Authenticity

Today’s reading is from 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.

Authenticity is on my mind today as we traverse life.

Many times, we “put on a face” of everything in our lives is great.  Our job could not be better.  Our kids are thriving and happy.  Our marriage is like a fairy tale. We just completed the greatest vacation we have ever had, and it could not have been more restful and relaxing!

Is that how your life feels?

I am not afraid to say that life can be a struggle and brings about a fresh set of challenges.  I believe my state of mind and expectations drive my response.  My response to these challenges varies based on the day, what else is going on, and my state of mind.  I am human.  I am imperfect.  I don’t always react to challenges the way I should.

Most importantly, I think we need to surround ourselves with authentic and open relationships where we can share our lives with others in an authentic way.  There is power in understanding that others have similar challenges, others have similar struggles, and know that we are not alone in our attempt to deal with difficulties.

I love how the Apostle Paul writes in this reading with an authentic and vulnerable voice.

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with the excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.

3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.

4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. NKJV

Life is messy.  Situations do not always turn out like we planned.  We are not always at our best. Relationships are complicated.  Jobs don’t always turn out to be the dream we though they would be.  Vacations do not always end with the blissful moments we had hoped.

I would encourage us to surround ourselves with supportive, faith-filled people, that we can be authentic with.  We should strive to spend time with people that are not afraid to tell us when we are “off the path” and encourage us when we need it.  These are the same people who share with us when they struggle and when they need encouragement. Let us not surround ourselves with people who are not authentic and tell us what they think we want to hear. I pray that we open ourselves up to vulnerability and input from mentors, small groups, and positive influencers in our lives to help us work through difficult situations.

God encourages us to surround ourselves with other believers and commune together. Hebrews 10:24-25 says the following:

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. NKJV

Unconventional Wisdom

Looking at various social media sites you’d think that most people’s lives are all fun, they always look good, are always happy, and things are under control. Selfies when shared depict how we want people to see us, and advertising helps propagate many misperceptions. Over time as we observe these images and messages, we can be succumbed to believing that money buys happiness, looking good means you feel good, or that it is easy to be thin and have a nice body “by following these simple steps”.

Recently a highly respected personal trainer who specializes in strength training shared a related story. A prospective client came to him with a photo of an extraordinarily physically fit person. The prospective client asked how long it would take to look like the person in the photograph. The trainer replied, “with a lot of hard work, a strict diet, and a strong commitment it could take about two years, maybe more”.

Frustrated, the prospective client said, “that’s too long” and decided not to even try, just like that. This person had come to believe the lies that the world is spinning and that there are shortcuts to everything that is great.

It is with a similar mindset that many approach faith or even disdain such beliefs. Many listen to what the world (or the ruler of lies) spins as “conventional wisdom”: You don’t need God, do what you like, Christianity is a myth, or that people who believe are weak and foolish.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The truth is that God turned this “conventional wisdom” upside down when he used an unassuming carpenter from a lowly respected town to become the Savior of the World. Even Satan wanted Jesus dead as though this might thwart God’s plan. It is something that at first didn’t seem to make sense, and that’s the beauty of it: It was God’s plan, the greatest event of all time, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, defeating death so that we can live.

19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:19-20)

Read God’s word and listen to his truth. He has a plan for you regardless of your status, the sins of your past, or your self-image. The same went for the early followers.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  (1 Corinthians 1:26)

They were nobodies (by conventional wisdom) who God used for great, and even if you think you’re a “nobody”, you are somebody in God’s eyes. You are loved by God more than you know, and he can and will use you for great if you let him. Trust and obey.

Today’s reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Undivided

Today’s reading:  1 Corinthians 1:1-17

I was out running the other morning and Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard’s 2021 song Undivided started to play.  I don’t know enough about either artist to know whether they are Christfollowers or not, but the song has a catchy tune and an uplifting message.

I think it’s time to come togetherYou and I can make a changeMaybe we can make a differenceMake the world a better placeLook around and love somebodyWe’ve been hateful long enoughLet the Good Lord reunite us‘Til this country that we love’sUndivided

In our scripture for today, Paul was writing to the Corinthian Church to encourage them and address a few problems he heard they were having, one of which was divisiveness.  The Corinthian church was a diverse group of Christfollowers that included wealthy merchants, common laborers and even former temple prostitutes.  They found themselves quarreling about a lot of things from loyalty to certain leaders (Paul, Apollos, Peter, Jesus) to which spiritual gifts were more important.

After an opening greeting and thanking God for the gifts he had given the Corinthian Church, Paul began his message by calling his audience “brothers and sisters”.  This was likely to emphasize that, despite their varied backgrounds, members of the Corinthian church were all part of the same family – the family of God.  Paul asked them to stop arguing and focus on what truly mattered, rather than the small differences that were taking them off course and driving them apart.

 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Paul’s message to the Corinthian church is very timely for us 21st century Christfollowers.  We come from a lot of different places, some of us grew up in the church and some of us didn’t.  We don’t all look the same, sound the same, or share common experiences.  But even if we don’t agree on every detail, we can be united and work together in harmony if we agree on the one thing that really matters – Jesus Christ is Lord.

...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6).

I Am Sorry

I got married at the ripe old age of 24. Those early years of marriage were very formative. More than anything, I learned that my life is no longer my own. In other words, the commitment of marriage requires that I make choices with two people in mind, not just myself. Of course, there were many times that I did not meet that expectation. Failure to do so led to conflict. I learned quickly that I could settle the conflict with three words. You know them too. “I am sorry.” That phrase pretty much settles the conflict. They work until it happens again. At that moment, saying “I am sorry” is a false promise.
Jennifer is a patient woman. She tolerated my errant behavior and even accept my apologies. But, she quickly understood that my apology was a tactic to end the argument, rather than a sincere desire to change my behavior.  She called me out. “Being sorry,” she said, “means that you will never do it again.” Ouch.
She may not have known it at the time, but her words mimic Jesus. When it comes to forgiveness, Jesus instructs us to rebuke the sins of other believers. Meaning that we are to let them know where their behavior is not consistent with their commitment. “If,” he continues,” there is repentance, “forgive.” This process continues, as long as there is repentance.
My previous behavior has me questioning the process. How many times have I told Jesus that “I am sorry,” with no intention of changing my behavior? I fear that much of the time, I am simply trying to end the conflict. Those three words are hollow. When they are, they do not produce the justification, salvation, and forgiveness that I need. Justification comes only with a full sense of guilt, according to PT Forsyth. In fact, “you cannot get a full, justifying faith without a full sense and confession of guilt.”
Guilt, therefore, is the catalyst for change.  Now, when we experience guilt, we have two options.  If not confronted, it becomes a source of shame and embarrassment.  But that is not its design.  Instead,  Jesus wants our repentance.  When we present ourselves to him humbled and guilty, he listens.  More importantly, he forgives.  Even, he says, “if I wrong him seven times a day.”

Together or Separate

Today’s Reading: Luke 16:14-31 

“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

As I started reading for today, I stopped after the first few verses.  There is so much great wisdom to be shared as you read through this section, but I thought about the first couple of verses. I thought of all the ways we try to justify ourselves as humans.  How can we wake up daily striving for the subsequent feeling of success? 99.999(repeat) of people have put their hope and trust into the world at some point in their earthly lives. We have and always will live in an earthly world that has so much to offer. Whatever your desire long for can probably be found on this earth or delivered by Amazon. 

We often believe that we will be filled if we have the next best thing or accomplish that impossible task. A worldly mindset will make you think that we will be happier if you only make this much more. The Pharisees thought that gaining earthly riches would bring you closer to Heaven. They were in love with money.  Did you know that the Latin word for Pharisee is separated?  Striving for the world and its riches can separate us from Him. 

Is there anything separating you from a closer relationship with Jesus?  The world offers it all.  But all we need is Jesus. The earth exerts a downward pull on your thoughts and your bank accounts. Media bombards you with greed, lust, and cynicism that we need to keep up and strive for more. When you face these things, pray for protection and discernment of what you need. Stay in continual communication with the Lord whenever you walk through the wastelands of this world. Refuse to worry about feeling like you need the next best thing because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of My Presence. Remember His presence as you lay down at night.  His presence when you juggle schedules to get your children or yourself to the next place on the calendar.  The world will find ways to separate you.  Don’t let it.  If you need help, call on Him, and talk with a brother or sister in Christ. 

Matthew 6:24  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Stay blessed

The Other Lens

Today’s Reading: Luke 16: 1-13

At the beginning of August, my family held a family reunion which brought together family members that had not seen each other for more than 20 years. This was also important because this was the first time that the descendants from my great-great grandfather gathered together.  It was testament to the longevity of my great-great grandfather, who was born into slavery and his lineage.   In preparation for the reunion, I had several conversations with many members of my family.  One of these conversations with my second cousin, I received an education that I had forgotten. When we were younger, this cousin and I would play at our grandparents houses. While reminiscing, I mentioned that I was a “good kid”.  She quickly and promptly reminded me that I was a “little stinker” and if  things were not a certain way I would get mad.

When I was younger, my grandmother was a babysitter and a nanny for children. She would be available for parents to drop-off before work and pick-up after work.  She would take care of children in the early morning hours through the evening hours.  I would be at her house during these times as well. One particular time, it was early morning and I couldn’t get my way and I remember biting a friend. It’s a powerful memory because I remember the consequences of my actions and I believe I never bit anybody again.  Sometimes the actions and realities of our past can be forgotten or clouded from our present.  Sometimes the new person that God has created in us does not allow us to be burdened by our past mistakes and past lives.

Luke 16:1-13

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me?

In today’s chapter of Luke, Christ is showing us a shrewd manager and how this manager knew what to do and how to do it, but chose not to. In the previous examples,  I wanted to show you that we all have multiple lens that we can be viewed through. Many of us have a picture of who we are currently. This may be the same or can be different from what others see.  I have found that after many years of reflecting, re-examining, and repenting, I can see the goodness in me.  I can see myself in a different light than that little boy in the previous tale.  God has given us the ability to become renewed and a new being. After a long period of time, I remembered these instances in my early life that created the person who I am today.  I had those experiences to make me reflect on my behavior and how I interact with others. 

In our previous lives, we all have done a lot of things that are not the best. In our previous lives, we have hurt people. In our previous lives, we have done despicable things to ourselves and others. This is not to cover up or to be ashamed of who we were in the past, but to give us a new one perspective on who we were and what we did. God has wiped every sin away from us and has created us into new beings. 

Isaiah 43: 25 

“I, I am he

    who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

    and I will not remember your sins.”

His forgiveness and he has changed us,  but he doesn’t want us to forget the lessons that we learn from the past. The lessons from the past helps us to be more compassionate to others and to understand their faults better.

How can we grow and go forward? How can we know what we’ve done in the past and what we will do in the future will affect our future. The manager or the steward  in the story knew what he did in the past. The steward knew how to be better. The steward had the resources to change his ways. What will we do with this new “lens” perspective?

Be Blessed

Be Salty

We have a favorite meat shop in Peoria, IL. Special events and celebrations are comemorated with a stop at the meat shop to purchase something to grill for dinner. Many comments are made on how it is the best tasting dinner we have ever had. But, if the griller (my husband) forgot the salt or didn’t put enough on the meat, no matter the quality, it would not taste as good. This has happened a couple of times, the meat was not flavored enough with salt so we have to bring the salt shaker to the table and add more to the individual pieces. Salt makes all the difference!

We read about salt in our text today.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.”
Luke 14:34-35

The variety of salt and season salts one can buy today is incredible. If you stand in the spice isle at the local grocery you will have quite a choice of salts. Back in Jesus’ day salt was not the same.

In Jesus’ day salt was gathered up from salt deposits on the Mediterranean Sea or the Dead Sea. The deposits were then broke into large or small chunks depending on what it would be used for. The salt vendors would grind it up to be used just as we use it today, but it wasn’t as pure and bright white like we see salt today.

The salt that was gathered from the deposits in the sea was mixed with many other minerals. The salt was sold in blocks and was not a bright white color because it was not pure salt. If the block stayed out in the weather and got damp, the salt would leach out of the block and lose its saltiness. Over time, the salty flavor would disappear and only the other minerals would be left. Until it was tasted, one would never know that the salt was gone.

Just as salt flavors our food, we as followers of Jesus are to bring a flavor to those around us. As salt has a positive result in flavoring our food, we are to have a positive influence on the people we encounter daily.

Jesus is warning us in this passage to not lose our saltiness. How do we do this? By staying in His Word, by praising and worshiping Him, by being in community with other believers. We cannot keep our saltiness by only being in Church on Sundays or watching a sermon online. It is a daily habit to remain in fellowship with Jesus that aids us in keeping our salt salty.

Closely Watching

Today’s reading is on Luke 14:1-14.

It’s often been said your kids are always watching and listening. Not a parent myself, but I remember seeing how my parents treated each other & those around them, and how I learned to interact with those around me, and even how I treat my own wife to this day. I’m sure many parents can attest to kids picking up the things they say and do – and I’ve heard many stories from parents I know & work with of kids picking up the wrong things as well.

In this passage, when it’s said the Pharisees were “closely watching” Jesus, it was judgmental & malicious in intent – looking for a slip-up to pin on Him. It reminded me of how the world closely watches those professing faith to see whether or not they back up their words with actions. But also, of how we look to Jesus as a perfect example of who we are meant to be, and the kind of life God wants us to pursue. No one more esteemed & worthy than Christ could have taken a seat at the Pharisees’ table, yet He chooses to humble Himself and share how we are lifted up & exalted by God when we do so to share His word.

More so, how we look to Jesus is also how those around look to us to see what a Christ-like life looks life. David Guzik had this observation in one commentary about this passage that I loved: “In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul explained that we are letters from Jesus, that all men read; and that the letters are not written with ink, but with the Holy Spirit, and not on paper, but on our own hearts. We are the only kind of Bible many will ever read.” (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/luke-14/) Whether or not we choose to lift ourselves up and put pride over helping others, like the Pharisees in this passage using a poor sick man for leverage, and experience the subsequent fall and shame, or whether we are moved by the Holy Spirit to help others before ourselves and lower ourselves to bring the Word to the meekest of men, the world will watch with intent eyes. And whether or not they see Christ’s transformation in your life, or they see empty words, is very much in our control. We must obey Jesus’s calling in Matthew 5 to be the light of the world, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Father God, I thank you for the example of your son Jesus who would lead us by example in His perfect life, showing us how to give our lives to glorify you & lead others to your light as well. I pray we would all act in all times in a way that shows the world who you are and the joy & love you fill our hearts with, that others may seek you in their own lives as well. At all times, help us to show the servant love of your son Jesus to those watching, that we may lift your name and further shine the light of your glory to this world.

All from a Seed…

Today’s reading is Luke 13:18-30.

Siri tells me that a mustard seed is just 1-2 millimeters in diameter which is very small, yet it grows to be on average 20 feet and can be as many as 30 feet tall, as well as can produce a crown nearly as wide. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed a man sows in his garden.

Christianity all started when one man Jesus, a carpenter from a family who was far from royalty, gave His life for you and me over 2000 years ago. It spread when 12 men who were not educated scholars, famous, or had any worldly power risked their lives to spread the Word that Jesus was Resurrected 3 days after his death. From those 12, with the help of the Holy Spirit, there are now an estimated 2.6 billion Christians in the world. This is the number that are alive today..not to mention all those who have lived and died since who are now in Heaven. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

The Bible tells us nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37, Matthew 19:26, Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27). This is pretty evident from the paragraph above.

Here are 2 questions for us to ponder…

  1. Who do you need to plant a seed with about Jesus’ saving grace on the cross and Resurrection? Think of how many people have been saved over the last 2000 years. That fact and these verses tell us anyone can be saved. We need to remember that the gardener plants the seed…but does he see it sprout right away? No..it takes time. He must wait and have faith. Plant seeds and the Holy Spirit will water it and give it sunshine to grow.
  2. What mustard seed has God planted in your heart as an idea or a vision you are ignoring which you need to water and help grow? It may seem impossible, but so did a baby from Nazareth born in a manager saving the entire world and 12 “average Joe’s” helping us know 2000 years later.

As we pursue spreading the Gospel and God’s will for our lives we can be assured we do not go alone. Jesus’ last words in Matthew 28:20 end with, “…and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Parable of the Fig Tree

They say that opposites attract. Well, this is definitely the case with my husband and I. My husband is a DOER!! If there is something that needs to be done he wants it done ASAP. It doesn’t matter how or what the result will be, it is just a matter of getting it done.  I, on the other hand am more of a procrastinator. I get it done, but in my own time. We have learned to lean into these differences and realize that neither is the perfect way, but there are advantages to both.

Today I am thankful that God gives us time and grants us another day. God has mercy and grants us another day, another hour, another breath. But, reality is that His patience will come to an end. We read about this today in Luke 13:1-17. God commands the people to repent.

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Luke 13:3

Jesus then goes on to tell a parable about a fig tree that should be producing fruit but it is not. Luke shows us in this text the difference between one who has repented and is producing fruit and one who remains hard hearted and continues to sin.

“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years not I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it us up the soil?’ “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ “
Luke 13:6-9

The three year period is significant in this parable because for three years John the Baptist and Jesus had been preaching the message of repentance throughout all of Israel. But, the fruits of repentance were not showing.

Thankfully, the gardener in this story pleads for more time. The gardener pleads for more time to water and fertilize the fruitless tree. And the God of mercy responds with patience.

The lesson for us is that we have a limited amount of time. God has granted us this day, this hour and our next breath, but our time is not eternal here on earth. Our day will come when we have to stand in front of Jesus and account for our lives we have lived. If there is no fruit in our life, no repentance, He sill cut us down.

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Luke 13:3

Being a DOER as my husband is would be very practical in this matter. Why wait till tomorrow when Jesus is waiting right now for us to repent and follow Him?

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Isaiah 55:6-7