He has kept for His people. For Christ is the real Master you serve.” We do not get our identity from our work, only from Him, but we are called to “work in the garden and keep it” to the best we can.

Let us pray to help us remember these lessons from the creation of Adam and God’s message to him…

Lord, thank you for creating me in your image which you didn’t have to do. Please help me find my identity in that today and everyday..knowing I’m a child of yours who you created out of love to have a relationship with you and to do big things and impact others by using the talents and gifts you’ve given me to the absolute best I can. I’m humbled by this blessing and responsibility. I love you. Amen.

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

 

 

 

More Than Conquerors

Today’s reading is Romans 8 or as some call it…”The Great Eight.”

In reading it again, it’s easy to see why it has that nickname as it’s chalked full of so much great content that it is really hard to choose what to write on. If you’re interested in digging more into this chapter, I highly recommend the book “If” by Mark Batterson. He does a great job of breaking this chapter down in a way that may change the way you live your life..without fear…knowing God’s immeasurable love for you.

Mark says when you see “therefore,” see what it’s “there for.” Take note right away because verse one starts off by saying, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We live in a world where committing a crime or doing something wrong comes with punishment..or most agree it should any way. This makes it natural to wonder when we have something go wrong in our life such as losing a baby, getting sick, getting downsized from your job, or you or your child get sick if God is punishing us for something we did. Paul makes it clear hear right away that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, so was our sin. Jesus also makes this clear in John 9:3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This is very hard for us to comprehend…it’s just not natural. But, first 1 John 4:16 tells us, “God is love.” God’s true love means God doesn’t always stop these things from happening because good can come from it in a way that is incomprehensible to us on this Earth and that we may never know while alive. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” He loves us and allows only what’s TRULY good to happen..and only He knows what’s TRULY good. If we knew what was truly good, we would be God.

The principle and main point in Mark’s book, “If,” is that the word “If” in Romans 8:31 is a true game changer in how we live our life, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we wake up knowing every day that God wants us to succeed, it changes the way we live. We can we live without fear because when know God loves us and wants what’s truly best for us. We already discussed that “God is love,” and 1 John 4:18 tells us that “…perfect love casts out fear.” We can replace “love” with “God” and say…’..perfect God casts out fear.’ Subconscious doubts of God’s best intentions for your life will result in many fears! Don’t doubt his love!

How do we know His unfailing and unconditional love?

The following verse, Romans 8:32 says, “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?” Drop the mic.

Because of this, Paul says in verse 37, “..we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us?” When we know the game we’re playing to win is not in life which doesn’t matter, but for eternal life in Heaven…and we know we already have the title belt through His love…it changes everything. Let us not live like Jesus and our sins are still nailed to the cross, He’s risen and our sins are erased permanently giving us eternal life and making us “..more than conquerors through Him.”

 

Last Kiss

Today’s reading is Galatians 3.

Some of the most important life lessons we can teach our kids can come in the simplest moments. As a young boy, I can remember riding in the back of my parents’ car and listening to oldies from the 50s and mostly 60s. This is where my Dad taught me the most important life lesson while likely on the 25 minute drive home from Springfield to Auburn, Illinois from the grocery store or some other errand. A big thing for my father, and now me, when a song came on the radio was to ask, “What is the name of the song and who sings it?” It was then typically followed up by some other fun fact about the band or song. Due to this, I know a lot about songs from this era and I wouldn’t admit it growing up, but I love the music now! Many of you may be familiar with the song “Last Kiss” which was originally a one-hit wonder by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and re-made by Pearl Jam in more recent years. I’m a Pearl Jam fan, but you just can’t beat the original in my opinion…but I digress. The song is about a boy, who is likely in high school, out on a date with his father’s car when a car is stalled in the road causing him to crash. His girlfriend does not survive, and he gives her a last kiss as she takes her final breaths. The chorus of the song repeats over and over, “Oh where oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to Heaven, so I got to be good…so I can see my baby when I leave this world.” My Dad loves the song and I can’t help but sing along when it comes on now, but he appropriately taught me at a very young age, “Chet…you know this song is wrong. You don’t get to Heaven by being good. You only get to Heaven by believing in Jesus and that He died on the cross for your sins.” Wow…the most important thing every human being should know taught to me at a very young age while riding in the back seat on a trip we took many times. One of the reasons I also know so much about the music from this era is that the same fun facts and information my Dad would tell me about each song was often told most of the time each song would come on, so this important lesson from the “Last Kiss” was told multiple times and engrained in me, but that’s a good thing. One of my mentors always said, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” This one was definitely worth repeating.

This critical information is what Paul is communicating in Galatians 3. You do not get to Heaven by being a good person or by following the Law.

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”   Galatians 3:10-11

Paul says a similar thing in his letter to the Romans…

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

A key part of both of these verses is the emphasis that the only way one could be justified and brought together with God by works would be if you did “all things” correctly in Galatians 3:10 and then the singular nature of the word “sin” in Romans 6:23 tells us even one sin permanently separates of from God without Jesus’ loving sacrifice on the cross. No one, and I mean no one, no matter how good of a person they are in this world will receive the crown of righteousness in Heaven without admission of our sin and belief in Jesus because we also know Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short.

Jesus says this himself in John 14:6.

“….I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me….”

My Dad always taught me that believing one can get into Heaven by being a good person is one of the biggest myths of many Christians even and just not true based on the Word. Some may think this is harsh that there is only one way and wonder why the other “good people” don’t get in. Again, one sin separates us for eternity from God, so by God’s definition there are no “good people” without Jesus. Only He can make us holy and righteous. Only the cross provides the bridge of the great divide between man and God with the fiery pit of hell below due to our sin. This is beneficial for us to because it gives us a clear delineation of how to have eternal life with God in Heaven. Otherwise, we would have no idea what it “good enough” to get in and if past sins might forever separate us from God. This could leave us running ragged trying to do enough good and never knowing where we stand feeling anxious and depressed.

I hope that I am teaching our kids this same lesson of Jesus being the only way and more, but our kids can also teach us lessons as well. Our son Deklin is 6 and probably starting at age 2 or 3 he would say in his prayers he wanted “everybody in the city to know about Jesus.” As we’ve lost a few people we know recently, who were without a doubt good people, and one in particular who impacted so many in our community, this really hits home. Sadly, I don’t know if he knew Jesus, but I hope so. Let us follow Deklin’s prayer and Matthew 28:19-20 and not leave it to chance. I absolutely love the song “Last Kiss,” but I’m very glad J. Frank Wilson had his facts wrong on the way to Heaven because none of us could get there if that was the way. However, due to Jesus’ grace on the cross we can all get there through belief in Him…and so can everyone else…we just need to tell them.

 

Till I Found You…Grief Into Joy

Today’s reading is John 16 where the night before He was crucified Jesus foretells of his death and the sadness it will bring followed by the joy that will come when they see Him again through His resurrection.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:22

Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

As I read this, I thought to myself, do I have joy? Where am I seeking joy? Often we seek joy in the next promotion, the next sale, the new house, the new car, our net worth, or earthly relationships..only to find these things bring temporary pleasure. This brief pleasure is always fleeting..sometimes within minutes or hours, but always within days or years. None of them last forever. Even the best of marriages end with one spouse passing before the other and even if we are lucky to have an ending like The Notebook and pass at the same time…our life on this earth still ends. It doesn’t last forever. No marriage can bring everlasting joy.

Let’s break down how a relationship with Jesus provides true joy by Merriam-Webster’s definition…

When we know Him, we know our “well-being” is forever being take care of. Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things?”

When we know Him, we know we are a “success.” Despite our past sins, relational, professional, or financial failures, we know that we are a “success” because of Him. In Romans 8:38, the Apostle Paul says, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” He also talks about winning the prize or the race in other writings.

When we know Him, we know we have “good fortune.” Can anything give us more “good fortune” than knowing every single one of our past sins and future mistakes are forgiven? Psalm 103:10-12 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” If that’s not good fortune, I don’t know what is!

When we know Him, we “possess what one desires.” What do we all desire? In my humble opinion, it is the forgiveness we just discussed, as well as a loving relationship that lasts forever through eternal life. The only way we get it is through one with Him. God began to let us know how He would do this all the way back in Isaiah 25:8 which says, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” God reminds us of this amazing promise again at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:4 which reads, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What do you believe is the greatest love song of all time? Well, I believe the greatest love song of all time has to be about the only love that can bring us true joy which cannot be taken from us because it lasts forever. Check out “Till I Found You” by Phil Wickham.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewhz3pCk9vM