Glory

Today we are focusing on the glory of God with the following reading….

They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

Psalm 106:20

And…

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

Jeremiah 2:11

Glory as a noun is defined as magnificence or great beauty. The psalmist and Jeremiah are speaking of Israel and how they tried to find glory in earthly things, rather than the one thing that is true beauty..God.

As we live in these interesting times that will probably change in just the few days between writing this and its posting, we are experiencing things that most of us have not seen in our lifetime. Just to name a few there are travel bans/restrictions, schools closing, restaurants can’t be open, a shortage of toilet paper (!), all major sports cancelled or postponed, and extreme volatility in our financial markets. One social media post stated this…”Mankind is so frail and a tiny little invisible virus has disrupted us so much. If we can’t handle this, what do think it will be like standing before God without the blood of Christ on your side?” How can we even begin to think that we are somehow in control and that we are wiser than God?

As a friend at dinner Saturday stated, maybe God is allowing all this to happen for our country and world to stop the busyness and craziness and get our priorities in line. The sovereignty of God is so amazing that he can let Satan and mankind do their thing, and still use it for glory..His glory. He is never perplexed. I love the way the Passion of Christ movie portrays Satan in the background as thinking he is winning with all the evil going on in Jesus’ arrest, scourging, and crucifixion. Yet, God had a bigger plan. He took the worst event in human history, the only innocent person to ever walk the Earth without sin being killed, and made it into the greatest event in human history.

He is glory, and I trust He will use everything that’s happening right now for His glory.

He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Nobody But Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 10:1-11:18 as we focus on Cornelius.

The Bible tells us Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army meaning he commanded at least one hundred men and held an important social status. Despite his non-jewish, Gentile background, we are told in Acts 10:2 that he was devout, feared God, and gave alms or money to the poor and needy. Being a believer, Cornelius likely thought he was already being used by God for a purpose with his favorable position of power. However, we serve a big God who has bigger vision for each one of us and the people of this world than we can see. Cornelius is visited by an angel telling him to send a few of his men to get Peter who he’s never met and doesn’t know. Not coincidentally when Cornelius’ men show up, Peter just had a vision from God (Acts 10:9-15) telling him that the Gospel was available to all nations. Peter then went with Cornelius men to Caesara helping bring the Gospel through the Holy Spirit to them and all the Gentiles.

As I read these verses, I could not help but think of and look back on my notes from a sermon Pastor Mike Baker from Eastview Church did a few years ago on Genesis 12 where Abram is called to leave his country. Pastor Mike said, “Faith is not a ‘stay’…it’s always a ‘go.’” If you ‘stay,’ you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be. God doesn’t give us the details of the future even when we are in turmoil wanting to know His plans for two reasons. First, we would likely freak out if we knew everything that would happen. Second, we would try to take over and mess it up thinking we can do it better than God can. Cornelius could have just said, “Hey God..I’m doing good things here as a centurion. I’m giving to the needy and using my position for good, and I have 100 men here under me I can witness, too.” However, God called him for bigger things..to bring the Good News of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to all the Gentiles and letting them know that His forgiveness through the cross was available to all people and all nations (Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:44-48 Acts 11:18). He called Cornelius to “go” and do bigger things, he obeyed, and look what happened.

Today, on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Cornelius, the Holy Spirit, and the big God we serve that is always working on our behalf.  Sadly, I don’t know much about my genealogy, but likely similar to many reading this, I don’t think I have any Jewish roots. I’m thankful that Cornelius obeyed God’s command so we non-Jews know that we are also one of God’s people through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can be thankful Romans 8:26-28 tells us the Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf and interceding (just like here to come to the Gentiles and make Jesus’ forgiveness available and known to everyone). Despite whatever challenges and changes in your life you may be going through today, you can be thankful that He working ALL things for His good. Be grateful you don’t know and can’t control the future because through His power within you, He can do more than you can ever ask or imagine, and He will be glorified (Ephesians 3:20-21), so that ultimately through you the world can see “nobody but Jesus.” How blessed are we that He uses us for His purpose.

 

 

Eternal Perspective

Today’s reading is Job 38.

Yesterday, we read Job 1-2, so we know Job was a man who had it all so to speak…personal wealth/possessions, family, and health. Then, it was all taken from him. Like mine, your Bible may have headings for the chapters of the book of Job that follow. Just a quick skim of these can show you the many emotions and feelings of Job through troubling times which are likely some of the same we have during trials.

In March of 2018, Coach Tony Bennett and his Virginia Cavaliers basketball team became the first #1 seed to ever lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Some would be right in saying this disgrace is not worse than divorce, poor health, or financial troubles, but no doubt this disgrace was bad and in the public spotlight. It seemed like every year it would come up that a #1 had never lost to a #16 with many experts saying it would never happen. Not only did Virginia lose, they lost badly. While Coach Bennett’s teams had done well in recent years, many had already questioned him and his coaching strategy which is different than the norm in college basketball with hard-nosed defense and a slow style of play that many call boring to watch. Many also questioned his coaching style which showed little fire and emotion on the outside in that game, as it does in every game. What would critics say now, and how would Coach Bennett react to the loss? Well, not only did he give credit to the other team for their play in his interview outside of the locker room immediately following the game, but he admitted they simply “got their butts whooped.” Then, he followed up by saying, “I’m trying to tell the guys in there..this is life. It can’t define you. Enjoy the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times.”

Although he didn’t state it on the outside to the public, I would imagine Tony Bennett had his Job-like moments privately to himself, if not verbally to family or those closest to him. He likely wondered what God’s plan was in all of this and why God let it happen to Him, a faithful Christ follower who likely also plays by the rules when many coaches in college basketball don’t. He may have even wondered if his critics of his slow down coaching strategy and calm demeanor were right. Could he really get the job done? If Tony Bennett thought these things, we do not know what the Holy Spirit may have said to him. However, we do in fact, know what God said to Job here in Job 38. God reminded Job that he in fact was sovereign and in charge. In Job 38:4-6 He states, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” God continues to speak to Job with this message and in Job 38:12 says, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?” If we read on to Job 42, Job ultimately confesses and repents, and God rewards Job for that confession and repentance by giving him twice as much as before (Job 42:10-12).

Ultimately, Job did not think that God knew the physical and emotional pain and public disgrace he was going through. Thankfully, we know that now through Jesus, God experienced every type of pain we have. Knowing of His upcoming scourging and crucifixion, He experienced emotional stress so great that when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane He sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He experienced relational distress and abandonment of those He thought were friends when one of His 12 closest friends, Judas, betrayed Him leading to His death (Luke 22:48), not to mention another one of his 12 closest friends Peter denying He knew Him not once but 3 times (Luke 22:54-62). He even had family relational turmoil and abandonment with His brothers telling Him to leave and not believing Him (John 7:3-5). He experienced public disgrace and embarrassment when the soldiers mocked Him (Luke 22:63-65), and the crowds yelled “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” requesting the release of a murderer in Barabbas instead of Him (Luke 23:18-21). Wait…even Jesus experienced the unfairness of bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people!? And of course, He experienced the physical pain of the scourging (John 19:1) and then being nailed to the cross (John 19:18). How blessed are we that during trouble times we can have peace knowing that we can talk to and pray to God who felt what we are feeling?

Just a year later here in 2019, after being down in the first round to a #16 seed again by 14, Coach Tony Bennet’s team won the national championship! Coach Bennett said he played the song Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells for his team before the game. He said, “It just means that you’re never alone in the hills or in the valleys. And we faced those from last year to this year. But the credit goes to those young men, and I can’t wait to celebrate with my wife and my kids and my parents. And I do want thank my Lord and Savior.” He also said, “I think there was a bigger plan going on here. I wasn’t needed but I was used in it, and I hope that it’s message for some people that there can be hope and joy in resiliency and I’m thankful for what happened.” I’m sure he wasn’t thankful last year after the loss, but now the bigger picture and plan can be seen.

When we take an eternal perspective on the hills and in the valleys, it changes everything. As we reflect on Maundy Thursday today, Good Friday tomorrow, and Easter Sunday, let us not forget that our story is part of God’s story. He took the absolute worst event in the history of mankind, the only truly innocent person to ever walk the earth being tortured and killed, and turned it into the greatest event in the history of the mankind…brining us together into oneness with Him through the forgiveness of sins which gives us eternal life.

Coach Tony Bennett quoted to his team last year after their terrible loss Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Joy truly does come with His resurrection on Easter morning. It not only means that we can face whatever trials this life brings, but most importantly, it means He conquered death, and now so can we.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iDuZv_5MQk

Pray, Prepare & Plan, and Participate

Today’s Reading: Luke 11

The purpose of Chapter 11 of Luke is to give us a blueprint or outline of our daily work and spiritual growth.  In the days of Christ and in our society, we are all seeking ways to better our mind, body, and spirit.  The same questions that the early church dealt with are seen in our lives.  We are confronted with how to pray, how to worship, how to sing and praise, what to wear, how to live for God?   But in this passage of scriptures we can find some solace in Christ’s words.  The outline that I find here is: Pray, Prepare and Plan, and Participate.

PRAY:

As Stephanie stated in the previous section, we must pray often and daily.

Luke 11: 1- 4

Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

 Jesus has given us the most powerful prayer that can be prayed.  This is the purest connection that the Father and Son had and it was given openly and graciously to us to have an inherited connection with the Father. This prayer contains all the essentials that God requires of us.  We can come into true relationship with Him with this prayer.  Jesus uses the relational language to create peace and reverence to reconcile us with God.  This prayer creates the aim and focus for our lives and daily living.

PREPARE AND PLAN:

Luke 11: 24-26

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Throughout my life, my father has always had a saying that means more as I grow into a young man and father: Focus and Plan.  Even as a child I had this printed and framed in my room.  The meaning behind this statement is: You must FOCUS on the goal or the dream and then you must PLAN how to achieve it.  In Luke 11, Christ teaches about not only do you need to PRAY, but also you must PREPARE & PLAN your life to be for God and live for him daily.   In this passage Jesus performs several miracles that are questioned by the Pharisees thereby questions his authority.  Christ expels an unclean spirit from a man and then proceeds to give a parable about how to maintain the new Christ-filled life.  Jesus states it s not only a one-time process of cleaning, but it must be a continual and daily process.  Sometimes, when we commit to Christ, we have the newbie excitement and then it fades and we may find ourselves back where we were before or even in worst places.  Christ relaying this information, with a warning to allow him to clean us up and then we need to continue to seek him and make him a part of our house.  When He is the Lord of the house, not only the cleaner, we will be made whole.  This will allow his light to shine through us and bring others to Him.

PARTICIPATE

Luke 11:39-44

And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

Jesus has had many interactions with people of all backgrounds and is genuinely truthful in all aspects.  I love the way that he goes to the dinners he is invited and then challenges each person. In the passage, Jesus is sitting and enjoying food with the Pharisees and lawyers and then gives them and us great advice.  We can be blinded by the “proper and correct” manner of living and neglect justice and the love of God.  How many times do we turn a blind eye to the injustices that happen in our daily lives? How often do we see our brothers or sisters in need and turn the other way?  Sometimes this is easy to see, but there are some instances that we don’t see or choose not acknowledge.  We must become better participants in God’s plan and continually ask Him for guidance and direction to show His Love.

This outline is one that will allow us to be ambassadors to the kingdom of God.  Praying, Preparing& Planning, and Participating are the essential parts to allow Our Father to create his Kingdom to Come. Are we following the blueprint? How can we change to become more aligned with his vision and purpose? Be Blessed.

The Rest of the Story…

Matthew 27

Think of a time when someone you thought highly of or ‘put on a pedestal’ let you down by doing something you never expected from them. For some of you this person may have been a celebrity, professional athlete, or politician who you thought was ‘really a great guy/lady.’ This person may have even been someone very close to like a boss, mentor, parent, sibling, spouse, or even a pastor where the wounds from this experience are still deep today, even years later.

Have you ever thought about how the disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt when He was arrested, scourged, crucified, and died? They believed Jesus would be their Messiah (Savior) by sitting on an earthly throne and restoring Israel through freeing them from the oppression of the Roman government. This was their mistaken understanding of the Old Testament prophecies of what the Messiah would do (see John 12:16). They must have been certain He would be king because He could do anything…heal the sick, cast out demons, feed large crowds on next to no food, walk on water, and even raise Lazarus from the dead after four days! Think of the ‘pedestal’ He must have been on in their minds!  Imagine how they must have felt when they woke up Saturday morning with the realization that their Messiah who they saw do many miracles and believed was on a mission from God on their behalf was crucified, dead, buried, and would not save them from the tyranny of the Roman government. Talk about a letdown!

As Paul Harvey (ask your parents if you don’t know who that is) would say, we now know “the rest of the story.” We know the great news of the Resurrection that occurred on Easter Sunday! We know that Jesus saved them, and us today, in a way no one else could through freedom from the bondage and condemnation of sin.

What can we learn from this?

  1. The only person we should ever ‘put on a pedestal’ is Jesus. He is the ONLY one that will NEVER let us down. He is the only one without sin.
  2.  If God can take the worst injustice and event in the history of the world, the wrongful execution of the only person to ever live without sin, and turn it into the greatest event in the history of the world, then God can take the challenges and problems you are facing in your life today and will in the future and turn them into something good. The Bible specifically tells us this in Romans 8:31-32.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Need more assurance? We are told this again in Ephesians 3:20 NIV.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according His power this is at work within us,”

It says that we can’t even imagine what good He can do! Also, did you catch that? It is not our power, but ‘His power’ at work within us….and he made the world and everything in it.

There is a “rest of your story” that He has planned for your life…just like there was for Him and us through His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

So let us move forward today calm, confident, and courageous because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!