Comforter

Today, we are examining God as our comforter.  This post was originally written in 2017 by Michael Summers.

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are painful to read.  Yesterday David asked if any of us had ever experienced having a person we were trying to help question our motives and speak negatively about us to others.  I sadly answered yes in my heart as I read David’s prompting.

That experience was difficult for me.  Today’s reading challenged me to grow. Especially verses 3-7.

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

God is our comforter.  Παράκλησις, translated as comfort here, could also be translated ‘encourage’.  It holds in it the element of acceptance, council, and courage.  As if to say God is the one who finds our sorrow acceptable (or not) and strengthens us to continue on (if it is acceptable, more on this latter).

Παρακαλέω, translated as comfort three times in verse 4, could also be translated as urge, implore or exhort.  This helped me understand the activating (or reactivating) nature of this word as if strengthening one to get back in the fight.  God provides us the strength to continue Glorifying Him.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

‘That we’ is a purpose clause.  God strengthens us so that we may be strengthened and encourage others.  Citing God’s character as the Comforter; the source of strength gives God glory.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This was the most challenging part for me.  The comfort supplied has no limits, so long as our sufferings are in Christ.  Put another way, God supplies us with all the comfort we need for righteous suffering.

The question then became, what if the suffering was not righteous?  That is, what if the suffering was actually a result of my selfish ambition, seeking my own glory and not God’s?  This was my wake up call.

If I did not receive strength and comfort for the sorrow I felt, does it then mean that it was chastening rather than suffering for Christ?  I am inclined to consider this deeply.  Afterall, are we to believe that all suffering is because we are seeking Christ glory perfectly?  If not, as I reflect on a past wound that lingered too long, that sapped my strength when I know it shouldn’t have, I am inclined to think it was due to my sin and pride.

Ouch and amen! God is the righteous One who judges.  I am the sinner who is judged.  God is the Merciful One who gives grace.  I am the one in desperate need of His mercy and grace.   Admitting this depravity is the first step to receiving that which I need from God.  Confessing our Sin is our humble gate that protects God’s glorious reputation. (see extra credit below)

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

We are to thank God for the righteous suffering.  We will know it by the degree to which we are supernaturally strengthened.  This is to be shared with and passed on to those who suffer.  All the time giving glory to God as the Strengthener.

7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

 

Extra Credit: God’s Glory and Confession of Sin

All things were created for God’s glory. (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7)  The proud are too busy seeking their own glory to give God His glory.  Confessing our sin proclaims God’s character as holy and His Law as right. (Luke 23:41)  Not confessing our sin is a way of blaming God for sin.  Notice the first sin and how Adam blames God. (Genesis 3:12)  Confessing our sin humbles us and gives God glory. (Joshua 7:19) In summary, when we do not confess our sin it is disagreeing with God, a form of attack on His reputation.  When we say, “God I deserve this” it agrees with God and brings Him glory.  We were designed to bring God glory.  This is one way we can do it.  Confessing our sin.  

The world says, ‘find your strengths and play them up.” the Word says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:10)

John

Today’s reading is 1 John 1-2 and Revelation 1.

The Greek word for sin in the original New Testament was “hamartia” which is translated as missing the mark. Have you missed the mark? I know I have…every hour of every day of my life…maybe every minute. It is clear John wants us to realize this. God is the mark, and we miss it and Him. I’m taken back to my roots and part of the Lutheran liturgy with the words of 1 John 1:8-10…

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Paul also states in Romans 3:23…

..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

John is clear not only that we miss the mark and sin, but also tells us how to avoid it as much as possible in 1 John 1:15-16…

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life- is not from the Father but is from the world.”

Constantly the world is trying to tell us what is “ok.” It’s on the internet, TV shows, commercials, movies, books, and the list goes on and on. And not only is the world trying to force things God says is wrong upon us, but the world tries to tell us that if we don’t agree with the world we are not only in the wrong, but we are also practicing hate. Isn’t it crazy what Satan is capable of and how he works? He can twist things not only from what is actually bad to make it look good, but also make the world believe what is good is hate. The world tells us we cannot dislike a sin and still love the sinner. We can because we in fact ourselves as Christians are sinners (1 John 1:8-10), and yet Christ loves us.

The first step in finding Jesus is realizing we need Him. How? We have to be truthful with ourselves about our sin problem. Let’s go back to 1 John 1:8 for a moment. We must specifically name our sins. That’s how we realize we have missed the mark and need Him. We must not compare ourselves to others and what the world says is acceptable. John tells us the world is not the mark…God is!

So, what do we do now that we realize we’ve not done what God wants? 1 John 1:9 tells us we must confess our sins, and He makes us white as snow..cleaning us from all our dirty deeds. John wants us to know we have an advocate in Jesus who took our place; He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). Through Him, and only through Him, do we please God. He knew we could not do it on our own..that we would miss the mark. John is clear that God had a game plan all along. John tells us God knew we needed Jesus, and Jesus was their all along with the Father from the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-5 and 1 John 1:1-2).

There is no relationship like with Him. All relationships are two sided and conditional….know matter how much we say, or even try not to make them that way. This is not the case in the relationship with Him though..He loved us before we loved Him and still loves us today when we miss the mark. All we can do is try to do our best to follow His will by walking in the light John discusses, and say, “Thanks! Praise be to God!”

The Pharisees

Today’s reading is Matthew 12:1-45.

Do you have a hero of the Bible you like to compare yourself to or like to think you’re similar? Could it be Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Joshua, David, or Ruth to name a few? I doubt very many of us like to compare ourselves to the Pharisees, but I for one, have to admit that often times I am more like them than some of the other aforementioned desired people.

First, we see in Matthew 12:1-3, the Pharisees judging the disciples for picking grain and doing work on the Sabbath. We then see them questioning this again when in Matthew 12:9-10 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It can be easy to quickly judge someone for how they parent, how they spend their family time, the car they drive, or the home they own. I heard a quote one time that said…Question: “How big of a house is too big of a house?” Answer: “Just a little bit bigger than my house.” Please forgive me for not giving the proper credit, but one of our other Bible Journal writers commonly says they remind themselves by saying, “Stay in your lane.” What a great saying. Even if what someone does is in fact a sin (and it may not be), their sin is no worse than any of my own sins in God’s eyes.

In Matthew 12:22-24, we see the Pharisees not wanting to believe the miracles Jesus performed in front of them were from God, and then they asked in Matthew 12:38 to see a sign. How often do we have the sin of pride by not giving credit to God for what He’s doing and then not seeing the “signs” right in front of us of what He has done already or will do. Recently, I’ve faced a challenge that I’m wondering how it will be resolved, and it has consumed many of my thoughts. The crazy thing is that this same exact challenge has been overcome many, many times before under arguably more difficult obstacles. Yet, God pulled through in the past and has even used some circumstances this time to help give me clues that this to will pass. However, like the Pharisees, I find myself looking for more “signs,” nearly completely ignoring His past provisions and evidence that this to will be resolved.

Why do I consistently do this? Why am I like the Pharisees when I don’t want to be? I’m a sinful human in need of a Savior just like the Pharisees. All I can do is pray for more awareness to make me more like Him and less like the Pharisees, to not lean on my own understanding by trusting Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and most importantly by confessing my sinful nature and by thanking Him for His saving grace on the cross.

David

At first, when I saw I would be writing about David I had to laugh. What were the chances? God always has ways to make you laugh and to draw you closer to Him. It also could have been planned out by BJ as he set our readings up? Either way, I get to share the story of David.  Now before I looked at the readings for today I figured it was going to consist of some OT that looked at his courage as a young man or king. There was also the chance we looked back at the time where David was involved in some terrible sins. When my eyes read across the page revealed the readings for today are Psalms 3-8, Psalms 32, and Romans 4:6-8.  Did you know that out of the 150 Psalms seventy-three psalms are associated with David?  In Hebrew, the Book of Psalms is tehillim which means “praises”. The Book of Psalms can also be seen as a hymnbook. 

So what hymns or praises would David be singing about? Let me start by going to part of the Romans verses that were the bookend for today’s readings.  

Romans 4:6-8 “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them”.

David had felt tremendous guilt for some of the terrible sins he had committed.  And yet he had experienced amazing joy in the forgiveness. We all have sinned. I truly feel like I grew up making many wrong decisions that selfishly were based on my own desires. Even today these desires to do it my way or by my terms can cause this pain. David reminds us all that you don’t need to hold on to this guilt. That when we quit denying our guilt and recognize our sin, admit to it and ask God for forgiveness, we can let go and trust that God that He will and has covered our sins.  I know, easier said than done. Maybe you contemplate the severity of the sin or who it may have involved. Just remember God sent his son for us, even when we were sinners. Jesus already paid the price. We just have to take them all to Him and trust.

1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive, and to cleanse us. 

This statement is a reason to sings songs of praise. Now goa head and read through Psalms 3-8, and 32.  In these Psalms, you will be reminded of how we need to trust in God for protection and peace. That when we have this confidence we can call on Him anytime and he will listen and provide the comfort we need.  God will defend you, He will deliver you in times of trouble and rescue you when you need it. I David, just like David, need rescue. Forgiveness brings true joy. Walk away from the pain of guilt into the arms of our Father who provides comfort and relief from the mistakes of our past.  

 

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Psalm 32:10 Many are the woes of the wicked,  but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. 11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

 

Have a blessed day Biblejournal family. 

 

David 

Die to Self (again)

The primary reason for a fitness run yesterday morning was more emotional and spiritual than physical. I was seeking peace and calm, and wanted to be away from various distractions in order to focus on writing this post.

During this 45 minute exercise event, the following were observed:

  • The remnants of a likely stolen purse dumped in the woods.
  • A pile of litter from an apparent party in the woods.
  • A motorcyclist speeding (illegal), passing a bus on the right (illegal), in a no passing zone in a heavily populated/tourist area (illegal, selfish, and just plain stupid). The craziest thing is the motorcyclist was angry with the driver of the bus and was sounding his horn shaking his fist at the bus driver!
  • A young woman without hair who was likely undergoing treatment for cancer.

While returning from the run with a different mindset, it wasn’t what was expected. Angry over the observed crimes and sorrow over the woman with cancer, the realization was that we live in a world full of sin and brokenness. Sin that harms ourselves and others and separates us from our creator. Brokenness from disease that brings death to the body.

In truth, I was and am no different than the criminals. I am a sinner in need of a savior. There was some hate that came into my heart, and I confess… something inside me was hoping the motorcyclist would crash. Lord, forgive me.

Today’s reading in 1 Corinthians 15 mentions the various forms of “death” (die, death, dead) twenty-four times. Death is imminent and no one can argue this, and that is why we need Jesus. He defeated death and through this we can have life eternal.

One theme that has helped guide my journey is “dying to self”. For me this means making the choice to resist temptation and “die” to the sinful desires that put “me” as priority verses God’s will.

I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! (1 Corinthians 15:31)

Like Jesus died for us, we must die every day to our selfish desires. Such as:

  • One more serving of food at the party when I’m already full. Die to self.
  • One more drink of alcohol when I’ve already had enough. Die to self.
  • Judging others when I too am a sinner. Die to self.
  • Wanting something new when what I have seems old. Die to self.
  • Trying to hold on to the things of this world while knowing our real treasure is in Heaven. Die to self.

Imperfect but forgiven, grateful today for the many who have pointed me to (and keep pointing me to) Jesus including my mom, dad, my sisters (Katie and Marne), Amy, BJ, Rick, Heather, Mike, Duane, Robbie as well as our entire Bible Journal team, past and present.

Missing The Mark

Today’s reading is Matthew 18.

We will keep our focus specifically on Matthew 18:7-9. In these powerful verses, Jesus tells us that is better if we remove certain body parts that cause us to sin than to keep them and continue to sin. This is a powerful and direct message that tells us how terrible sin is in God’s eyes and how important He feels refraining from it is. He begins in Matthew 18:17 by saying….“woe to the one whom the temptation to comes.” Although He did not sin, we have a Savior that understands because like us, He too was tempted. Jesus realizes how hard it is to not sin. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

We must first examine ourselves closely to acknowledge our sin. I read a quote today that said, “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.” I know I’m guilty of justifying sins by telling myself it’s not that bad and everyone is doing it. However, our standard for determining what is a sin should be comparing to no one except Jesus and what the Bible says about that sin. The question isn’t what does the world think about it, but what does God think about it?

The Bible tells us that our sin is erased when believe in Jesus’ forgiveness through the cross and ask Him to do so. However, it also tells us to repent of sin. Merriam-Webster defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” God knows that we will trip up and not only make mistakes but will make the same mistakes over. But, we can not continue to commit the same sin knowingly and willingly because of His forgiveness. Our intention in our heart when we have a relationship with Jesus should be to not sin and to do all we can to refrain from it. Christian musical artist Toby Mac posted a quote on his social media this week which said, “an apology without change is manipulation.” We may be able to manipulate others, but we can’t manipulate God. He knows our hearts and actions.

Whether removing body parts is a metaphor or literal (I’m hoping it’s a metaphor!), Jesus is underscoring that it so difficult to not sin that we must take some extreme measures to protect ourselves. In my nearly 15 years in a sales-based career, I’ve learned from my personal coaches and those that I coach, as well as reading about successful business people and athletes, that even when we have a goal that’s really important to us and our family, we can’t just say we are going to do something and expect to do it. Even the highest performers set up their environment and calendars in a way to help them do that which they know they should and truly want to do. One quick, simple example is that if you want to get up earlier to work out to get in shape or because you know doing so effects how you feel and your performance that day, but you can’t keep from rolling over and hitting the snooze button, you can set your alarm across the room or even buy an alarm clock that moves to a different part of the room in the night so you have to get up and search for it. It’s no surprise that Jesus, the greatest teacher and coach of all time, is telling us here to set up or environment to not sin. In Matthew 26:41 when He asks His disciples to keep watch in the garden but yet finds them sleeping He states, “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” My father shared with me once that the late, infamous Rev. Billy Graham once said that he would never put himself in a position to have an extra-marital affair because he would never be alone in any personal or professional situattion with any woman other than his wife. The word sin in the Bible comes from the translation of Greek word hamartia which means to miss the mark. You would be hard pressed to find too many people who lived a more Christ-like life who could likely withstand more temptation than Rev. Billy Graham. Yet, he knew he must set up his environment to not be tempted because even he could subject making a mistake and missing the mark.

Another observation is that the top performers in the business world and in athletics typically pay someone to be a personal coach for them and are also typically are a part of another group of peers who help them with ideas and hold them accountable to staying on track for what they want to accomplish. Even the best need support and accountability partners. Are we doing this as it relates to living a Christ-following life and refraining from sin? I recently read in another devotional where a leader of a high school boys small group was asking them about pornography. Nearly every single one of them admitted to their problem with it. The leader made them aware of a monitoring subscription they could put on their phone and computers that would alert an accountability partner, which he offered to be for them, when they went to certain types of websites. Nearly all agreed and within the first few days he got an alert for one of the boys, and he was able to talk with him and help him. Kudos to this group of young men for acknowledging their sin and seeking help and accountability!

Let us ask ourselves the following…

  1. What sin do I need to acknowledge?
  2. Am I truly sorry and turning away from that sin or instead justifying it?
  3. What can I do to set up my environment to not be tempted and refrain from my sin?
  4. Who can I ask to be a trusted accountability partner?

Ask for God’s wisdom in answering these questions and then not only for forgiveness, but to help you truly repent and turn away from those sins.

Consider the following prayer…

Dear Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. I’m sorry that I justify my sin by the world’s standards and not yours. Please forgive me and not only change my heart but give me the wisdom to figure out how to truly repent and turn away from my sin. Thank you for loving me when I’m unlovable and for forgiveness through giving your life on the cross for me which you did not have to do. I love you. Amen

David and Bathsheba

The past week and a half we have been following King David, great great great…. grandpa to Jesus. He was victorious in battle, courageous yet meek. He showed loyalty and mercy to King Saul when he had the opportunity and motive to kill him. He displayed a deep love and friendship with Jonathon. He seems to truly seek the Lord and have a heart to follow. He’s a master of poetry and song, able to put words to his swirling thoughts and emotions. 

As we come into 2 Samuel 11, we hit a major turning point. How does this “man after God’s own heart” fall into such sin? It appears to happen slowly over time and also all at once. Just. Like. Us. 

Before Bathsheba, David had married six different women over a period of time – and while this was becoming more acceptable of the time, God did not approve (Deut 17:17). This wasn’t God’s design – He always guides us in ways to help us. His laws are never to limit us, but to save us from separation from him, as well as the the pain and heartache the sin brings. In this case, the sin of polygamy and adultery.

As you read through the story of David and Bathsheba this morning, you can see the opportunities David had to avoid this temptation to sin:

  • He watched her bathing – STOP LOOKING (vs 2)
  • He asked his people to find out who she is – MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS (vs 3)
  • He sent for her to come to him – BACK OFF, YOU KNOW SHE IS MARRIED (vs. 4)
  • He has her in his house – DON’T DO IT! SHE’S NOT YOUR WIFE! (vs 4)

Lust. This self-focused sin is committed by the young and the old, the rich and the poor, male and female.

Once David and Bathsheba commit adultery, it goes downhill from there pretty quickly. Scheming, Lies, Betrayal, Murder. It started with a glance that lasted too long… and ends with how all of sin ends: Displeasing the Lord (verse 27) and consequences (I won’t spoil next week’s journal entries). 

Just like David, being a follower of God doesn’t make me sinless – but it should lead me to sin less. It’s hard to understand how we can walk so closely with the Lord, see fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and then also fall so quickly into sin with big consequences. 

David’s adultery had to break God’s heart – just like it breaks his heart when we sin. And as a parent, how we feel when our own kids struggle with sin. 

What sin patterns can you see in your life? Can you identify what leads up to your sin? For me, it almost always starts with my thoughts. In each season of life, from childhood to now, I can see patterns of sin and how I struggled with different areas. There were seasons of dishonesty, seasons of greed, seasons of lust, seasons of pride, seasons of control.

Sin is really yuck. My sin. David’s sin. Your sin. But we can be more than conquerors through Him that loves us! Whatever sins you are struggling with today, will you join me in:

  • Confessing them to God and ask for forgiveness from him
  • Seek out what the Word of God says about that sin
  • Write down your trouble/temptation spots and an action plan to avoid them
  • Talk to another believer and build accountability and check points
  • Make restitution or seek forgiveness from others impacted by your sin
  • Leverage the power of the Holy Spirit and put on the armor of God through prayer
  • Share your testimony of working through sin! Don’t keep your struggles in darkness. 

As I look back on 38 years, it’s easy to feel like a professional sinner. I’m so thankful for the grace of the most perfect Forgiver.  

To The Church

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family!

In Revelation 2 we have hear Jesus speak to John and to four of the seven churches in the province of Asia. The words Jesus speaks to John would be the letters written for the churches then and to all of us as “the Churches” now.

The letters to the churches are of praise and encouragement, but also warnings.  So as you read through Revelation 2, listen to His words and hold onto His promises.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

To the Church in Ephesus

  • He is our right hand that holds it all in His hands. v.1
  • He knows our actions and our deeds. v.2
  • He understands our perseverance.v.3
  • He reminds us to repent when we have fallen. v.5

To the Church in Smyrna

  • He is the First and the Last v.8
  • He knows our pain and needs. v.9
  • He reminds us the devil will test us, still be faithful to receive your victor’s crown. v.10

To the Church in Pergamum

  • He holds a sharp double-edged sword. v.12 (Hebrews 4:12)
  • He will provide manna v.17
  • He will provide a white stone with a new name on it. v.17

To the Church in Thyatira

  • He knows our deeds, love, and faith, our service and perseverance. v.19
  • He gives us time to repent, are you willing?
  • If we don’t repent, we will suffer. v.22
  • I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.  v. 23

Jesus is reminding us that He truly knows us. (Romans 8:27-37)  He knows what is said and done in the dark and what is in the light. (Luke 12:3)  That judgment will be passed and He gives us the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. (John 9:39 and Matthew 4:17)

To each church and to each of us Jesus says, Whoever has ears let them hear.  Do you hear Jesus speaking to you today? Listen close, He knows what we go through every day, He is here for us, waiting. All we need to do is listen.

Dear God,

Thank you for your words that we are able to apply to our hearts each day.  God, we know you are with us always and know every detail of our being.  Help us to listen and obey your words. That in this wonderful Christmas season we remember and focus on your ultimate sacrifice of sending your own son Jesus to live a perfect life and ultimately die for our sins.  The sins we all like to hide away, let us bring them to the light and repent.   God I’m sorry when I lose faith, I’m sorry when I don’t listen.  Search my help and reveal to me all that you desire and help me to live not by my will, but yours.  Help me to open my ears, and hear your loving voice today.  We love you.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Recognize, Realize and Get Ready

Waiting For The Word/creativecommons.org

Today’s Reading: Luke Chapter 5

Good morning Bible Journal readers! Today we are studying Luke 5 in our journey through the words of Jesus. I’m loving this scripture today because I feel like we can all find ourselves in these three miracle moments. The first miracle is one that’s familiar. Jesus takes Simon’s boat out into the water while preaching and then casually tells Simon to throw the nets out. Simon sort of rolls his eyes and says “I suppose, because you said so but it probably won’t work because we’ve been throwin’ nets all night and ain’t no fish comin’ up!” Simon shows his obedience to Jesus but it’s clear that he doesn’t believe the outcome will change. Can you see yourself in this moment? Do you sort of use faith as a last resort rather than a first strategy? I feel like I fall into this habit almost daily. We know how this story ends, the nets come up with so many fish that boats nearly sink under the weight of them. Simon is awestruck at this miracle and immediately feels shame:

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5: 8

Have you ever been blessed by God and felt unworthy? Do you hide from Him because you recognize your sin and don’t want to face judgement? I feel such a connection to Simon Peter in this moment. I remember a time in our life when our son was very sick and his hospital bills were so far beyond our meager capacity. We tried to work extra hours, we tried to negotiate with the hospital to lower the bill, we argued, we cried, but what we didn’t do was pray. Of course, we prayed for our son to get better but we never prayed to God to help us with the financial part of the problem. We were encouraged by some friends and mentors to pray for that specific need and our nets were filled! In fact, they were overflowing. We never even considered that Jesus could or would address that need in our life. If you’ve been a Bible Journal reader or writer for a long time, you know that we experienced that miracle through you.Our Bible Journal family made that happen through the love of Jesus Christ.

God has three requirements for coming to Him:

  • Recognize our own sinfulness
  • Realize we can’t save ourselves
  • Be Ready to leave everything behind and follow Him

In verse 31 Jesus tells the sinners at Matthew’s house:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31

Jesus is talking about recognizing our own sin. Until we examine our hearts and place ourselves in a posture of humility we can’t begin to accept His mercy. Next, we need to realize that we truly can’t save ourselves. Often, despite our best intentions we make errors in judgement or our pride gets in the way of asking for help. Finally, we need to be ready to leave everything else behind including the false God’s we rely upon for protection and follow Him. Levi the tax collector first encounters Jesus while sitting in his tax collecting booth. Jesus implores him to “follow me” and Levi is moved in that moment. He leaves the promise of money, status and power to follow Jesus by faith. I’m not sure that I’d have the strength to do that. If Jesus came to my work place tomorrow and said “follow me” I hope I’d be ready. Today’s scripture has so many examples of Jesus ministering to people in their day to day struggles. I hope that encourages you to pray this week for the little things. Pray for Him to intercede and truly move in your life.

Known

Today’s reading is Matthew 16.

In verse 7, we read the disciples are concerned because they have no bread to eat. Jesus follows up saying in verse 8, “O you of little faith..” reminding them that not only did he just feed 5,000 with 5 loaves in Matthew 15, but that he also fed 4,000 on 7 loaves in Matthew 14 and they even had leftovers both times! It is very easy to judge the disciples wondering how they could quickly forget the miracles He just performed?! However, when I take a step back and reflect, I realize I do the same thing all the time. Within a matter of weeks, days, and even hours it’s easy to forget the miracles recently performed in our lives. It’s the cancer diagnosis that could have been much worse, the accident that could have been fatal but wasn’t, and the job that could have been lost but was saved which are quickly forgotten, and we are on to worrying about the next thing. Instead, we should constantly be thanking Him, trusting Him, and giving Him the praise and glory knowing He has the whole world in His hands.

Despite our failures, imperfections, and lack of faith, God Has big plans for us. Jesus knew in verse 22 Peter would rebuke Him saying that Jesus’ words predicting His crucifixion were not true, and He knew Peter would later deny Him 3 times after He was arrested. Yet prior to these events and knowing Peter would fail, Jesus calls him by the name Cephas meaning rock, and He tells him He will build his church through Peter and give him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Peter doesn’t sound like much of a rock to me…does he to you? But, like I tell my kids every night before I tuck them in, God loves you and has big plans for you. Not only has He made us righteous and perfect before God through His blood (Romans 5:1), but despite our sinful actions, trials, and doubts, He will do in amazing things in your life as He did with Peter. Isn’t it crazy to think of the fact that He knows you will mess up as He knew Peter would, yet He is still planning big things for your future with and through you? But, He is. That’s grace. That’s love. Nearly every “hero” in the Bible was a messed up sinner, David, Moses, Paul, and Jonah just to name a few. However, God not only fully redeemed them through His blood, but he also redeemed them through their actions later in their life. Whatever sin you have going on in your life and whatever mistakes you have made and will make, God’s plans for you and His saving grace on the cross are bigger. This new Tauren Wells song Known says it perfectly…

“…You won’t let go no matter what I do

And it’s not one or the other

It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace

To be known fully known and loved by You

I’m fully known and loved by You…”