Be Light

August 14, 2018

Mark 11:17… And He was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.’”

            “A house of prayer for all nations.” Does that mean we should pray for all nations or that all nations should pray? A den of robbers will be of no value to the nations of the world. A house of prayer will be a light in the midst of darkness. Do you pray for the nations of the world? Why, or why not?

            We have some friends, from our previous life in Oregon, a young couple with 4 kids, who intend to go to a foreign country to shine light in that country. When they pray for that country, it is passionate; they have skin in the game. Often our prayers are vain repetitions of the last time we prayed.   

Matthew 6:7…  And when you pray do not heap up empty phrases, as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

            I have always thought that this was instruction about a prayer, and it may be, but this morning, I am wondering if it is not about a life of prayer. We say the same thing over and over in hopes that we will finally get an answer or that God will be pleased with the words that we put together. This reminds me of my mom. She sat at her kitchen table and prayed for us kids every day. How can a person pray for someone every day and not get into vain repetitions? That can happen only if the pray-er is compassionate toward, and hopeful about, the person for which they are praying.

            I know some people who pray for a foreign country because their child just moved there, or their military friend was just stationed there. Prayers are more real when people are involved. Find opportunity in those times. God knows people in every country and is totally concerned about their welfare. When you pray, that is how you relate to God’s heart; have skin in the game. I am appalled at the state of current events in our country. Our current president is being maligned by the media and certain people. I am not saying anything about our president’s actions; some may not be very good; who knows? But, we can, and should, pray for him.   

Possessions

August 13, 2018

Mark 10:17-22… And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing… Go sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, the man went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

            So I asked God, “Why this story today? It is about rich people and I am not that.” He ’spoke’ to me. “It is about more than riches.”

            First of all, the man was deliberate in how he approached Jesus. He ran up to Him and knelt before Him. When a man kneels before another, he is saying, “You are more important than me.” or even, “You are lord, I am servant.” He showed honor with his body language. And then he addressed him, “Good teacher…” That seems kind enough, right? Jesus rebuked him. “NO one is good except God alone.” Perhaps that was his way of saying, “Flattery will get you nowhere.” The warning is that our words must reflect our thoughts. Jesus already knew how this conversation would end. God said of the Pharisees, “You honor me with your lips but your hearts are far from me. So, your worship is in vain.” Make sure your words speak what is in your heart and not what other people will be impressed by. It is better to hold your tongue and face God honestly than to flatter with your lips. A note about true worship: It is an expression of who you are, welling up inside of you and bursting forth in love for God. It is so much more than you singing your favorite song.

            Verse 21… “Jesus looked at him and loved him…” I studied this years ago and I think Mark is the only writer who included the phrase, “and loved him.” It might seem redundant to include the fact that Jesus loved him. That might even be why Matthew and Luke did not include it with their versions of this event. ‘Of course Jesus loved him, He loved everyone.” For whatever reason, Mark included it, and it gives us another lesson. “Love” doesn’t mean, “Make the other person feel good.” Jesus loved him and challenged him. I wonder what the other disciples thought. “Jesus, we could use a rich disciple.” Or “Did you not hear him? He is a good man.” Jesus, who looked into the heart, already threw out the superlative word, “good.”

            Lastly, Jesus did not instruct him to give all his money away. He did instruct him to sell all that he had, and he had much. And then He told him to give to the poor. Perhaps, Jesus was dealing with an attitude… the man loved his stuff…   giving to the poor was not about an amount; it was about his attitude regarding his stuff. In the end, the man could not imagine being without his stuff. Ouch, lord, that hurts.

             

Avoid a Rebuke

August 12, 2018

Mark 8:33… But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

            This is a most interesting rebuke of Peter. Peter had spoken up against the activities that Jesus had just described for them where Jesus was going to be killed by the religious leaders of the day. Peter expressed his displeasure and possibly his actions to prevent what Jesus described. At this point in time, Jesus was Peter’s hero. Surely, after all the good He had done, He was not going to be crucified.  I can imagine feeling just like Peter. In fact, how could I feel anything else? Today’s rebuke is aimed at me as well as Peter. In context, perhaps I am setting my mind on the things of man rather than on the things of God. I have an advantage over Peter; I know about the crucifixion and the place it holds in the history of mankind. At the time of his rebuke, Peter did not know the full story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He knew Jesus in His pre-crucifixion state, and he liked Him. I suspect that is one of humanity’s first mistakes regarding Jesus… liking and wanting the pre-crucified Jesus. According to the paintings, He had long soft hair and gentle eyes. And He carried lambs and held little children in his arms. It is human to want to preserve that image of Jesus. But, the apostle, John, on the island of Patmos, had a vision which he wrote down for us in the letter known as the Revelation. The vision included Jesus, whom John didn’t even recognize.(Revelation 1:12-17) Does that not surprise you? John had been with Jesus right up until His death and saw Him after His resurrection. But, when he sees Him in heaven, he doesn’t know who He is. The things of God are not the same as the things of man.

            Be cautious when your prayer includes words like, “Here is what I would like, Jesus; can you make that happen?” Peter wanted things to continue as they were, with a possible twist which gave Jesus ruling power over His enemies. Jesus rebuked him. You don’t want a rebuke from Jesus when you pray. You want an answer… a blessing.  Jesus is no longer the guy with long soft hair and gentle eyes; He is the King of all things and all people. He is our king.  

Unmerited Favor

August 11, 2018

Mark 7:28-29… A non-Jew lady asked Jesus to help her; her daughter was demon possessed. He told her that the Jews should receive the gifts first; to which she replied that even the dogs under the table received the crumbs from the meal.(verses 26-28)

Verse 28… “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Verse 29… And He said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.

            “For this statement…”  Jesus had just taught the people that what comes out of the mouth defiles a person. In our relationship with God, it is not just what we think that matters. Yes, that is important, because from what we think, we speak. Some people hide behind what we call “good intentions.” Having good intentions is an excuse for not saying what we ought. Jesus might look at you and ask, “What did you just say?” Don’t lie to Him in that moment, by saying, “What I meant was…” Most likely, you meant what you said.

            The woman in the story did not tell about any of her qualifications. She didn’t mention how many pies she had made for visiting ministries or how often she had helped the poor. She very willingly let herself be compared to a dog, and used that analogy.

            Do you think you can persuade God to help you? Which of your actions do you think qualifies you for His intervention in your life? Avoid that thinking. It is evil. Our actions only qualify us for God’s anger. His love is unmerited. When we think as if we are entitled, we say, not always vocally, “Thanks for salvation but what I really want is more money.” You would never pray that, right? We don’t want God to know, that is how we really feel. In our story, this Syrophoenician woman did not try to impress Jesus with her accomplishments or her intentions.

In fact, she admitted her unworthiness and trusted entirely in His love and compassion. Jesus’ response was epic, “For this statement, you have received your request.”

            Don’t try to impress God. Be impressed by Him.

He Is Alive

August 10, 2018

Mark 6:4&5&6… And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no mighty work there except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.

            Is this still true? I have been involved in many discussions about the lack of miracles in the church today. The quick answer, “Not enough faith” does not satisfy my longing. This verse is intriguing, because it explains a phenomenon that happened to Jesus. It is not a parable needing a revelation; it is an actual event.

            With my natural ears, I hear the problem clearly. Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth. He was the son of Mary and, presumably, Joseph. He had brothers and sisters. As a boy, he had likely roamed the streets and attended school. For sure, He worked in his father’s cabinet shop and was known as a young carpenter, following in his dad’s footsteps. When, as a man, he walked into town and claimed to be the son of God, they assumed him mad or delusional. They had difficulty believing His claims to power and greatness.

Jesus called it unbelief.

            This is no small matter. “Unbelief” is a major deterrent to the moving of God in the midst of life.

            Some churches know Jesus only as the Savior who died over 2000 years ago so we could be saved. They believe in an ancient Jesus. The truth is, though, we need to also believe in a current Jesus… the still-living prophet. One of the tests of a cult or false belief is, “Who is Jesus to you?” Based on today’s scripture, that question is more important than we ever thought. It not only determines whether a person is believing a false teaching, it also reveals when a person is believing less than the whole truth. Many so-called Christians fall into that category.

            The whole truth of salvation is that Jesus died for our sins and also rose from the grave and lives forever. If you are following the ancient Jesus and trying to emulate His actions while on earth, you are missing the whole Truth.

Trust in the Lord

August 9, 2018

Mark 4:38… But, He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Verse 39… And he woke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

Verse 40… He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

            Have you experienced a time when you were sure you were being obedient to God, but things went wrong? 34 years ago, I moved from Spokane, Washington, to Eugene, Oregon. I knew that God had ordained the move and I lived with that confidence. Imagine my surprise when the rentals I owned in Spokane and the new house I had just built didn’t sell easily. We struggled financially for a number of years while things got sorted out. Eventually, it was all just a memory and everything was fine, but for the first year it seemed like the story I wrote at the top of this page. Jesus told the disciples, “Let’s go to the other side of this lake.” He got in the boat and they got in with Him. They navigated the boat to the other side of the lake. They were obedient. But, a storm came up. They woke Him and notice what He said to them, “Are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” In His challenge, Jesus contrasted faith and fear.

            Just because you are obedient does not automatically assure you are changed into some faith-filled powerhouse. There are many layers to our relationship with Jesus. Once again, I am sensing an exhortation to trust Him. That message has been enumerated  so many times lately. What I am noticing is that He will settle for nothing short of complete trust. I tend to want to point back at something I did right and hope He will now bless me. He says, in essence, “Yeah, you were an obedient servant that day, but this is a new day… are you still an obedient servant or are you now an entitled employee. It seems that the mistake of the disciples was that they were afraid. They feared the weather and did not trust the power of God. Have you ever experienced fear regarding a situation? What are you afraid of? Usually, we fear an uncomfortable outcome. The disciples feared death.  That is a common fear of worldlings. Even in obedience we must learn to trust Him… always.   

The Kingdom of God

August 8, 2018

Mark 4:30-32… And He said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

            Jesus notes that this is what the kingdom of God is like. It begins like a mustard seed… small and unassuming. I have not compared the size of a mustard seed with other seeds but I assume it is quite small. This parable compares to a prophecy in Daniel. The king of Babylon had a dream/vision and Daniel interpreted it for him.

Daniel 2:45… Just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold.

Verse 44… And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all the kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.   

            You might be asking, ”Why did Jim put verse 45 ahead of verse 44?”  I started with verse 45 because it was like the parable in Mark, but then I realized that verse 44 gave clarity to the prophecy so I added it next.  There is no theological or spiritual reason. The dream that the king had showed a great image… statue of sorts, that was made up of all the stuff mentioned… clay, bronze, iron, silver and gold. Those things, by interpretation of Daniel, represented kings and worldly kingdoms. Then, a stone was formed without hands on a mountain and rolled into the image, destroying it. The stone then grew and filled the whole earth.

            Jesus was the stone, formed without hands that destroyed the kingdoms of this world and grew to fill the earth. He came as a baby, tiny and, in the minds of people, too small. But He was buried as was the mustard seed when He died, and from that beginning, Christianity has grown and filled the earth.  

Call on God

August 7, 2018

Jeremiah 33:3… Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

            My friend, Bill, has been challenging me, saying, “Why do you only write from the New Testament?” I put that in my thinker and decided that I write from the New Testament because it speaks to me more readily. But today, when I started reading, I made it a priority to find something in the Old Testament. Today’s reading was: Judges 17, Psalms 5, Jeremiah 33, and Mark 2&3. I was a bit stumped, and was about to write from Mark, when my wife interrupted my thoughts and mentioned the verse above. I prayed about it and decided it fit today’s thoughts and perhaps will speak to you as well.

            The verse above, was spoken to Jeremiah, seemingly to get his attention and keep him on track with his prophesying. But it is elsewhere in the Bible too:

Psalms 91:15… When he calls to me I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

            Who is “him” in this verse?

Psalms 91: 1,2… He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

            Yesterday, some dear friends of ours faced a dilemma over which they had no power. But, they would be severely affected by the outcome of the dilemma. They called and asked if they could gather with us and some prayer people to talk to God about their situation. We agreed, and last night we were in a circle praying with some people. Today’s verse fits that event perfectly.

            There were so many things we didn’t know about the situation. So, we called on God, who knows all things, and we went to bed later, trusting Him to take care of the things we didn’t even know about. That is a description of “trust” that we can hold on to. “Who ya gonna call?” When doubt begins to clutter your mind, call on God, who is never confused and never doubts. Live in relationship with Him. He is not just “somewhere out there”… He lives in our hearts in the person of the Holy Spirit. Know Him. Dwell in His shelter.    

History

August 6, 2018

Mark 1:30-31… Now Simon’s mother in law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told Him about her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

            One thing I notice when reading the gospel of Mark is his frequent use of the word “Immediately.” Apparently, in the mind of Mark, things with Jesus happened quickly.

            A little history lesson: The gospel of mark is considered by most historians to be the first gospel record written. That means that Matthew, Luke, and John had Mark to refer to when they wrote their accounts. When you do a complete study of the gospels, you will notice that each account is different from the others. In most cases the differences are slight, but one wonders why would they not be identical? They were written by humans inspired by the Holy Spirit. No 2 humans will see an event the same way. To establish facts, one must hear from 2 or 3 witnesses. 1 witness is not enough to convict someone. When Jesus was on trial, the prosecution listened to the testimony of one liar and then sought others who would collaborate his story.

            According to most historians, Mark is none other than John Mark who appears other places. (See Acts 15:36) Since Mark was not a disciple, he learned of Jesus from others. He spent quite a bit of time with Peter… enough, that some theologians think this should have been called the gospel according to Peter. In any event, this gospel shows the overarching power of Jesus on the earth.

            We must appreciate the sameness and quit arguing the differences. That is true of our study of the gospels and true also in our relationships with people.  

Only 2 of the gospels were written by disciples… Matthew and John. If you read those two letters back to back, you will noticed that they are about as different as any two testimonies can be. But you will also notice that their evaluation of Jesus is harmonious with all that we know about him. The gospels are first and foremost about Jesus. What different people saw in Him varied but He did not.

            After Jesus healed her, she began to serve them. That was her response.

He Equips

August 5, 2018

Hebrews 13:20-21… Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, forever and ever. Amen.

            “Equip you with everything good that you may do His will” I have read this letter hundreds of times but that phrase did not stand out to me before today. That I one reason we ought to read daily. When God speaks something to our hearts, He may teach it from multiple sources and the Bible may say it in a number of different ways. That is what happened to me with this phrase today.

We don’t have, within ourselves, what it takes to do God’s will. But God graciously gives it to us. He knows my every weakness. But, His arm is not shortened by me. He still equips me with every good thing that I need to do His will. That presents me with a dilemma. Why do I sometimes fail to do His will?

Here is the background as to why this phrase is powerful to me this morning:

            Karla and I have been preparing for a gospel sing-along that we intend to lead on the 19th of this month. It has been suggested that we do a lot of hymns because people are familiar with them.  So, we have been digging through old songs that we know, asking God to guide us. One, that I have always loved, is, “Just a closer walk with Thee”

            The 2nd line of the chorus is, “Grant it Jesus is my plea” As I was pondering that I thought, “Is that really Jesus’ responsibility?” I have been of the opinion that my walk with Jesus is my responsibility. Then, I remembered that the writer of that hymn, Fanny Crosby, was blind. She couldn’t even see if she was walking close to Jesus. She asked Him to help her… to do it for her. I read more old songs and discovered that the prevailing theme was that God was able, we are not. That has been my ponder of late; and then I read the verse this morning and thought, “Is God trying to tell me something?” Am I putting the weight of doing good on my own shoulders? If I do anything good, it is because God equips me for it. God is mighty, and He is capable, and He gives.    

Contentment

August 4, 2018

Hebrews 13:5… Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

            The writer contrasts love of money with contentment.  ‘Contentment’ is a desired state of mind. Lack of contentment gives reason to love of money. It is one thing to be free from the love of money. You can possibly discipline yourself toward that end; but contentment is a state of mind that comes from trusting God.  

            Lack of contentment is, quite simply, lack of trust. Do you trust God to take care of you? Do you trust Jesus to make sure it happens? Jesus said it. We get to believe it. If we believe in Jesus, we believe He will do what He said. Ouch, jim, that’s harsh. Possibly… but that is the essence of faith. One cannot say, “I believe in Jesus” and not do what He said. In that case the statement of belief is a lie.  Trusting money to help you is admitting your Christian testimony is a sham. Wow, Jim, you are mean today. We tend to seek a balance. The balance between God and money is all or nothing. Jesus said, “You will hate one and love the other or you will despise the one and cling to the other.” I most definitely don’t hate God so I guess I hate money. But my actions don’t support that statement. So, I am in a quandary. I need money to exist on this planet but I am not to love it. I find it easier to substitute the word “trust” for “love”. I have a necessary relationship with money but I don’t trust it to take care of all my needs. At least, I try not to. This is hard… money offers immediate gratification. God offers eternal reward. In a hard time, immediate gratification is desirable. Another mindset that I find useful is the consideration that if I need money, God will provide it. Trust God to provide for your immediate needs and to also take care of your eternity. I try to do that, but my immediate stuff is screaming at me while my eternity just hangs out. Think about immediate. Is it not all related to the body? Your body is a tent, soon to return to dust from which it came. Your soul is eternal. This is ultimately about contentment. Are you content with the knowledge that God cares for your soul? Or are you perturbed by a certain lack in the care of your immediate? Seek contentment.      

Discipline is Good

August 3, 2018

Hebrews 12:7… It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

            This is a brief explanation for our need of endurance. Not all trials and tribulations are from the devil. Sometimes, God is disciplining us and it doesn’t feel much different. The question is, when do we resist and when do we endure? We always endure. “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek.”  We don’t choose which tribulation is discipline and which is a  satanic attack. God can, and will, use all things for your benefit.

            Here is a problem I hear rather often. Everything from God feels good and everything not from God doesn’t. What Jesus experienced on the cross did not feel good, but it was ordained by God. We walk by faith. That does not mean we walk on a soft path with no bad days. Faith is the key to endurance. Endurance is necessary when something doesn’t feel good.

            Abraham, the father of the faithful, endured contrary thoughts and feelings when he took Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him to God. Only because his faith was strong could he obey that command. If he trusted logic and feelings, he couldn’t do it. He trusted God more. God rewarded him by not making him finish the sacrifice. Instead, He offered a ram to sacrifice, which Abraham gladly did. God was foretelling the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, the lamb of God. Abraham was rewarded for his trust. Do you trust God, even when logic and feelings don’t agree with you?

            Not everything from God feels good or right. Discipline does not feel good or right. However, we are equally wrong when we try to figure out why He is disciplining us. Our intention in that scenario is to stop doing whatever it is that is requiring discipline. Remember Abraham. What action of his was God disciplining him for? God disciplined him to strengthen and encourage his faith. It does not seem to have been for a specific shortcoming. When you sin, you have the reward of death… Death is guilt and pain, alive in you. When you feel guilt, you are likely guilty. Stop doing whatever it is that makes you guilty. God doesn’t discipline you for sin, but to adjust your heart.        

Live by faith

August 2, 2018

Hebrews 11:7… By faith, Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark, for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

            Sometime our acts of faith are evident to all around us. When we live by faith we live with the belief that God exists and He will do all that he has said. You might appear foolish to a non-faith person. Such was the case for Noah. He built a huge boat in a field, not near water and with no way to get it to water. And, why so big? God intended for him to provide safety for every animal species that was on the face of the earth. Don’t make too much out of this. It does not indicate that God loves animals the most. The writer of this letter, echoing the sentiments of people and the evidence of history, said  that Noah built the arc for the saving of his household. Humans are God’s first priority. But, he shows his love for animals in that he asked humans to save them from the coming doom. We are caretakers on this planet of all that God created. I am on a limb here, expressing feelings and not necessarily God’s. We are to care for all creation. I laugh at the warnings of ‘global warming ‘ proponents because the globe has warmed and cooled randomly through the years, so why do we now think that we are totally responsible? Being a caretaker is not the same as jumping on every bandwagon that whistle blowers send out. If styrophoam is really a weather changer, why is there still so much of it?

            We are currently reading about great fires in Northern California. Thousand of men and women are fighting them, trying to save houses and lives.

I lived in Montana for several years. There was a huge burned area visible from the  road to our house. The old timers that I knew had a theory about that fire. They said it was a God fire that burned where men had made it difficult to fight. It started with a lightning strike and ended with a rainfall. It was in a wilderness area where men’s rules did not allow roads or power equipment, so no logging. Fire fighters could not even get to the fire in many places. Now, I am not promoting logging; I am just stating facts. Care wisely for God’s creation.         

Endure and Receive

August 1, 2018

Hebrews 10:36… For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised.

            Thank a lot, Bible. First you tell me I have to obey and then, after doing what you asked, I have to endure. Shouldn’t obedience be immediately rewarded? Shouldn’t all discomfort and pain be taken away? Instead, we learn here that difficulties may persist. We have need of endurance. Sometimes we want obedience to feed our pride. “If is do this, then God will use me.”

            Over the last 5 years of my life, I have been acutely aware of the ageing process. Aging, for me, has not been a reward for a life well lived. In fact, it has been a reminder of possible mistakes made. “Retirement” has been a stage in life, greatly desired, but not greatly enjoyed. With age has come new struggles and new obstacles. One of those struggles is accepting the fact that I am not young anymore… I can’t do all that I used to do. I can fight that, living in the past, or I must accept it and find my new role in life. So much endurance... Will it ever end? Yes, it will. In the arms of Jesus, my salvation is complete and I struggle no more. Now, if I could just remember where I put His arms. Fortunately, it is not up to me; it is up to Him. “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” Jesus is alive. He is not a picture on the wall, or a statue on  shelf, or a Bible on a table, or the presence in a particular room; He is God, He rose from the dead and He lives, today.

            Sometimes, to get to the dawn of the next day, I must endure the night. That is not always comfortable. But, the nature of endurance is that we don’t like what we are going through. You don’t need endurance to make it through a bowl of ice cream. That triggers another thought. I assumed being ‘careful what you eat’ would be over at some point. Not! With a decrease in activity came an increase in girth. With an increase in girth comes a decrease in favorite foods. Why are favorite foods always, it seems, bad for me. That seems like a worthwhile reward… “You can eat anything you want.” There is no way around today’s verse. We do have need of endurance. Life continues to be challenging.

Don’t complain… endure!     

Our mediator

July 31, 2018

Hebrews 9:24… For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

            We live in a quandary. We are told that we have all sinned but we are all forgiven; the sin is no longer counted against us.  But, then we are told to go and sin no more. So, we attempt to not sin, and when we are successful, we don’t seek forgiveness. But, without forgiveness there is no remission for sins.

So, which is it? Do we sin so that grace will abound or do we not sin so that we will be obedient?

Romans 6:1-2… What shall we say then, Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means. How can we who died to sin still live in it?

            Paul goes on to explain that we are baptized into Jesus’ death, and when something is dead, it can no longer sin. But, the ongoing work of Jesus is that we are raised in newness of life because of His resurrection. There is no resurrection possible if there is not first a death. Conversely, death is final with no resurrection. When Jesus died on the cross, He took the penalty for our sin. When he rose from the grave, He showed His power to beat the evils of this world. If you have gone through the experience of salvation, including baptism, you are now alive in Him. Paul said it like this:

 Galatians 2;20… I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.

            When Jesus rose from the grave, He was not putting on a show; He was giving new life to us. God’s love is so great, He could not just give us an example and tell us to imitate it; He also made a way for us. Abundant life is God’s goal for us. We will have abundant life in heaven, but God has given it to us on earth. On our way to heaven, we can live like we are there. That is what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Your life is no longer about sinning or not sinning; your life is about abundance in Christ.  Jesus is in heaven appealing to God on our behalf. He died, not for Himself, but for you and me.

Forgive

July 30, 2018

Hebrews 8:12… For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.

            Does this mean that God has no memory? No, but it tells us that memory is intentional. Many things may flash in your mind, but only those that you choose to dwell on will stay. Our memory has like  a remote. As we scroll down, a vision or a smell or a sound may tempt us to stay at a certain memory. God chooses to purposefully not dwell on the bad things we have done. That is the way we ought to love the people around us. That is the way we want to be loved.

            I have done wrong things. I have done stupid things. My closest friends are those who choose to not dwell on those things. Who want to hang out with people who dwell on our mistakes? You will not want to be round someone whom you have not forgiven. Oh great, that word again… “forgiven” “forgive” “forgiveness” . You might say, “I have forgiven my dad for what he did.” That is great, but have you forgiven your boss, or your spouse, or your sibling, or your child? “Forgiving” is a way of life for us. We cannot claim it unless we live it. And living it is the way to get the full benefit. Just because you forgave someone, back when that pastor made a big deal about it, does not indicate that forgiveness is alive in you. God made the statement at the top of this page. Today, for the first time, I see part 2 as an extension of part 1. “I will be merciful toward your iniquities; I will remember your sins no more.” Are you merciful to other people? Do not remember how they have wronged you. “Forget about it.”

            I love it when I can’t even remember why I was mad at somebody. The emotion of the activity is gone. We are both set free. A way to look at it is: “Forgive as you want to be forgiven.” (see Matthew 6:15&16) Ahhh, we love to be forgiven. How many of you wish a certain debt was forgiven? God said, “You have sinned; payment is due.” Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.” We live with the love of God expressed in forgiveness. Pass it on. Are you working at being light in a corner? Forgive someone. This is more difficult, but more necessary, as you draw near to God.    

The New Covenant

July 29, 2018

Hebrews 8:10… For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days declares the lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

            The writer to the Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah and Isaiah in this chapter. (see Jeremiah 31:33) The end product of both covenants was the same… God wanted people He could call His. The first Covenant failed because the people did not uphold their part of the covenant. The 2nd Covenant is more likely to succeed because it is mediated by Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. And because His Laws are written in our minds and on our hearts.

            So how does that work? Do we have white boards in our hearts on which are written God’s Laws? If that were the case, all we would have to do is take a look at that board and know the right thing to do. I must be a bit stupid, because I don’t know where to look for that white board, and I most certainly don’t know how to obey it. As I pondered this one day, the Lord reminded me that at salvation, I received the Holy Spirit in my heart. He knows the Laws of God and he knows how we ought to live them. So, God did not actually write them in our minds, He put them there in the person of His Holy Spirit. You are not searching your heart for a white board; you are searching for God. The Holy Spirit is God in you. And He is the reminder of His Laws. The old covenant taught God’s Laws but was unable to change our hearts to want to know Him. The New Covenant gave us a new relationship with God’s Laws. Now, we know His Laws as part of Him and we want to do them because we can know Him better.

            The Holy Spirit is our guide. He is leading us to the Father. He is not leading us to a place, a castle in the sky… He is leading us to a relationship. “And they shall be my people.”  We are the people of God. We live by his laws and desires. No longer do we live for the desires of the flesh, according to the law of sin and death. You and I are no longer children of the Devil, governed by the rules of darkness. We are children of God, ruled by light. Darkness says, “When wronged, repay.” Light says, “When wronged, forgive.” Let the Holy Spirit lead you in the light; that is what He does. He leads us when we follow…

Grow up

July 28, 2018

Hebrews 5:13-14… For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

            In verse 12, “milk” is described as the basic principles of the oracles of God.  We are not intended to stand at the entrance to the kingdom of God and do a happy dance. We are intended to go on in our walk with Jesus to wherever He plans. It is tempting to stay in that place of salvation and say, “Ah, this feels good; I like it here.”  And there is a further temptation to think that because you have received a bit of revelation, you have received more. The use of the word “food” in the above verses tells us that salvation is a process which continues on. You are never done feasting on the word of God. And the one who is unskilled, living on milk, is described as a child.  “Child” is another process word,  as is “mature”. Both of those words describe change and growth. Our walk with God ought to be characterized by ever growing maturity. This teaching also gives us direction for leading the lost to Christ. They need to first be led with milk, the basic principles of the oracles of God. Too often, we argue the finer points of moralism, which only come with a level of maturity. It is God’s love that draws us to Him… not His position on sexual orientation. If you put a steak in front of a baby kitten, the kitten will not eat it.  She might lick it to make you happy but that is not like eating. What she needs to begin life is milk.

            Most churches agree on the basic oracles of God… He is love; He is patient; He offers forgiveness. He comforts those who mourn. Churches tend to differ on the finer points of Law. One will say, “You can’t do that.” Another will say, “You can do that but not this.” The world looks on, thinking, “The church can’t make its mind up.” The extension of that is, “God can’t make his mind up.”

We know that is not true but it requires discernment to understand Him. And discernment only becomes mature through constant practice. (verse 14)

            Make a habit of discerning good from evil in things that you know for sure. Let that practice lead you in things that are less obvious.

Humbly daw near to God

July 27, 2018

Hebrews 4:16… Let us then, with confidence, draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

            Have you ever been frustrated by your inability to help someone in need?

I have. I am particularly annoyed that my prayers for healing aren’t answered in the case of a young girl in a friend’s home. This verse seems to imply that we need grace to find help. I don’t think like that. I know God and I expect him to answer my prayers. But, it is still by the grace of God that I can even talk to Him. Notice the writer calls it the throne of grace. He could have just as correctly called it the throne of power. Jesus probably does not have multiple thrones. The throne of grace is not the one He picks to sit on when talking to lowlifes like me. The throne of grace is His throne.  It is from there that He governs the world and all kingdoms. He is always a gracious God, ruling with love and mercy. One thing I would say to guard against… an attitude of entitlement.

            I used to walk walls when in construction. If we were receiving trusses on a particular day, I walked a perimeter wall. On one side, the floor was about 9 feet down. On the other side, the ground could be as much as 30 feet down, if I was on a 2 or 3 story house. My tendency was to lean toward the safest landing. Over the course of many years, I fell both ways at various times. I lived but it was not always comfortable. I was not entitled to a soft landing because I was a carpenter. I had to watch my steps carefully, and to watch for outside influences. Sometimes, when the crane was setting the trusses, they would swing rather quickly in my direction. If I was not braced they could knock me right off the wall. I could not stay safe by reminding the trusses that I was there first. I was allowed to be there but I was at the mercy of the greater power. When you approach God, you are allowed to be there but always remember, you are in the presence of the greatest power known to man. We are not entitled to his power working everything out the way we want. We are entitled to know him, and that is our place of refuge.

            When the storms of life come against you, Let God keep you in the center of the wall. Don’t trust your intellect or your power. He has ALL power.  

Rest in God

July 26, 2018

Hebrews 4:9… So, then there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.

            Sabbath is a word that speaks of multiple things. God worked for 6 days creating all things and then rested on the 7th day. We have been instructed to do the same. If you read through the gospels, as we recently did with Matthew, it is alarming to notice how often the Pharisees accused Jesus of not honoring the Sabbath. Since Jesus was without sin, something else must have been in view. At one point, Jesus said to them, “I am the lord of the Sabbath.” That may not mean much to us who don’t live with Lords and kings. To those who knew about lords, it meant that the Lord of the Sabbath was more important than the Sabbath itself. That would have been a good time to ask Jesus what the Sabbath was really about. They had rules governing the actions that could happen on the Sabbath. Some of the rules, they had made up on their own, some of them, were from the Law when God gave it to the Israelites. Some humans honor Saturday as the Sabbath; some honor Sunday; most honor neither. If you honor a particular day, what does that mean to you? My dad honored Sunday and did not go to work on Sunday. But, mom still cooked dinner. And then, when I was 6, we moved to a farm and during harvest, dad worked on Sunday as necessary. I grew up a little confused about Sabbath Day, and I wonder if most of us didn’t.

So far, I have written about the 7th day and how we act on that day, but there is more: the verse I am writing about today speaks of God’s rest which He gives. It speaks of it as something that we enter. That is different than how we ought to act on a particular day. When we enter God’s rest, we cease from our labors… What does that mean? Well, it does not mean we all don’t go to work after a certain point. That would be chaos. You would not be able to travel by air if the pilots didn’t show up. So, what does it mean?

            We cease from our own efforts to get to God. Jesus did it all. We rest in Him. One of the great failures of the church has been to teach what we must do to be saved. Each brand of church has a list. If we combine all the lists, it is long .