Tag Archives: Christ

Genesis 30, 31; Psalm 11, Mark 12

Some people make Christianity sound like a complex set of rules; others describe believers as an elitist group or cult. Yet if we Christians were to truly follow our Lord’s commandments, the world would see the essence of our religion summed up in the words of Jesus, “The first of all the commandments is: “‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”  He went on to say, “This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

Perhaps the world is hard pressed to see a Christian live out these simple commands, at least on a day to day basis. For daily, we live in a fallen world where the public eye is more important than the covenant our God and Savior made with us. We, like Laban, have found ourselves worried that God is not trustworthy.

Trust was certainly a sore issue in Genesis 31. Laban was worried that Jacob was not trustworthy, and Jacob also distrusted Laban to keep his vow of peace.  Both developed a plan to protect their interests even when no one was looking. (Genesis 31:49.) Jacob built a memorial out of stones in the place where he and Laban made a vow to never cross the boundary lines with evil intent, only to do commerce or visit. This place was called Mizpah which means Outlook Point or Watchtower. Knowing that when no one is watching, man may not hold to the agreed terms, Jacob told Laban these words, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another…although no man is with us –see, God is witness between you and me!”

I work with clients, some of whom have legal issues and are thus on court supervision – probation, house arrest, etc. What most have told me is that staying out of trouble is easier when they are under supervision because they believe there are ‘eyes’ watching them all the time. Is it paranoia to believe that someone is watching over you? A believer knows that God watches us all. That fact should not make us shudder. Ultimately, my sins are against God and His commandments to love Him and to love others.  Yet, where else can I bring my failures to light in hope of redemption, if not before my Savior, Christ Jesus who has already taken the punishment for those sins and nailed them to a cross?  Should I fear the One who made this covenant with me and who sealed it with His own blood? Or can I rest in the knowledge that God watches over me to do me good?

Psalm of trust – “In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, Flee as a [helpless] bird…” (Psalm 11:1.)

The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven, His eyes behold…”(Psalm 11:3.) His eyes watch over me. I’m not sure how that affects others, but knowing this comforts me.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Malachi 1-4; Psalm 2; Revelation 9

I don’t much like reading about or thinking about violence. Torture, murder, war, vengeance, spitefulness, and the crushing blow from your blindside by an unexpected source leave me fearful and unable to shake off the helplessness I feel. Yet, our present difficulties do have a connection to the future, if we care to believe in prophecy and the words of our Lord.

“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision…” (Psalm 2:4). We live in an age where it seems evil is called good (dealing drugs in order to pay for cancer medication is one relative truth put forth in the media), and there seems no stopping the spiraling down the immoral slide into a bottomless pit of everything anti – Christ. Prime time TV today looks like XXX movies of yesteryear.

What is more frightening is how many in this world are ‘hell’ bent on discrediting God, stifling believers, and threatening even the livelihood of the every-day Christian in order to wipe out the concept of sin and redemption. It sometimes seems that our prayers are bouncing off a force-field of unchecked deceit and selfishness, falling unanswered back to earth. Though we are to “fight the good fight” with spiritual warfare, I fear that we are in danger of being vaporized by the powers that be.

Often I think that we should be fighting by showing anger, using inflammatory words, and attacking those atheists and agnostics who damage the good Name of God. What is unlike my normal thinking (and isn’t that the purposeful way of God), I have recently wondered if I have been ‘fighting off’ the will of God. Doing so would be preposterous, yet prophecy tells us there is no turning back what God has ordained. Even the fallen angel “was given the key to the bottomless pit” indicating that his apocalyptic activity is under the Lord’s sovereign control.

Before you write me off as a pacifist or a weak Christian, consider that our world is destined to become more and more unmanageable and evil. God is allowing this to prepare us for that final battle, allowing this to give the ungodly a chance to know and accept salvation, and allowing this to set up the final judgment. Yes, we should pray for a stay from God’s hand so that we might buy time for others to be saved. We should work on the harvest of souls. Christians should have a hope that “on that day (the coming of the Lord) that [God] makes us His jewels,” He will spare us as a man spares his own son who serves him.” (Malachi 3:17).

Why should we persevere in the faith? Clearly the answer is so that we can be with Christ in Heaven.  John 17:24 quotes Jesus Christ saying, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” This world hurls itself toward the Rock that will be a crushing force to those who refuse Christ, and a stable dwelling place on high for us who believe. Nothing can stop what God has put into motion. So why should we fear what is to come?

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Filed under Bible in a year reading plan, Malachi, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Revelation, Uncategorized

Zechariah 12-14, Psalm 94, 2 John

It was so funny to hear the refrain spoken by my granddaughter this week on the glossing over of Thanksgiving to usher in Christmas at the stores. It seems that every generation is disappointed in the commercialism at this time of year. Even Sally on Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving (1973) says, “I know what you mean. I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.” Black Friday has turned into a month of advertisement and pre-sales to draw money out of your pocket and to turn your mind away from being grateful for what you have today to ‘how I can I get more for less’, tomorrow. Nothing new. Soon we will bemoan the loss of money ‘that we didn’t have to spend’ but that was compulsively handed over for Christmas presents this year.

How do we reign in these runaway holiday routines and reposts? Do we even want to? Isn’t the answer just as traditional as the traditions? That is, we can learn to live the continual theme in Messiah’s kingdom – thanksgiving. Zechariah 14:16 says that the Feast of Tabernacles is the only feast that will continue in the new kingdom. This is a feast that is celebrated at the fall harvest and is a time of worship and thanksgiving to God.

So what have we to be thankful for? Again, little Sally voices my own tired suspicion: “What have I got to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us at school” [or in my case – in the kitchen, decorating the house, shopping for food, clothes, gifts, gifts, gifts]. Okay, now I sound like the Grinch.

It’s just that I’m looking for reasons in place of the next few weeks of blithering excuses for overextending my already tight budget and overtaxing my already exhausted 50++ year old body to the brink of collapse. How can I please others and at the same time focus on what draws me closer to God and Christ? As I’m turning blue from forgetting to breathe, I hear the answer in gentle words of encouragement: 2 John 3 “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” Instead of the shock and awe approach of bombarding family with the latest and greatest contraptions and inventions on the media’s top ten list, I can commit myself to resting in God’s truth and communicating His love.

First truth – “The Lord knows the thoughts of man…” (Psalm 94:11)

Second truth – “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord.” (Psalm 94:12)

Third truth – “Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:18b-19).

When I packed away the fading brilliance of autumn, I paused to look at a cute door decoration. The country girl perched on a fence, pumpkins at her feet, had the most cheerful face. Her blushing cheeks, her shiny black button eyes, and her wistful smile beckoned me to take the harvest welcome basket of garden delights from her chubby hand. All I could think was to say, “Thank you for this moment of peace and the years of fond memories you have given.” Perhaps communicating God’s love in this same simple way is the reason to continue the theme of thanksgiving each season and each of the rest of our days.

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Filed under 2 John, 66 Books, Psalms, Uncategorized, Zechariah

Daniel 4-6; John 18

“Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?” Jesus asked this rhetorical question of Peter who had just swung his sword to defend himself and Christ. Peter reacted in fear to the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus, but the King of kings responded in submission.  In this same garden, Jesus – his hair and garments soaked in bloody sweat – had just spent intense hours on his knees in prayer and had settled His mind about that bitter cup. The Gospels detail the results of that decision – Christ’s willingness to finish every gulp of physical agony and spiritual suffering ultimately led to His glorious resurrection.

Cup is an interesting word in the Hebrew language from my point of view (and I claim no experience or expertise on the language, only time spent pondering the definition). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines the word cup as “meach – fat, i.e. marrow from the root word machah – erase; grease or make fat; abolish, blot out, destroy, full of marrow, put out, reach unto, x utterly, wipe away, wipe out.” How unexpected this definition is. I would have thought the word cup would have been defined as ‘a small vessel for drinking,’ not potent with the negative connotation – to destroy, utterly put out. Or perhaps I’m just looking at the proverbial cup half empty. For the same drought that ended Christ’s earthly walk was the same holy elixir that blotted out my sins.

It is natural then to wonder what cup my Father has given me. When I first came to Christ, I drank a cup overflowing with forgiveness, joy, and companionship. Each day spent with Christ through His word, His church, and His creation deepened this love of living in His presence. Of course, life has its ups and downs, and we have to learn to accept how to take the good with the bad, the disappointments with the unexpected delights. Yet, I had not prayed so intensely for anything that blood ran down my face. I’m not sure why not. There have been many occasions when prayer and fasting were called for to intervene in the lives of those I love and in the world at large during tremendous upheaval in our need for peace.

Yet a time has come when this cup that I have been handed seems too sorrowful to drink, for the liquid pain of loss must be downed each day. I’ve asked the wrong questions such as ‘why’ and ‘how can this be’ and ‘what is the purpose in all this?’ The question that Christ asked, however, settles my mind, for the unstated answer is this: I will drink this cup for I know and trust the Father who has given it to me. In my ‘agony in the garden’ Christ is still with me. And I have a solid hope that resonates from Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  In these truths and with the comfort of Christ’s Holy Spirit I can willingly accept this cup as I look with expectancy toward the glorious resurrection when all things will be made new.

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Filed under Daniel, John, Romans

Ezekiel 22-24; Psalm 134; John 8

“He who is without sin, let him throw a stone at her first,” (my emphasis).  Sometimes when I read Scripture I want to disassociate from the brutality of ancient cultures. At other times I struggle to make sense of the do’s and don’ts, the either this or that, the right way versus the wrong way, or the judgments on many juxtaposed with mercy to the few. Yet these words spoken by Jesus Christ stand out today as more than the obvious call to consider one’s own sinful past; it is an external – look at her face before you act – directive that harnesses the inhumanity of intentions with the finality of eternity. These are two terrifying steeds dangerously galloping in the darkest night, intent on lurching the driver and his passengers into the abyss.

If this seems too dramatic, perhaps we have grown lukewarm to the message of spiritual death. Consider the powerful influence of the Pharisees and scribes to judge the misdeeds of others. Even though they lacked the official authority to mete out death (only the Romans wielded the power to torture and crucify), the Jewish leaders were feared by their community for merciless judgments. Jesus certainly knew the dark intentions of their power hungry hearts, yet he exhorted all those present to consider what might befall them. Self-examination – what a worthy exhortation. By heeding this call, even we can avoid the hypocritical and negative accusations that cause us to look like fools and that will alienate us from others who pride themselves in being the more tolerant of our day. Even the ungodly knows to make calculated decisions to avoid committing social suicide. The oldest in the crowd that Jesus addressed were the first to understand this. Their impulsiveness was stayed, perhaps not by looking at the adulteress, but by remembering a longer and possibly more shameful history of mistakes than those of younger men.

Unfortunately I, too, have reacted much too impulsively and emphatically when making judgments – not reviewing the self-incrimination of my past words and actions – instead, whipping those horses into a run without a thought to the cliffs up ahead. My judgments and assumptions have risen from worldly observations and biased interpretations, forgetting that I could not do what I required of others.

Even worse, I have arrogantly believed that I controlled the reigns. In my own understanding, I maintained that a word spoken with authority fell within my knowledge and power to affect change. How shocking to find the target trampled under the wheels! Had I not judged, the grace of God might have brought the forgiveness that truly changes a heart and a destiny.

Jesus once said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one,” (New International Version). This is an amazing statement considering He is the Son of God and will judge all mankind. Yet I hear deadly caution in His words not to decide for another eternal life or death. Isn’t spiritual death what awaited the adulterous woman? She was to die in her sins without mercy. Inhumanity’s justice carried out. Jesus, however, directed these men to look at her; then think about their own sins and the consequences of dying without absolution. For their own sakes, those stones were dropped to the ground. Christ snatched this woman out of a careening carriage hell-bent toward spiritual death because He looked past hers, theirs, and our sins to offer redemption and an eternal destiny with Him. She was given a chance to “sin no more.” Can we remember to do the same for others, and if not for their sakes for our own?

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Filed under 66 Books, Ezekiel, John, Psalms

Jeremiah 43, 33, 46; 2 Peter 1

Jeremiah 46:27-28 Do not fear or be dismayed…I will save you from afar…you shall return, have rest, and be at ease…

II Peter 1:5-8 …add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the hope of a Christian?  To be like Christ, for sure. To be with Christ at the end of this life, a certainty. But what if the words that we speak show that the condition of our hear is far from the brotherly kindness and ultimate love portrayed by Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection? When we walk in distress and with an unquiet heart, there is no peace or joy even in the knowledge of Christ. We quickly find ourselves out of control in our daily dealings with the very people that God puts in our lives to learn godliness. And the superficial band aids we place over the needs of our brothers and sisters becomes a barrier not just to their healing, but to offering the greatest of godly virtues – love.

Recently, I was reminded of these things while participating in several gatherings with various groups.  I realized that the sudden hearing loss that I now have in one ear has made it difficult to listen to the words of others. While people were laughing or when several were talking at the same time, my comprehension plummeted. I tried to focus on one or two, but until there was only one speaker at a time, the words become a jumbled mess. My understanding was disjointed, but I picked up nonverbals of negativity, frivolity, ambition, weariness, and silent pain. At first I was merely frustrated, but listening with my eyes reminded me of the powerful impact of words. How can I become be a Christ bearer without being mindful of my words? For I believe the impact of our words are the evidence of our fruit.  Watch how others respond or react to what you say, not with a thought toward being understood or appreciated, but with a thought about whether or not brotherly kindness and love were received.

Breathing in the words; utterances you speak

Flippantly, solemnly, disrespectfully

Filling buckets with grit, gems, grains of truth

Welcoming, haunting, shocking

Squeezing past the defenses; gibberish I speak

Purposefully, randomly, erroneously

Shaping memories like wet clay with heavy hands

Brooding, disciplining, accepting

Breathing out the words; what we speak

Irreverently, uncontrollably, plainly

Dispelling myths with honesty, lies, good intentions

Hoping, expecting, demanding

As long as I’m still breathing.

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Filed under 2 Peter, Jeremiah

Isaiah 60-63, 2 Corinthians 1

After reading yesterday’s post by Greg, I had to do a little revising. I have been feeling such similar things recently. Am I doing enough? What really is enough? The Lord doesn’t measure our salvation based on enough because it’s never enough. What we call a free gift isn’t free if we have to do something to earn it or keep it. The free gift we Christians talk about is called grace and without it we don’t even have the faintest inkling of God’s plan. By His grace we can come to faith in Christ Jesus and receive salvation.

What strikes me about these passages is a reminder that faith was God’s plan from the beginning. I always thought of God’s word as before and after, law and faith, old and new. But really, it was faith all along. Throughout the pages of the bible we read the story of a people that believed, followed, failed, turned away, repented, believed, followed, failed, turned away and so on and so on in a constant and continuous cycle. The Old Testament prophets like Isaiah had a tough job; to bring the message to the unrepentant hearts in hopes of them turning back to the Lord. The amazing thing to me is that the Lord continued, over and over again to show them his kindness and grace. He allowed them to return if their hearts would soften.

I think of the world that we live in today and the cycles and patterns we fall into. We are not a little like the Israelites stuck in this cycle, we are exactly the like the Israelites. They worshiped idols, we worship idols. They wanted independence from God, we scream we want dependence but do everything we desire instead of what God calls. In so many ways we parallel the nation of Israel because we are all human. God’s plan from the beginning was not about works but His grace. So the exciting news is that despite the sin and the patterns and cycles that remain even to this day, He will be returning. He is mighty to save!

“Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.” Isaiah 63:1

I am so often disheartened by the world around me, by current events and most importantly by my own sin. I become frustrated with myself, my actions and my thoughts knowing they are often not pleasing to the Lord. We live in a society that measures success by how much is done. After reading of the rebellion and unrepentant hearts, we read about the Lord’s kindness. His vengeance on evil, making everything right again. We read of his return and his steadfast love.

“I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Savior.
In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:7-9

Thank you, Lord for your steadfast love is never ending. For your mercies that are new each and every morning and for creating a plan that has stretched from the beginning to the end of time; a plan of rescue and redemption through no part of our own. You are amazing, God!

 

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Isaiah