Chicken or the Egg?

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 22,23, and 26, Psalm 77, and James 2.

What comes first..the chicken or the egg? Most of us have probably heard this saying implying that you can’t have a chicken without an egg, but you can’t have an egg without the chicken. So, which comes first? James 2 digs into a similar question but with the topic of faith and works.

Christians believe that you go to Heaven by believing, or having faith, that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of your confessed sins and rose again on Easter (Romans 10:9-11). “Good deeds” don’t get you into Heaven and “good people” don’t go to Heaven if they don’t believe in Jesus. So, some can struggle with James 2:24 which says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:17 also says similar, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Are these verses saying just faith in Jesus doesn’t get you to Heaven? Is this saying works get you into Heaven?

I believe Scripture can often best be interpreted by cross referencing other Scripture, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that our all-church study verses last week came from 1 John 4 which can provide some more context when paired with James 2.

What compels us to do good works? Put simply…love. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.” Reading on in 1 John 4, we see verse 20 states..

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

1 John 4:21 follows up verse 20 also stating…

And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

If you truly have faith and love God, then it will show up in your actions. If you say you have faith and love God, but your works don’t show it…then do you really have faith and love God? James is telling us you can’t have one without the other..chicken or egg concept. Your faith in God is made complete by your actions just as in Abraham and Rahab who James references in James 2:23 and James 2:25.

Jesus gives us a great example of this when in John 13 He washed his disciples’ feet which was thought to be such a lowly task that Jews wouldn’t even let their Jewish servants do this for them, only Gentile servants. And of course, Jesus showed us the ultimate act of service when the next day He, the God of the universe in the flesh, gave himself up suffering one of the most gruesome and painful deaths possible through his scourging and Crucifixion on the cross, all so we could be forgiven and live with Him in Heaven.

We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19

Let us reflect personally.

  • How am I serving my family?
  • How am I serving my church?
  • How am I serving my neighbors or community?
  • How am I serving my friends?
  • How am I serving those who can do nothing for me in return?

Pick one you can improve on and let us complete our faith in action.

Daddy Issues

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 3, 2 Chronicles 1, Psalm 42, and Romans 8.

This weekend my 10-year-old son Deklin and I attended DADCAMP which is a camp for Dads to bring their son or daughter from 1st grade up through high school. It was an amazing experience I won’t forget, and hope Deklin won’t either. DADCAMP is a Christ-centered. biblical organization with a focus on inspiring Dads to be the best Dad they can be. Check out https://www.dadcamp.info/our-story.html for more info.

At DADCAMP they spoke about how 80% of those incarcerated have an absent father. Younger generations are leaving the church and their faith at the largest rates ever, yet when a Dad follows Jesus, 93% of the time so will his children.

I’m always amazed at how when we dig into God’s Word, He speaks to us directly related to what is going on in our lives. 1 Kings 3:3 says…

“Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statues of David his father…”

We know not only did Solomon follow God, but he ultimately showed his level of commitment by building a temple to honor Him. We see right here in the Word where David followed God, and as a result, so did his son Solomon.  This still holds true today.

At DADCAMP we covered a book called, Father God:Daring to Draw Near by Dave Patty. This book discusses how there are 2 conversations recorded with God the Father and Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 and Matthew 17:5. In these verses, we find God the Father communicates 4 things to Jesus, His Son.

  1. Identity – “This is my Son.”
  2. Love – “Whom I love”
  3. Pleasure – “With Him I am well pleased”
  4. Place – “Listen to Him!”

The author Dave Patty says the following…

  • Identity gives value
  • Love brings security
  • Pleasure gives motivation
  • Place brings honor

We see how God the Father felt about His Son. Not so ironically, Romans 8:12-17 tells us as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we who believe are now children of God. In fact, those verses in my Bible are under the heading “Heirs with Christ.”

12 So then, brothers,[a] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[b] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

You can read for yourself here where when you believe you are now seen in the same way as Jesus, as a child of God who is glorified with Him. This tells us we now have an identity which brings value, love which brings security, pleasure which gives us motivation, and place which brings us honor from our Heavenly Father.

Romans 8:37-39 expands on this to tell us we are victorious, and nothing will separate us from His love and the way God feels about us now that we are His children through Jesus.

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Some reading this may not have had the best relationship with your own father, but we can all go forth and live life with confidence based on the relationship with have with our Heavenly Father through Jesus.

 

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

Perfect Love (God) Casts Out Fear

Today’s reading is Acts 27.

Have you ever been on ship or boat in the open ocean where no land or light was in sight? I remember going on a cruise with my parents and my brother and fellow Bible Journal writer Chad when I was under 10 years old. Standing outside at night on the deck with nothing in sight was not a feeling I can say I was particularly fond of. I remember thinking if I fell off the deck they would never find me. Feeling like this on a very large, world class cruise ship (where we had no storms) has me wondering how Paul and other passengers on these primitive first century boats must have felt with no electricity, GPS, limited provisions, and the terrible storms they faced.

During all these storms and troubles, what was Paul doing? Paul was still leading. Paul was still speaking the truth in what God was telling him to help others. I would guess Paul was still writing letters..some of which likely ended up as what is now part of the New Testament in the Bible. Many of his other letters we know were written while in prison. Paul was not focused on himself. Paul was focused on making an impact on others for God’s kingdom despite his circumstances.

This is the opposite of what human nature is. When I am facing challenging times, I become very self-focused and fearful. The fear is focused on me and what could go wrong in my life or the life of my family. It can consume me, and it’s all about me.

Paul was focused on God..not his problems. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” Reading on, 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” Not only does verse 18 tell us when we are focused on love, and not on ourselves, we don’t fear, but since verse 16 tells us God is love…I like to trade out the word love for God in verse 18. It then reads… ‘There is no fear in God, but perfect God casts out fear.’ If we continue to read on in 1 John 4, we see more verses about how this focus on God means we are called to love others. 1 John 4:21 says,  “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Don’t hear me wrong, it is absolutely ok to come to God in prayer and ask for what we want when we come with a humble heart and the right intentions. Jesus makes this very clear, as well does the book of James. God wants you and your whole heart, and He wants you to come to Him with your struggles needs. My intention of having us reflect on our prayer life and thoughts is not so that we don’t come to God with our challenges, but rather a nudge for us to reflect further on our thoughts, hearts, and actions. I’ve written before that expectancy theory says that which we focus on expands. Are we focusing more on God which means we are focusing on love which leads to focusing on others causing fear to dissipate..or are we focused on ourself only causing our problems and anxieties to blow up so to speak?

We see in Paul that God can make the most of our seemingly terrible circumstances to bring glory to His Kingdom and bring others to Christ. We must remember in our challenges that someone is always watching. When they see our unfailing trust in God and how we continue to love on and bless others despite our personal problems, they see the love of Jesus in us. They will then want to know more about the ultimate sacrifice He made on the cross for us. They will desire that same peace that passes human understanding that’s rooted in His love

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.

Humble Love in the Upper Room

Today’s Reading: John 13

As we continue through John, Lynden shared with us the assurance of God’s glory in the midst of everything going on. I pray you were able to hear that yesterday.

Today, as we read chapter 13 John has so many different topics we can focus reflect on.  There’s betrayal, denial, and the humble act of foot washing.  This is where I landed today.  The other day as I was sitting at hockey practice for my son, subtle tears came to my eyes as I thought, “What would it look like if I knew I was going to die tomorrow? Would I even think to serve others or just myself? “  Would I still be consumed with trying to keep our students and staff at school as many days as possible during this pandemic? Would I continue to run my kids to their practice? Would I call family and friends or try to cross one more thing off the bucket list? Maybe I would just hang close to my wife and read books to my daughter until she falls asleep? I wipe my eyes and reflected on Jesus the Thursday night of Passover and ultimately his death.

Jesus had different thoughts and actions that night, not of the flesh like my own. His plans were completely selfless.  He was going to serve the disciples that were around Him that evening. Even the person who was going to betray Him later that evening. In verse 3 Jesus knew that everything was put under His power.   What did Jesus do? You already know. He took the spot of what was in the Jewish culture reserved for the lowest.  He took off his outer garment and started to wash the disciples’ feet. I was listening to a sermon by pastor John MacArthur where he said, “Selfless humility is the soul of love. The humbler you are, the less interested you are in yourself, the greater your capacity to invest yourself in somebody else.”  What was the response of the disciples?  They were in shock, speechless, or wanting their hands and head washed too. So here is our example, our lesson. Can we love like this. No matter the cost can I love selflessly, humbly, in the most menial, simple necessity of life.

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you will not understand now, but afterword you will understand. “

How will you humbly show love today? What can you do today? 

Lord, you provided the example by sending your own son. A son who gave up His own life for ours.  What love you have for us. Lord help us to love like you.  May we humble ourselves, be meek, and lowly like You so that our love can be elevated. Every day we have the opportunity to love others.  I pray you to help us to show true love with selfless regard.  Amen

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

MacArthur, John, The Humble Love of Christ, January 18, 2015

Merciful

What does mercy look like to you? For each of us, this will look a little different, yet still, have the same result. (Amen!)  As believers, we’ve heard the words mercy and grace many times. We have been the recipient of this mercy more times than we ever deserve. I’m so grateful for every mercy that has been given and is to come. There are over 50 plus verses that talk about merciful or mercy. These were wonderful reminders about His love for us.  Our merciful verse for today is:

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

When you break down this verse you get an opportunity to read, reflect, and see God’s merciful self. God decided to send His son, Jesus, to be our example of merciful to anyone He met. Read about the mercies Jesus showed to everyone in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Amazing! This same mercy He showed then is given to us now. He paid the ultimate price, for our sins. He showed us why He is called Merciful.

God’s mercy is abundant.  There is enough for you, me, and everyone.

1 Peter 1:3 says Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Our Merciful Father gives you hope today. No matter where you are at, what you are going through, or how bad you have messed up. Our Lord’s mercy will cover you.

How has the Lord been merciful to you? Give Him thanks, praise Him, let others know about His loving mercy that is available to them. This mercy will provide you and them with the hope we all need right now.

keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:21

Lover

What was the first bible verse you memorized? For me, it wasn’t the shortest verse Jesus wept. (John 11:35) This verse was later in life. I remember Sunday school where I was so proud to learn my first verse. It was our verse today we will use to focus on the attribute of God as a lover.

 For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whosoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

God is love. He created us; He gives us everything, Our Lord has a place already waiting for us on a day and time He already knows. God was a lover of us when deciding to create us in His image. He is a lover of us, even in our sinful state.  So much love that He sent His own Son to come to Earth to live His perfect life, then for the sins of the world He was sacrificed for us. Only someone who loves us. 

Look back at the ways Lynden talked about the Love that drives out fear. There is much anxiety around the many events that are going on around the world. Love can drive out that fear. Life is not easy right now, and the enemy whispers lies that can easily distract us from the truth. Hold fast! We have a God who loves us. In times like this, we need to fix our eyes on the cross. Jesus gave his life so we can live eternally with Him. Jesus is a lover of all human races, and his love for us all is evident on the cross. This love is indescribable, unshakable, immeasurable, and available to us all. 

 

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Dear God,

You provide everything we need. We need your help. You know our pain, you know the fears, and you hold them in your hand.  Lord, you provide the help we need and you cancel all fears when we put our trust in You.  We love you and desire to know you more.  We believe that you are love! Amen

 

Invisible

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”

1 Timothy 1:17

Our word today to describe God is invisible.

For most of us it can be concerning that God sees and knows EVERYTHING we think and do. Yes, there are good things we all do that we want credit for from God and others. For many, their top love language is “words of affirmation,” so they want to be told good job by their spouse, parents, boss, or friends, and the idea of God saying when they meet him in Heaven, “Well done, my good and faithful servant..” may bring tears to their eyes. But, for every good thing each one of us have done, there are likely more thoughts, words and actions we just assume no one ever knows about…including God. However, Proverbs 15:3 reads, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on evil and the good.” Job 34:21 also says, “For his eyes are upon the ways of a man, And he sees all his steps…” He’s omnipresent and knows and sees all.

Unfortunately, this can cause many to struggle to come to Christ and believe their past wrongdoings cannot be forgiven. They believe past sins of theft/fraud, adultery, pornography, an abortion, drug use, being a poor parent, killing someone whether on accident or on purpose, or even just really bad words said to a family member or friend are just too much for God to look past. Even believers have a hard time coming to grips with this and letting go of past sins they know an invisible God has seen. Many are still holding on to that one sin they just can’t fully come to believe God has FULLY forgiven when they can’t even forgive themselves.

To me, that’s one of the many unbelievably cool things about God…He gives us so many examples in His Word that any and all sins can be and are forgiven through the cross and belief in Jesus, and not only that, but that He can then use those sinners to do amazing things for His glory and a great purpose. In fact, the author of 1 Timothy, Paul, formerly known as Saul, had persecuted and killed those that believed in Jesus. Just a few verses earlier he says in 1 Timothy 15-16, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I receive mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, wrote the book of Genesis, and first received the Ten Commandments killed a man. David was of the direct lineage of Jesus, wrote most of the Psalms, and who God called, “a man after his own heart,” was an adulterer and had his good friend killed over a woman. His disciple and New Testament author Matthew was a tax collector who likely cheated people out of money. Rahab was a prostitute but was used by God to help protect two Israelite spies so they could win the battle of Jericho and then later was also part of the blood line of Jesus. The list could go on and on.

Paul also says in Romans 8:37-39…

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The fact that God is invisible causes us to have a healthy fear and reverence for God to do the right thing, yet thankfully His life, death, and resurrection let us know that because we won’t always do the right thing and will make mistakes (some really bad)…He loves and forgives us no matter what.

Check out this powerful song by Ryan Stephenson, and please…share it with a friend you think may need to hear these words today. It may not just change their day…it may change their life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It_xQ4NYtDQ

His Holiness

Today’s reading is Jude 24.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy,…”

Our words to describe God today are “His holiness.” Merriam-Webster defines holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one in perfect goodness and righteousness.” I’ve also heard holy described as separate or set apart.

He is the only thing that is truly holy and without sin. No matter how hard we try to be holy and do the right thing…we will mess up. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even get through a prayer without being distracted and thinking about something besides God. I find myself getting mad at my kids during an online church service for something they probably should not be doing, but are my thoughts and actions the way that Jesus would react and want me to do so?…likely not. The list could go on and on so I’ll stop. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and I imagine all who are reading this can relate.

Isn’t it ironic though that our words to describe Him today are “His holiness,” yet our verses today are really about how He makes us holy?! That’s just like Him isn’t it? I mess up time after time, but through the events that happened this last weekend nearly 2000 years ago, these verses tell me that He keeps me from stumbling more than I would already. But knowing that I will still stumble, He presents me completely blameless before the Holy Father. As I’m writing this on Easter, our Amazon Music is playing Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, and I hear the lyrics…”I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still you give yourself away…oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God..”

Humbling isn’t? He didn’t have to…but He did…He took all that suffering and all that pain..so that through His Holiness…we are made blameless and holy, too. Thank you, Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GGJ8cyYNzQ