The 260 Journey

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A life-changing experience through the New Testament one chapter at a time.

The 260 Journey


    • Nov 17, 2022 LATEST EPISODE
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    Rescued From Bad Decisions

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 17, 2022 5:24


    Day 229 Today's Reading: 2 Peter 2 You made your bed, now lie in it. Have you heard this phrase? It means you made that decision, now you have to deal with its consequences.” That is true if it weren't for the grace of God. Today's chapter brings back Old Testament stories to the reader. Peter speaks about Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Balaam, and the character he introduces with an adjective I would never assign to him, righteous Lot. Not Lot, but righteous Lot: If He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. (2 Peter 2:7-9) When I read the story of Lot, I don't see him as righteous. Thank God I'm not God. I judge people too fast. It's easy to assign adjectives to people who God never sees and believes about them. The part of this verse that puzzles me about God, though, is that Lot is called righteous, and God rescues him. But Peter explains and tells us why it's important to us. He says that God rescued the righteous Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot was being oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men. You might think, This is a godly brother who got stuck in a really bad neighborhood that God had to burn down with fire from heaven. Not even close to the truth. Lot chose to live in Sodom. Sodom was his first choice when Abraham, his uncle, said he could have any part of the land he wanted. Lot not only chose Sodom, but Genesis says, “He sat in the gate at Sodom” (Genesis 19:1, KJV). That means he was part of the government of the city. And despite all this, God showed off His graciousness by rescuing him from his really bad choice. God didn't rescue a man who had something unfortunate happen to him. God rescued a man who made a really stupid decision. How many of us have made a bad decision before? How many of us are so thankful for the grace of God? Nineteenth-century Bible teacher J. Wilbur Chapman said: “Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.” Lot didn't think that way. And if we are honest, you and I have made decisions that violated Chapman's grid. So many times, God rescues us before we are swallowed by our poor choices and decisions. There are also times that God just vetoes bad decisions—in this case, bad prayers. One of the biggest atheists over the centuries was Robert Ingersoll. At a lecture, he opened his pocket watch for all the students to see and said, “I will give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I said.” When the five minutes were over, he shut the watch and said, “God did not retaliate because God does not exist.” When evangelist Joseph Parker heard about the incident, he responded, “And did the gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of eternal God in five minutes?” God is bigger than our threats. Because God is love, God is patient. And because God is love and patient with us, He calls Lot righteous. Righteousness has nothing to do with our perfection but with God's view of us. I can be the righteousness of God in Christ and an idiot at the same time. I think many would think Lot should have perished in the fire of Sodom, but not God. Peter reminds us that God knows how to rescue the godly. Even if rescue means dragging a man out of danger when he is dragging his feet with no urgency. That was Lot's story during God's rescue plan. No gratitude from Lot, just an amazing, gracious God rescuing him. After a wedding, the newlyweds contacted one of the guests to inform her that her present wasn't generous enough. The unnamed guest posted to a forum asking for advice after she was told her cash gift wasn't enough. She revealed how the couple, who had asked for cash gifts, had emailed to say, “We were surprised that your contribution didn't seem to match the warmth of your good wishes on our big day. In view of your own position, if you wanted to send any adjustment, it would be thankfully received.” The wedding guest assumed that the reference to her position was in regard to a recent inheritance she'd received. One thing you will never be able to say to God is, “I am surprised by your contribution, God. I suggest an adjustment.” When it comes to what we don't deserve, God gives crazy generous mercy and grace every day to us—even when we do stupid things. We need no adjustment from Him. Just a grateful heart because He rescues people when they make really bad decisions. Righteous Lot is amazing proof.

    No Knockoffs

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 16, 2022 5:08


    Day 228 Today's Reading: 2 Peter 1 A young man was at the zebra enclosure at the Cairo International Garden municipal park and noticed something wrong about the zebras. When he took a closer look, he became convinced that the animals being touted as zebras were actually donkeys painted to look like zebras. He took a photo and posted his accusation on Facebook. The photo gained the attention of a local news team, who contacted a veterinarian, who claimed that zebra snouts are usually black, and their stripes are more consistent and uniform compared to the striping on the animal in the photo which also sported black smudging around the face. A zoo in Gaza also received similar accusations of donkey-painting in 2009. The zoo claimed they did it because of an Israeli blockade that prevented the zoo from purchasing actual zebras. Do you know what a knockoff is? It's the counterfeit of an expensive brand of anything. There are knockoff watches, pens, purses, sunglasses, almost anything. They have the same markings, and the same logo, and the same colors, but they are the cheap versions of designer pieces. You buy them on the street instead of in the store. A knockoff Rolex is about $15. A knockoff Montblanc pen is about $10. A knockoff Coach purse is about $25. The knockoff has the same outward markings but lacks the craftsmanship. Knockoffs are exposed by time and use. If it's real, it lasts. If it's real, it can endure. If it's real, you'll know it because it doesn't diminish even when it faces harsh circumstances. In today's chapter, Peter has something significant to say about the real thing. He starts off with comparing his faith and the new church's faith, which is separated by decades: “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). He is writing to Christians who “received a faith of the same kind as ours.” These words are significant. This epistle was written in AD 68, and Peter's time with Jesus was in the late AD 20s. Some forty years later, Peter makes this bombshell statement—that these believers' faith is the same kind as his. Think of this. He is telling them that they have the real thing, not some knockoff or second-rate faith.” Think too of who is saying this. It is someone who talked with Jesus, saw His miracles, witnessed the transfiguration (Peter speaks about that at the end of this chapter), saw Christ die, saw Him after He rose again, ate a fish dinner with Him, and saw Jesus taken up in the ascension. And he tells these Christians forty years later that their faith in Jesus and his faith in Jesus is the same! When I was a student at Baylor University, I did not have a lot of spending money. My father sent me $75 a month. I remember all these students walking around campus with Ralph Lauren Polos, and I desperately wanted one. The problem was that I did not have $32 to buy one. Then one day, I saw a guy selling knockoff Polos on a street corner in Waco, Texas. They were only $5. Now I get to be like everyone else, I thought, as I forked over $5 for a knockoff purple Polo. I noticed that the rider of the horse and the horse itself were slightly detached, but hey, it was only $5! I wore my Polo one day and then washed it. It went from a Large to a 2T. The wash shrunk it. When it's real, it lasts. When it's real, time is not an enemy. It is a revealer. Peter's and these Christians' faith are real. It can go through hard times, denial times (Peter knows about that), scared and cowardly times (Peter knows about that), and still come out the same. Hard times, harsh circumstances, persecution, tribulation—none of these will be able to take away that faith when it's real. And if anyone should know, it's Peter. Peter knows it's the same because these Christians are going through the persecutions of Nero. They are faced with death, and yet their faith stays intact. That's the same kind of faith. Two thousand years later, the faith that you and I have in Jesus Christ is the same as the apostle Peter's in the first century. Time doesn't shrink it or change it. It just reveals if it's real. We have a real faith that can and has stood the test of time. No knockoff. We have the real thing. We don't have to paint the donkeys. We've got the real zebras. We've got real faith.

    I Don’t Want To Be The Devil’s Next Meal

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 15, 2022 6:08


    Day 227 Today's Reading: 1 Peter 5 Puritan writer Thomas Brooks said: “If God were not my friend, Satan would not be so much my enemy.” In today's chapter, Peter warns that our enemy, the devil, prowls around us like a lion wanting his next meal: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan seeking to devour means he is on a mission to take down God's children. There is a Bible study tool called “The law of first use.” It can be a valuable tool when studying a topic in the Bible. It works by looking at the first time a word is used in the Scripture to see how it is used. If we applied it to “devil,” we'd find it first appears in Genesis 3. And the first thing the Bible ever says about the devil is this: “The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made” (verse 1, NLT). This means that Satan is shrewd in Operation Devour. He shrewdly finds ways to devour people. Another Puritan writer, William Jenkyn, said it like this: “He hath an apple for Eve, a grape for Noah, a change of raiment for Gehazi, a bag for Judas. He can dish out his meat for all palates.” I do not want to be the devil's next meal. I have learned some interesting things about lions when they are on the hunt to devour. We can learn some of Satan's tactics since Peter describes the devil as a lion. Or, as Paul says, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11, NKJV). For a hunt to be successful, a lion must first stalk close while undetected and then attack with a rush before the surprised prey has a chance to flee. A lion's prey knows that a visible lion is a safe lion because they are too slow to catch an animal alert to its presence. A herd of gazelle will allow a lion to walk past them at only a hundred feet away! A second way lions hunt is that they catch whatever is easiest! They often kill the very young, sick, old, or careless. And finally, as Robert Simmons observed, “when the fire goes out, the lions move in.” When the fire of a camp goes out at night, this is a lion's signal to move in to devour its prey. Simmons tells the story of a doctor and his wife who had traveled to the jungle in Africa. After a long flight from America and a full day of birdwatching and photography, they went to bed in their tent with a campfire outside. They had been warned to keep logs on the fire all night, or the lions would come in. The fire was blazing hot when they fell into such a deep sleep that they failed to notice when the fire became smoldering embers. Under the guise of darkness, a lioness stuck her head into the tent and killed the doctor's wife. One of the ways we keep from becoming the devil's next meal is by keeping our hearts on fire for God. Remember in Luke 24:32 when the two men on the road to Emmaus realized, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (emphasis added). Our hearts will stay on fire as God speaks to us through His Word. Every time we open God's Word, it's like putting another log on the fire. Finally, when does the devil devour? Again Robert Simmons offers his insight: “Where stragglers roam, lions feed.” These are animals out grazing alone. He says: In Africa, lions will lay out watching herds. Lions know their own strength, but he also knows the strength of numbers. When he looks at a herd of zebras, he knows if he attacks one and the herd stampedes, they would trample him. When he sees one rebelliously remove himself and independently feed away from the herd, that can be his next meal. When that zebra gets far enough away from the pack, the lion pounces, pulls it into the tall grass, goes for the jugular, and has begun eating the meat before the herd even knew what happened. Stay in the strength of fellowship. Don't be a straggler and remove yourself from the family of God. The lion is watching. One of the most powerful books on how Satan attacks the believers is called The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, which is the elaboration of the 1 Peter 5:8 passage. When Lewis wrote the book, he wrote it from the standpoint of the devil. There are three characters in the book. Screwtape is the senior demon training his young apprentice demon, Wormwood, on how to tempt a Christian. It was really a lesson in devouring. When Screwtape talks about the enemy, he is referring to God. Every chapter is a letter in the devilish art of devouring and making Christians fall and fail. The demon letters exchanged are haunting and accurate: My dear Wormwood, . . . All extremes, except extreme devotion to the enemy, are to be encouraged. . . . A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing. . . . The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. . . . Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. . . . The search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where the enemy wants him to be a pupil. Wow, that is sobering. In fact, Peter said to be sober, and these devil words make me sober. We are in a battle, but with God, it's a battle we can win.

    The Part Of Forgiveness No One Talks About

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 14, 2022 5:47


    Day 226 Today's Reading: 1 Peter 4 C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” That was certainly true for Corrie ten Boom. The story is well-known, but I think it's a powerful illustration for us. Corrie and her family hid Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis found out and put her entire family into the concentration camps, where they all died except Corrie. After World War II and her release, she traveled extensively, telling her story and sharing the gospel. In 1947 she was in Munich speaking about God's forgiveness, and she saw a familiar face. It was one of the cruelest guards from the concentration camp she and her sister had been imprisoned in. Though she recognized him, he did not recognize her. “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he told her after the service. “I was a guard there. . . . But since that time I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” He thrust his hand out to her. She stood paralyzed. This man had been a monster; he had filled her with shame and misery every day. How could she preach forgiveness when she was staring into the face of someone she needed to forgive but couldn't. She did the only thing she knew to do, she prayed right there on the spot. Jesus, help me! I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling, she prayed silently. “So woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place,” she said. Power surged through her. “I forgive you, brother!” she said and cried. When you forgive, you don't change the past, but you sure do change the future. As poet William Blake said, “The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” Corrie forgave the man, but there is another part of forgiveness that often gets neglected. That part is what we look at in today's chapter. Peter's strategy on forgiving people is one of the most important lessons in relationships: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love covers a multitude of sins. When I am hurt by someone, I have two choices to resolve that hurt. Since forgiveness is not an option for me as a Christian, I have the choice of how I will forgive: I can confront it, or I can cover it. Remember this about forgiveness: we base it on what God has done for us, not on what another person has done to us. That means another person's apology, repentance, or admission of wrongdoing is not our motivation. Our forgiveness from God is our motivation. According to Ephesians 4:32, we forgive because we have been forgiven. Peter wants us to cover the offense. And that fervent love is the prerequisite for that choice. We can't cover an offense because we don't want to confront a person, but we can cover a hurt because we fervently love someone. To cover a hurt is very biblical, meaning that not everything that is hurtful has to be an offense. We don't have to address everything every time we are offended. In fact, I think it's a sign of maturity to let certain things go. There are some things I think God wants us to absorb to show and extend mercy. Why? Because that is the only way to build our mercy account: As Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). There will come a day when we will need to withdraw from our mercy account, and that can only happen if we show mercy, not simply pray for mercy. Proverbs 19:11, NIV, says there is honor in covering an offense: “A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.” The greatest people I know are not easily offended. Instead, they practice the habit of overlooking offenses. They take the high road and give the offender the benefit of the doubt, and then they move on. They are magnanimous—high-souled, able to overlook an injury or insult, rising above pettiness or meanness. But what does having fervent love mean? Peter said that's the way to cover an offense. The word fervent is critical in this verse and means the willingness to be stretched out. This kind of hurts to say it, but the word was used of a torture device that would stretch its victims on the rack. Fervent love stretches you beyond your normal capacity. Covering an offense is not based on the size of the offense but on the size of our heart. And if there is love there, fervent love. Solomon also talked about the concept of love covering an offense: “Love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12 ). There is no chapter that best describes fervent love than 1 Corinthians 13: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, TLB) What is love? It will hardly even notice when others do wrong. In order to cover an offense, we need love, fervent love, the love that stretches us.

    Do You Want To See Your Family Get Saved?

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 11, 2022 6:00


    Day 225 Today's Reading: 1 Peter 3 The story goes that a lady approached Charles Spurgeon and told him that she felt called to the ministry. Spurgeon asked about her home and family. When he heard she had thirteen children, he exclaimed, “Well, praise God, not only has He called you to the ministry, but He's given you a congregation as well!” Our family is our first ministry priority. But how do you win your family to Christ? Today's chapter is one of the most important sections of the New Testament that gives us brilliant advice on how to win family members to Christ. But let me first tell you what was happening in the early church. Women were getting saved faster than men. In fact, the women wrote to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 asking if they should divorce their husbands since they were saved and their spouses were not. Paul told them, “Not so fast”: If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is content to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been made holy by his believing wife. And the unbelieving wife has been made holy by her believing husband by virtue of his or her sacred union to a believer. Otherwise, the children from this union would be unclean, but in fact, they are holy. And wives, for all you know, you could one day lead your husband to salvation. Or husbands, how do you know for sure that you could not one day lead your wife to salvation? (1 Corinthians 7:13-16, TPT) Wives, for all you know, you could one day lead your husband to salvation. It seems once Paul got the women to stay with the unsaved spouses, Peter stepped in. Here is the strategy he gave to win them to Christ: In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2) Peter's advice to the women: stop using words; stop talking. There comes a time when you must tell yourself; They have heard the gospel message from me. Now they must see the effects of the gospel through my life and not just through my lips. It's time for them to see Christ, not just hear about Christ. Preaching the gospel does not just need your voice. It is more powerful when it's shown through the other parts of your body. I think Peter's words to these women are not just for ladies with unsaved husbands but for anyone with an unsaved family member whom they want to win to the Lord. I love Peter's words: that they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives. The way a son wins a father . . . the way a daughter wins a grandmother . . . the way a brother wins his sister . . . through behavior! They can watch the life of Christ as it comes through us in our attitudes, our commitments, and our actions. A. W. Tozer said: “There are those rare Christians whose very presence is an incitement to you to want to be a better Christian.” I want to be that rare Christian. I think the same is true for those who are not Christians wanting to become a Christian because someone's life inspired them. There comes a time when doing the dishes, being home at curfew when asked, respecting the rules of the home, showing wise stewardship over the family finances, and making family a priority preaches more than if you had a preacher in the home. Peter was giving advice not just to women but to all saved family members who live in the house with unsaved family members. The first words of verse 1 are so important: “In the same way . . .” He was referring to the verses in 1 Peter 2. The same way as . . . ? Here is who Peter was referencing: This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book, and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. (1 Peter 2:21-23, MSG) That's his answer: In the same way that Jesus faced the cross is the way we deal with our home life with unsaved family. Our example is Jesus. Peter said that they can call us names—church boy, holier than thou, fanatic. Even then, we must be quiet with our words and not respond or retaliate. Well, we can retaliate . . . with good behavior, being content as we wait for God to set things straight. There's a story about Alexander the Great, a great military general. One night during a campaign, restless and unable to sleep, he left his tent and walked around his soldiers' campground. As he wandered around, he came across a soldier on guard duty who had fallen asleep, a very serious offense. One, in fact, that could get him killed. The soldier awoke as Alexander the Great approached him and immediately recognized who it was. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded, his voice quivering. “Soldier, what's your name?” asked Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly, Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great looked the young man in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct.” Let our actions speak loudly of who Jesus is, so our family can see the difference.

    Me Before DC

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 10, 2022 6:03


    Day 224 Today's Reading: 1 Peter 2 The people to whom Peter wrote the letters of 1 and 2 Peter were believers experiencing severe persecution under the reign and government of the Roman emperor Nero. Nero was a psycho and afflicted these believers with horrendous acts of evil. He threw women and children into the Coliseum for sport to be torn apart by lions. He impaled believers on stakes and burned them as human torches to light up his decadent evening parties. In fact, not long after Peter wrote his second letter, tradition states that Nero had him crucified upside down. Martyrdom was not just a first-century problem but is still happening today. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, more than 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Some estimates show that approximately 175,000 Christians have been martyred annually within only a few years, and if those trends continue, by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually. In his first letter, Peter wasn't just writing to the Christians but to Christians under heavy persecution from Nero. They were under a very oppressive government that was taking their lives because of their faith in Christ. And yet, when Peter talks about getting rid of things, he isn't referring to Nero and his government but getting rid of stuff within each of us individually. This is so revealing of our society today. We want to rid our society of liberals or conservatives. Whatever side of the political aisle you sit on matters not, according to 1 Peter. For us today, Peter is sending a message to all of the church: me before DC. While people are trying to get rid of politicians, we have forgotten to deal with ourselves. If Peter were alive today and living in America, he'd say, “You want to know corruption? Try living under Nero.” Here is what Peter said in the midst of his horrible and dangerous first-century political landscape: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3, NIV) The first word of chapter 2 is, therefore. Whenever we see “therefore,” we need to ask, “What is it there for?” It should always make us go backward in Scripture. If you look at 1 Peter, chapters 2, 4, and 5 all begin with “therefore.” We can't read the first verse of these chapters without the context of what came before it. For 2:1 to make sense, we have to read 1:17-25. The person “ridding themselves” here is a Christian, not a non-Christian trying to become a Christian. Listen closely: You don't get rid of stuff to become a Christian. You get rid of stuff after you are a Christian. Once you become a Christian, you can't stay the same, as there must be growth. In God in the Dock, C. S. Lewis was asked, “Are there any unmistakable outward signs in a person surrendered to God?” Lewis's response was epic. He said, “Take the case of a sour old maid, who is a Christian, but cantankerous. On the other hand, take some pleasant and popular fellow, but who has never been to church. Who knows how much more cantankerous the old maid might be if she were not a Christian, and how much more likable the nice fellow might be if he were a Christian?” Christianity is growth, not perfection. I don't become a Christian and become perfect. I become a Christian and start growing. I remember having a conversation with a Muslim husband whose wife just became a Christian, and she was attending our church. He came to see me and was telling me that she was not a real Christian because she still had specific hang-ups in her life. I told this husband that becoming a Christian is the starting line, not the finish line. We don't get good and come to Jesus. We come to Jesus, and He makes us good. Peter is telling you and me to get rid of malice, deceit, envy, and slander—not in DC but in you and me. We are on unbiblical ground when we want our politicians rid of slander, deceit, and hypocrisy but never deal with it in our own selves. The political climate today is not calling for impeachment but for introspection. Before we judge our leaders, let us judge ourselves on these matters. That's how Peter was. Peter was harsher on himself than he was on Nero's government. Although later in chapter 2, Peter does say something about our response to rotten politicians: Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1 Peter 2:13-17, MSG) Unbelievable. Did you just hear what Peter said about the corruption of Rome? Respect the government. Respect the authorities. Any corruption you see today can't even compare to the corruption Peter and the early church were living under. And these are Peter's challenging words to us: respect them. He is sterner and stricter on his own spirit than he is on a rogue emperor. It's almost as if Peter is saying, “If there is a swamp to be drained, it starts with me, and it's in me.” Me before DC.

    Precious Is A Rare Word

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 9, 2022 6:50


    Day 223 Today's Reading: 1 Peter 1 Seventeenth-century evangelist John Wesley was returning home from a service one night when he was robbed. Unfortunately for the thief, Wesley had only very little money and some Christian literature. As the robber turned to leave, Wesley said, “Stop! I have something more to give you.” The surprised robber paused. “My friend,” said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'” The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed for the man. Years later, after a Sunday service, a man approached him. It was the robber! Only now, he was a believer in Christ and a successful businessman. “I owe it all to you,” said the man. “Oh no, my friend,” Wesley said. “Not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!” The word precious is not used in common things. We use it today when we are dealing with metals and stones. We refer to diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds as precious stones. And gold, platinum, and silver are our precious metals. They are precious because they are rare. The Bible uses this word precious sparingly. There are only four things called precious in the Bible, and we find all of them in Peter's epistles: precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6); precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19); precious faith (2 Peter 1:1); and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). In today's chapter, we focus on the precious blood of Jesus. Here are Peter's words to remind us of the power of the blood of Jesus and why it is precious to us as believers: "You know that your lives were ransomed once and for all from the empty and futile way of life handed down from generation to generation. It was not a ransom payment of silver and gold, which eventually perishes, but the precious blood of Christ—who, like a spotless, unblemished lamb, was sacrificed for us. "This was part of God's plan, for he was chosen and destined for this before the foundation of the earth was laid, but he has been made manifest in these last days for you. It is through him that you now believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him so that you would fasten your faith and hope in God alone." (1 Peter 1:18-21, TPT) The blood of Jesus does two things—and these are two big theological words—expiation and propitiation. Sometimes called atonement, expiation is what the blood does for us (it washes away our sin). Whereas propitiation, sometimes called satisfaction, is what the blood does for God (it turns away His wrath from us because the blood of His Son satisfies His justice). R. T. Kendall explains it well: “Charles Spurgeon used to say there are two words you need in your theological vocabulary: “substitution” and “satisfaction.” There is no gospel apart from these two concepts.” Jesus acted as our substitute. Substitution is that Jesus literally did everything on our behalf by His keeping the law for us and dying for us. This is why we put all our hope on Jesus and His death. And satisfaction means that God's justice has been completely and eternally satisfied by what Jesus did for us when He shed His blood. Why is the blood of Jesus precious to us? “Eternally speaking, there are two ways whereby God punishes sin: the fires of hell and the blood of Jesus,” R. T. Kendall says. “It's not a question of whether your sin will be punished; it's a question of how.” The blood of Jesus redeems you and me—not our hard work, not our tears, not our promises. The blood of Jesus is what God sees over our lives. The story goes that reformer Martin Luther had a dream one night in which Satan visited him and began attacking him. Satan unrolled a long scroll, which held a list of Luther's sins and showed it to him. Luther looked over the list, got to the end, and said, “Is that all?” “No,” said the devil and produced a second scroll. And then a third. After looking over all of his sins, Luther said, “You've forgotten something. Quickly write on each of them, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses us from all sins!'” Satan, defeated, howled in protest and disappeared. When you are wondering if you have really been forgiven of your sin, you always have to go back to the blood of Jesus. His blood was enough to satisfy God. When you doubt your salvation, you are putting the blood on trial. Consider this powerful story about putting the blood on trial: One night in a church service, a young woman felt the tug of God at her heart. She responded to God's call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The young woman had a very rough past involving alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. But, the change in her was evident. As time went on, she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry, teaching young children. It was not very long until this faithful young woman had caught the eye and heart of the pastor's son. The relationship grew, and they began to make wedding plans. This was when the problems began. You see, about one-half of the church did not think that a woman with a past such as hers was suitable for a pastor's son. The church began to argue and fight about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting. As the people made their arguments and tensions increased, the meeting was getting completely out of hand. The young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry, the pastor's son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife to be. He began to speak, and his statement was this: “My fiancée's past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So, does it wash away sin or not?” The whole church began to weep as they realized that they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . If the blood of Jesus does not cleanse the other person completely, then it cannot cleanse us completely. If that is the case, then we are all in a lot of trouble. What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. End of case!

    It Doesn’t Work When You Chop It in Half

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 8, 2022 6:35


    Day 222 Today's Reading: James 5 Can you imagine what we would miss if we stopped short on verses in the Bible and just read half of them? What if we only quoted the second part of John 3:16: “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”? What makes it powerful is the first part: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” To know that God loves me and that He gave His only Son for me gives me the ability to believe in a God of love. Devotional author Brennan Manning so insightfully said: “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.” While everything looks good on the outside, we have a war waging on the inside. And no one knows about it. How can I get free? How can I be healed? I heard someone say once, “If you want to be forgiven, confess your sins to God. But if you want to be healed, confess your sins to each other.” James 5:16 is not only a powerful healing verse, but it is one of the most misquoted verses in the entire New Testament. Let me give you the misquote first: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” I have heard this verse all my life in the church during prayer meetings. The problem is that those who said it chopped it in half. And when they did, it didn't quite work the way it's supposed to. This verse is not a prayer meeting verse, it's a healing verse. Here is the actual: Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Just saying part B makes me the subject of the statement that righteous people praying get things done. But that is not what James was saying. He is telling me that I am not the righteous man. I am the struggling man in this verse. James was challenging the church to transparency and confession of our struggle. And here was the challenge: if we can connect transparency with a righteous praying person, then healing is close by. James was really clear on who we are to be honest with. The person we pick to come clean with is not necessarily our buddy, or our BFF. It could be . . . only if they are a godly person who knows how to pray and get answers from God. For my healing and freedom, I don't need you to know me, I need you to know God. When James says, “Confess your faults one to another,” two things are happening. First, he is creating humility in you and me and keeping sin in the open so it does not grow. Sin incubates in darkness. Sin grows in secrecy. There is no healing in hiding. And second, who we confess to is huge. He says the person we confess to better be able to pray. Get a praying righteous person. For freedom, I need someone who is walking with God, not someone with a counseling degree. I don't care what your plaque or diploma says. The question on the floor is, “Are you a righteous person and are you a praying person?” Here's a challenge for you today: Do you have someone in your life who meets the criteria of the second part of this verse? Your healing is connected to this important relationship. Look for people who pray—not simply those who golf or do what you do. It's okay to find common denominators with friends. But friends don't necessarily mean this is your James 5:16- part-B relationship. When you meet someone who has a prayer life, latch on to them and meet with them. I would ask them to pray for you. The words of pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer are powerful as he speaks about confession of a struggle to a brother: “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.” The mark of a healthy body is the ability to heal itself. The church is called the body of Christ. There are hurdles, struggles, and problems we all have that we can address and deal with when we have the right relationships in our lives. And James 5:16 tells us what our criteria must be for healing to come. Let me date myself. I grew up with a television that started with a black screen and a dot that grew into the picture. We had a thing on top of the television set called rabbit ears, which was the antenna. There was no remote. To change the channels between the nine stations we got, the set had a dial, which we lost many times so we had to use pliers to turn the channels. Boy, televisions have changed today. They are the size of a picture on your wall. And the clarity—they call it high def, 4K now. Every drop of sweat, the wrinkles in the skin, nothing is hidden. Just as high-definition (HD) television illuminates the blemishes and imperfections of those appearing on screen, living a high-definition life can expose both our strengths and weaknesses. And yet something liberates us when we go HD. A revival started in the early church, because people went high def and confessed to one another: “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. . . . In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:18-20, NIV). The honesty of the saved challenged those in the occult. And transparency and confession started a revival. I'm too exhausted to pretend. It takes too much work to pretend to be something I'm not. I don't have that kind of energy to be impressive. I just have enough energy to be real. Confession is vulnerability and transparency. It tells everyone, I'm on the team; I'm a fellow struggler and fighter just like you. It's what makes us real. It allows us to tell others, “You have mistaken what the church really is. It's not a museum or a hall of fame. It is a hospital with a lot of sick people getting better. And you are looking at one of them.”

    How To Put The Devil On The Run

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 7, 2022 3:51


    Day 221 Today's Reading: James 4 I was reading the story of a young man who had a call on his life to go on the mission field. The problem was that he still had an edge to him. He still had an independent spirit, which came out by what he did and the way he spoke to others. When he went to his leader to ask him about his call to be a missionary, the leadership wisely said to him, “Before you can be a missionary you have to be submissionary.” I grew up in a church where binding Satan was a big deal and done often. We'd pray, and it was called spiritual warfare. Those words were supposed to distance us from the devil. In today's chapter, James gives us a way to put the devil on the run. James teaches us that binding is not done with the mouth but with the life, a life of submission: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you” (James 4:7, GNT). Submission. It is a hard word but a powerful one. It is powerful enough to put the devil on the run, yet hard to make it part of our daily lives. Submission is a fighting word to the devil, and its power is so easily missed by the Christian. Submission starts with recognizing authority, and then being willing to yield to that authority. When you recognize God as the authority in your life, you are saying not only is God more powerful than you are, but He is wiser than you, and you yield to Him, believing God knows better than you do. I heard someone once say: “I can take more ground and advance with submission rather than ambition.” Submission is powerful. The unsubmissive person says “I choose what is good, best, and right for my life.” The submissive person says, “I choose what God says is good, best, and right for my life.” The best way to “bind the devil”? Submit to God. We have so many Christians binding Satan over themselves, people, churches, and cities without a submissive spirit. Satan doesn't flee without a submissive spirit to God. It's impossible to resist the devil in any area if there is not a submission to God in every area. The greatest binding you can do is to always say yes to God. Submission to God is the believers' way of binding Satan—keeping him out of their lives. The truth of the matter is, speaking is always easier than lifestyle. But always remember that lifestyle gives authority to your speaking. They cannot be divorced from each other. Christian writer Edwin Cole says it like this, “Ability to resist temptation is directly proportionate to your submission to God.” For example, if we know the Word of God tells us not to marry a non-Christian, and we decide our love for the person trumps the Word of God and we go ahead and marry that person, then we are not submissive to what God says. Submission is not just obeying. Submission is not just doing what someone said. Submission is obeying with the right attitude. That's what makes submission difficult. A mother ordered her disobedient son to sit in a corner. After a couple of minutes sitting, he told his mother, “I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside!” He obeyed, but he didn't submit. I want to live a life that says yes to God with a smile on my face, knowing that He knows better. Three-time World Series champion New York Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson is an outspoken Christian. Before Mickey Mantle passed away, Bobby led him to the Lord. Bobby's prayer is a great prayer for all of us who want to bind the devil without saying, “I bind you, Satan!” It's the ultimate prayer of submission and the ultimate spiritual warfare prayer: “Dear God, Your will: nothing more, nothing less, nothing else!” Now that will put the devil on the run.

    Words Matter

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 4, 2022 4:22


    Day 220 Today's Reading: James 3 If there is one book in the Bible that reminds us that our words matter, it is the book of James. In fact, the book of James has five chapters, and all five have something to say about the tongue. Let's sample a verse or two from each chapter. From James 1: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. . . . If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless” (verses 19, 26). From James 2: “Speak and so act as [people should]” (verse 12, AMPC). From James 4: “Do not criticize one another, my friends” (verse 11, GNT). From James 5: “Say only ‘Yes' when you mean yes, and ‘No' when you mean no, and then you will not come under God's judgment (verse 12, GNT). You might think I skipped chapter 3. I didn't. James thought it wise to dedicate almost an entire chapter to the power of the tongue. Why? Because words matter. And that is James 3: “Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you'd have a perfect person, in perfect control of life. “A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. “This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!” (Verses 1-10, MSG) My friend, this can't go on. When James speaks about the tongue, he is telling us about our words. In the book of James, the tongue equals words. This is why it's important: Your words influence (verse 1). James says not to rush into teaching because you are held to a higher standard. Why are teachers held at a high standard? Because you are influential at vulnerable moments of people's lives. You're getting a blank slate to write on. Your words reveal maturity (verse 2). James says the best way to see how mature someone is is not to look at their age, if they have gray hair, or if they have experience, but to listen to them speak. Listen to their word; their talking. I think wise people talk less, not more. As Proverbs 17:27-28 (TLB) says, “The man of few words is wise; therefore, even a fool is thought to be wise when he is silent. It pays to keep his mouth shut.” Your words make a difference. The tongue is little, but its effect is big. James gives four illustrations of this: the horse and bridle (verse 3); the ship and the rudder (verse 4); the forest fire and the spark from a match (verses 5-6); the animal and the animal trainer (verse 7). What do these word pictures mean? Something so small can cause great damage if not under control. The tongue is small but the tongue can cause a lot of damage. Hearing a comment can hurt people and ruin a friendship. Being called a name can sink into someone's soul and can make the person start believing the lie of that word. I've heard it said, “Light travels faster than sound. That's the reason most people appear to be bright till you hear them speak.” Words really do matter.

    Smile When You Drive

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 3, 2022 6:25


    Day 219 Today's Reading: James 2 In It Worked for Me, former Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a story about a time he slipped out of his office and past the secret service agents and snuck down to the building's parking garage. He explains the set-up: “The garage is run by contract employees, most of them immigrants making only a few dollars above minimum wage. The garage is too small for all the White House cars. The challenge every morning is to pack them all in. The attendants' system is to stack cars one behind the other, so densely packed that there's no room to maneuver. Since number three can't get out until number one and two have left, the evening rush hour is chaos if the lead cars don't exit the garage on time. Inevitably a lot of impatient people have to stand around waiting their turn. The attendants had never seen a Secretary wandering around the garage before; they thought I was lost. They asked if I needed help getting back “home.”” He told them that he wasn't lost, but was just there to look around and chat. They seemed pleased. As they talked, Powell asked them, “When the cars come in every morning, how do you decide who ends up first to get out, and who ends up second and third?” The attendants looked at each other with knowing looks and smiled. Then they explained their system. “When you drive in, if you lower the window, look out, smile, and you know our name, or you say ‘Good morning, how are you?' or something like that, you're number one to get out. But if you just look straight ahead and don't show that you even see us or that we are doing something for you, well, you are likely to be one of the last to get out.” Guess whose car was always first to get out? Colin Powell's! Today's chapter talks about the importance of how to treat people for who they are and not what they possess. That was the challenge for this new church that James was addressing. It was parking-garage talk to the people, spoken like a secretary of state: Listen to it. “My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted? "Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.” (James 2:1-5, MSG) Then a few verses down, James gives a name for this type of rule: the royal rule or royal law. Why is it royal? Because it was given by a King: “You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can't pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God's law and ignoring others.” (Verses 8-10, MSG) James starts off this chapter speaking to two words that are incompatible: faith and favoritism. Faith in Christ and prejudice toward people are contradictory. If there is no passion for Jesus, then there will be no compassion for people. The word favoritism in this verse is made up of two Greek words, which means to receive the face. You receive someone based upon what you see (color, jewelry, clothing). This word is found in only three other places in the New Testament, and in every place, God is the subject and it tells us that God is not into judging people by their face. God shows no partiality or does not look at faces but hearts. Let's look at the three other passages: • “For the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:9-11, NIV) • “You know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:9, NIV) • “If you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites.” (Colossians 3:25, NIV) And then we come to James 2:1 and are told to do the same thing God does: don't judge people by the outward appearance: “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” (NLT). Then James tells a story with two different people showing up at a church meeting. One is rich and one is homeless. James warns the Christians about evaluating the externals and coming to a wrong conclusion. He said when we do that we become nearsighted and don't see anything beneath the surface. Our criteria are flawed. The usher in James 2 does that and gives preferential seating to the rich and general-admission seating to the poor. One gets box seats, the other gets the floor. If there is to be one place where there is to be no distinction or prejudice, it should be the house of God. Prejudice is inconsistent with God's method of seeing people. God does not look at a person's wallet or skin and say, “I want that person in My family.” He does not look at the face, whether that face has Lancôme cream on it or is covered in dirt and grime. Secretary of State Powell had more to his story. This is how it finished: “Show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person needs it more than you will ever know. Don't just show kindness in passing or to be courteous. Show it in depth, show it with passion, and expect nothing in return. Kindness is not just about being nice; it's about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect.” Colin Powell sounds a lot like James 2.

    More Valuable Than Rubies And Much Easier To Get

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 2, 2022 5:36


    Day 218 Today's Reading: James 1 In May 2012, a thirty-two-carat Burmese ruby-and-diamond ring—from the collection of Lily Safra, one of the richest women in the world—was sold at auction. The pre-auction estimate for the ring was $3 to $5 million, but the final sale price ended at $6.7 million. It is believed to be the most expensive ruby ever sold. As valuable as rubies are, the Bible tells us there is something more valuable than that: wisdom. As Proverbs 8:11 says, “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it” (KJV). In today's chapter, James begins by telling us how to find this invaluable and rare jewel called wisdom. First we need to understand that wisdom is not simply information. I know a lot of intelligent people who are not wise. Being old is no guarantee of wisdom. And neither education nor experience alone make someone wise, although wisdom does include experience and education. And wisdom is not knowledge either. As former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. As Doug Larson said, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk.” Each year in the United States 800,000 new books and 400,000 periodicals are published. As Brian Buffini rightly said, “We are drowning in information and starving for wisdom.” So what is wisdom and how do we get it? Charles Spurgeon best defined it when he gave the difference between wisdom and knowledge: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. But to know how to use knowledge rightly is to have wisdom.” R. T. Kendall, who has been a spiritual father and mentor to me, also offers definitions of wisdom: • Wisdom is saying or doing the right thing—at the right time! • Wisdom focuses on knowing the next step forward in making decisions. • Wisdom is to possess the ability to get things done. • Wisdom [is] knowing what to do next. • Wisdom is getting God's opinion. Kendall explains, “God always has an opinion on any matter. He therefore should be consulted first when we are wanting to know the next step forward.” God always knows the next step but is rarely asked. I have good news. Wisdom is not far away. And James 1:5 tells us where wisdom can be found. James says if you want wisdom, it's found in prayer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” I think counseling has gone up in the church because prayer has gone down. We get counseling to gain wisdom when we could have started with God instead of an office. I think prayerlessness is an insult to God. Every prayerless day is a statement by a helpless individual that says, I do not need God today. Baptist preacher Vance Havner said, “If you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get on your knees.” Wisdom is available to those who ask God in prayer for it. That means wisdom and prayer go together. You can't have one without the other. No one who is wise is prayerless. And no one who is prayerless will ever be wise. We will never attain wisdom apart from the presence of God. Colossians 2:3 says, “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (NLT). So He is our source and the source of wisdom. That means we can have an MBA or a PHD and still be D-U-M-B. Because if God is divorced from our lives, then we are divorced from the all-wise God. Every man of wisdom is a man of prayer. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder . . . and in this case, the wise pray and the prayerful are wise. Proverbs 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise” (NLT). So those who walk with God will have to be wise. Why? There is no one wiser than God. Walk with God. Talk with God. Listen to God. And watch how He rubs off on you. I lived in Detroit for thirty years. I lived down the street from the first auto factory in the United States. There is a really cool story about that plant. Henry Ford asked Charlie Steinmetz, an electrical genius, to build the generators for his automobile factory. One day the generators stopped working, and the repairmen couldn't figure out the problem. Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then hit the switch. Immediately the generators came to life. When Ford got the bill from Steinmetz, he was stunned. The amount was $10,000. When he asked why the bill was so high, Steinmetz replied: For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill. wisdom knows the exact spot to make things work. God is like Charlie Steinmetz, He knows how to make life work.

    A Lot Of Negatives Can Equal A Positive

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 1, 2022 5:31


    Day 217 Today's Reading: Hebrews 13 Anything can happen before the year ends. You may meet your mate. You may get pregnant. You may graduate, start a new career, or move. You may have your first job interview. You may become an empty nester or attend your child's wedding or have your first grandchild. You may start attending a new church or you may start a new walk with God. The bad stuff can come just as fast. You may get a divorce, have a miscarriage, deal with a foreclosure. You may get fired. The doctor may say you have cancer. Your child may become an atheist. You may experience the death of a spouse, a child, a parent, or a close friend. Nothing seems to be concrete or forever. And for all the change that happens in our lives, Hebrews 13 reminds us that despite change, there is One who does not change: “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6, KJV). There is a tribe in South America that has an initiation rite for their young men when they turn twelve years old. One of the things they do is take them into the deepest part of the jungle and leave them all night by themselves. It was their own father who had to lead them and leave them there for their dreaded night alone. The boy would sit in fear all night listening to the ghoulish sounds of the forest. When the sun finally rose the next morning, the boy would look just a few feet away and would see that his father had been sitting there the entire time; he just didn't know. The boy would ask, “Have you been there all night?” To which the father would reply, “Of course I was there all night. Do you think I would leave you alone? Do you think that I would have ever left you in this place alone?” God says the same thing that this South American father says. God says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5 is a rare verse. It has been translated by many as simply, “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” That is good English, but it is not good Greek in this instance. This verse contains an unusual triple negative. That is not good English (like “I ain't got no money”), but it is good Greek. It should actually be translated, “He will never, never, never leave us nor forsake us.” In fact when the verse is complete, it has five negatives in total—reassuring the Christian believer that the Lord will never, ever, no not once, never forsake nor leave us. This is such a beautiful truth. God has promised never, no, not ever, never, to leave nor forsake us. That means a lot of negatives is a real positive for us Christians. Jewish commentators believe it was a way of confirming the truth in the testimony of more than two witnesses. Jesus used that method often: “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” One verily was not enough for Jesus. When in conflict or hard times, our tendency is to ask the same question over and over. And it seems that God wants to make sure we get it immediately that He's not going anywhere and that He's here to stay for you. When C. S. Lewis married the American Joy Davidman, and then soon found out that Joy was dying of cancer, Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed that he could have used a screaming room. Why do we feel that way? We feel that God is nowhere to be found. And like C. S. Lewis, we want to scream. But according to Hebrews 13:5, things may change, people may change, but God won't. He is always going to be there. That is a promise you can count on. Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China in the early 1900s and was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng, the area where she lived. However, she was determined not to be the only one to make it to safety, so with only one assistant, she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward, what was at that time, Free China. In The Hidden Price of Greatness, authors Ray Besson and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker, share the account: “During Gladys's harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng . . . she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. “But I am not Moses,” Gladys cried in desperation. “Of course you aren't,” the girl said, “but Jehovah is still God!” When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and He can trust in Him.” That's what the writer of Hebrews was telling us. When we face conflict and difficult times and wonder, Will God be with me? Will He abandon us? the writer of Hebrews offers us the five-negative-promise that is a positive: “Never, positively not! It will never happen! It's unthinkable! There is not even the slightest possibility that it will ever happen!”God will be with you.

    Am I Ignitable?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 31, 2022 4:33


    Day 216 Today's Reading: Hebrews 12 Today's chapter ends with the shortest verse of the chapter and probably of the entire letter. It's about God's nature: “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). That's it, but that's enough. God desires to set His servants on fire. He wants to consume them. One man He consumed with passion was Jim Elliot. Elliot was a missionary to a remote tribe of Auca Indians of Ecuador in the 1950s. He was martyred alongside four other missionaries during Operation Auca on January 8, 1956. After his death, his widow, Elisabeth, went on to impact many people through her writings and her biography of Jim, called Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty, which later became a movie of his life called, The End of the Spear. Even though Jim died at age twenty-nine, he wrote. Thank God, Jim wrote. His journal and his biography are filled with spiritual gems, such as these two: “Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” And “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” But there's one statement he wrote in his journal that both challenged and convicted my soul and has affected me since the beginning of my ministry more than thirty years ago. I committed it to memory. It was something he wrote after his morning devotional reading of Hebrews. (Warning! Don't read this quote if you want to just stay where you are spiritually.) “[He makes] His ministers a flame of fire,” he wrote. “Am I ignitible? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.' Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul—short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God's house consumed Him. . . . ‘Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.'” Jim Elliot leaves us with two huge and penetrating questions: Am I ignitable? And what other things have been asbestos to keep me from being ignitable? Since God is a consuming fire, I need to be, I must be ignitable. That is why I must bring judgment to everything I do, see, watch, have friendship with to this one standard: are those things asbestos? If I am not on fire for God, it's not God's inability to ignite me. So the question always haunts me, “Am I ignitable?” Every time the fire of God fell in the Bible, it was looking for something to fall on. In the Old Testament, it was looking for an animal sacrifice. But in the New Testament, it was looking for people. Fire fell on people on the day of Pentecost. As Tommy Tenney said, “If you want the fire of God, you must become the fuel of God.” One of my favorite devotional writers, Samuel Chadwick, said this about the fire of God: “The soul's safety is in its heat. Truth without enthusiasm, morality without emotion, ritual without soul, make for a Church without power. Destitute of the Fire of God, nothing else counts; possessing Fire, nothing else matters.” Am I Ignitable? What things in my life is asbestos to retard the fire of God? John Wesley said these words about the Methodist church he founded in the midst of revival: “My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great.” Content to live without the fire? May it never be for any of us. I want to say with Jim Elliot to our God the consuming fire, “Make me Thy fuel flame of God.” Jim was right when he later wrote in his journal, “Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” God is a consuming fire, and you and I need to be His fuel. Let's allow Him to consume us.

    Creation Versus Evolution

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 28, 2022 6:16


    Day 215 Today's Reading: Hebrews 11 Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter. We don't get but a few verses into this chapter when we are faced with creation. Which means that faith and creation go together. The writer of Hebrews says this in verse 3: “Faith empowers us to see that the universe was created and beautifully coordinated by the power of God's words! He spoke and the invisible realm gave birth to all that is seen” (TPT). The writer jumps right into a twenty-first-century science classroom firestorm. The writer just says it like the first verse of the Bible does in Genesis 1. Let me give you four false “facts” that homiletics students of West Coast Baptist College put together: 1. Books write themselves without the need of an author. 2. Cars build themselves without the need of a manufacturer. 3. Music composes itself into beautiful harmonies without the need of a composer. Now, any kindergarten student could testify that the above three statements have as much truth to them as the flat-earth theory. However, countless university lecturers and professors are paid big dollars to promote the “reality” of this last false fact: 4. The whole universe came into being through a process of random chance and beneficial mutations, without any need of a Designer. The true fact of the matter is that evolution is just a big fairytale for grownups! The French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire states it most simply: “If a watch proves the existence of a watchmaker but the existence of the universe does not prove the existence of a great Architect, then I consent to be called a fool.” The evolutionist's argument is so illogical, it really lends toward deception. There is a Designer of this wonderful universe: “In the beginning God.” Australian pastor J. Sidlow Baxter gives this powerful breakdown of the first verse of the Bible: ““In the beginning God”—that denies Atheism with its doctrine of no God. “In the beginning God”—that denies Polytheism with its doctrine of many gods. “In the beginning God created”—that denies Fatalism with its doctrine of chance. “In the beginning God created”—that denies Evolution with its doctrine of infinite becoming. “God created heaven and earth”—that denies Pantheism which makes God and the universe identical. “God created heaven and earth”—that denies Materialism which asserts the eternity of matter. Thus, this first “testimony” of Jehovah is not only a declaration of Divine truth, but a repudiation of human error.” No one can get by the first verse of the Bible without having to submit to the authority of the Bible. Couldn't God have used evolution? That is a silly and intrusive question. God told us He didn't use evolution. He did everything in six days. Evolution needs more than six days. People reject the creation account because they don't want to deal with the God of Scripture. Evolution is hostile to the Word of God. Ask people if they believe in a literal six days. If they conjugate that part of the Scripture, what will stop them from conjugating other parts of Scripture? If the culture can overturn the clear teaching of the Genesis account, the culture can overturn any scriptural mandate. The Bible repeats the six days of creation from different parts of Scripture. It states it again in Exodus 20:11: “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” Proverbs 30:1 (MSG) says, “The skeptic swore, ‘There is no God! No God!—I can do anything I want!” But if you believe in Creation, then you have to face these maxims: If I believe in creation, then I have a Creator. If I have a Creator, then I have an Owner. If I have an Owner, then I have accountability. Evolution simply doesn't make sense. As G. K. Chesterton said, “It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.” In 2018, the famed physicist and atheist, Stephen Hawking, died at seventy-six years old. In his final book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, he wrote: “When people ask me if a God created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn't exist before the Big Bang, so there is no time for God to make the universe in. It's like asking directions to the edge of the Earth—the Earth is a sphere that doesn't have an edge, so looking for it is a futile exercise. Do I have faith? We are each free to believe what we want, and it's my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. . . . We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.” Listen closely to what I am about to say. Stephen Hawking just became a believer one second after his death on March 14, 2018. Hawking died and saw the greatest mind ever: God. When will you become a believer? Will you be a too-late believer like Hawking? Ravi Zacharias said, “To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, ‘I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.'” We think that since the bottom of every rock and tree does not have “made by God” that it's not. But that's why we have faith. Faith and creation go together.

    Why Is Church So Important

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 27, 2022 4:46


    Day 214 Today's Reading: Hebrews 10 I have heard this question many times: “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” The answer is obviously, “No, you don't have to go to church to be a Christian.” But that's not the entire answer. The end of the answer is this, “You do have to go to church to be a growing Christian.” One of my dear friends says it like this: “Only weak people think they are strong enough to do the Christian life alone.” I grew up hearing and reciting Hebrews 10:25 as the reason for attending church: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (KJV). But I love the way the Passion Translation opens the passage. It's much more profound and challenging: “Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.” (Verses 24-25) T. M. Luhrmann, professor of anthropology at Stanford, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times weekend edition several years ago called, “The Benefits of Church.” Consider what she said about why going to church is good for you: “One of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance—at least, religiosity—boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.” When we are connected to the church, we are better people. Think about it this way. Many members of the church can accomplish collectively what the same members cannot do individually. Think of an airplane. One hundred percent of it is made up of non-flying parts, but when we put them together, they can lift 175,000 pounds. How much can you bench by yourself? The power of the body of Christ is that together we can do the unimaginable. The writer of Hebrews says that consistently not attending church is the habit of some. What a dangerous habit. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then some people must really love church because they are absent a lot. Honestly, though? Absence makes the heart go wander. Popular reformer and author R. C. Sproul said it brilliantly: “It is both foolish and wicked to suppose that we will make much progress in sanctification if we isolate ourselves from the visible church. Indeed, it is commonplace to hear people declare that they don't need to unite with a church to be a Christian. They claim that their devotion is personal and private, not institution or corporate. This is not the testimony of the great saints of history; it is the confession of fools.” The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain why this habit is not healthy: “Because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning” (verse 25, TPT). The church's job is to encourage and urge each other onward. What a great job. The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition expands it even more with these words: “admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another.” In a world and in a time that is so dark and discouraging, the church should be the place we go and come out better than we went in. Russ Blowers, a minister in Indianapolis, knew the Rotary Club members would ask about his profession when he attended a local meeting. He didn't want to just say, “I'm a preacher,” so when his turn came to introduce himself to the group, he said, “I'm with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and board room on earth. We're into motivation and behavior alteration. We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis-pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death. We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking (There's not enough money to buy it).” That's called the church. And it's amazing! Why would we skip it each week?

    What Happens After We Die?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 26, 2022 5:38


    Day 213 Today's Reading: Hebrews 9 I was speaking to a major league baseball player once who was struggling with the idea of death. I told him, here is your anxiety about death, starting with the least and moving to the greatest anxiety: • The unlived life. You didn't do your bucket list—so many things you wish you would have done. You start to realize what you didn't do and how much time you wasted. • The regretful past. This is going backward and wishing you could take back words and actions. You wish you would have let more things go, apologized more, spent more time with your kids and your family. • The gnawing possibility of accountability. This causes the greatest anxiety. It is the eternity issue. Is there a heaven and hell? Am I accountable? Will God judge me? If so, how will God judge me? The first two on that list deal with mortality. The final item on that list deals with immortality. Is there something after death? That causes people's anxiety to grow as they think, “Before I was only anxious about my last years on earth, but now I'm anxious about what is beyond and forever.” We can brush off dreams unrealized. We can even brush off the stupid stuff we did that we wish we could take back. But eternity is different. Eternity keeps talking to us. And today's chapter gives us a sobering reality check on it: “Every human being is appointed to die once, and then to face God's judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, TPT). Everyone will stand before God, either as our Judge or as our Redeemer. His role is determined by the choice we make on earth. When CNN cancelled Larry King's interview show in 2010, King began obsessing with his death, becoming aware that there will come a day when he dies. But he doesn't believe in the afterlife, so each day he started taking four hormone pills for human growth, and made plans to have his body frozen so that someday he will live again. He admits he knows “it's nuts," but at least he believes when he dies the potential of him being resurrected someday thanks to cryonics gives him some hope. Larry King says, “Other people have no hope.” Our hope is not in extending life here but extending life on the other side in heaven. Larry King is trying to extend the wrong way. What he fails to understand is that eternity is too long to be wrong. There's another who doesn't want to face eternity. In The Last Word, Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy at New York University and an atheist, admits he doesn't want there to be a God: “I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.” Those words are raw and honest, and I appreciate the professor's candor. But again, eternity is too long to be wrong. In 1974 Muhammad Ali was set to box against George Foreman for the Heavyweight Champion title. While he was training, a father and his son, Jimmy, came to Ali's training camp, because he wanted to meet the Champ. When Ali discovered Jimmy was battling leukemia, he told him, “I'm going to beat George Foreman, and you're going to beat cancer.” Two weeks later, Ali visited the boy, who was dying. Ali told him, “Jimmy, remember what I told you? I'm going to beat George Foreman. You're going to beat cancer.” “No, Muhammad,” Jimmy answered. “I'm going to meet God. I'm going to tell Him, you're my friend.” Ali's kindness and name recognition throughout the world has always impressed me. But on the day of judgment, we can't count on name-dropping. The only name that will matter on that day is the name of Jesus. Even the Sportsman of the Century will stand before the true “The Greatest” and bow down. Paul reminds us that “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10). What will you tell God when you meet Him? Can you honestly say when you do, “I know Jesus?" The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (NIV). How can we be prepared for death? We need to remember that death starts eternity. So as C. S. Lewis reminds us, “Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments.” The saying goes like this: “Never fall in love with anything that can't go to heaven with you. The more important a matter is, the less you should postpone it. So claim the gift of eternal life immediately.” Eternal life is a decision—one that cannot be delegated, and one that has a deadline. Today is the day of salvation.

    The New Covenant: Not Me but God

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 25, 2022 3:57


    Day 212 Today's Reading: Hebrews 8 Why should you go to heaven? I have asked many people that question. The number one answer I get is, “I am a good person.” I remind them about what Jesus said. Jesus, who cannot lie, said that, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). And based on that person's answer . . . now two are good in the universe: God and that person. They start to see not only is that not the right answer, they start to see the futility of that answer. God the Father did not send His only Son to suffer horrifically on the cross so that you can do your best to get to heaven. The cross means more than that. Jesus did not die to get you to church. Jesus died to get you to heaven. You have no way to get to heaven on your own, you need help. You need a miracle. You need a new covenant. The old covenant put you in the driver's seat to do your best, and the Old Testament revealed that even at your best, it can't get you to heaven. Hebrews 8 shows us the help and the miracle—it's the new covenant: “Now Jesus the Messiah has accepted a priestly ministry which far surpasses theirs, since he is the catalyst of a better covenant which contains far more wonderful promises!” (verse 6 TPT). What is the “far more wonderful promises” of the new covenant? What makes this so different? It's what God says next in the form of two words. What follows verse 6 reveals the heart of God and offers us great help and hope. Those two words? I will. Seven times in this chapter, God says, “I will.” The new covenant is all on God. Where the old covenant was man trying to do better, the new covenant is God saying, You can't, but I will. We live in a culture that embraces the I will: I will be better. I will get this right. I will be a success. I will be rich. I will get to heaven. If you answer the question “How do I get to heaven?” with something you do, then the “I” of the “I will” is you. You can't be the “I.” The “I” is the Son of God. It's what He has done for you in the new covenant. Martin Luther so powerfully reminds us of this when he said: “What makes you think that God is more pleased with your good deeds than he is with his blessed son?”  What follows the statement of “far more wonderful promises” is this (all quoted from the NIV): “I will make a new covenant.” (Verse 8) “This is the covenant I will establish.” (Verse 10) “I will put my laws in their minds.” (Verse 10) “[I will] write them on their hearts.” (Verse 10) “I will be their God.” (Verse 10) “I will forgive their wickedness.” (Verse 12) “[I] will remember their sins no more.” (Verse 12) The new covenant is what God does for you, not what you do for God. Another word for you being the “I” is legalism. You are working to make God like you and bring you to heaven. Legalism eliminates God's involvement in your life and puts it all on you. Legalism says that God will really love you if you can change. As Tullian Tchividjian said, “The ironic thing about legalism is that it not only doesn't make people work harder, it makes them give up.” That is when God says, I have a better covenant for you. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said something that reminds me of the greatness of God's I Will. Digest these powerful words: “Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers everything for nothing. In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very remarkable offer. But the difficulty is to reach the point of recognising that all we have done and can do is nothing.” That's the new covenant.

    There is a Guarantee, You’re Going to Make It

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 24, 2022 6:17


    Day 211 Today's Reading: Hebrews 7 Comedian Ray Romano said this about parenting: “Having children is like living in a frat house—nobody sleeps, everything's broken, and there is a lot of throwing up.” For us parents, this is so true. Let me tell you an “everything's broken” story. When my son was little, he loved to color. One day while I was away from my laptop, my son decided to take his coloring skills to a new level. He grabbed a black Sharpie permanent marker and drew all over the screen. I walked into my office and caught him. I was frozen, not sure what to do other than plan my son's funeral. Then it hit me. My laptop was a Dell, and at the time, Dell had an amazing guarantee that if anything happened to the laptop, they would replace it. No way that guarantee means a Sharpie and a two-year-old, I thought, but figured I'd call Dell and tell them the story. The customer service representative laughed and said they would ship out a new laptop in a day and I could use that box to send back to Dell the one my son signed. They did guarantee their product. Hebrews 7 takes guarantees to a whole new level. This chapter compares the old covenant under Old Testament priests with the new covenant under the High Priest and Savior, Jesus. And the writer finally arrives at the guarantee portion of the covenant: “This makes Jesus the guarantee of a far better way between us and God—one that really works! A new covenant. Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus' priesthood is permanent. He's there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them.” (Hebrews 7:22-25, MSG) Jesus is the guarantee that the new covenant works and is better. Let me explain. When we are born again and come to God through Jesus Christ, we have a guarantee that we will make it to heaven. Under the old covenant a person was only as safe and secure as their next sin. And then they had to wait till the yearly sacrifice of the high priest for the sins of the nation of Israel. Under the new covenant, the writer tells us there is a guarantee. The Bible uses a comparable word to guarantee. It's the word surety. That word means a person who takes responsibility for another's performance of an undertaking. For example, their appearing in court or the payment of a debt. Remember the reality show Dog, the Bounty Hunter? He was a bail bondsman. When a person was released on bail money, but skipped appearing in court, Dog would hunt that person down to get that person to court. That's why it's hard to be a backslider when our surety is Jesus. He comes after those who walk away from God, because He is the guarantee to get them not to court but to heaven. Jesus is the surety that we will make it to heaven. Jesus is, in a sense, your Dog, the bounty hunter. Ouch, I know that's hard to say, but He is. He has too big of an investment in you to lose you. How does Jesus help you in that? That's where verse 25 explains an important point: “He is able to save fully from now throughout eternity, everyone who comes to God through him, because he lives to pray continually for them” (TPT). Jesus is praying for you and me right now. And all of Jesus' prayers get answered. He is committed to getting us home. Robert Murray McCheyne said it like this: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference because He is praying for me.” The short life of the Old Testament priests made their guarantee weak, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that since our Great High Priest, Jesus lives forever, this warranty lasts that long. Puritan writer Thomas Watson shares this wonderful insight about our guarantee: “When God calls a man, He does not repent of it. God does not, as many friends do, love one day, and hate another; or as princes, who make their subjects favourites, and afterwards throw them into prison. This is the blessedness of a saint; his condition admits of no alteration. God's call is founded upon His decree, and His decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed. God blots out His people's sins, but not their names.” I like guarantees! When we buy certain products, especially electronic products, or when we buy a car, that guarantee is important. In buying gifts we like to know about the guarantee. Does it say, “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!”? God offers His Son Jesus as our guarantee. God backs up His promises with His Son. Every time we see the reenactment of that first Christmas, we are being reminded of God's guarantee. Think of it this way. If I made a promise to you, and you asked for some guarantee; some surety; that I would keep my promise, I would not hand over my son, Christian, and say, “Here's my son. He's yours until I keep my promises.” That's outrageous. But in a sense, God did that. He gave us Jesus, His Son, as a guarantee, as a surety that He will do what He said. “Here's my Son, He's yours forever!” to guarantee that you and I will make it to heaven when life is over. Jesus is our guarantee! God proved that He meant what He said. He signed it, sealed it, and sent the ultimate guarantee—the living Word. He is unchangeable. He guaranteed it forever. No limitations. No fine print. No tricky words. Jesus is the guarantee—forever! That's good news. You are going to make it home to heaven.

    Forward and Upward is Our Only Direction

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 21, 2022 6:19


    Day 210 Today's Reading: Hebrews 6 An old Presbyterian preacher named Clarence Macartney made a keen observation about airplanes and the Christian life: “Between an airplane and every other form of locomotion and transportation there is one great contrast. The horse and wagon, the automobile, the bicycle, the locomotive, the speedboat, and the great battleship—all can come to a standstill without danger, and they can all reverse their engines, or their power, and go back. But there is no reverse about the engine of an airplane. It cannot back up. It dare not stand still. If it loses its momentum and forward-drives, then it crashes. The only safety for the airplane is in its forward and upward motion. The only safe direction for the Christian to take is forward and upward. If he stops, or if he begins to slip and go backward, that moment he is in danger.” This is what the writer of Hebrews is speaking of in today's chapter: “Leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2) Let us press on to maturity. Those are the words for moving forward and upward. It is the challenge of growth for the Christian. Always remember that maturity is not a gift, it is a journey. Inventor Rowland Hill once watched a child riding a rocking-horse and remarked, “He reminds me of some Christians. There is plenty of motion but no progress.” Hebrews 6 is a plea for progress. It seems that these new Christians got stuck. The writer says we should know the foundational principles of faith, repentance, and laying on of hands, and that we should not stall out on these issues but press on toward maturity. As The Message so aptly puts it: “So come on, let's leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ” (verse 1). It is easy to confuse maturity with experience. Experience is a wonderful thing but not always the best teacher. There's nothing more tragic than when the years don't match the maturity. A group of tourists were visiting a European village and walked by an old man sitting. With a patronizing tone, one tourist asked him, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.” Every born-again believer starts life as a baby in Christ. Whether the new convert is six or sixty, that person is still a new Christian and needs to grow in the Lord. A baby Christian who has been saved for forty years is a tragedy. God intends for us to grow and mature so we can be a positive influence in the lives of others. Until we learn to dig into the meat of the Word for ourselves, we will never grow. Amy Carmichael once penned these thoughts: “Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step, by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories, by faithfulness in very little things. . . . No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph on spiritual maturity.” That is the work of the moment. Maturity comes through taking small steps, introducing new habits, and stopping bad ones. In one Peanuts comic strip, Sally was struggling with her memory verse for Sunday, when she finally remembered, “Maybe it was something from the book of Reevaluation.” I think every time we read the Bible, it should be in the book of "re-evaluation" for us to see if we are growing. In most homes that have children present, you'll usually find a growth chart. It keeps track of each child's measurements. As a child ages, the body receives messages from the pituitary gland in the brain that tells it to get moving, it's time to grow up. There's nothing the child can do to stop or start the growth, it happens naturally. I wish the same were true spiritually. I wish once we become a Christian, our growth becomes automatic, but it doesn't. There is no special gland to help us grow spiritually as Christians. What if we did have a spiritual growth chart? If you could measure your spiritual growth in inches, how many inches have you grown in the last three to four years? How much taller are you standing today spiritually from where you were last year? What does growth and maturity look like? I think this story defines it for us. A group of women who were studying the Bible together were puzzled by the words of Malachi 3:3: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (KJV). One of the ladies decided to call a silversmith to see if he could explain. That week she visited a silversmith and asked him to explain the process of refining silver. After he described the process, she asked, “Do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh yes,” he replied. “I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace. For if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver is sure to be injured.” At once she saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back with one more piece of information. “I only know when the process of purifying is complete by seeing my own image reflected in the silver.” As Joseph Exell explains: “Christ sees it needful to put His children into the furnace, but He is seated by the side of it, His eye is steadily on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random. When Christ's image is reflected in us, His work of purifying is accomplished.”

    Two Words That Don’t Seem to Belong to Each Other

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 20, 2022 4:35


    Day 209 Today's Reading: Hebrews 5 In talking about the power of mentoring, UCLA's great basketball coach, John Wooden wrote: “[President Abraham] Lincoln fiercely believed in self-sufficiency, and in the maturity and character that struggles and hardships can bring. This lesson is so important for teachers and parents. It is only natural for us to want to shield our students and our children from anything that might possibly cause them hurt or to suffer or even to be uncomfortable. But some degree of pain is necessary for a person to become suited for the responsibilities that lay ahead.” Pain is necessary. Those are true but tough words to swallow. In today's chapter we encounter a topic that is not often discussed in our culture. The writer of Hebrews speaks of a classroom that is often overlooked but more so avoided—the classroom of suffering. And we see that Father God was doing exactly what Lincoln and Wooden spoke about with His Son Jesus: “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Suffering and learning. These are words we don't normally associate together. Suffering and learning are partners, and they are integral in the life of Jesus. Malcolm Muggeridge, one of the great British Christian writers, did not come to faith until later in life. His words on suffering and learning are powerful: “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness. Amy Carmichael can attest to that. Carmichael was a missionary to India in the early 1900s. She was the originator of the safe house, rescuing young girls at a time when the world did not know about the horrific exploitation of them. She did this at the risk of her own life. In 1932, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which broke her leg and twisted her spine, and which left her mostly bedridden and in constant pain for the next twenty years until her death. Rarely did she sleep through a night without waking up in pain. However, while bedridden, Carmichael wrote sixteen books that are filled with awe-inspiring revelation. All coming from a fall, sleepless nights, and back pain. We could learn from her suffering. Helen Keller said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Those are the learners. We try to avoid pain instead of learning from pain, which leads us to where we waste our pain. A. W. Tozer was spot on when he said: “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Our Daily Bread tells the story of A. Parnell Bailey who toured an orange grove where an irrigation pump had broken down. The season was in a drought, and the trees were beginning to die. Next Bailey visited another orchard where irrigation was used sparingly. “These trees could go without rain for another two weeks,” the man giving Bailey the tour told him. “When they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship and pain caused them to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. Now mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth.” That's what happens in pain, we learn to go deeper in God. Pain takes us deeper so we are not hurt by the pain but have learned to draw our resources from a place of depth. As Mildred Witte Struven explained: “A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.” I want to be porcelain. I want to come out of the struggle with depth and value that wasn't there before the struggle and pain. Robert B. Hamilton's poem called “Sufferings” captures it well: “I walked a mile with Pleasure; She chatted all the way; But left me none the wiser For all she had to say. I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne'er a word said she; But, oh! The things I learned from her, When sorrow walked with me.”

    Does Jesus Really Understand What I Am Going Through?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 19, 2022 6:11


    Day 208 Today's Reading: Hebrews 4 The second most difficult book in the Bible to understand is Hebrews, because of its assumption that the reader is familiar with the Old Testament. It is dependent upon reader's understanding of the book of Leviticus and it is written to Jews who would know this book completely. The two key words in the book are sacrifices and priest. In today's culture, we are not familiar with the concept of priesthood and sacrifices. The basic premise of Hebrews is that these Jews were getting tired of the battles that go along with being a Christian. The more secular the world becomes, the more at odds we appear to be. The more we are committed to Christ, the more we experience conflict and collision. Some of these Hebrew believers were being persecuted and even their property was being taken from them. These new Christians' wondered, How can we make it? Is it worth it? They were considering going back to the world and back to their old ways. The author of Hebrews had one simple message to give them: Jesus. He wanted them to know they had a friend in high places who would get them through because He really understands what they were experiencing: “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16) That message is still true today: you are not alone. You have Someone with you and He is Someone who has been through what you are going through. The Message says it like this: “We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Wow! We serve a Jesus who has experienced it all. Why is this important? Charles Spurgeon said it well: “A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.” Is this really true? Does Jesus understand what you are going through because He has been through it Himself? Jesus doesn't just know what you are going through, He knows what it's like to go through it. This makes Him a personal Savior. There is nothing you have gone through that He has not gone through in some form or fashion. He understands what it is to be let down by friends. He understands betrayal. He understands fear and wanting to quit. He knows the pain of losing loved ones. He understands having someone close to Him murdered. Just to name a few. He found out what it's like to discover your life is on the clock. (Some hear it like this: “You have cancer; you have three months to live.”) He was a carpenter. He knows what it is to work a 9-5 job. He had deadlines and work orders. He knew homelessness: Jesus said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). Jesus knew what it's like to cry out to God and ask why when things got tough: He said on the cross: “My God, My God, why . . .?” (Matthew 27:46). So what is the result of having this kind of Jesus? The writer of Hebrews tells us in the first word of the next verse: Therefore. It means, “here's the reason” I just told you what I told you. Hebrews 4:16 reads: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He says, now that you know you have a High Priest who understands the pain of life, what are you going to do about it? And he gives the answer: “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.” The King James Version says we are to “come boldly.” That says it all. In other words, we can approach God with frankness, bluntness. We can be open, plain, and daring—telling it like it is. We can have freedom in what we say. We can speak unreservedly. It's real talk. It is going to Jesus, not trying to impress Him, but telling him, “This is who I am, and this is what I am going through, and this is how I feel.” You say things like, “I am afraid,” “I don't want to die,” “I don't want to live,” “I can't go on another day,” “I'm through with this marriage.” The more you know Jesus, the more you can be real with Him. “Jesus loves you as you are not as you ought to be.” (Brennan Manning) And He knows you! So you don't have to pretend with Him. We can go to the throne boldly. Or as The Message puts it, “So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give.” How can we do that? We have the Son who understands and will take us to the Father. Did you know there was a time in American history when any citizen could go to see the president? At the end of the Civil War, a dejected Confederate soldier was sitting outside the grounds of the White House. A young boy approached and asked what was wrong. The soldier explained that he had repeatedly tried to see President Lincoln and had been unable to do so. He wanted to tell the president that his farm in the South had been unfairly taken by the Union soldiers. But each time he tried to enter the White House, the guards turned him away. The boy motioned to the soldier to follow him. When they approached the guarded entrance, the soldiers came to attention, stepped back, and opened the door for the boy. He proceeded to the library where the president was resting and introduced the soldier to his father. The boy was Tad Lincoln. He was the son of the President of the United States. The soldier had gained access to the president through the president's son. How much more should we rejoice in our access to the grace of the King of kings? We are connected to the Son and He can get us in to see the Father in tough times. The Son allows us to walk right up to Him.

    A Spoon Says a Lot

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 18, 2022 5:47


    Day 207 Today's Reading: Hebrews 3 Thomas Edison had very little formal education. In fact, he was only in school a few months before his mother pulled him out and began teaching him herself. She encouraged him in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and allowed him to pursue other interests that appealed to him. Always a curious boy, he was particularly fascinated with mechanical things and chemical experiments, which his mother encouraged. How did it come about that his mother pulled him out of school? And why? According to a rare interview Edison gave to a now-defunct literary journal, T. P. Weekly, published on November 29, 1907, his mother's staunch support and belief in him made him the successful inventor he became: “One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector that I was “addled” and it would not be worthwhile keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by this last straw that I burst out crying and went home and told my mother about it. Then I found out what a good thing a good mother is. She came out as my strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn't know what he was talking about, that I had more brains than he himself, and a lot more talk like that. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy ever had, and I determined right then that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.” Thomas Edison's mom spoke encouragement, life-giving words, into her son's life and gave us one of the greatest inventors in history. Because of her staunch belief in her son and her words about and to him, the world has the light bulb, phonograph, camera, telegraph, generators, microphones, alkaline batteries, cement, and a host of other things. Words are powerful. As Mother Teresa said, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” In today's chapter, the writer of Hebrews describes the heart challenge we all face and the antidote for it to be fixed: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13) We are told that any one of us can find our heart moving into unbelief. The writer says that we are to be aware of that enemy. And before we can even be afraid, we are told there is an answer to it—encouragement. Encouragement is what keeps our hearts soft. That is the power of encouraging words. Those kinds of words don't just give us a Thomas Edison, they give us strong, faithful Christians. Can I vent for a moment? I want to give you my pet peeve of “religious” encouragement. It's when people give you the preface before the encouragement. They say something like, “I don't want you to get a big head or get prideful, but you preached well, you sang well, your words were powerful.” Their preface waters down their encouragement. I want to tell them, “You're not the pride police. Just say something nice without the caveat.” People are so discouraged today, and a word of encouragement gets them in the game, so give someone a word of encouragement without your “concern” for their pride. Be more concerned of an unbelieving heart than a prideful heart. That means just say the good words. More people fail for lack of encouragement, I think, than for any other reason. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. We don't have enough encouragers out there. We need more encouragement in the home and in the church. Who knows what a word of encouragement could do for your spouse, your child, or the person you sit next to at your job. Just a “great job” could get someone through the day. We need to make deposits into people's emotional bank accounts. It will help them finish their day, the week, their life well. Day-to-day encouragement. Send someone a text of encouragement. Make a quick Mom-and-Dad phone call and encourage them. The people you think don't need it because they always look happy are many times the ones who need it most. A pastor friend told me about something that happened in his church. An elderly lady told him when he buries her that she wants a Bible and a spoon in her casket. He asked her why. She said, “At all the church fellowships I have been to over the last seventy-five years, when they come around after the dinner and give us spoons they are saying the best is yet to come—dessert. And when I die, I want people to know that the best is yet to come.” Well, he'd heard the story before—it's been going around for years. But that's not the end of the story. My friend said there was a part B. A little while later, he needed to step down from ministry for a season due to some personal issues. It was a hard year for that pastor to be attending the church he'd led for decades but who was now on the sidelines. After the year was up, he prepared for his first Sunday back. He was nervous and scared and wondered if the church would even want him back. That first Sunday back, he stepped up to the pulpit and watched in amazement as the entire congregation stood. They didn't applaud. They held up spoons. They were encouraging him that the best is yet to come.

    Running to the Cry

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 17, 2022 4:56


    Day 206 Today's Reading: Hebrews 2 My wife, Cindy, and I were sitting with our children's pastor some years ago. As we were talking in our living room, our four children were playing in the basement. All our kids were under the age of eight, so there was a lot going on. At that time the children's pastor was not married and had no children. While we were talking we all heard a cry from the basement, but Cindy and I just kept talking. Finally he said, “Aren't you guys going to do something?” “It's okay,” we told him. “That's a ‘You took my spot!' cry. It's all good.” We kept talking and then another cry came from the basement. We never flinched. He was unnerved. “Should we go check on them?” “It's all good,” Cindy and I said. “That's a bug cry.” We kept talking. Then a third cry came and we got up and left. He sat confused. “Where are you going?” “That's an ‘I'm hurt!' cry,” we said as we rushed to the basement. “Someone hurt themselves and we need to go.” Meeting postponed. When you are a parent, you know the cry of your children. Hebrews 2 is about our Savior who knows the cry of His kids. Let's read this very encouraging passage: “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18) The King James Version doesn't use the phrase, come to the aid. It uses a very old English word, “He is able to succor them.” The word succor actually means to run to the cry. I think it's important to know that Jesus runs to the cry and not to the articulate. Sometimes all we have is a cry, and that moves our Savior to our rescue. Psalms show us this over and over: “In my distress I cried out to the Lord . . . my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:6, NLT) “In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and He answered me.” (Psalm 120:1) “I love the Lord because he . . . heard my cry.” (Psalm 116:1, NIRV) David over and over uses cries for prayer. A cry is inarticulate but still has meaning. A cry is not grammatically correct, but it is understandable to God. A cry may be wordless but speaks with force and passion in the ears of God. Tears are prayers. Tears talk when we can't. There's an old poem by John Vance Cheney that says in part, “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” Let me show you the rainbow of this verse. The writer of Hebrews was telling us that since Jesus became like us “in all things,” He knows the cry and the pain of those things. He can recognize the emotions of situations that we forget Jesus became familiar with. In 100 Days in the Arena, David Winter recounts a horrific time in the early church when the Christians were being killed for their faith. He includes this prayer: “You give yourself with such total generosity, it might almost seem that you need us. There has never been a king like you ever before. You have made yourself available to everyone who needs you. Instead of high security, you have made yourself vulnerable even to those who hate you.” What makes Jesus amazing is that our tears are enough to get His attention. It's not our experience, our vocabulary, our education, our position, or our finances. A cry is enough to make Him run to our help. There is no such thing as a bad prayer—even if it's just a cry. Bruce Howell tells the story of a father and his young son and daughter who went swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off New Jersey. Though they were all great swimmers they got separated, and the dad, looking around, realized that the tide was carrying them out to sea. He called out to his daughter, “I am going to shore for help. If you get tired, turn on your back. You can float all day on your back. I'll come back for you.” He and the boy made it to shore and then set out on a frantic search for the girl. After four hours, they found her far out in the sea. She was calmly swimming on her back and wasn't frightened at all. The father was hugely relieved when the calm girl was finally back on shore. Everyone wondered how she could be so calm. She said, “Daddy said he would come for me and that I could float all day, so I swam and floated because I knew he would come.” This is what Jesus is all about. He will always come for us. He will always be there.

    God Did a Lord Nelson

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 14, 2022 5:55


    Day 205 Today's Reading: Hebrews 1 At Trafalgar Square in London stands the 170-foot-high iconic Lord Nelson column. Resting on top of the pillar is Lord Nelson. It towers way too high for a passerby to distinguish his features and really know who it is. So about forty years ago a new statue, an exact replica of the original that is on top, was erected at eye level so everyone could see Lord Nelson way up there. Someone had the idea that if you want to know who is “way up there,” we have to bring the exact representation down low enough for everyone to see. This also happened about two thousand years ago in a very big way. God transcends our ability to see Him for who He is. The eyes of our understanding cannot define or figure out His divine features. So God pulled a Lord Nelson for us. He set before us an exact representation, “the image of the invisible God.” Now to know God, we must only look at Jesus. Here's what the writer of Hebrews tells us: “In these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. God made his Son responsible for everything. His Son is the one through whom God made the universe. His Son is the reflection of God's glory and the exact likeness of God's being. He holds everything together through his powerful words. After he had cleansed people from their sins, he now holds the honored position—the one next to the majestic God [the Father] on the heavenly throne.” (Hebrews 1:2-3, GW) We live in a highly religious society today. I don't think America is godless; I think America has many gods. The issue is, what does America's god look like? One of the first things God did when He gave the Ten Commandments was to issue a warning from the very beginning about counterfeit gods. The Bible says this in Exodus 20 in the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:3-5) Here is what stands out—that God gave the commandment against other gods not to pagans and idolaters but to Israel, the very people of God, a monotheistic people. Being religious never guarantees the worship of the true God. This was what we remember as we enter the book of Hebrews. Hebrews was written to religious people who were losing sight of Jesus. They were losing sight of the exact representation and likeness of God seen only in Jesus. And the book reminds them that God is in Jesus. Divine truth must come from outside to us. It cannot be self-generated by us and come from within ourselves. Truth must be revealed by God to us. Without Jesus we come up with our own version of God; thus the thousands of religions in the world who have self-defined God instead of letting God define Himself in Jesus. As Colossians 1:15 says, “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen” (MSG). God is fully revealed in Jesus. That's why any religion that doesn't give Jesus the honor that God gets is counterfeit. Jesus tells us, “The Son will be honored equally with the Father. Anyone who dishonors the Son, dishonors the Father, for it was the Father's decision to put the Son in the place of honor” (John 5:23, MSG). The Son is equally honored with the Father, because the Son is God in the flesh. There are only two approaches to knowing God: one that begins with humans or the one that begins with God. Jesus is God's self-revelation. We know God only through Jesus. Lloyd C. Douglas was the author of the classic book, The Robe. He lived in a boarding house when he was a university student. He tells the story that when he lived on the first floor, he resided next to a retired music teacher, wheelchair bound and unable to leave his apartment. Every morning they had a ritual: Douglas came down the stairs, opened the man's door, and asked, “Well, what's the good news?” The other picked up his tuning fork, tapped it on the inside of his wheelchair, and said, “That is middle C! It was middle C yesterday, and it will be middle tomorrow. It will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but my friend, that is middle C.” Says Donald McCullough of the story: “The old man had discovered a constant reality on which he could depend, an unchanging truth to which he could cling. Jesus Christ is our tuning fork, ringing out middle C in a cacophonous world of competing truths; his pitch defines tonal reality and sets every other note in its proper place.” Society may be flat. The church may be sharp. But as McCullough reminds us, “When we listen to middle C two things happen: the revelation of Jesus Christ both separates us from God and unites us to God.” Astronomers observe stars with telescopes. Biologists examine cells with microscopes. Sociologists discover patterns of human behavior with surveys and interviews. Psychiatrists delve into the mind through conversation. Humanity can know God by the life and words of Jesus Christ. When we grasp the hand of Jesus, we meet God in Person.

    Forgiven but Not Fixed Yet

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 13, 2022 6:35


    Day 204 Today's Reading: Philemon 1 You can be forgiven of your past but still have an unfixed past. Forgiven and fixed are two different things, and sometimes people confuse them at salvation. Being born again will change your relationship with God, but won't necessarily change your relationship with your family, the courts, the IRS, the law, a judge, a probationary officer, VISA, a collection agency, a halfway house, or a bad marriage. At least not immediately. You are forgiven but not fixed yet. Let me give you a scenario. If you robbed a bank and got saved after that, are you forgiven and really going to heaven? Yes. Are you going to jail? Yes. Are you now innocent since you are forgiven? Nope. You are forgiven, but you may have a past that still needs to be fixed. You can be going to heaven and going to jail at the same time. God's forgiveness always exonerates in the courts of heaven, but is not guaranteed in the courts on earth. Salvation forgives sin (past, present, and future) but it does not resolve it. This is such an important issue that a whole book of the Bible is devoted to it. A twenty-five verse book, which is the best and most practical help on this issue—Philemon. The verses will pop off the page when I give you the background. We have three characters in the story: Paul, who is in prison, is the aged apostle and the writer of the letter; Philemon is a Christian who had a slave who ran away (and has the church in his house); Onesimus is the slave who ran away and who gets saved while he is trying to get lost among the residents in Rome. In the first century, two million of the five million people in Rome were slaves. To purchase a slave was very expensive. There were 120 occupations for them—some were executives and had salaried positions; most slaves served between ten and twenty years and usually were free by the age of thirty. But if a slave ran away, it was like he was committing suicide. It was punishable by death or branding the letter “F” on his head, which stood for the Latin word Fugitivus. Bottom line: Onesimus ran away. Bottom line: by law he can be killed or branded. Paul knows this. Onesimus knows this. Philemon knows this. While Paul is in prison in Rome, guess who he meets? Onesimus. And guess who Paul leads to the Lord? Onesimus. Now we come back to our original thought: you can be forgiven but your past is still unfixed. So Paul has to write a letter and send Onesimus back to Philemon with that letter. Listen to some of Paul's letter to Philemon. This is a masterpiece: “I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will. For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Philemon 1:10-16) Jesus has forgiven Onesimus. Will Philemon forgive Onesimus? Paul doesn't mention the name Onesimus in the letter for nine verses. I want you to keep this in mind—this letter is being hand delivered. The Jerusalem postal service is not doing it, but the subject of the letter is; Onesimus. I wonder if he knows exactly what is in the letter as he is coming back to Philemon. Commentary writer William Barclay says, “Christianity never entitled anyone to default on debts.” Paul leads him to the Lord and then leads him to address his debt issue. The IRS. The police. The outstanding credit card and collection agencies—for the Christian all these have to be addressed with an Onesimus letter. Don't call your irresponsibility a trial that God is going to get you through. Irresponsibility is fixed by integrity not a miracle. You address the unresolved, not rebuke it. That's what the letter to Philemon teaches us. Paul writes in verse 21 “I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!” (NLT). Paul is saying, “You may be heating up the branding iron with the F on it. I'm asking you to put it down. I want you to forgive him—that's the F I want heating up in your heart.” Onesimus was useless when he was in verse 11. He stole from Philemon in verse 18. But here's the game changer: he is now a brother in Christ, not just an employee. Now the big question: what is the end of the story? No one knows. The Bible does not tell us if Philemon forgives him or if Onesimus lives. I want to make a guess from something I saw in a church history book. In Earle Cains's Christianity through the Centuries, he writes: "Some fifty years after Philemon was written, just on the heels of the apostles, was the church father, Ignatius, a martyr on the way to his death. He was allowed to write letters of encouragement and one of those letters was written to the church in Ephesus. And in that letter he makes mention of their pastor. His name? Onesimus." A coincidence or a miracle? Did the runaway slave become a pastor? Did the man who tried to hide out in Rome find himself leading the church in Ephesus? You may say, “That's a big stretch. That's a tall order.” If an ex-murderer can write most of the New Testament letters, then I think this is feasible with God. Wait! That ex-murderer is the writer of this Philemon letter—the apostle Paul. Jesus says it like this, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

    Actions Speak Louder than Words

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 12, 2022 3:57


    Day 203 Today's Reading: Titus 3 Research experts tell us we communicate only 7 percent with our words, 38 percent with our tone of voice, and 58 percent with our actions. This is why Paul emphasizes the word deeds to the young pastor Titus. In today's chapter we are getting from the apostle Paul the last of the pastoral letters. His emphasis to Titus in chapter 3, and really throughout the entire Epistle, is focused on the 58 percent. I imagine Paul feels like Benjamin Franklin who said, “Well done is much better than well said.” Basically, it is better to be a good doer than a good talker. John Donne said: “Of all the commentaries on the Scriptures, good examples are the best.” Another word for example in the book of Titus is good deeds. The apostle Paul is really careful to tell us it's not the good deeds that make us Christians and get us to heaven: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). But it is good deeds that should be coming from God's people. He wants us to know that though we are not saved by good deeds, we pursue good deeds because they are the outflow of the work of God in our lives: "Remind the people to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed. . . . This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men." (Verses 1, 8) Be ready for every good deed and engage in good deeds. Then he repeats in verse 14: “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” Again, he encourages us to engage in good deeds. But these exhortations are not limited to Titus 3. In Titus 1:16, Paul tells Titus about people who know how to talk but not live: “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” Or as one Colin Morris put it, “Your theology is what you are when the talking stops and the action starts.” Then Paul speaks about good deeds in chapter 2, two more times: “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified. . . . Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (verses 7, 14). Zealous for good deeds. It seems like “good deeds” is the emphasis Paul is giving to Titus: Titus, let your people show their Christianity, not just speak it. You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. Our challenge is to live what we say. People will see with their eyes before they will listen with their ears. Our actions can bring someone closer to Jesus or be the very thing that turns them from Jesus. Charles Banning was right when he said, “Too many of us have a Christian vocabulary rather than a Christian experience. We think we are doing our duty when we're only talking about it.” People may doubt what we say but they will believe what we do. As the late British evangelist Gypsy Smith once quipped, “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, but most people never read the first four.”

    Advertising God at Work

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 11, 2022 5:27


    Day 202 Today's Reading: Titus 2 Do you have the happiest or the unhappiest job? Recently Bloomberg Work Wise put out a list of the happiest jobs in America, based on fulfillment, coworkers, supervisors, and balance of home and life. Here are the top five: firefighters topped the list, followed by machine operators, pediatricians, communication professors, and guidance counselors. Bloomberg also listed the top jobs in which people are asking, “Is it 5 p.m. yet?” These are the jobs where lunch hour rescues them. They are: mail clerks and sorters are the first on the list, followed in order by court and municipal clerks, house cleaners, insurance claims and policy clerks, telemarketers. When talking about work, A. W. Tozer said: “We must do worldly jobs, but if we do them with sanctified minds, they no longer are worldly but are as much a part of our offering to God as anything else we give to Him.” In today's chapter Paul wants to teach us a lesson on work, regardless of which list we are on. And we find no better place to know how to sanctify our minds and make our job an offering to God than in Titus 2:9-10: "Servants are to be supportive of their masters and do what is pleasing in every way. They are not to be argumentative nor steal but prove themselves to be completely loyal and trustworthy. By doing this they will advertise through all that they do the beautiful teachings of God our Savior." (TPT) In Titus 2, Paul begins to give advice to a number of different groups. He speaks to the men and women who are part of AARP; he calls them older men and older women. Then he has advice for young men and young women. And then Paul speaks to laborers who encompass all these groups. Author Dorothy Sayers, one of C. S. Lewis's literary friends said: “The only Christian work is good work well done.” That's our goal: good work well done. In their book, The Edge of Adventure, Keith Miller and Bruce Larson wrote, “If you are miserable or bored in your work, or dread going to it, then God is speaking to you. He either wants you to change the job you are in or—more likely—he wants to change you.” I think Paul helps us here, regardless of what job we have, and I think Titus 2 is a good place to start with wanting us to change. Paul says when we work the right way in our jobs, we advertise God the Savior through what we do, not what we say. A lot of people like to talk, but it is those who do rather than talk who make the greatest impact. Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz said: “When all is said and done, more is usually said than done.” Let's be a people who do more than say more. Here is Paul's challenge for us, our on-the-job training: • be supportive • do what is pleasing in every way • do not be argumentative • don't steal • prove to be completely loyal and trustworthy Paul tells us to make those things our priority and we will be a walking advertisement for God. The Living Bible paraphrases that last part like this: “In this way they will make people want to believe in our Savior and God.” We make God attractive by being a great employee. We witness for Jesus without even saying the name of Jesus. Jesus alluded to this principle in the Sermon on the Mount: “Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance. . . . Let it shine brightly before others, so that the commendable things you do will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, TPT). Here it is in its simplicity. People see your good actions and attribute them to God in your life. It goes like this: your Christian faith should translate into good employee habits—showing up on time, not stealing, not being argumentative, being loyal, being trustworthy. When you are a good worker, you make God look good. Then eventually that opens the way for you to have a good God conversation with others about it. Talking to people about your faith is last, not first. Usually those who talk first have a lifestyle that messes up their conversation.  Charles Swindoll shares an old story of Saint Francis of Assisi. One day Saint Francis said to one of his students, “Come with me. Let's go down to the village and preach to the people who need our Savior.” Off they went. Once at the gate they stopped, bent down to speak kind words to a crippled old man, and gave him a cool drink of water and a few coins. Then they saw some children playing with a ball out in the field, so they joined their game and had fun with the children. While they played, a lonely widow watching at her doorstep drew their attention. When they finished the game, they visited with her, bringing her a few words of cheer and encouragement. A fearful young man lurked in the shadows, ashamed of what he had done the night before. They prayed with him, spoke with him openly and freely about forgiveness, grace, and mercy, and they encouraged him to pursue a more productive future. On the way out of town, they stopped at a small store and greeted the merchant, asked about his family, and thanked him for his faithful work through the years. Finally Saint Francis said, “Let's go back.” The novice stopped and said, “But wait, when do we preach?” The older friar answered, “Every step we took, every word we spoke, every action we did has been a sermon.” Imagine how well we could represent God if we approached our lives and work that same way?

    Men Lie, but God Cannot

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 10, 2022 5:18


    Day 201 Today's Reading: Titus 1 A deacon sent in his apologies for the Sunday morning service, claiming that he was ill with the flu. One of the church members, however, said he had seen the deacon on his way to a baseball game. After the service, the minister visited the deacon. “Brother,” he said. “I have information that you were not sick at all this morning, but went to watch a ball game.” The deacon protested and was angry: “That's a vicious lie about me! I'll show you my fish to prove it!” Men lie, but God doesn't. That's the message of Titus 1. And Paul wants that to be clear for the young pastor, Titus, who is dealing with a culture of lying and deceit on the isle of Crete, as he embarks on a mission in a new area for the gospel. Consider some of the biggest lies ever told: The check is in the mail. I'll start my diet tomorrow. Give me your number, and the doctor will call you right back. One size fits all. It's not the money, it's the principle of the thing. Even though we are not seeing each other anymore, we can still be friends. I've never done anything like this before. This hurts me more than it hurts you. Your table will be ready in a few minutes. Open wide, it won't hurt a bit. A study done by researchers at Michigan State University found that the average number of lies people tell a day are 1.6—that means we lie about five hundred times a year! A 2004 study at Temple University School of Medicine found that lying takes more brain energy than telling the truth. Researchers divided participants into two groups. They asked those in the first group to shoot a toy gun and then lie and say they didn't do it. Those in the second group watched what happened and then told the truth about it. An MRI machine indicated that the liars had to use seven areas of the brain in their response. By comparison, those who told the truth only used four areas of the brain. We serve a God who always tells the truth. In theology we call it the veracity of God. Titus 1 starts off with reminding us of this fact. Paul is writing to Titus who used to be his travel companion. Paul led Titus to Christ, which is why he calls him “my true child in the faith.” Paul has left Titus at Crete to bring things in order there. And the first thing that Paul reminds Titus is that whatever God says is true because God cannot lie: "From Paul, God's willing slave and an apostle of Jesus, the Anointed One, to Titus. I'm writing you to further the faith of God's chosen ones and lead them to the full knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, which rests on the hope of eternal life. God, who never lies, has promised us this before time began." (Titus 1:1-2, TPT) Paul is telling Titus that he knows he left him in a place where a lot of lying is going on. And he tells Titus in verses 10-12 that Titus is surrounded by liars and deceivers. That is why Paul wants him to know one thing, and the people there need to know it also: that God cannot lie. It's the veracity of God. The word veracity means habitual truth. It means you always tell the truth. God not only tells the truth but designed us to do the same. He knows our body works better when we tell the truth. A USA Today article lists body signals of lying, which include: increased blinking and pupil dilation; a facial expression incongruous with what's being said; increased body movement (especially hand gestures); shorter sentences; more speaking pauses and errors; more negative words and extreme words. Think about it. Why do lie-detector tests work? Authorities can tell we are lying because of our heart rate, sweat, tone of voice, and other factors that are all indicators that a person is lying. A lie-detector test figures out a person is lying by the reaction of their body—which shows that we were created to tell the truth! God who cannot lie is a huge statement. That means God can be completely trusted. When God speaks, we can believe it. When Paul says, “God cannot lie,” he is making more than a statement. He is laying a foundational stone for Christianity. Our Christianity rises or falls on the veracity of God. The Bible is the Word of God. And if God cannot lie, then it is the truth of God. They are not just words spoken but truth spoken. The assurance and comfort we have today as we do the 260 Journey is that every chapter we read we can believe, because God is telling the truth and we can believe Him. He is absolutely consistent with what He says and what He does. There are no fluctuations. Paul ends the chapter by reminding Titus that even people will lie about serving Jesus. It's called duplicity—their words and actions don't match. It's dishonesty. Here is what Paul says: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are disgusting, disobedient, and disqualified from doing anything good” (Titus 1:16, TPT). We serve a God who is the opposite of duplicitous, He is trustworthy. God is honest, He tells the truth, God cannot lie.

    Why Are People Still Sick When Jesus Heals?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 7, 2022 5:08


    Day 200 Today's Reading: 2 Timothy 4 Let me give you an apostle Paul timeline. Paul's conversion is in Acts 9 around AD 34. Second Timothy is his last letter and that is in AD 67. He writes it thirty-three years after the day he met Jesus. Paul's entrance into the ministry is in Acts 13, in AD 48—fourteen years after his salvation experience on the road to Damascus. So he has been preaching and in full-time ministry for about two decades. Now two verses before he is about to pen his last words ever, he throws in a sentence of mystery: “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20). Paul couldn't leave well enough alone. He has to say something in regards to sickness and Christians. Only someone who has been in ministry for as long as the apostle can throw that sentence in his final letter. The Trophimus mystery is the mystery every Christian battles: why are people still sick when Jesus heals? At some point in our lives we have asked those questions either for ourselves or others. Paul's seven words leave us hanging, longing for the answer: But Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. The man who God used to bring healing to people's lives leaves a seven-year companion sick in Miletus. Paul has healed people in Acts 14, 19, 20, and 28, but not 2 Timothy 4. Paul heals others, but Trophimus he leaves sick. It doesn't seem to make sense. Everyone he heals in the book of Acts he does not know personally, but Trophimus he does. So why has he left this one sick at Miletus? There is much speculation but no definitive answer. Some say divine chastisement. Some say he might not have had faith to be healed. And some put it on Paul: “Paul healed in Lystra and cast out demons in Philippi and wrought miracles in Ephesus but he failed with Trophimus.” We do not know the answer. Paul does a lot. But I like knowing that Paul's track record isn't perfect. There is a sick guy in Miletus. Whatever the answer is, there are times we must leave Trophimus sick at Miletus. We may win many to Christ but not everyone. There is always one. There are scores of answered prayers but there are some for whom God says no, and the prayer is like Trophimus, left without an answer. Miletus is one spot on the map where a man was not healed. We will have our Miletus too. I am rather glad for Trophimus here in the Bible. I am helped by the fact that we don't have this unbroken record of successes and that everything Paul did was a success. I could not keep up with that. The great Baptist preacher Vance Havner said we must “leave room for Trophimus, allow for a Miletus to be somewhere along your journey.” Some days are sick days. Some days are “I blew it” days. “One of the reasons why mature people stop growing and learning,” says John Gardner, “is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” Because someone didn't get healed doesn't mean we stop praying for people. Just because they did not respond the right way when we shared Jesus with them doesn't mean we stop telling people the Good News. I'm glad Trophimus is in the Bible. And we need to remember that Trophimus being left sick in Miletus does not diminish Paul or his work or his character. Former figure skating Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton and his wife, Tracie, have four children, including two adopted from Haiti. While he was pursuing his success as a skater, he once said he dropped out of church involvement and started what he jokingly called “The Church of Scott.” But through the love of his wife and other Christians, he came to a sincere faith in Christ. Rooted in his faith, Hamilton had an interesting take on dealing with personal sin and failure. In a 2018 New York Times interview, Hamilton said: “I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But I got up all 41,600 times. That's the muscle you have to build in you—the one that reminds you to just get up.” Trophimus in 2 Timothy 4 is a mystery. I really do think Paul prayed for his friend and believed for his friend's healing. But Trophimus was not healed. And that's okay, because I'm okay with having spots in my Christian walk with mystery. Evelyn Underhill said it like this: “If the Reality of God was small enough to be grasped, it would not be great enough to be adored.” I think God leaves mystery moments in our faith walk, which means mystery in our faith walk doesn't have to necessarily bring doubt but it can inspire adoration. Doubt comes when we feel as though we are owed an explanation. Adoration comes when we realize we are involved with Someone way bigger than we are. Let's adore Him even in the mystery.

    The Last Days

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 6, 2022 5:13


    Day 199 Today's Reading: 2 Timothy 3 Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ's first coming, so both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with references to the second coming of Christ. One scholar has estimated there are 1,845 references to Christ's second coming in the Old Testament, where seventeen books give it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second coming of Jesus. That means one out of every thirty verses talk about Jesus coming again. And twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to it. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ's first coming, there are eight that look forward to His second coming! Both of Paul's letters to Timothy speak of Christ's second coming. And in today's chapter, Paul warns Timothy about the condition of humanity just before Christ comes again. The prophetic words he gives to the young pastor are not only chilling but eye opening—because the condition he describes can be easily attributed to our culture today. That means we are closer than ever to the second coming of Jesus. Billy Graham said, “Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation's moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, ‘If God doesn't punish America, He'll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.'” Consider what Paul says about what the planet will look like before Jesus comes: "In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Paul gives nineteen descriptions in verses 2-4 to distinguish what humanity will look like and how they will be controlled. What is striking is that five of them have to do with love. It is a misdirected love, a misconstrued love, a deceptive love. It's humanity not loving the One for whom they were created but finding a very bad substitute. Look at what they love instead of God: self, money, pleasure. Then look at the other two: they are unloving or without love and not lovers of God. The phrase without love or unloving means without true love. It means that people today are not without love—it's just the wrong love. Paul wants to warn Timothy that when people are not lovers of God, they will start to believe that “there is no God, and since there is no God, let us start loving other things—self, money, and pleasure.” But we also find hope in these verses. Notice what verse one tells us: “In the last days difficult times will come . . .” Paul is saying, In the last days, Satan will unleash his worst—but God will unleash His best. Remember those words, In the last days. There is another section of Scripture that starts off with those words. It's found in Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2: “It shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) Wow! That is so encouraging. That means the second coming of Jesus is not to discourage us but to encourage us. As the nineteenth-century preacher, G. Campbell Morgan said: To me the second coming is the perpetual light on the path which makes the present bearable. I never lay my head on the pillow without thinking that perhaps before the morning breaks, the final morning may have dawned. I never begin my work without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. This is now His word to all believing souls, “Till I come.” We are not looking for death, we are looking for Him. Early on during World War II, the Japanese army stormed the Philippines and forced United States General Douglas MacArthur to leave the islands. Upon leaving the Philippines, General MacArthur declared his famous promise, “I shall return.” And he did, walking ashore a victor at Leyte in the Philippines several years later. There is a more famous “I shall return.” This one from the Captain of the hosts, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who declared to His fearful band of disciples, “I will come again” (John 14:3).

    Writing Your Final Letter

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 5, 2022 4:40


    Day 198 Today's Reading: 2 Timothy 2 Bill Bright has been one of the most influential Christian leaders of our generation. He and his wife, Vonette, founded Campus Crusade for Christ , which is now active in 190 countries, and consists of 26,000 staff members and an additional 553,000 trained volunteers, who work on campuses and in various settings around the world. Campus Crusade also produced the Jesus film that has been seen by more than 5.5 billion people to date, and the “I Found It” campaign, which swept the globe in 1975 and brought millions more to Christ. Bill also wrote more than one hundred books. He wrote his last one, The Journey Home, when he was slowly and painfully losing his battle with a debilitating illness called pulmonary fibrosis. This is how his physician told him he didn't have much longer to live: 'He sat me down one day—Vonette and me—in his office and said, “You don't seem to realize what's happening to you. You're dying. It's worse than cancer. It's worse than heart trouble. We can deal with these in some measure, but nobody can help you with pulmonary fibrosis. You are going to die a miserable death. You need to get your head out of the sand and be prepared for it.” So I said, “Well, praise the Lord. I'll see the Lord sooner than I'd planned.”' American poet W. H. Auden wrote, “Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.” Think about that. While everyone is eating and enjoying the day, we all know there is an end. One Puritan writer said, “If you attempt to talk with a dying man about sports or business, he is no longer interested. He now sees other things as more important. People who are dying recognize what we often forget, that we are standing on the brink of another world.” Second Timothy is the apostle Paul's “long journey home” book. This is number fourteen of Paul's letters. It's his last one. And it's an investment into leaders and, more specifically, young leaders. Former United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, said, “The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.” This was the charge Paul gave Timothy: "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops." (2 Timothy 2:4-6) In this challenge to Timothy, Paul uses three images: a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. With each of these images and examples, Paul specified something importantly inherent in each of them: to be effective. Be a soldier. If you are in active service, you don't entangle yourself in the affairs of everyday life. Or as one version says: “For every soldier called to active duty must divorce himself from the distractions of this world” (TPT). The soldier sees the big picture. He is not distracted by minutiae, but is in it to please the One who enlisted Him. The soldier lives for his General. Be an athlete. Compete according to the rules. There are no shortcuts to winning. Paul is saying the prize is for those who keep the rules. With so many performance-enhancing drugs hitting professional athletes today, it's a perfect example of trying to cut corners to win. Winning in the Christian life has no shortcuts. It may be a longer path and journey but God is doing something in your training. Be a farmer. He is referred to as the hard-working farmer. Hard work gets results. The fruit of the farmer's labor is inevitable; a crop comes because of his commitment to that field. In God's Kingdom, it seems God gives promises, but they are not automatic. God gives the children of Israel the promis

    Learning to Stop Before It’s Too Late

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 4, 2022 4:49


    Day 197 Today's Reading: 2 Timothy 1 The apostle Paul gets three verses into Timothy's second letter as a young pastor and reminds him that serving God must be done with a clear conscience: “Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3, NLT). Serving God with a clear conscience. This is paramount in our relationship with God. For the most part a clear conscience helps us to know the voice of God. One of my dear friends and mentors Winkie Pratney said: “A clear conscience is absolutely essential for distinguishing between the voice of God and the voice of the enemy. Unconfessed sin is a prime reason why many do not know God's will.” Your conscience is where you hear the whisper of God and feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The old saying goes, “Conscience does not keep you from doing anything. It just keeps you from enjoying it.” I love a small boy's definition of what the conscience is: “something that makes you tell your mother before your sister does.” A clear conscience makes you stop before it's too late. It helps you to slam on the brakes before you say and do something that you will regret later. So many people skip a clear conscience and keep going till consequences show up. And so many Christians assume it's okay to blow by the warning of their conscience and to continue on when really God has given us a mechanism to pause before moving forward. Our goal is to have a clear conscience. There are different types of violated consciences in the New Testament, which are important for us to take note of. It comes after a conscience that was not kept clear: • Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:2 of a seared conscience. • Paul tells Titus in Titus 1:15 to be aware of a defiled conscience. • The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:22 warns of an evil conscience. I believe that every time we fail to keep our consciences clear, you border on a defiled or evil or even seared conscience. Do not dismiss conviction. It's the brake for moving forward into regret. Many of us have regrets because we did not respond to conviction. And so it's important for us to respond to conviction instead of waiting for consequences. What makes us stop and pause? Conviction or being caught? Conviction is when we feel something deep inside that is like an alarm telling us there is an intruder. Embarrassment will make us stop late, but conviction will go deeper to make us seriously pause early. Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and were about to say something that was not edifying about a person, something that was gossip, and you felt this feeling, Don't say it. That's God's warning mechanism for a clear conscience. Don't finish that statement. Don't start that joke—it compromises who you are. Don't . . . Stay in tune with the whisper of God. That will promote a clear conscience every single day, not just on Sundays at church. When you serve God seven days a week, you fight every day to keep a clear conscience. There was a ship that had a regular route from California to Colombia. One day shortly before leaving for California, some drug dealers sent the ship's captain a message that offered him $500,000 to allow a small shipment of drugs to get through to the United States. The captain replied with a no. On his next three trips, they raised the offer each time until they reached $2 million. He hesitated, and then said, “Maybe.” Then he contacted the FBI, which set up a sting operation, and the drug dealers were arrested. One of the FBI agents asked the captain, “Why did you wait until they got to $2 million before contacting us?” The captain replied, “They were ge

    Can Christians Be Rich?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 3, 2022 6:10


    Day 196 Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 6 There's a word in the game of football that keeps enduring—Hut! An article in The New York Times pondered why this word keeps hanging around: It is easily the most audible word in any football game, a throaty grunt that may be the sport's most distinguishing sound. Hut! It starts almost every play, and often one is not enough. And in an increasingly complex game whose signal-calling has evolved into a cacophony of furtive code words—“Black Dirt!,” “Big Belly!,” “X Wiggle!”—hut, hut, hut endures as the signal to move. But why? . . . “I have no idea why we say hut,” said Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce. . . . “I guess because it's better than yelling, ‘Now,' or ‘Go.'” Joe Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback . . . reckons he shouted “hut” more than 10,000 times during games and practices. . . . “I've been hutting my way through football for 55 years—but I have no clue why.” The article conjectures that “hut” may come from the military backgrounds of many early pro football players. But that's just a guess. This is similar to what Christians believe and why. Many people have been told what to believe without the why or the rationale behind that belief or doctrine. And it's been around so long, they don't have a clue about the explanation. The word doctrine means a set of beliefs or teachings from the Bible. Why do we believe what we believe? Or are we just saying hut, hut every Sunday and not knowing why? Will we get thousands of years into Christianity since the resurrection of Jesus and be asked why we say and do certain things and not have an answer? Fortunately, we learn some answers in today's chapter, where Paul tells us the why. Paul takes a thirty-thousand-foot view of doctrine. He talks about doctrinal diversions but gives us one big statement. Here are Paul's important words: "If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." (1 Timothy 6:3-5)  There it is: the bombshell phrase, the thirty-thousand-foot view of why we believe: doctrine conforming us to godliness. To know if a belief system is true, the end result of our belief should make us godly, which means it should make us look more like Jesus. Religion tries to get us to look like the club, the people on Sundays and in the pew. The goal is not to look like Sunday people but to lift our eyes a lot higher to heaven. Our goal is not to look like the person in the pulpit but the One who sits on the throne of heaven. That's what doctrine is supposed to do. It conforms us to godliness. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “If your knowledge of doctrine does not make you a great man of prayer, you had better examine yourself again.” Paul wants to help us better understand how it plays out practically, so he offers the question “Can you be rich and a Christian?” as the test case. The answer is “yes, absolutely.” But Paul reminds us of some things in our lab work: "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (Verses 9-10) Paul challenges not being rich, but the reason behind why we want to

    Learn to Be an Effective Communicator

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 30, 2022 4:53


    Day 195 Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 5 A truck driver had been hired to deliver fifty penguins to the state zoo. As he was driving his truck through the desert, his truck broke down. Three hours passed, and he began to wonder if his cargo would survive in the desert heat. Finally he was able to wave down another truck. He offered the driver five hundred dollars to take the penguins to the zoo for him, and the other driver agreed. The next day, the first truck driver finally made it to town. As he drove, he was appalled to see the second truck driver walking down the street with the fifty penguins walking in a single-file line behind him! He slammed on his brakes, jumped out of his truck, and stormed over to the other trucker. “What's going on?” he shouted. “I gave you five hundred dollars to take these penguins to the zoo!” The other trucker responded, “I did take them to the zoo. And I had some money left over, so now we're going to see a movie.” Miscommunication leads to complication and confusion. Just a little miscommunication can mean a lot of problems. In today's chapter, Paul gives us a lesson on effective communication. As author William H. Whyte so aptly said: “The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.” Paul wants to remove the illusions for us. And his advice is priceless. He starts off 1 Timothy 5 with explaining how to communicate to people: Never speak sharply to an older man, but plead with him respectfully just as though he were your own father. Talk to the younger men as you would to much-loved brothers. Treat the older women as mothers, and the girls as your sisters, thinking only pure thoughts about them. (Verses 1-2, TLB) This passage can so easily be passed over and we miss Paul's powerful lesson on how to communicate to different groups of people. All people don't hear the same way; ages and gender contribute to that. Paul tells us the importance of knowing who we are speaking to and how to speak to them. It's about knowing our audience. I have had the privilege of doing chapels in different venues. I have spoken to MLB and NFL teams, and in those environments, I make sure I do certain things. The window is short, and I realize for the entire season, this is these professional players' church. I must not only respect their time but also must make sure I am making use of their time. Here are my two rules in these settings: lift up God's Word and lift up God's Son. First, I always bring a physical Bible and read from it. Why? Isaiah 55:11 says, “My word shall never return void.” That means better than a leadership principle or a pep talk, the best thing I can do for those players is give them a Bible principle, because it will always be productive. Second, I lift up God's Son. Jesus said in John 12:32, “If I'm lifted up I will draw men to Myself.” When we don't lift up Jesus, then people are attracted to the wrong thing: us. And we don't have what they need. The apostle Paul gave us his important chapel rules as well when we are talking to certain groups of people. He said when we have to have a hard conversation with a person older than we are, harsh and hard talk must be dispensed with and we must take the posture of a son and see that person as a parent. This strategy goes from if we're a supervisor with senior citizens on our staff, to having to tell our elderly neighbor to keep their dogs off our lawn. Plead with them as if they were your own father. He says the same treatment goes for elderly women. His plea about how we speak to our peers is much needed also in our generation. Young men talk to other young men as beloved brothers, as though they are our own flesh and blood. And when we see a young lady, we treat them as flesh and blood also and keep our thoughts pure about them. This is profound communication advice from Paul for all of us.

    The One Word that Stops Most of Our Dreams from Coming True

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 29, 2022 7:02


    Day 194 Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 4 How long does it take to become an expert in something? In the Development of Talent Project, Dr. Benjamin Bloom of Northwestern University studied the careers of world-class sculptors, pianists, chess masters, tennis players, swimmers, mathematicians, and neurologists. Across the board, he discovered that it takes between ten to eighteen years before someone can reach world-class competency. The point of the study was that it takes time to be the best at whatever chosen career or path you aspire to. In Outliers, author and researcher Malcolm Gladwell calls “becoming an expert” the ten-thousand-hour rule. How do you become the greatest band of all time? An expert in rock and roll? You work at it for ten thousand hours. Gladwell speaks about the Beatles seemingly instant success that many think happened on the Ed Sullivan show in one night. Gladwell says that's not the case. Before landing in America, they'd already been playing together for seven years. It was the band's ten-thousand hours of playing that made them who they were, not a night on American television. They'd started out doing one-hour sessions, in which they performed their best numbers, the same ones, at every one. But then they were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany. While there, they played eight hours, seven days a week. Gladwell explains much of their ten-thousand hours: The Beatles ended up traveling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, five or more hours a night. On their second trip, they played 92 times. On their third trip, they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg gigs, in November and December of 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. . . . Most bands today don't perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart. Gladwell considers that the key to success in any field is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with twenty hours of work a week for ten years. Paul gave this challenge to Timothy in one word: Have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8) Discipline! The grandmaster level chess player, a concert pianist, a high-level athlete all have the word discipline in common. The saying goes, “The distance from your dreams to reality is called discipline.” This is why most people miss their dreams. The other side of an undisciplined life is disappointment. Paul was telling Timothy that the goal in discipline is godliness. Or putting it another way: “godliness” is not automatic. We have to work toward it. Getting born again? Christ did the work for us. Getting godly? We have to discipline ourselves. Listen to the passage from The Message: “Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” I had a friend tell me one time that he was speaking to the boxing welterweight champion, who told him that he would set his alarm for 1 a.m. every night so he could get up and do one hundred sit-ups and one hundred push-ups. When my friend asked him why he would do that, he said, “I knew I was working while my opponent was sleeping, and I wanted the edge on him.” That's where ten-thousand hours comes from. Discipline and effectiveness, discipline and success travel together. Theologian Henri Nouwen spoke about discipline for our spiritual lives: “Discipline means to prevent everything in our life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere we're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that we hadn't planned or counted on.” Jim Elliot was a modern-day missionary and martyr, who practiced ten-thousand-hour devotional living. He wrote these powerful words: “I may no longer depend on pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them to be enjoyable or not.” Discipline is focus. Discipline is work. Discipline puts blinders to things that are crying for our time and attention. Because Timothy joined Paul before AD 50 and Paul was writing in the early sixties, Timothy was at least in his mid-twenties and could well be in his early or mid-thirties. This term for “youth” (in verse 12) could apply up to the age of forty in that culture, although it usually applied especially to someone under twenty-nine. And the challenge to young Timothy was that he would have a lot of distractions in life, so it was important to get focused on the right thing. Paul challenged Timothy to make his discipline not simply about going to Planet Fitness; reminding him that disciplining ourselves physically isn't wrong or bad—it's just that there's a better discipline, and that is about pursuing eternal things. Listen to Paul's admonishment again: “Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever” (verse 8, MSG). No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, and disciplined. Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers in the world, was known for his discipline. When he was 80 years old, he still got up every morning at 5 a.m. and did 1,300 sit-ups. One day while hitting off the practice tees, he heard someone say, “I wish I could hit a ball like that.” He turned around and said to the onlooker, “No, you don't. You know what it takes to hit a golf ball like [I do]? It takes getting up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to hit 1,000 balls until my hand bleeds, then I go to the clubhouse to bandage my hand, then go back and hit another 1,000 balls.” We want the results but not the discipline. Godliness is the goal for us, says Paul, and discipline is the key.

    We Have Been Using the Wrong Criteria for Hiring

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 28, 2022 6:12


    Day 193 Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 3 One of the toughest tasks for a church is choosing a pastor. One church was in this painful process, as the board kept rejecting applicant after applicant. Finally, frustrated with the board's No one is good enough attitude, one of the members submitted a bogus application to see what the board would do with it: "Gentlemen: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications. I've been a preacher with much success and also some success as a writer. Some say I'm a good organizer. I've been a leader most places I've been. I'm over fifty years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years. In some places I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I've not gotten along well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you." The board member looked at the others on the committee. “Well, what do you think? Shall we call him?” The board was appalled. “Call an unhealthy, trouble-making, absent-minded ex-jailbird? Are you crazy? Who signed the application? Who had such colossal nerve? The board member looked at them. “It's signed, the apostle Paul.'” Drop the mic. I think we have gone adrift from what a Christian leader looks like and have bought into the lie of what we see in the media. In today's chapter, Paul gives criteria and qualities of what a pastor and deacon should have: A pastor must be a good man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must have only one wife, and he must be hard working and thoughtful, orderly, and full of good deeds. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be a good Bible teacher. He must not be a drinker or quarrelsome, but he must be gentle and kind and not be one who loves money. He must have a well-behaved family, with children who obey quickly and quietly. For if a man can't make his own little family behave, how can he help the whole church? The pastor must not be a new Christian because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and pride comes before a fall. (Satan's downfall is an example.) Also, he must be well spoken of by people outside the church—those who aren't Christians—so that Satan can't trap him with many accusations and leave him without freedom to lead his flock. The deacons must be the same sort of good, steady men as the pastors. (1 Timothy 3:2-8, TLB) If this is the criteria for hiring a pastor or selecting a deacon, I think we have been using the wrong grid and criteria. Some places have used the vote method instead of following this passage. Titus 1 adds a few more things, and they both comprise a powerful grid for pastoral leadership. Paul lists twenty-five qualifications. Of the twenty-five, only one deals with preaching. Several translations, including the King James Version, says the pastor must be “apt to teach.” I love that word apt. It sounds like he doesn't have to be an amazing preacher. Why? Because there are twenty-four other things churches have to look at. If this list is a good grid to start, that means “communicating” is 1/25 of the pastoral skill set, which is 4 percent. If the main thing we do in choosing a pastor is simply listen to their sermons, we may be in for a train wreck. Remember, I am speaking as a pastor. Preaching is hard work, but so are the other twenty-four things. I'm afraid we have exalted and been in awe of that 4 percent in pastors, but neither them nor churches ever examined the other 96 percent. Think about some of the other things pastors are challenged with keeping in order: • being free of greed • keeping their households the priority • being the husband of one wife • being self-controlled • remaining above reproach • being prudent • being hospitable. Think of the challenge your leaders have to face to be an effective husband, father, and minister all at the same time. How do they schedule all of this? I have always said it's harder to be a pastor than a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You can be a CEO and have a messed-up marriage. You can be a CEO and have messed-up kids. You can be a CEO and have a messed-up life. You can be a millionaire, an entrepreneur, a successful businessman and have everything in your life falling apart yet still have a job. This is what makes ministry different. If your personal life, your marriage, and your children are messed up, then you're out of a job. In fact, if only one of these areas are messed up, your job is in jeopardy. Your pastor has got to give his attention to three priority areas of his life. Therefore we need to find a way to help our pastors and leaders and not criticize them. So as a pastor and on behalf of my fellow pastors, let me say this: we need your help and we need your support. When someone says we are dropping the ball in one of those areas, it would help us if we can have a support system who says, Let's pray for our pastor and find a way we can make him the best he can be. Every Sunday will not be a Billy Graham message. At times our marriages will need an oil change to get better. And our children will not always be the poster kids from child expert Kevin Lehman's books. When you hire us, help us. When you are disappointed by us, help us. When we don't meet your expectations, help us. How can you help your pastor? Yes, pray. And you can do more. Just to hear a word of encouragement or a board finding a way to give a pastor's family time off to recharge would be amazing. Remember that pastors are never off the clock. So they need your support.

    The Best Way to Be Involved in Politics

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 27, 2022 5:53


    Day 192 Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 2 I want to help you get involved in politics. I knew that would get your attention. When it comes to being a Republican or a Democrat, let's be careful before labeling ourselves. I am of the school of C. S. Lewis, who said these important words about politics: “He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.” Our heart, emotions, and energies first belong to God. We must be careful of giving these to a candidate to stay in office or to get one in office and give God less. So what part do we play as Christians in politics? There is a part we play, according to Paul, and its outcome is best for us: "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned." (1 Timothy 2:1-4, MSG) Wow! Our involvement is first on our knees. I am grateful we have Christians in government. I am grateful we have chaplains in Congress. I am thankful we have men and women fighting for godly principles. But the best way we unify the church is not around a candidate but around a king—the King. The way we unify the church politically is by getting the church to pray. And notice, Paul was saying for those in office not for those to beat those who are in office. Whether or not we agree with their politics or policies, our responsibility is to pray for our leaders in local, in state, and even in the White House and on Capitol hill. Paul says, “This is the way God wants us to live.” What is our prayer? We are first to pray that they rule well. And if they don't, then pray more. The Passion Translation says it like this: “Pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them” (verses 2-3). We pray for them “so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives as we worship God.” We are praying for our leaders so our lives can find peace and quiet instead of contention and division. Our government may be in the condition it's in because of the condition of prayer in the church. Call a prayer meeting for your church to pray for your local, state, and national leaders and see how many show up. That may be the reason we are in trouble—not because of a Republican president or a Democrat Congress or vice versa, but because of a non-praying church. A prayerless church messes up our government more than the government messes up the government. Don't dismiss this. Why is this country everything but quiet when it comes to the political landscape? Because this prayer has not been answered; because this prayer has not been offered. The part we play in politics is to pray for our leaders—not the leaders we wish were there and not just the leaders we agree with. Let's for a moment remove the adjectives before the word Christian. There is no such thing as a Republican Christian or a Democrat Christian or an Independent Christian or a Libertarian Christian, we are Christians! Which means we pray regardless of the election and its outcome. Why do we pray for our leaders? Paul says pray for this outcome: “This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. He wants not only us but everyone saved” (verses 3-4, MSG). The “everyone” here are the politicians. We pray for them two ways—that they would rule well and that they would become Christ-followers. That must be how we as Christians are first involved in politics. Anything else is a distraction and a disturbance. As W. Ian Thomas says, “Make sure it is God's trumpet you are blowing—if it's only yours, it won't wake the dead; it will simply disturb the neighbours.” I want to wake the dead in DC. I want them to find Jesus. Many years ago, government officials in The Hague invited Van Courtonne, a famous preacher in Paris, to preach in the State Church chapel. He agreed under the condition that all the government officials had to attend. They agreed, so he went and preached on “The Ethiopian” in Acts 8. Remember the Ethiopian eunuch was a government official on assignment. His sermon contained four points about the Ethiopian government official. Remember the story? The Ethiopian had just visited Jerusalem and left with a scroll from Isaiah 53. Philip came alongside his chariot and explained what the man was reading. The government official became a Christian and ordered the chariot to stop and be baptized. Now, here were Van Courtonne's points: 1. The Ethiopian was a government official who read the Bible: something rare. 2. He was a government official who acknowledged his ignorance: something rarer still. 3. He was a government official who asked a lesser person for instruction: something extremely rare. 4. He was a government official who got saved: the rarest thing of all. Let's get involved in politics. So let's get on our knees and pray.

    God Going Out on a Limb

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 26, 2022 6:37


    Day 191 Today's Reading: 1 Timothy 1 Erwin Lutzer, author and long-time pastor of Moody Church in Chicago said, “There is more grace in God's heart than there is sin in your past.” This is something the apostle Paul knew and wrote about in today's chapter: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:12-14) A. W. Tozer tells us how right Paul is: Sometimes I go to God and say, “God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth, I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast done already.” God's already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums I couldn't pay Him for what He's done for me. The only currency we have to offer God for all He has done for us is thanksgiving. And sometimes we don't do well with gratitude. How can we get better? Here's a good place to start from Priscilla Maurice: Begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving. The apostle Paul starts off by thanking God for putting him in the ministry. The Message says it like this: I'm so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12). And just like Priscilla Maurice said, as he started thanking God, the list grew. After thanking God for trusting him with the ministry, his heart went into the past and realized that God had gone out on a limb to pick Paul to represent Him. Here is the limb God went out on for Paul: “Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (verses 13-14). Paul used three words that built to a climax—blasphemer to persecutor to violent aggressor. What's crazy is how important our crazy past is. Instead of being tempted to hide it or ignore it, he shared it. Author Brennan Manning encourages us to do the same—to tell our terrible stories: “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” And as Warren Wiersbe reminds us: “The past is a rudder to guide you, not an anchor to drag you.” That means Paul used his crazy past to guide his gratitude and thanksgiving. Maybe we don't think enough of our past and so our praise limps. Here is what Paul did. The thing that stands out in this passage is Paul's insistence on remembering his own sin in a very revealing ascending order. He piled up his words on top of one another to show the awfulness of what he had done and the kind of person he really was. Paul said he was an insulter of the church. He'd flung hot and angry words at the Christians, accusing them of crimes against God. Then he moved up to being a persecutor, taking every means to annihilate the Christian church. Then he moved up again and admitted he became a violent aggressor. The word in Greek indicates a kind of arrogant sadism; it describes someone who is out to inflict pain for the sheer joy of inflicting it. Paul was showing us a dark heart. He had found delight in the suffering of other people, especially Christians. That was what Paul once was. Then Paul, amazed, said that God went out on a limb to put him in the ministry. That's definitely something to thank God about. The Puritan pastor, Thomas Goodwin, wrote an insightful letter to his son: When I was threatening to become cold in my ministry, and when I felt Sabbath morning coming and my heart not filled with amazement at the grace of God, or when I was making ready to dispense the Lord's Supper, do you know what I used to do? I used to take a turn up and down among the sins of my past life, and I always came down again with a broken and a contrite heart, ready to preach, as it was preached in the beginning, the forgiveness of sins. I do not think I ever went up the pulpit stair that I did not stop for a moment at the foot of it and take a turn up and down among the sins of my past years. I do not think that I ever planned a sermon that I did not take a turn round my study table and look back at the sins of my youth and of all my life down to the present; and many a Sabbath morning, when my soul had been cold and dry, for the lack of prayer during the week, a turn up and down in my past life before I went into the pulpit always broke my hard heart and made me close with the gospel for my own soul before I began to preach. When we remember how we have hurt God, hurt those who love us, and hurt others, and when we remember how God and our neighbors have forgiven us, that memory must awake the flame of gratitude within our hearts. That's exactly what Paul did here in 1 Timothy. Let's read what Paul said after he recounted his awful past: Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus. Here's a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I'm proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. (verses 14-16, MSG) Paul's past was forgiven and now he was telling others the amazing forgiveness and mercy of God. Let's follow his example.

    Giving My Quarters Away Each Day

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 23, 2022 5:37


    Day 190 Today's Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3 I recently read this quote: “Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back, everything is different?” The apostle Paul encourages us in our day by day in 2 Thessalonians 3. He reminds us that the day-to-day responsibilities and duties can be wearying but worth it in the long run: “Do not grow weary of doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). I don't know who said it but it is so true: “The years reveal what the days do not tell.” That's what Paul is trying to tell us—that doing what's right and good every day without getting exhausted is our challenge. Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of how the day-to-day things matter when he said: To give my life for Christ appears glorious. To pour myself out for others . . . to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom—I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table— “Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.” But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, “Get lost.” Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; It's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul. My prayer is this: “Jesus, help me to be consistent with my twenty-five cents a day. Teach me that faithfulness counts. Teach me not always to look for the big moment but to look for the little places where I can show charity—especially where no one is around and no applause can be heard, except a Well done whispered in my spirit.” Those twenty-five-cent days are the day-to-day good decisions Paul is talking about. Not big exchanges of cash but little quarter decisions that pay off over time. I want to tell you a cheese story. We know the guy but forgot about how a cheese delivery changed his life. He was doing a good thing for his dad and his brothers and because he did not get weary in submitting to his father, it changed the trajectory of his life. The delivery guy? David. How did David start on the journey toward his destiny of eventually becoming king? A cheese delivery—saying yes to an errand his dad asked him to do: “Take these ten wedges of cheese to the captain of their division. Check in on your brothers to see whether they are getting along all right, and let me know how they're doing—Saul and your brothers, and all the Israelites in their war with the Philistines in the Oak Valley.” David was up at the crack of dawn and, having arranged for someone to tend his flock, took the food and was on his way just as Jesse had directed him. (1 Samuel 17:18-20, MSG) David's destiny started by simply doing a small errand for his dad. And he took the cheese out of his hand and put a sling and rock in it shortly after. But who knew? Don't get weary of doing good. I believe entry ramps into your destiny starts with humble little tasks that don't even match what you want to do in the future. I really don't think David's dream was to be a Velveeta cheese delivery guy. But he was faithful in doing the little things. As Hudson Taylor said, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in a little thing is a big thing.” Don't dismiss little things that are good. Many times the people who can defeat the giant are never selected because they hate cheese assignments. Don't be a cheese hater. You don't kill goliaths on goliath missions but on cheese missions. Cheese deliveries are the good things that Paul said may be small but good. It is doing something for others that will never get noticed or praised or seem significant enough to put on a resume. Don't try to find your destiny. Just say yes to small tasks and your destiny will find you. What you see as a cheese delivery, God sees further. An unknown author powerfully summarized the power of being willing to say yes to the small tasks: You know the world is a better place because Michelangelo didn't say, I don't do ceilings. The world is a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther didn't say, “I don't do doors.” The world is a better place, because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn't say, “I don't do fields.” Go from the beginning of the Bible to the end, and you will see over and over again the story of men and women who had servant hearts, minds, and spirits. And the world is a better place, because: Noah didn't say, “I don't do boats.” Moses didn't say, “I don't do deserts.” Rahab didn't say, “I don't do hiding spies.” Ruth didn't say, “I don't do mothers-in-law.” David didn't say, “I don't do cheese.” Jeremiah didn't say, “I don't do weeping.” Amos didn't say, “I don't do speeches.” Mary didn't say, “I don't do virgin births.” Mary Magdalene didn't say, “I don't do feet.” Paul didn't say, “I don't do letters.” Jesus didn't say, “I don't do crosses.” As Augustine said, “The last day is hidden that every day may be regarded as important.” So spend your quarter today.

    A Great Prayer to Start Your Day

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2022 4:14


    Day 189 Today's Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2 If you are a parent, you have most definitely heard these words from your children at one time or another, “But you said...” What that means is they are holding you to your word. Nothing is more incriminating than being quoted and held accountable. It seems that the only time they do listen is when it's a promise or commitment. God is a Father and He who keeps His word loves to hear His children tell Him, “but You said.” I think that thrills the heart of God. In Hebrews 4:12, we are told that the Word of God is powerful. If you take God's powerful Word and pray it back to Him, that is exponential in power. Adding a “You said” to your prayer language gets God's attention just as a “you said” does for any parent. I don't think anything is more powerful than when you pray the Scriptures. You are just reminding God of what He told you. I want to give you a great prayer to start your day. It's using God's words in prayer. It is basically saying, “If You said, then why wouldn't You hear and respond”: “May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, MSG). Consider the trilogy of requests: put a fresh heart in me, invigorate my work, enliven my speech. Let's briefly unpack each of these so we can spot it when God answers it in our day. That's called “watch and pray.” If we ask for something, we have a responsibility to watch with expectancy. First, ask God to put a fresh heart in you. Fresh is the word you would use when describing how you look when you've just returned from a two-week vacation. How do you freshen up your heart? How do you make your heart look as though it just got off vacation? Let your heart take a trip . . . a trip to heaven. Each morning let your heart take a trip into the presence of God. You cannot make that trip without coming out with a fresh heart. Second, ask God to invigorate your work. The word invigorate means to give strength and energy to what you do. How does God invigorate your work? He has to refocus your attention on who you are doing it for. Listen to what the apostle says in Colossians: “Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others” (Colossians 3:23, TPT). Your work is invigorated when you do it for Jesus. Every activity counts, not just church activities. Martin Luther King Jr. said it like this: If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. . . . Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well. Whatever your occupation—CVS cashier, TSA agent at the airport, police officer, first responder, teacher, or ambassador. Whether you work for the government or the church, may God invigorate your work. You work for the Boss, so you're doing it for Him. Third, ask God to enliven your speech. The word enliven means to make your speech more entertaining, interesting, and appealing. When you open your mouth, you want life to come out. Not complaints, not ingratitude, just joy and encouragement. As Proverbs 18:21 reminds us: Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose” (MSG). Let's choose words of life today. My prayer for you and me today is this: “God, put a fresh heart in us. Invigorate our work. And enliven our speech. In Jesus' name, amen.” Now go and have an amazing day!

    Grow Through It Not Just Go Through It

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 21, 2022 5:32


    Day 188 Today's Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1 When the famed cellist Pablo Casals reached ninety-five years old, a young reporter asked, “Why do you still practice six hours a day?” To which Casals answered, “Because I think I'm making progress.” Your goal is to make progress every day of your life. We call it growth. As John Newman said, “Growth is the only evidence of life.” That is true naturally and especially spiritually. The Thessalonian Christians were new Christians and more importantly growing Christians. The Thessalonian church was under heavy persecution, yet continued to grow through it. This is important: they were not just going through it but growing through it. What a lesson for us. That when we are faced with difficult times, we remember that we can grow through them. Growth is not arrival, it's movement. Growth is not perfection but better. The writer of the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, said it best: “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be; but I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.'” Listen to Paul's words of commendation to these young Christians who were not what they used to be but growing: You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it's a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it's only right that we give thanks. We're so proud of you; you're so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, MSG) These new believers were growing through hard times. They were growing in two areas: their love for others was developing wonderfully and their faith was growing phenomenally—the New American Standard Bible says, “your faith is greatly enlarged.” And all of it happening in difficulty. He was basically saying, “Your faith is getting supersized.” We know that word supersize because we know McDonald's. Supersize to us means bigger fries and bigger Coke. But it does cost to supersize. Paul was saying, “You paid the extra cost for the supersize of faith and it's evident.” What was the cost? That's the next verse: “Your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure” (verse 4). Notice it says “persecution and affliction.” Those two words are important. One is about the outside battles. The other is the mental battles. And Paul was commending them by acknowledging, “You are getting hit outside and inside and holding your own, because you are holding on to God.” A family-owned coat store in Nottingham, England, has a sign that hangs for all to see: We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coat rationing, government control, and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is we can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. It seems that the Thessalonians should have put that sign on their church. Tomorrow for the Thessalonians was phenomenal faith and developing love. Tomorrow for many is fearful but not for these new Christians. They were growing through their adversity. A daughter complained to her father about how difficult things were for her. “As soon as I solve one problem,” she said, “another one comes up. I'm tired of struggling.” Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen where he filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word. The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After a while, he went over and turned off the burners. He fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He poured the coffee into a bowl. Turning to her he asked, “Daughter, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor. “What does it mean, Father?” she asked. He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg was fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. By being in the boiling water, they changed the water. He asked his daughter, “When adversity knocks on your door, which are you?”