The Story

Today’s reading is Joshua 5-8, Psalm 14, and Luke 15.

Despite the fact that I like to think that I’m a “good person” (and I have to believe most are like me and think they are), I know I sin if not through actions or word, through thought, probably ever hour of every day. Sin is not in God’s nature whatsoever. It is exactly the opposite of His being and who He is. Today’s readings are a humbling reminder of what God thinks about sin, and yet also a reminder of his grace and love. It is also a reminder of how pleasing it is to Him when we show faith and trust in Him and turn back to Him after we fall away. Obeying Him does not mean immediate gratification like a dog shaking and getting a treat, but a continued path living a life of filled with intentional sin and disobeying Him will surely lead to destruction. And turning back to Him will lead to grace, forgiveness, and ultimate victory through eternal life no matter how far we have fallen away.

Early on in today’s readings we are reminded that God freed the Israelites from slavery and kept His word to lead them to the Promised Land. But, we also learn in Joshua 5:6 He let them wander in the desert for 40 years and did not let the generation He freed go into the Promised Land (including Moses who God thought highly enough to have attend Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17) because “they did not obey the voice of the Lord.” Yet, we see it is pleasing to the Lord and He “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” when the next generation obeys His instructions to Joshua that all the men be circumcised (Joshua 5:9). They keep the Passover, God sends a commander of His army to speak to Joshua (Joshua 5:14), and God instructs Joshua in Joshua 6 how he and his army are to march around Jericho for 6 days quietly and on the 7th day they are to march around the city 7 times. On the 7th time of the 7th day, they are to blow the horns and shout and the walls of Jericho would fall down before God would give them victory in battle. The Israelites could have said to Joshua, “yeah right…these walls are just going to fall when we blow our horn and yell…give me a break?!” However, this time they obeyed, and God gave them victory. What great faith and belief they showed! As promised in Joshua 6, the only family God protects in Jericho is Rahab’s because she helped the Israelite spies in Joshua 2.

As we read on in Joshua 7, we see going against God’s word leads to a path of destruction. God gave specific instructions in the conquering of Jericho that the gold and devoted things be given to the Lord (Joshua 6:18-19). But Achan took some for himself and hid it which was displeasing to God resulting in him being stoned and thus the Lord let Israel first be defeated at Ai before later giving them victory (Joshua 8). We read later in Joshua 8 where Israel turns back to God by building an altar to Him on Mount Ebal just as Moses commanded be done. Joshua honored God by also writing the law of Moses on the stones (Joshua 8:32) and by reading all the words of the law, every single one, to all the people of Israel (Joshua 8:35) which was no doubt pleasing to God.

I love the parallels of our verses each day from the Old Testament, including the Psalms, and the New Testament. Psalm 14 speaks of the corruption of man God sees as He looks down and sin which displeases Him (Psalm 14:2-3), yet promises Jesus’ coming to give salvation in Psalm 14:7. Then, we read in Luke 15 where Jesus tells how God seeks out sinners to give them a chance to repent and turn to Him through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and of course the amazing story of grace in the story of the prodigal son.

Think of some of your favorite movies and books. What is a common theme in most all of them, especially the ones that really tug on your heart strings? Most all have a story of redemption from someone who has either done wrong in the past or just didn’t have things go their way for a while. Why do you think those stories get to us, and why do we love them so much? Maybe that’s because it’s our story. It’s the story God has laid on all of our hearts because we are all part of God’s story and plan to save us from our sin (Romans 5:8) when we turn to Him. And while we read today how much God hates sin, we see in Luke 15 how much more joy He has when a sinner turns to Him for grace and forgiveness. Do you remember Rahab, the prostitute we mentioned earlier who decided to turn from her sinful ways and help the Israelites? She was not only spared in the destruction of Jericho, but ultimately became part of the bloodline of Jesus (Matthew 1:5)!

Please watch this short video from Spread Truth and pray for God to lay on your heart someone who needs to hear it and know God’s love and that they are part of His greater Story.

https://youtu.be/f0gfIvN9zv4

Here is the children’s version as well.

https://youtu.be/XbrsAF2_BOk

A New Creation

Today’s reading is Genesis 35-37, Psalm 12, and Mark 14.

In Genesis 35:1, God tells Jacob to go make an altar to him in Bethel. Jacob obeys and invites his family and others with them to come along, as well as instructs them to put away their foreign gods and purify themselves and their clothes. They did as he instructed going to Bethel, and Jacob built the altar. God then tells Jacob in Genesis 35:10 he has a new name, Israel.

Throughout Scripture we have seen God also give others a new name when they commit to following Him. Simon became Peter which in original language was Cephas meaning rock. Abram becomes Abraham in Genesis 17. Saul also become Paul when he committed to following Jesus after years of persecuting Christians.

I believe God did this and included these real stories in the Bible for us to read still today because it signifies when we commit to following Him the old us has gone away, and we are a new creation saved through His blood.

Does this mean we will not make mistakes and fall into sin again? No, we will mess up again. We know Peter denied knowing Jesus out of fear, even when he knew Jesus was the Messiah and after all he had seen Jesus do and all Jesus had done for him. Abraham lied out of fear for his life saying Sarah was his sister instead of trusting God’s protection. We can also infer Paul might have been misguided in his disagreement with Barnabas which led to them splitting ways in Acts and although we don’t know the specific sins, Paul himself says in Romans 7:14-15 and Roman 7:19 that he falls into sin and does the exact things he does not want to do.

However, he still says in 2 Corinthians 5:17…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”

Despite their mistakes even after becoming a new creation, God did big things with them. Jacob, now Israel, was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Abram, now Abraham, was the father of many nations. Simon, now Peter, became one of the founders of the church in spreading the Gospel. Saul, now Paul, spread the Gospel across and around the Mediterranean and wrote nearly half the New Testament.

Through the good and bad, God will do big things with and through you for His Kingdom when you become a new creation through committing to following Him.

Have you committed to letting Jesus be the Lord and leader of your life or do you need to recommit? If you want to, pray the following prayer…

Lord, thank for the unconditional love you showed by dying on the cross to forgive me from my sin. I believe that because you rose on Easter, I will also live with you in Heaven someday. I commit to living my life while still here on Earth for you. I ask that you watch over me, guiding and protecting me from Satan. Help me see myself the way you see me, as a new creation, righteous and holy where my sin is washed white as snow through your blood. I love you. Amen.

In Whom Do You Trust?

Today’s reading is Mark 14:32-72. In these verses we read through Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal and arrest, and Him before the Council (Jewish religious leaders).

Life is hard. We go through many challenging times and situations here on Earth. I would venture to say some of the most difficult situations are when trust is broken and people let us down..especially those we are close to or look up to. I’ve stated this before, but it can’t be said enough, we are so blessed because we have a God who knows exactly what pain we are going through because He experienced it Himself. We read here about how stressed Jesus was knowing the pain and suffering He was about to go through on our behalf. And in the midst of getting ready to experience a punishment most of us can’t even fathom and will never have to go through, He also experienced the following within just a few hours…

  • His 3 best friends in James, John, and Peter letting him down by falling asleep, not keeping watch, and praying like He asked
  • Judas, one of his 12 disciples and closest friends, betraying Him and handing Him over to the religious leaders for money
  • His friends all leaving Him and fleeing the garden when He was arrested and needed their support most
  • The religious leaders He once likely looked up to as child or in His younger years now saying He was liar, physically striking him, and seeking to put him to death
  • Others bearing false witness against Him and telling untrue things about Him
  • As far as we know His only friend near Him while before the Council (all the others abandoned Him and were in hiding) was Peter who denied him not once, but three times

Let down, betrayed, abandoned, lied about, and alone…Jesus could have stopped it all, but He still went to the cross for each of them and for you and for me.

As tough as it is to realize and face when it occurs… our spouse, our parents, our kids, our pastors, our mentors, our best friend, leaders, and anyone we trust and hold in high regard will eventually let us down in one way, shape, or form breaking that trust. And..we will let them down, too. Despite the fact they may have let us down in a major way, we must try to move past and forgive because that is what Jesus did for you and for me. Romans 5:7-8 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

We must realize that Jesus is the only one who will never let us down and never break a promise. Some may say, “What has God ever done for me?”  For those who are reading this who have had a really tough life or are facing a challenging situation right now…I’m sorry. You may feel like God has let you down and that is understandable. When we dig deeper though, how can we be mad at God for promises He never actually made? In fact, Jesus said the exact opposite.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

He doesn’t say we may have trouble in this life…He says we “will” have trouble! That is why He came. That is why He went to the cross. He did that for you and for me to forgive our sins and the sin of the world. And He kept the promise of overcoming sin and death (the world) when He rose from the dead on Easter this Sunday. He did this so we can have eternal life with Him in Heaven where there will be no more pain and crying and where we will experience a joy we can’t even imagine. He is the only one we can put our trust in that will never mess up and break it. He will never let you down. He is the most important relationship in your life. Have you given your heart and trust to Him?

Let Me Tell You About My Jesus…

Today’s reading is John 14:1-14.

Jesus said in these verses…

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

John 14:9

“I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who is in me.”

John 14:10

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on the account of the works themselves.”

John 14:11

Jesus made it clear people should know who He was and who He was from and who He represented by the life He lived and His actions. I wish the same could be said about my life consistently.

I’ve heard it said that rules without a relationship is harassment. Sadly, many non-believers think the Bible and Christianity is just about following a bunch of rules. Does that attract them to following Christ and becoming a Christian? Look at the verses and quotes above from Jesus. If each quote from Jesus above were said by each Christian, and they could answer them in a similar fashion to Jesus in that their love and positive works were displayed daily in their actions..how many more people would be attracted to learning about the Gospel and would ultimately say yes to believing in Jesus? How true is the popular hymn, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love?”

Our life should be lived in relationship with Jesus. Pastor and author Bill Hull says he wakes up each morning and asks, “Good morning Jesus..what are we going to do today?” How might asking ourselves that question change our actions and how we live our life which would attract non-believers? Imagine if we were in communication with Jesus all day and if He were our GPS for all actions and decisions. We should all reflect on this and ask the question…is Jesus guiding the big and small things in my day in life through communication with Him or do I just think about Him during specific prayer times, church, and small group/Bible study? I know more days than not I don’t think about or talk to Jesus throughout my day. He does not lead my thoughts, decisions, and actions throughout my day like He should.

Many other religions believe in multiple gods. They think Jesus is good guy and much like other gods. They don’t know the difference. Eventually they must know what Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the way, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” They must know there is only one way to eternal life through belief in Him. But holding up a sign on the street saying, “Repent, believe in Jesus, or you are going to Hell!” is not the way to do it. As we said earlier, rules without a relationship is harassment.

Let us reflect on how we can act and speak in a way that whoever has seen, heard, and known us also knows the Father and Jesus (John 14:9-11). Then, once we’ve established a relationship with others they will likely ask us more questions on why we act and speak the way we do or like the song says we can simply say..”Let me tell you about my Jesus…” Will we still mess up and make mistakes? Yes..we absolutely will and that sometimes opens an even bigger door to tell them about the free gift of His grace, His love, and His forgiveness which is also available to them.

Anne Wilson – My Jesus (Official Music Video) – YouTube

Champ to Chump…to Champ Again??

Today’s reading is Luke 9:18-27.

Here, in Luke 9:18-20, Peter correctly states the Jesus is the Christ when Jesus asks him who He is. I would imagine this was one of Peter’s prouder moments. Can you imagine Jesus basically saying to you, “You nailed it!” Have you ever had one of those spiritual mountaintop moments where you felt like you did the right thing?  Maybe you spoke the Gospel or encouragement to someone who needed it, helped a homeless person, gave an amount more than normal to the church for a certain special offering or building project, or stood strong and avoided a temptation. However, we know it’s pretty easy in this world to go from champ to chump very quickly!

Peter experiences this when in both Mark 8 and Matthew 16 he tells Jesus that he cannot be crucified. Remember, Peter knows Jesus is Messiah. But, He and the other Jews incorrectly thought the Messiah would be an earthly king and save them from Roman impression. How many times do we think we know God’s plan, but His is different?! Jesus goes so far as to say to Peter, “Get behind me Satan..” in both Mark 8:33 and Matthew 16:23. Can you imagine Jesus saying that to you? We see again in Mark 14:30 Jesus foretells of Peter’s future mistake saying Peter will deny Him 3 times before the rooster crows twice to which Peter replies in Mark 14:31 he will not and will die with Jesus. We all know what happens!

Pastor Mike Baker spoke on this topic in his 1/16/2022 sermon at Eastview Christian Church. He asked the question, how do we proceed in life know the challenges and temptations which will come?

  1. With humility (1 Corinthians 10:12)
  2. With resistance (James 4:7)
  3. With the Resurrection in Mind (John 16:1)

For more on this topic, check out his sermon here. https://youtu.be/kYrRXVt8-Ns

I specifically like all the ways he says we can face Satan with resistance. Jesus tells us in Luke 8:23-27 that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross. However, most of us deny Jesus, rather than ourselves, in the following 3 ways Pastor Mike speaks of.

  1. With our silence
  2. With our lifestyle
  3. With our Disassociation of God’s Church

However, Jesus still went to the cross for you and for me…even though He knew what we would do just like Peter. Despite Him knowing Peter’s failures, He told Peter he would build His church on Peter in Matthew 16:18.

Let me ask you a question, how can God use you despite your past..and even future…failures? What I love about Mark 14:30 telling of Peter’s failures and that he would deny Jesus is that Mark was telling the Gospel story through the eyes of Peter. Peter himself was telling of his failure. Why? He knew you and me would need to know God can still use us despite our failures and mistakes.

Are your past missteps holding you back? Or, have you moved on and God is using you, but have you told those mistakes to others who may need to hear your story so that they can themselves move past their own mistakes so God can in turn use them? I believe all of our entire stories are part of God’s plan and bigger story of His Gospel. There are no edits that should be removed from our story. Are we vulnerable enough like Peter to tell those to others to help them? The best leaders and coaches I’ve had are not the ones that seem perfect, but the ones who can relate to me because they have had the same challenges. We have all gone from champ to chump at one time or another like Peter. Let’s share our story with others as part of God’s greater Gospel story to impact them for His Kingdom. We can let them know God can still use them for big things. Most importantly, we can let them know we are all champs in the end and will spend eternity with Him in Heaven when we believe in Jesus and His forgiveness on the cross and Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57).

His Loving Patience

What a great Top 10 Lynden shared with us yesterday on things we take for granted.  His examples were definitely aligned with mine as a reminder about many of the things we have in this life. After Psalm 105’s reminder about the hidden things we take for granted comes a reminder in Psalm 106 of God’s grace and patience despite our forgetful and self-willed lives.

Todays Reading: Psalm 106

I read and listened to a recent Podcast that recommended going back and reading different Bible versions.  Today I landed on the Good news Translation.

1 Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good;
his love is eternal.
2 Who can tell all the great things he has done?
Who can praise him enough?

Who can praise him enough? I know that I can’t.  Even if I started a list right now, I’d still be making a list for days to come. Take a moment to pause and reflect. Write it down in your journal, on the side of your bible, say them out loud.

  • Praise for His transformation in my life.
  • Praise for His love and grace He shows and gives me.
  • Praise for my family.
  • Praise for small groups.
  • Praise for 1777 posts Bible Journal has posted since 1/1/2016.

These were just some I thought about today.  As you continue to read through this chapter, you will be reminded of the importance of our obedience in verse 3.

3 Happy are those who obey his commands,
who always do what is right.

Verses 6-43 humble me and remind me of the blind, rebellious, and forgetful we can be in our sinful nature how stories from the Israelites shortcomings can connect back to our stories today.  To my story.  To yours.

Thankfully, we have a Father who has given and shows grace to those who deserved judgment. Verse 44-47.  God’s faithfulness to us is not dependent on our faithfulness to him.  Just a few weeks ago, we remembered that God sent His son to die for you and me.  He showed us grace when we were still sinners.  Imagine the grace He shows as his children.

44 Yet the Lord heard them when they cried out,
and he took notice of their distress.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and because of his great love he relented.
46 He made all their oppressors
feel sorry for them.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and bring us back from among the nations,
so that we may be thankful
and praise your holy name.

48 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel;
praise him now and forever!
Let everyone say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord!

Why I Believe – Part 2: Chet Bandy

Today’s reading is Psalm 18 which David wrote when God rescued him from the hand of his enemies and Saul.

I will primarily focus on Psalm 18:27-30.

For you save a humble people,

but the haughty eyes you bring down.

For it is you who light my lamp;

the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

For by you I can run against a troop,

and by my God I can leap over

a wall.

This God- His way is perfect,

the word of the Lord proves

true;

He is a shield for all those who

take refuge in Him.

 

The night before beginning to write this our family watched the new Disney movie Safety about a Clemson football player who cared for his little brother while his Mom was in rehab so he would not have to go into foster care. As I saw some of the scenes of football practice it reminded me how much I loved football and even the practice..the intensity, the hits, and the sounds of the pads popping. I mentioned in my last post which I’ll call Part I of “Why I Believe” that I had never had a rock bottom moment so to speak that caused me to believe when I didn’t previously. However, that does not mean that I have not had challenges that seemed very great at the time with some making me wonder how I would get through them.

Growing up in the small town of Auburn, IL, high school football is huge. At a young age I asked the coach to be ball boy and my dreams began to be the star quarterback someday. I always picked the teams and played quarterback on the playground and also played quarterback from youth football all the way until my junior year when I had the opportunity to realize my dream to be the starting varsity quarterback. I had not only worked my whole life up until that point for this, but also put in extra work the last year to try beat out my competition in a quarterback controversy if there is such a thing in small town high school football. This dream came crashing down quickly when about a week into practice a broke my elbow throwing a football. Yes…you heard that right..I snapped a growth plate in my elbow just throwing which is unheard of. I had done the same thing to my other elbow the year before and came back later this year only to break a growth plate in my shoulder. If your counting along with me…that’s 3 bones in 2 seasons spending most of my sophomore and junior year first semesters in a cast, and I’m sure you can imagine the “jokes” from high school classmates about my frailty. This also doesn’t do much for a high school boy’s confidence when he’s trying to get a date! The doctor said this was due to weak growth plates and since I was still growing I decided not to play football my senior year. It was crushing. These were the guys I had grown up with and lead as quarterback since the 6th grade.

I played a lot of golf working on the course in the summers, so I thought I would play that in the Fall instead. After the first few days of golf practice, it just didn’t feel right. Fall meant football to me, and I missed being with my football teammates and coaches. Thankfully, Coach Bates let me be a part of the team and chart plays, along with work with the quarterbacks. It was humbling to not be able to put the pads and work with position I always envisioned playing my senior year. We went on that year to complete the first undefeated regular season for our town in 39 years. I can remember taking pictures after winning that 9th and final regular season game and being sad I didn’t have a uniform on like my teammates (I’ll never forget Coach Mark Dudley telling me to get in and making me feel included), but I was also able to find joy by still being a part of it in some way.  I was also happy for my teammates and the 2 quarterbacks who split time that year and remain good friends still.

This may seem like a silly story as you are reading this and you may be thinking..is playing high school football and being the quarterback that big of a deal? You may be going through some very serious “real world” stuff right now. Well for me, it was a big deal at the time. And the challenges you may be going through right now are probably a big deal to you while others may feel blessed to be in your situation. We need to be empathetic and understanding to whatever our kids, neighbors, friends, and loved ones are going through. The main reason I’m sharing this story is because I believe this experience and even the ridicule from high school classmates prepared me for challenges later. The same way I found joy in being a part of the team in some way can relate to the way we can find joy in our relationship with Jesus, even when circumstances don’t turn out like we expected. The subliminal lack of confidence I had at times later in life likely due this and the teasing from classmates allowed God to put others in my life later to build me up and help me realize these events and people affected me more than I realized, but they didn’t define my life and they didn’t mean that life would always turn out this way in future areas. God had big things planned for me in other ways. I wouldn’t trade being high school quarterback for the “victories” He has given me in making me a husband and father of three.

You may read Psalm 18 and be thinking…I’m a good person and may consider myself righteous compared to others like David speaks of, but He hasn’t made me “king” or helped me reach my vision for what I thought my life would look like. It’s easy for David to praise God because he made him king. But, did David know He would be king when he wrote this Psalm or was this before? Maybe God will make you “king” at some point in the area you want or in a different way or areas. Or maybe you are already “king” compared to the alternate path your life could have gone which God rescued you from, but you don’t even know about it. I’m confident God has rescued us from “Saul’s” and our enemy the Devil and made us “king” in ways we don’t even realize.

Regardless of how our life on this Earth goes, if we make God our rock, our fortress, our strength, our deliverer, our refuge, and our shield,  and we humble ourselves as Psalm 18 speaks of by trusting in Jesus and asking for forgiveness for our mistakes….He will in fact make us righteous and blameless in Heaven someday. In fact, we already are in His eyes today.  I believe in God because we have a God who didn’t have to do what He did.  The Creator of the Universe came to Earth as a human and poured himself out and suffered the pains of losing a loved one, temptation of the Devil, facing rejection and being deserted by friends, and ultimately the pain of a Roman flogging and crucifixion that we can’t even imagine. He did this not only to forgive our sins, but lived and suffered in such a way so that we would know He gets us and understands our pain because He lived it and faced the same and then some. This is why I believe. Thank you, Jesus.

The Advent Path for God’s People

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5

40 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family,

December 1st, 2020. Our last month of this very different year! Let’s continue our daily journey through Advent and the promises found in Isaiah that point to the celebration of the birth of our Lord.  In verses 1-2 written by Isaiah, it provides us a promise of hope and comfort in a time of unease. How are you feeling today?  Anything have you uneasy this morning? I know I could share a few things if you had time. But instead of letting these feelings grab hold of me and pull me under I can find some timely rest in the assurance of our Lord who promises hope, joy, peace, and comfort while already paying the price for all our sins. Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

In twenty-five days, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord through Christmas.  We can celebrate today and every day to come the victory has already been won through His life, death, and resurrection.  Our comfort can be found in the words spoken to Israel and us. He reminds us “comfort, comfort, my people“.

Isaiah 40:3-5 provides us with a visual and a reminder about preparing a way in our lives it’s the holiday season to focus on the greatness of our Lord.  We are not alone right now or ever.  Does it feel like you are metaphorically walking around a desert (even though today’s weather by me would feel like a tundra), are you in a valley seeking to try to peek over a horizon? Possibly you are standing on the top of a mountain now wondering how will I ever get down? Or maybe just this year has felt like you have been traveling down a rough path.  Take a deep breath.  Take time to read through these promises we are finding every day in His words.  Promises that say that even in 2020 God has us.  That we have traveled some roads during this time and made many mistakes.  This advent can be a reminder that Jesus came to this world born in human form to live a life for an example of us, but also died for us to live and one day be again with Him in His presence.  This advent more than ever before can provide hope and comfort that our Lord is right by your side every on every rough path, valley, or mountain saying prepare the way. I’m coming back one day for you! What obstacles are standing in your way? Don’t try to face them with our own pride.  As children of God, we must prepare a way for Him.  What an opportunity we have to show others our love, hope, and trust in Him this advent season.  Proclaim the coming of our Lord this start of advent! Have a blessed day.

Dear Lord,

We are all in need of comfort. We know that our only true comfort comes from you. As we live out each day in this Advent season help us to recognize and praise you for the love and sacrifice you made for us.  We love you and pray for us each to draw closer to you and the comfort of your love for us.  Amen

Enjoy this song on this brisk morning.

The Word

Whether you realize it or not, you probably have a lot of questions going through your mind right now. You are not alone. Every single human being on this Earth has questions. One big one is…”Am I going to make it through this?” It could be a medical issue, financial hardship, challenges with your business or career during Covid, or family/relational challenges to name few. During these times many of us in the U.S. are asking when the racial tensions and other political turmoil will end. When we will get past this as a country? Again, most questions come back to am I going to be ok, or will we be ok?

There is great news in that every one of these questions can be answered in the Word of God.

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

John 1:1-5

The Word is Jesus. He has always existed. The book of Genesis gives us the first indication of the triune God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (the Word).

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..

Genesis 1:26

Note the words “our likeness.” From the beginning of creation, Jesus was there. God knew man would sin before He made us and due to sin would have all the problems and questions we have today, so He had a plan and answer. His plan and answer was and still is Jesus.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.

John 1:10

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

John 1:14

Jesus came down from His throne in Heaven willingly and without sin to die for you and me the cross. Because of this and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the answer to every question is that all who believe in Him will be ok and get through whatever challenge we are facing. However painful our life on this Earth is, it is brief and we will spend eternity with Him without any of the burdens we face while here.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

As I was writing this I was thinking, and you may be thinking the same while you are reading this, “Wow..there is a lot of Scripture here and not much other writing/dialogue.” Well..that’s really the point. Every answer we are looking for is found in the Word. The Bible is called the Word because it all points to Him, the Word. It is not just God’s story and love letter to us, but it is our story because we are all part of God’s plan through Jesus.

When you get down to it, I believe every human being is looking for truth whether they know it or not. John 1:14 above says Jesus came in grace and truth. Note that grace comes before truth here and every time it’s mentioned in the Bible. I’m thankful that grace and forgiveness came before truth, and we should follow Jesus example in our lives. When we, and others, dig into the Word we find the truth and answers we are looking for and we fall in love with Him. We find that truth and love in His grace. Then, we can’t get enough of it.

I’ll wrap up with these 2 questions…

  1. How can you be in the Word more to fall deeper in love with Him?
  2. How can you introduce someone else to the Word who is struggling and needs the grace and truth only He can give right now?

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

 

The Great Physician

And He said to the, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did in Capernaum, do in your hometown as well.”

Luke 4:23

It is known through other scriptures and those immediately before and following these in Luke 4:22 and Luke 4:24 that Jesus was rejected in His hometown and performed few miracles there (Mark 6:5). What it is believed He is saying in Luke 4:23 is that one would assume if He can heal and perform miracles, He would do that among His family and those in His hometown like He was doing in Capernaum and other areas. However, Jesus knew they would not say that because they did not believe He was the Messiah.

Why did they not believe He was Christ? Sometimes we are too close to a situation to realize what is going on or too close to a person to realize how great they are. Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?” Many of us may have experienced this with a loved one or relationship that we took for granted until they were gone sadly. Although Jesus personally truly had no flaws like our loved ones still did, those in Nazareth knew His mom and dad and that He came from poor parents in their region so how could He possibly be the chosen one? They were too close and knew too much…which really meant they didn’t know anything. Even His own disciples seemed to get fearful and nervous when running out of food or a storm or problem came up when just days or even hours before they saw Jesus provided what they needed and more through miracles.

I think if most of us are truthful with ourselves we can say even though we’ve never personally met Jesus, we have seen Him do miracles in our life. The probable health diagnosis of a serious problem which somehow turned out to be nothing. Struggling to know how bills would get paid or where the next meal would come from, but somehow unexpected money came in or bills were unexpectedly forgiven. Or what about the car wreck that nearly happened when someone ran a red light, but it didn’t because you just happened to look that way..even when your light had been green for a while. And although we know that some of these needs were met in ways so improbable that they absolutely had to be a miracle from God, how quickly we tend to forget what He did before when the next challenge arises sometimes even within days.

James 1:6-8 says, “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.” While Jesus performed some miracles in Nazareth, would He have done more if those in Nazareth would have believed? While He’s performed some miracles in our life, would He have done more if we TRULY believed He could or would when we prayed for others?

While I believe this verse in James tells us believing He can and will do what we pray for is important, it’s not always His will to perform miracles even then because He knows what’s best for us and is wiser than we are (Isaiah 55:8-9). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I’ve shared before that I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2019 which caused me to lose strength and some motor skills in my right hand. After 2 surgeries and correction for the stenosis, my strength has not come back yet. And while I believe He can and will heal it as only He as the Great Physician can, I’m at peace with His will. When I look down at my puny hand or struggle to do something simple and have to ask from help from my wife or someone else to do a task that used to be easy, it reminds me of the other miracles He DID perform in all of this…..finding a doctor in an improbable way who performs a surgery even Mayo didn’t know about, being able to still perform my career and write and type still despite my challenges as where my original dream to be an orthodontist would have yielded much different outcomes and financial challenges, and still being able to even walk and play catch with my children. I appreciate the little things I used to take for granted. Most importantly, it reminds me that my story can help others…not only physically by sharing my doctor and surgery no one else is performing….but spiritually by sharing with others that I can see God’s provision through the situation and that while yes…I want my hand to be at 100%….the physical and other earthly challenges we face are short…no matter how long our life. What really matters is our soul for eternity. And yes the Great Physician can heal our physical bodies and meet our physical needs, but what He can and has already saved and healed us from is what no earthly physician can..the burden of sin, death and the eternal punishment we deserve. Through His wounds, physical suffering, and death on the cross which was worse than anything we will ever face, the Great Physician has given us eternal life when we believe and trust in Him and His grace. Jesus…thank you for making my story and all of our personal stories a part of the greatest story ever told…your story.