Sunday, December 15, 2019

Confirmation and Encouragement

Confirmation and Encouragement
December 16, 2019
Luke 1:45  "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was human, to be sure. She was chosen to birth the Christ child while yet a virgin. She was engaged to a man, not yet physically known to her and yet she was with child. An  angel appeared to her and told her about what would transpire for her. While she submitted to the angel's directions from the Lord, she was still human in having to deal with all that was in front of her. She had to go to her fiancee and tell her that she was now pregnant and that she would be bringing up the Christ child. She was likely nervous in that first, deep conversation with Joseph about her new-found pregnancy. And she had to not just tell him that she was pregnant, but that they were going to be the parents of the Savior. At this point in Mary's story, all she had to go on was a word from an angel. Joseph could have denied Mary's encounter with the angel, so far nothing was verifiable. Mary stepped out in faith, though, at the angel's original instructions, having to tell Joseph of her pregnancy and what Mary had agreed to do for the Lord.

Joseph was originally not on board with Mary's plan. He was willing to walk away respectfully, not calling Mary crazy in his disbelief. But an angel appeared to him as well, and gave him encouragement. Joseph heard from the Lord himself and went to Mary and confirmed the plan. Joseph was now on board and Mary had at least one person who believed in her. Shortly thereafter, Mary's relative, Elizabeth, who was carrying John the Baptist in her womb, met with Mary. Elizabeth heard Mary's story and she too agreed with her, having confirmation from the Lord.  Mary now had two people who verified her story independently, confirming what Mary took as a leap of faith in her journey.  Mary spent three months with Elizabeth, during her pregnancy, likely receiving encouragement from Elizabeth along this crazy new path.

Shortly after Jesus was born, May and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple.  There was a righteous man, Simeon, who had heard from the Lord, too, regarding the crazy plan. Mary and Joseph did not have to tell Simeon who Jesus was, he knew, he had already known. Mary now had another confirmation that she was on the right path.  Mary stepped out in faith, on nothing other than a personal encounter with the Lord. She had no written plan or desire to make this up. She was likely nervous and scared and maybe even questioned her own sanity at times. But the Lord provided confirmation and encouragement along the way. This confirmation and encouragement was likely needed to help Mary stay firm to the plan. It was not easy to step out in faith all by herself, but the Lord honored her for that and encouraged her that she was making the right decision in following the Lord's will.

The Lord's will for your life may not be easy to understand or even digest, but others have gone before you in stepping out in faith on that scary journey. It can be done, but the confirmation and encouragement may not come instantly. You still have to  step out in faith. Once you do, the confirmation and encouragement will come, but there is no script, no written plan for you to follow, only the Lord's leading. When you do have confirmation and encouragement along the way, it will help you to keep going, fuel you on when the going gets tough, when most still don't believe your story or in what you are doing. If you are awaiting confirmation before you step out in faith, then you really would not be stepping out in faith. If you are awaiting confirmation before you move, then you might spend the rest of your life paralyzed and missing God's amazing journey for your life.  Mary was blessed because she stepped out in faith, before others' confirmation or encouragement.
Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 1:26-45, Luke 2:21-38

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Hiding Words

Hiding Words
November 25, 2019
Deuteronomy 12:28  "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God."

The Bible is the instruction manual for life, full of choice words, wisdom for every situation. The Word of the Lord is akin to a medicine that works across multiple ailments. The instructions contained in the Bible are akin to the answer sheets for a test. The directives in the Word are there to protect, keep us safe from evil as well as ourselves.  Most Christians accept that the Bible is the Word of God, the Standard, but few understand the value of it. Maybe you understand the value of it, but is it the first place you go when you need advice?

There are many places to go when we need advice.  Most people try to figure things out first, on their own, then consult a trusted friend or family member to bounce off ideas. People often go with the advice that makes sense to them, but the Bible is more than that. Unfortunately, many do not understand the value of the Scriptures, how much it can help with figuring out life. Sometimes the Words contained in Scripture are not always what makes sense, either, going against the grain of earthly wisdom. The Bible, however, has never led anyone astray. There is nothing in the Bible that has been tested and found to be false or wrong or errant or faulty. The Bible should be the first place we turn when we need to figure something out. Some Christians tend to skip the Bible and just go straight to the Lord in prayer. While this is, and can be, a good thing, it can be a risky endeavor. It is not risky because the Lord would give differing advice than Scripture, but it is risky in that we often hear a voice of reason other than the Lord's. It is easier to mistake a fresh Word from the Lord than it is to mistake what is written down in the Scriptures.

The Lord says we should hide His Word in our hearts. Those Words are the spoken Words of Jesus, as well as all the instructions given out by the Lord. The Bible is the easiest and most clear way to handle the Christian life and yet we often do not use it to the fullest. The Words in the Bible are not hidden from us, but are meant to be hidden inside of us, like a pearl protected from loss. But when was the last time you made any effort to memorize Scripture? As a Christian, there should be at least 20 passages you could recite from memory. What passages do you have memorized? In the Old Testament the Lord said we should write His words on our door posts, on our walls, on our clothing, even on our foreheads if we are prone to forget them. How many door frames in your home are full of the written Scriptures? How about on the dashboard of your car or the screensaver on your phone?

Chances are good you can remember the words to songs from two decades ago but cannot recite 10 passages from memory at this instant. What is hidden inside your heart? Where are the Lord's instructions written should you need to refer to the manual? How many words are hidden in your heart? Christians fill their hearts with so many things: anger, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, and pride. How about hiding the Lord's Words in there?
Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 19:7, Deut 6:8-9, Deut 9:10, Ps 199:11, Pr 6:21, John 6:68, 1 Tim 6:3-4, 2 Pet 3:2

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Revealed Identity

Revealed Identity
November 11, 2019
Luke 24:31  "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. . . ."

After Jesus was crucified and out of the tomb, the Bible does not disclose where he went when He left the tomb. But He went somewhere, by Himself on the very day of His resurrection. Not wanting to stay hidden, Jesus decided to appear back on the earth that very same day. The Bible says that some of His disciples were walking along the road and discussing the deep tragedy of all that just transpired, not realizing Jesus was already walking among them. These disciples were talking about the events that unfolded, about Jesus the Messiah, and about His death. Suddenly, along the road Jesus appeared to them but they did not recognize Jesus. Jesus walked along side of them and joined in the discussion. It was a long walk, a decent journey that encompassed a long theological debate between Jesus and the disciples. The disciples decided to invite this man, Jesus, into their home to have a meal with them and possibly stay with them. The disciples were unaware that it was Jesus. The Bible says that suddenly their eyes were opened and they realized it was Jesus. Then Jesus disappeared. Their minds were blown wide open realizing their hearts were burning within them the entire walk.

They were walking with Jesus, even discussing Jesus, yet did not realize at the time He was among them. This is a huge parallel to our own Christian walk. The first and foremost thing to realize is that Jesus is present during your Christian walk, even before you start walking with Him. Jesus was walking alongside of you, before you came to the knowledge of Him. When someone discussed with you the person of Jesus for the first time, Jesus was there; you came to understand the concept of who Jesus was before you met Him personally. The disciple's hearts were burning within them the whole time they were walking with Him, yet did not realize it was Him. This is the same in your own life, too, that brought you to fully realize His presence. And then suddenly your eyes were open to Him,  you came to truly realize all of Him. In hindsight you can see it now, not realizing it at the time, though, all the times He walked with you.

You may have never led someone to the Lord, but it is not actually your job to reveal Him to everyone you meet. Your only opportunity lies in discussing Him, talking about who He is and what He represents. It is actually up to Jesus to reveal Himself to everyone on a personal level. He will, though maybe not physically. If you are frustrated that someone has not come to the knowledge of the Lord, then make sure you simply keep talking about Him. Rest assured that person's heart is burning within them; Jesus desires to reveal His identity to everyone.  If someone has not yet decided to acknowledge Jesus in their own life, then pray they would not stifle the burning in their hearts. Pray that Jesus would be revealed to them. No one has ever come to accept Jesus as their Savior if He remains hidden from them. His desire is not to remain hidden, but wishes to reveal His identity. Pray that nothing would quench the burning in their hearts, that they would respond to Him when He reveals His identity to them. Your job, your only job, is to keep talking about Him, to keep revisiting who He is and was and what He did on the cross.
Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 24

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Not Convinced

Not Convinced
November 4, 2019
Revelation 22:12  "'Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.'"

People are convinced that spending their time and money on things on this earth are somehow worth it. Maybe you need a car, but decide to spend the extra money on a car that is nicer than you need.  Maybe you think the nicer car will elevate your social standing or that somehow it will change how people judge you.  It is constantly impressive how people work hard to drive their nicest car to church even, keeping it washed and in pristine condition, as if somehow arriving to church in the nicest car you can attain will impress your Christianity in the minds of others. Laugh at the concept, but there are plenty of luxury cars in church parking lots all around the US on any given Sunday. Maybe you don't own a luxury car but does your car have leather seats? There is nothing wrong with leather seats, but paying for those leather seats contracts from the good you could do for the kingdom of heaven if you spent your money differently. At what point is enough enough?

People are convinced that saving money in the bank is a good thing, that investing in a retirement account is a good thing. They are certainly wise choices but are they good? The Bible suggests anything that is good means it relates to a Heavenly cause or purpose. Is the money set aside for use in the kingdom? Do you use your nice car to bring shut-ins or (gasp) the homeless to church?  Have a nice house, great, do you host a small group in your home or provide a temporary room in your home for someone who is going through a difficult time?  When was the last time you cooked and made extra to take to a shut-in? These are not intended to be offensive questions but simply to challenge everyone on how they use their resources for the Lord. We are all convinced that whatever we spend our time and money on to benefit ourselves will be worth it, that it will improve our lives on this earth somehow. But that is usually birthed out of selfish desires.  The Lord cares nothing for how comfortable your life is here on earth.

It is interesting the work for the kingdom that people do not do, as if somehow they aren't convinced it will be worth it. People seldom  do anything unless they receive a physical or emotional reward or benefit.  This is true for Christians and non-Christians alike. The Lord says, as a Christian, if you do it for the Lord then there will be a reward in Heaven. Why are Christians not convinced the reward in Heaven will be worth the effort on earth? You can see the efforts people go to in decorating their home or the upkeep on their hair, so they are used to putting in effort. Why do Christians not put in the same effort for the Lord? Christian organizations work hard to stay non-profit and need a good deal of fundraising. Christians are more likely to give if their giving makes them eligible for a raffled prize at the end. Why do Christians not give to the Lord, of their time or money or efforts? Maybe some give but why do the majority give so little towards the kingdom? The simple reason is they are not convinced it will be worth it. People will go to great lengths of effort if they believe it will be worth that effort. Are you convinced sacrificing on this earth will be worth the effort someday, as revealed in Heaven? Take a quick look at your life and you will easily see where you are spending a significant amount of effort, or time and money. Are you spending that same amount of effort for the Lord?

Are you convinced the rewards in Heaven are real? Are you convinced the rewards in Heaven will be worth it? Your lifestyle speaks to where you are attempting to reap your rewards and everyone can see it. It is no secret, the whole world is watching and they see where your heart is. If the world can see, then how can you hide your selfishness from the Lord.
Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 5:11-12, Matt 6:1-24, 2 Cor 9:6, Phil 3:14

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Church Is Warned

Church Is Warned
October 28, 2019
Isaiah 29:13  ". . . .Because this people draw near with their words, and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me. . . "

The Lord is clear that He wants all of us, not just our money or time. He cares not for your money or time; He cares for your heart. In fact, He wants all of you, your hopes and dreams and fears and worries and pain and joy. He wants your heart, most of all, and nothing else matters after that. In Revelation, He even says He would prefer we are cold if we are not hot, for Him, meaning He would rather have us not attempt Christianity at all, if our hearts are not in it. He said if we are lukewarm Christians then He would vomit us out of His mouth.  While this seems harsh, strong even, this is how He feels. Apparently, being lukewarm gives Him a bad reputation among non-believers. He has always been this way.

In the Old Testament, He spoke through Isaiah, against His own people.  He said that they served Him in name almost perfectly, reciting everything correctly, just like they were taught, however it was all just lip service. He warned them that this would result in "woe." While "woe" does not seem especially scary, it the Bible it is akin to physical and spiritual death, the ultimate of punishment, with eternal damnation. He said their lips praised Him perfectly, but their hearts were far from Him and we going to bring about "woe."  And this is the same as in the New Testament, when the Lord says He would spit us out of His mouth for being Christian in name only, nothing to back it up.

It takes a lifetime of service to Him to back it up. I've seen famous people make a life-turnaround into finding Jesus and serving Him in the most public declaration possible, only to fall away after being so overt. I've also see many people serve Him on the mission field for the first half of their adult lives, then throw it all away living like the pagans they attempted to meet with Jesus. I've seen countless Christians in church, but never fully give their hearts over to the Lord, knowing there is a good chance they are still going to hell.

Praising the Lord is not enough, confessing Jesus as the Son of God is not enough. It takes dedication and service to prove it, backing up all the lip service with self-sacrifice. You can tell someone you love them, but they only know you love by how you demonstrate it. This is the same with the Lord. But we have a problem in our churches today. We dummy down the Scriptures, so as to not offend anyone, after all, we don't want them to feel condemned. If you have to cushion Scripture and deliver it in a non-offensive way, then you've take away its power to change someone's life. In church we do a disservice in not fully allowing people to be offended.  If they are never confronted with what the Bible calls sin, then they are allowed to attend church all the way to hell. The Lord warned against this, He said He would bring "woe" to people like this, those who refuse to turn their hearts toward Him fully.  But is it their fault, if we allow them to attend church but never challenge them to give their hearts over fully to Him?  The lukewarm Christian  will be vomited out of the Lord's mouth, but it is the modern church that is keeping the warming light on.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Is 3:11, Is 5:20, Is 29:11-16, Rev 3:16

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Will Be Glorified

Will Be Glorified
John 12:28  "'Father, glorify Your Name.' Then a voice came out of heaven: ''I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.'"
October 21, 2019

The Lord is all powerful and worthy to be praised. the Lord says very clearly that if you will not praise Him, then He will have the rocks cry out in worship. Worship, however, is not always standing there and saying, "worthy is the Lord." That is the passive manifestation of humanity's song. Aside from standing there and making the declaration, it is not an action-style concept of worship. An active-style worship is dedicating a sacrifice to Him, significant works or gift, something costly to the giver. But what is more than active-style worship is the Glorification of the Lord. Glorification of the Lord is an active situation, in which the Lord's physical power or might or redemption is displayed. Either it is a direct manifestation of the Lord's power over something, or revelation of the  Lord's power and might in someone's life.

Several examples of this might include closing the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown into the lion's den. Another example is when Daniel's friends were thrown into the fiery furnace. The Lord spared them and the Lord was glorified. Other scenarios in the Bible include time and again when the Lord rescued the children of Israel from the hand of a formidable foe. There were plenty of times when a powerful army was standing against the children of Israel but the Lord caused them to prevail. It was, and is, a situation in which no explanation can be given to science or man's own effort, but only in the physical manifestation of the Lord's power at work. The Lord was glorified when Jesus was crucified and then risen from the dead, a miracle that only can be accomplished by a display of the Lord's power and might. 

Jesus prayed that the Lord would be glorified in what was about to transpire over his pending death. The Lord replied from Heaven that His name was already glorified but that He would glorify it again, meaning it was of no problem to continue in the miracles of His own plan. The Lord had no intention to prove Himself only once, but again and again in people's lives. The Lord did not stop when He pulled the Israelites out of slavery through Moses and He did not stop when David triumphed over Goliath and He did not  stop when He rose Jesus from the dead and He has not stopped today. His goal has always been to continuing glorifying His name, through the demonstration of His power. The Lord delights in bringing His power in place to overcome the frailty of humanity. 

The Lord's name will be glorified through the demonstration of His power and might. In your own situation, it may seem a difficult road, an obstacle that the Lord can be glorified through, but the Lord would say that despite your understanding of the outcome, the Lord will be glorified.  It is not a matter of if the Lord can be glorified, that is a given. The Lord WILL be glorified and He delights to do that time and time again. Whatever your facing right now, it will be brought to completion and when it is over the Lord's name will be glorified. This is an opportunity, not to pray that He will be glorified in what you are facing, but an opportunity to thank Him in advance of what He is about to do, whatever it looks like. It also works on the reverse. If you refuse to glorify the Lord, then He will come against you and make sure He is made known.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ez 28:22, Dan 5:23, John 12:1-30, John 15:8 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

This Day

This Day
October 14, 2019
Psalm 118:24  "This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."

There is a famous Bible verse written to music, that we call can quote, but we may use it at only one type of moment. It comes from Psalm 118 and is believed to be written by King David, and written in song-style to music even from the beginning. The verse reads, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." When we hear that verse, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the Lord's blessings on a sunshiny day or is it a phrase meant to uplift the soul of the singer, in the midst of adversity?  You can sing those words when this go well and you can sing those words when you are in the midst of trouble and you're trying to encourage your heart to keep on going. 

We know we are to give the Lord thanks in all things, but what was King David referring to when he said he would rejoice in this day? Did David mean this exact moment, the one for each immediate breath? If you read all of Psalm 118, you see that David is actually praising the Lord for the Lord's enduring faithfulness throughout David's lift, even when David himself was not perfect. David references a rescue from an enemy, he references having had blessings, he references being disciplined, and he references the future day of Salvation. The psalm starts out with David's life but then transitions into the life of Jesus, being the stone that the builders rejected now becoming the corner stone of Salvation. 

The progression in the psalm is about all of the Lord's participation in David's life with the culmination for the need of a Savior. It completes with the finality of Salvation for David, as if it has already taken place through Jesus. Jesus was still hundreds of years away from David's own physical death, but David rejoiced in the day of Salvation for himself as if it was now fully realized and complete.  The psalm is fully about the participation of the Lord in David's life, from beginning to end, not just about the experiences David was enduring. Every day is the day the Lord has made, that is a given, but the rejoicing comes with and from the Lord's participation of it. The gift for rejoicing is the Lord's presence and action in today, not the adversity or blessing that comes from today.  The gift for rejoicing comes knowing the Lord is working in and through and with you throughout all of it, with the full intent of bringing you to His side in the end, redeeming every situation and experience. 

When David was rejoicing about this day, he was rejoicing in the good, the bad, the ugly, and then the redemption and completion of it all. The end result of every Christian's life is eternity in Heaven with Him. All that happens in a life will eventually become irrelevant once Heaven is attained. Each day for rejoicing in the good or the bad or the ugly is one step closer to Heaven, one step closer to perfection and union with the Lord.  In all things the Lord is working and moving in your life, leading you with the intent to usher you into His full presence someday. But so often we fight or resist today, when it is the bad or the ugly. We want only the blessing and salvation, but the Lord would say it is not about what happens in the day at all, regardless of what happens. We aren't rejoicing in the actual day, but in how the Lord designed today for our lives and for our good. It does not matter what happens, it matters that the Lord is working in and through it; that is the reason for rejoicing. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 118, Rom 8:28

Sunday, October 6, 2019

New Knowledge

New Knowledge
October 7, 2019
Romans 9:15  "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'"

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change and He is not new. His character is steadfast and He is truth. These things are not debatable, however, are you fully aware of who He is? If you think you know, truly know, who the Lord is, then you're shorting yourself and limiting God. It is an easy question to ask a child what they learned new at school today. The child did not actually learn anything new, the child just came into the knowledge of what was. But, it was new for the child. Learning new things as a child is a daily occurrence, but how about as an adult? We may be forced to learn something new at work, but do you force yourself to learn new habits, new concepts, new skills? How about with the Lord. Did you learn anything new about the Lord today, not that there is anything new about the Lord, but new to you?

There are angels assigned to fly around the Lord continually, in the throne room of Heaven, and each time they pass around Him and His glory, they discover something new about His majesty. But they are not looking directly at Him, rather covering their eyes from the blinding light. We've become so casual with the Lord that we've made Him into a man to have a conversation with, rather than a God to worship. We cannot digest the magnificence of who He is, so we bring Him down on our level so we can understand Him.  Once we've drawn Him down to size, then we've limited Him to how big and how wonderful and how amazing He could truly be to us. If we've limited Him, then there is nothing new to learn about Him. There is nothing new to the Lord and your relationship with Him, unless you keep Him on His throne and make concerted effort to expand your knowledge and understanding of Him.

The Lord is like a gleaming diamond, illuminating light from all His facets. But that is too bright for many of us, we shield our eyes from all the reflection. We do not let all the facets of the Lord permeate our lives, we cover them up and limit God. We know God, we've known God for so long that we are tight and close. Not so. You cannot learn all there is to know about God. You cannot understand all there is to understand about the Lord in a human lifetime. If you are not growing in your knowledge of the Lord, then you've limited Him and you are limiting your life.

Paul writes that as Christians, our responsibility is to grow in the knowledge of the Lord daily. Most people understand Paul to be addressing new Christians, and even if he was then so be it. If coming to the full knowledge of the Lord takes more than a hundred lifetimes, then 15 more years of knowledge ahead of someone else is still barely at the beginning line. You are not even close to knowing who the Lord is, even if you've learned about Him the last 60 years. Your job is to stay humble and learn something new about the Lord everyday. Your job is not to fully understand Him, but learn on a daily basis. What did you learn new about the Lord today?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Col 2:1-7, Rev 4

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rhetorical Question on Mercy

Rhetorical Question on Mercy
September 22, 2019
Romans 9:15  "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'"

I was listening to a radio station on my commute to work, and the pastor on-air asked callers to bring difficult theological questions to the forefront.  He was attempting to be the expert and answer all the ponderings of Scripture. One caller brought forth a question I've never heard asked. He wanted to know why in the Old Testament that stoning was the mandate for being caught in adultery, and yet King David did not get stoned when caught in his affair with Bathsheba. Good question. The pastor did not actually have an answer that was satisfactory, other than suggesting it was David's own privilege at the time. Who would have dared to bring up a stone against a king, and rather the Lord dealt with David for sins anyway. David did not escape discipline, but he certainly escaped being stoned to death. In short, the Lord had mercy on David and did not require David's death.

But what does it take to get the Lord's mercy and compassion? In looking at David, he had a great history with the Lord. He represented the Lord before the world at the time, in his triumph over Goliath. David, in everything he did, honored the Lord with his life, until he didn't. That is, David was as perfect a "Christian" as possible until he fell into sin.  His sin was a point of failure in life, after years and years of service to the One True King. David had a great history with the Lord, maybe the Lord reviewed that history before requiring the stoning. Maybe the Lord decided there was enough good in him worth sparing, or that a different course of action would work rather than taking him out. Regardless of the Lord's thinking, He never enforced the stoning. David received the Lord's mercy and maybe it was out of compassion. Whatever the reasoning, David benefited; the situation could have been far worse. 

The Lord says He will have mercy on whomever He has mercy and compassion on whomever He has compassion. In essence, the Lord is saying its none of our business  on the formula for receiving mercy and compassion from the Lord. The reason there is no formula is because man would try to manipulate Him instead of honoring Him from pure motives. The Lord says He cannot be mocked, that a man will reap what he sows. David had sown goodness and mercy and that's what he reaped. You cannot fake sowing goodness or mercy or compassion; it has to come from your heart. The Lord will show you mercy and compassion if that is what is in your heart, otherwise you are likely to get the stoning. 

Feel like you're getting stoned on a daily basis? Maybe you did not sow enough mercy and compassion, maybe your history with the Lord does not warrant grace right now from Him. Before you suggest that the Lord is full of mercy and grace and it is  a right to be received, you might want to refresh yourself on the Bible. The Lord is the one who determines when you get mercy, not you. You don't get to forgive your own sins and you don't get to apply the Lord's mercy on yourself.  David did not escape the Lord's discipline, just the stoning. Do not mistake mercy from getting out of discipline. You might feel like you're getting beat up, but maybe the punishment would be far worse right now if the Lord wasn't administering mercy. The rhetorical question is not why the Lord had mercy on David, rather why do you deserve the Lord's mercy today.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 9:1-24, Gal 6:7-8

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Bloody Husband

Bloody Husband
September 16,  2019
Exodus 4:24  "Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death."

After Moses argued with the Lord at the burning bush, giving Him all the excuses as to why Moses was not the right man for the job, the Bible says the Lord's anger burned against Moses. Yes, everyone knows that Moses and the Lord ended up having a good relationship, but Moses did not start things off too well. Moses truly argued and talked back to God, even frustrating the Lord and enticing His anger. Moses could have been a little bit more humble, but he was brazen enough to argue with the Lord.  Nonetheless, Moses finally agreed, and he took his wife and his son and headed to Egypt to do what the Lord asked of him. But before Moses could reach Egypt, even for the first encounter, the Lord sought to kill him.

Why on earth would the Lord pick Moses and then seek to kill him before he even got to the first part of his destination? In reading Scripture, it is actually unclear as to whom the Lord wanted to kill. The Bible says, "him" but it could have been referring to his son Gershom, who had not been circumcised. The verses before this, the Lord talked about the nation of Israel being a covenant relationship as a first born son, with also Pharaoh having a first born son, who was eventually going to pay with his life. Gershom was Moses' first born son and Moses had not circumcised Gershom; Moses had not brought Gershom into the faith covenant with the family of the Lord by circumcising him. Moses' wife feared for the life of both Moses and Gershom, so she took it upon herself to circumcise her son. Moses was on the Lord's short list already and Gershom would not make it forward in Egypt unless he was part of the circumcision covenant.  It was not the mother's job to perform the circumcision either, it was the husband's job to bring the son to be circumcised. Moses was negligent in his responsibilities and jeopardized his own relationship with the Lord and possibly his own life and the life of his son. The one who was not circumcised was not part of the family of God, and Gershom was outside that family protection. 

Moses' wife was afraid and she had to help jump in to make up for Moses' shortcomings. It was not a blessing for her to have to circumcise her son, it was a bloody mess because the boy was older, past the correct age to circumcise him and likely Moses had to hold him down. His wife was not happy about having to get blood on her hands; she was not likely raised with these customs and was only coming into her own relationship with the Lord. Nonetheless, she did it and threw the bloody flesh at the feet of Moses because he was not man enough to step up and lead from the start. She called him a husband of blood because of this, not realizing how many first born sons were going to die in Egypt very soon. Just because the Lord sent Moses to bring judgement on Pharaoh and Egypt, did not exempt Moses from the judgement of his own actions or sins. 

The Lord wanted Moses to be in right standing before he went in to ministry in Egypt, and this required the fulfillment of the Lord's covenant relationship through being circumcised. Moses did not get a free pass on anything and the Lord held him accountable. But Moses' actions, or lack there of, inflicted pain on his wife and son. They were collateral damage to Moses not following the law. Your life and relationship with the Lord does not effect you alone; it impacts those around you. And if you are moving forward, stepping out in faith to what the Lord asks of you, make sure you have all your affairs in order. What pain are you bringing on your family today because of your unwillingness to do the right thing?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 17:14, Ex 4:14-26

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Changing Face

Changing Face
September 9, 2019
Exodus 3:6  ". . . Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God."

When Moses met the Lord at the burning bush, the Lord was relatively unknown to Moses. Moses did not have any ancient text to go by in learning about the Lord; the Bible had not been written yet. He grew up in Egypt, knowing he was a Hebrew, but he did not truly know or understand who the Lord was to him. The Lord was a God, obviously the One True God, but Moses had a very narrow understanding of Him. The Lord decided to appear to Moses, having picked him for the task of leading the people out of Egypt, but Moses was not necessarily wanting to be used by the Lord. In fact, Moses was ashamed of his actions and life, now living on the backside of a mountain, hiding from his past, and possibly hiding even from the Lord. But the Lord appeared to Moses through the burning bush and spoke to Moses directly. The Bible says that Moses hid his face because he was afraid.

Why was Moses afraid of the Lord? Certainly the Lord is to be feared but if the Lord appeared as a small fire, not the Lord's direct image, then why would Moses need to hide his face?  We can only speculate as to why Moses was afraid of the Lord, but likely he realized his humanity was unworthy of the Lord's presence. Moses was ashamed of something, possibly his own sin. Moses did not really know the Lord; he knew of Him but that knowledge was extremely superficial. He did not know if the Lord was coming to smite him or punish him or what. All Moses knew was that a God, an unknown force, was appearing to him in the most unnatural way. It was not a normal thing, a common thing, for the Lord to be appearing to him or to anyone.

Fast forward nearly 40 years and Moses eventually developed a deep relationship with the Lord, a relationship so unnatural that it changed the face of Moses. The Bible says that as Moses met with the Lord, that the face of Moses was changed; it radiated from the Lord's presence. At one time, Moses hid his face because he was afraid but as he developed a relationship with the Lord, he was no longer afraid but changed, reflected the presence of the Lord, even. It took years and years of establishing a deep relationship with the Lord, but through all of that Moses became confident in the Lord's presence, not afraid. Moses was still human, that part did not change, but what did change was his relationship with the Lord, through spending time with Him, with the God he once feared.

Moses become so comfortable with the Lord that he asked to see his face directly, no longer afraid of the Lord's power and might, fully confident that the Lord desired only good things for Moses. Moses wanted to go deeper in his relationship with the Lord, to see Him fully, nothing held back, no fear. How is your relationship with the Lord? If He appeared to you today, would you hide your face like Moses did initially, or would you ask to see all of Him? How deep is your confidence in the Lord and His presence? It took 40 years for Moses to grow confident in his relationship with the Lord; where are you on that continuum? What are you doing today to deepen that relationship? What does your face look like? Does it reflect the Lord; does it radiate from spending time with Him? Is your face changed or do you hide from Him even today. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ex 3:1-6, Ex 33:17-23, Ex 34:33-35

Sunday, August 25, 2019

If Commanded

If Commanded
August 26, 2019
Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

When Moses died, the Lord spoke to Joshua very clearly. It was made known before Moses died that Joshua would be leading the nation of Israel through to the Promised Land. The day came and it was time for Joshua to lead. The Lord encouraged him. He told him to be strong and full of courage. Why would the Lord encourage Joshua of those things? While Joshua was a strong and fearless leader, he certainly was tempted to shrink back, otherwise the Lord would not have had to encourage him. If Joshua was a robot, He would have programmed him to follow orders without fail. But Joshua was human and likely a huge target for a mental or emotional attack from the enemy. The Lord was the one could encouraged Joshua.

As the Lord was encouraging Joshua, He reminded him would was sending him. He reminded Joshua that the Lord, the God of Heaven, was the one sending him on the noble mission to lead the people through the promised land. The Lord reminded him because He wanted to emphasize the might and direction from the Lord if the Lord was requiring the task. The Lord told Joshua that He was going with him on the journey. The Lord promised He was leading and guiding every step of the way, that he should fear no man and no circumstance. If the Lord is the director, why would anyone question the safety or validity of the mission? Joshua had to rely on that as the days and weeks and months progressed. 

The Lord used a rhetorical question with Joshua; He said, "Have I not commanded you?" It was meant to remind Joshua that the Lord was the one requiring the mission, not a mission made up on Joshua's own terms. It was meant to remind Joshua who the real leader was and instill confidence in following the mandate from the Lord. Joshua had a mandate to lead, and do so with strength and courage because the Lord was in charge. You and I have mandates from the Lord but when the going gets tough we start to move forward in weakness and fear, which eventually leads to quitting. The Lord never intended us to live in weakness or fear, but always with strength and courage. We lack strength and courage sometimes because maybe the task we are in is not from the Lord or maybe we need reassured who was really in charge of the mission in the first place. Th Lord had to ask Joshua who had commanded the mission. Once Joshua could answer that with confidence, then he was able to lead with strength and courage.

How do you answer the question on a daily basis; who has commanded the task and path you are on today? If the Lord has planned the task and path that you are on, then move forward in strength and courage. If you made it up, making your own decisions in life and the path you are following, it makes sense to live in weakness and fear. If commanded, strength and courage are easy, and essential for succeeding. If you are not succeeding, maybe you were not commanded, OR maybe you need reminded to move forward in strength and courage because the Lord is with you.  

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Joshua 1:1-9

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Pray to Persevere

Pray to Persevere
August 19, 2019
1 Colossians 1:11  ". . .being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. . ."

Paul wrote to the Colossians regarding a prayer that he had for them and it was a model for us to pray for ourselves, over our own lives. The prayer was progressive in nature, each section of the prayer building upon the previous step rather than a laundry list. The first item of the prayer was needed for the next item of prayer, meaning once the Lord honored the first portion it was then time to move on toward the next portion. The successive items (order specific): filled with the knowledge of His will through the Spirit, bearing good works from the knowledge of that will, be strengthened to persevere in those good works, have patience and endurance to make it to the end, receiving an inheritance along with Christ when it is all said and done. 

If you work it backwards, you don't get the inheritance along with Christ if you weren't patient until the end. You cannot have patience through that unless you've persevered through the hard times of those good works. Your good works are nothing unless they are in direct obedience to the Lord's will not your own. You cannot know what God's will is until the Spirit has revealed it to you through His wisdom and knowledge. It is an admirable prayer and a building-block style prayer for your life. Most Christians, however fall short of that prayer to completion. Their either miss a step or two, or they stall on one of those steps too long. Some people become Christians, and never figure out what the Lord's will is for their lives. Either they never sought the wisdom and knowledge from the Lord or they didn't like where it would lead so they ignored it in its entirety. I know some Christians who are so paranoid in getting His will correct that they never step out and begin executing it, bearing that good fruit. Some people don't like where it will lead so they pretend they never heard the Lord and yet still profess Christianity.

Maybe you got the Lord's will right at the beginning and you're half way into it and its hard, possibly too hard. Maybe now it is time to persevere through that. Paul wrote to the Romans that they needed to pray in their perseverance, because when the going gets tough some want to quit. You cannot have the full inheritance if you've quit halfway through your life. You won't have the full character that Christ requires of you if you stop part way through it all. As humans, no one likes to persevere, because that means times are tough. It isn't perseverance to sit on a beach and stare at the ocean relaxing; that requires no effort. Persevere contains the root word severe, translated as really bad. Paul says that's the epitome of your Christianity, being in the midst of something severe and staying through it when its really bad.

Paul says you're making it as a Christian if you are in the midst of severe and you stay the course. Humans like to avoid the severe because its really bad. This was Paul's whole point, you don't get to avoid the really tough part and fully accomplish the Lord's will for your life. The Lord's will for your life isn't really bad, just that portions of it will feel extreme at times.  Jesus said if we follow Him then we WILL share in His sufferings, that's part of the deal. If you get out of it when it's severe, what does that say about your character? Unfortunately, the only way to fully execute the Lord's will for your life is sticking it out when it's tough. I pray you can persevere, in the midst of the really bad is when you must pray the hardest, not to get rid of the really bad but so you can make it through it all.  The finale to Paul's prayer is gratitude for making it through. We're get there if we persevere.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 5:3-5  1 Col 1-12 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ready While Asleep

Ready While Asleep
August 12, 2019
Revelation 3:3  "If you refuse to wake up, then I will come to you like a thief, and you will have no idea of the hour of my coming."

Jesus told a parable about virgins, ready and waiting for their groom. Some of those fell asleep, when the groom did not arrive when they were hoping. The virgins were tired and fell asleep, some not keeping their candles burning and missed the opportunity they were waiting for their whole lives.  This parable was speaking to those in the church, who were waiting for the Lord's return. Notice in the parable, they were virgins, saving themselves for the wedding. But they fell asleep, having grown tired of waiting. Then the sun went down, they grew sleepy and succumbed to the slumber, as the temptation to sleep was too strong.

This parable is reinforced in the book of Revelation, where Jesus writes a letter to several churches. One of those churches, in Sardis, had a reputation for being alive but had fallen asleep. Jesus said to wake up, which means to repent, otherwise they would miss the opportunity to be taken to Heaven when Christ comes back again. The threat was, and is, wake up and repent or be damned to hell. Like the parable of the virgins, who had waited their whole lives, the opportunity to met Jesus in Heaven can be lost if we are not ready for it. Obviously, the analogy of falling asleep is something we are familiar with; you cannot be ready to go while you are also asleep. In keeping with the analogy in both Matthew and Revelation, falling asleep means falling into sin, otherwise repentance would not have written to and required of Sardis. They were a church that had a reputation for being alive (waiting for the groom as a virgin), but had stopped waiting with excitement for the Lord's return. They weren't living like they should be living and Jesus said they would miss the opportunity that they had waited for their whole lives.

The original disciples were waiting for the Lord's return during their lifetime, fully believing that He would be returning before they died an earthly death. Obviously, 2,000 years later, that has not happened yet, but some of us put it off like it won't happen for another 2,000 years. The disciples eagerly awaited the Lord's return, consequently they did not fall asleep; they kept the faith. We get accustomed to each new day, without the Lord's return, then become complacent. The Bible clearly wants to motivate us in believing He is going to return in our lifetime, any moment. This was, and is, how the Lord intended us to live, even if His return is a few years off still. The only way to be found ready upon His return, is to wait in anticipation, with eagerness, believing it will happen any day now. Otherwise, it is easy to fall asleep. You cannot be ready while you are asleep. Remember, falling asleep is akin to falling into sin. If you are asleep, then you are not ready.

Are you ready for the Lord to comeback today? This question does not ask if you are tired of the earth and want something different, but are you truly ready to meet your maker? Are you ready for Him to show up tonight? When He shows up tonight, what sin is He going to catch you doing? If you are in sin, then you're not really ready. It is a tough journey, to stay watching and waiting all through the night, alert for His return. You cannot have it both ways, being asleep and ready at the same time. You're either ready or you are not; you are either in sin or not.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 25:13, Revelation 3:1-6

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Cannot Run

Cannot Run
August 5, 2019
Romans 11:29  ". . .for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."

The story of  Jonah was, and is, one of the most famous stories in the Bible. While it was not a story, as Jesus believed the recount of the fish tale to be true, there is more to be gleaned than most people realize. Recall that the Lord equipped Jonah to be an evangelist and told Jonah to preach salvation to Nineveh.  Jonah refused, flat out denied the Lord's request and ran the opposite direction. He ended up on a boat toward anywhere but Nineveh and the cargo ship he was on encountered a storm. The storm appeared out of nowhere and was so severe the crew on the shipped realized they may not make it. The crew started to throw all their precious cargo overboard, their livelihood in jeopardy if it did not get it delivered. But Jonah knew; he knew the Lord was chasing him. 

That night on the waters, before Jonah ended up in the belly of the fish, he put the lives and livelihood of those men on the boat in danger. Those men ended up losing their cargo intended for delivery and it was Jonah's fault. But the storm got worse and the men did not know what to do. Jonah knew his disobedience was causing the storm, the storm that put his life in danger and those around him. Jonah understood he was bringing the danger to all the men and the ship. He knew that if he stayed on that boat, that all would be lost. He could have been a hero and jumped overboard to save the lives of those on the boat, but he was a coward. He ran from the Lord and endangered all those he encountered. He could have jumped overboard to save the men and the boat, sacrificing himself, to spare those around him from suffering but he was too selfish. Even easier than that, he could have repented right there on that boat and I suspect the Lord would have calmed the storm. The Lord caused the storm on those waters to get Jonah's attention, but Jonah still tried to run from it. 

The men finally threw him overboard and the fish swallowed him up. Jonah was alive in the belly of the fish, realizing he was being digested alive, likely gasping for air at times. Jonah could have repented that moment, upon realizing he was being eaten alive, but he did not. Jonah had to rot in the belly of that fish for three days before he would repent from his disobedience and agree to follow the Lord's direction and request for his life. Jonah realized he could not run from the Lord and if he tried, the Lord was intent on chasing after him. The Lord's call on Jonah's life could not even be stopped by attempted suicide from the boat's deck. Jonah was content to be eaten alive, death was preferred from repentance or obedience. 

But the Lord did not allow Jonah's attempt at death or the disobedience. The Lord was patient with Jonah in the belly of the fish, sustaining Jonah even though Jonah preferred to end it all, similar to Judas after betraying Jesus. Jonah could not shake the Lord's call, it was irrevocable. Your calling, too, is irrevocable. You cannot out run or out last the Lord. He is patient and willing to chase you to the ends of the earth until you are willing to submit. Jonah could have submitted upon being swallowed by the fish, but it took three days for him to finally come around. Jonah could have even repented on the deck of the boat instead of forcing the men to  throw him overboard. The men on the boat lost their payload in the cargo that was thrown overboard; Jonah's disobedience cost those men a lot of money. Your disobedience does not only impact your life, but the lives of those around you. If there is something you know you are supposed to do for the Lord, it is wise to do it right away.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Jonah 1

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Allowances Made

Allowances Made
July 29, 2019
Colossians 3:13  "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Paul was writing to the new churches, one specially to the Colossians. He was encouraging them in how they should be living their lives as transformed and empowered Christians. His list was not a set of commandments, rather a list or encouragements that radically challenged their current lifestyle. Their original lifestyle, similar to many today, was internally focused. He challenged them to not only focus on Christ but to focus on others. He said they (we) are to bear with each other and forgive each other. This is not a new topic for those who have been a Christian any length of time. We are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. But the first part of Paul's statement was to bear with each other. 

The word used to describe bearing with someone else is only found in another instance in Scripture and the meaning connotes making an allowance for someone else. This allowance is knowingly working with a persons weaknesses and personality faults and making a way for them in your relationship with them. Paul was not suggesting we should put up with someone's abuse but he was saying that people are not going to be perfect and you get to put up with all their personality flaws. We tend to view people with personal weaknesses and personality flaws and then judge their Christianity. If they were a perfect Christian, then they would be overcoming those completely obvious personality flaws. Unfortunately, there is not perfect Christian, and the Lord works on people at a different pace than your or me, sometimes. 

Paul said we are to make room for people's quirks and idiosyncrasies and known weaknesses, because sometimes those weaknesses may never change. Some weaknesses a person has can never be fixed. If someone is not creative or imaginative, and lives in concrete mental boxes sometimes, judging them for not thinking outside the box is not a fair trial. Some people are good at relationships and others are good at math. There is no optimum blend of skill sets and strengths. It would be a flawed request to ask a mathematician to work as a relationship counselor, that is not how the Lord makes people. But the Lord gifted the mathematician just as much as He gifted the elementary school teacher. There is room for both, including all the styles of personalities out there. Paul said we are to make room for the way people are, extra room for grace in working with them because they are not perfect. You are not perfect either, far from it; and people make allowances for you quite often. We tend to think we are the only one giving in a relationship or putting up with another's flaws and weaknesses. The Lord said to get along and pad the room for someone's known shortcomings.

Paul did not say to put up with blatant sin, but he did say to work with someone in spite of their weaknesses. No one is perfect. Jesus, even though He was perfect, did have an unique personality style that may not have meshed with everyone perfectly. His style may not have been easy to digest initially, and working with Jesus was not always easy. People bring their own insecurities and style to the table, and maybe it isn't the other person that needs the allowances. Make allowances for others, so  you can get along with them. Pad the clock to work with their schedule. Pad the grace bank to work with their personality. Pad the level of forgiveness to compensate for their little slip ups. People have to do this for you more often than you realize. Allowances have been made, do likewise.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 103:12, Eph 4:2 & 32, Col 3:13-23

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Remember Me

Remember Me
July 8, 2019
Psalm 106:4  "Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them."

The Lord knows when a sparrow falls from the sky. That is a familiar phrase from Scripture. It was actually Jesus speaking, and comparing our worth as humans to that of a small sparrow. A small sparrow is insignificant, not able to be counted in a flock of birds. You've seen thousands of small birds in the sky, in a giant swarm, almost appearing as a swarm of bees. If one of those small birds is taken out of the count, would you even notice? Jesus said the Lord would notice and in fact if the Lord desires that specific sparrow to stay in the flock, it could not fall. If a sparrow does fall out of that flock of birds, the Lord is more than aware, involved even. Jesus said we are far more valuable than those teeny birds, to the Lord, and He knows about everything that goes on. Not only is the Lord aware of us, but we are valuable to Him.

The Lord knows all, sees all, certainly you. Do you ever think that the Lord has forgotten you? In readying the psalms, the writers are often deeply vulnerable, exposing their feelings and the fullest raw portions of their humanity. In Psalm 106, David was confessing on behalf of the entire nation of Israelites. He asked the Lord to remember them. Specifically, he was repenting of the nation's sins and begging the Lord to remember them when it was time to save everyone. Fast forward to the death of Jesus on the cross, the moment of salvation and there was a sinner on a cross next to Him. The sinner acknowledged and confessed his sin, then asked Jesus to remember him when it was time to save. Neither men, David or the sinner on the cross, needed to use the phrase, "remember me." How could the Lord forget? Both of those men, and all the Children of Israel, were valuable to Him.

When you and I have items of value, we do not forget them. Parents understand this well, a child is not easily forgotten. When I prepare a meal for my children, the middle child does not have to say, "remember me" as I'm setting enough plates for the family or in making sure there is enough food. How could I forget my own son? If I love my son, and he is valuable to me, forgetting is not something I could do. Similarly, the Lord remembers you at all times. But like the psalmist, sometimes we think the Lord has forgotten us. If we fear the Lord has forgotten us, then we have devalued ourselves, perceiving ourselves unworthy of His love. As humans, it is difficult to understand the love of the Father, since we can only love as humans love. But He loves us with a supernatural love that we cannot understand. He does not approve of our sin, but He loves us nonetheless, not able to forget us. Maybe judging by your own sin, you think that has now made you unlovable and must beg the Lord to remember you once again.  He loves you, knowing your sin, and has not forgotten you.  

If you think the Lord no longer remembers you, the correct prayer is not to beg the Lord to remember you, rather remind you of His love for you. The Lord neither forgets us or stops loving us, we simply lose sight of how much He loves us. If you think the Lord has forgotten you, ask Him to remind you how much He loves you. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 138:1-18, Ps 139:2, Job 23:8, Matt 10:29-31, Lk 23:42