Monday, March 27, 2017

92

I read this psalm yesterday, but I think it's something we should consider.

I wish I could encourage you enough to read a psalm every day.

Just start with Psalm 1 & just read 1 every day, sequentially.

It will change your perspective on all kinds of things in all kinds of ways.

Just sayin'...



Psalm 92

1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.

2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, 3 accompanied by the ten-stringed harp and the melody of the lyre.


4 You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me!

  I sing for joy because of what you have done.
5 O LORD, what great works you do!
  And how deep are your thoughts.
6 Only a simpleton would not know, and only a fool would not understand this:
7 Though the wicked sprout like weeds and evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.

8 But you, O LORD, will be exalted forever.

9 Your enemies, LORD, will surely perish;
  
all evildoers will be scattered.
10 But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
  You have anointed me with the finest oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
  my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.
12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.

13 For they are transplanted to the LORD's own house.

  They flourish in the courts of our God.
14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
15 They will declare,

"The LORD is just!
  He is my rock!
  There is no evil in him!"

Sunday, March 26, 2017

believe

This ia a letter by Paul, the apostle, written to the followers of Jesus who lived in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire.



Romans 1


16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.


It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes - the Jew first and also the Gentile.


17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.


This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.


As the Scriptures say,


"It is through faith that a righteous person has life."



(Fyi – the reference that Paul makes to scripture is in the Old Testament; Habakkuk 2:4)


I think a possible stumbling block for some is that the whole basis of our connection with God through Jesus is based on simply believing.


Some people would say it's blind faith.


I don't think it blind – we have a lot of prophetic writings in the Old Testament, & eyewitness accounts in the New Testament.


Plus, we have the advantage of testimony from 2000+ years of people who have followed Jesus.


But simply believing is a problem for some.


It seems that some think there is more to it than that – that there has to be more that we have to be or do to eligible for connection with God.


Others it seems also think that the simplicity of the who “just believe” thing is a prime indicator that the whole thing isn't real.


And there's a whole lot of other modes of thinking that seem to indicate that “faith does it all” just can't be true.


All I can say is faith is who gets you on the bus.


God has presented us with a means of connecting to Him through & because of Jesus.


That's all there is to it.


That is the scandal of what God offers – if we believe what He says He did, we're in.


It shouldn't be that simple.


But it is.


So, even though we say we're not, how many of us are being & doing stuff so we can be sure God will accept us as His child?


It's not about what we can be or do that will get us in connection with God – it's by simply believing what God says He's provided is true.


It's NOT about what we are or do before or after we want a connection with Him – it's about believing in this scandalous gift He offers.


Have I beat this drum enough? ;-)


Embrace the gift He offers...

let's not try to be & do stuff so He'll accept us...

it doesn't work that way...

believe.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

91

In a world that gets more crazy, dangerous, & chaotic every day, maybe it would help ig we read through this psalm every once in in a while...



Psalm 91


1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
  he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
  He will shelter you with his wings.
  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.

8 Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.


9 If you make the LORD your refuge,

if you make the Most High your shelter,

10 no evil will conquer you;

no plague will come near your home.

11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.

12 They will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.

13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;

  you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The LORD says,

"I will rescue those who love me.
  I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
  I will be with them in trouble.
  I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
  and give them my salvation."

Friday, March 24, 2017

pushing back the chaos

I feel like God gave me this psalm to hold on to this year.

It's the first time I feel like He's given me a whole psalm.

I read it when it especially feels like our world seems to be spiraling down even more higgledy-piggledy into unprecedented chaos.

And folks, a word of advice – never read passages in just 1 translation that seem to be crucial or important to you – go to biblegateway.com & read them in 4 or 5 different translations there.



Psalm 37


1 Don't worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.

2 For like grass, they soon fade away.

  Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good.

  Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires.

5 Commit everything you do to the LORD.

  Trust him, and he will help you.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

7 Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act.

Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

8 Stop being angry!
  Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper - it only leads to harm.

9 For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.


10 Soon the wicked will disappear.

  Though you look for them, they will be gone.
11 The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the godly;

  they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming.

14 The wicked draw their swords and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed, to slaughter those who do right.

15 But their swords will stab their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.


16 It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich.

17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the LORD takes care of the godly.


18 Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.

19 They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough.


20 But the wicked will die.

  The LORD's enemies are like flowers in a field - they will disappear like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.

22 Those the LORD blesses will possess the land, but those he curses will die.


23 The LORD directs the steps of the godly.

  He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.

25 Once I was young, and now I am old.

  Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.

26 The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing.

27 Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever.

28 For the LORD loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly.


He will keep them safe forever, but the children of the wicked will die.

29 The godly will possess the land and will live there forever.

30 The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong.

31 They have made God's law their own, so they will never slip from his path.

32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them.

33 But the LORD will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.


34 Put your hope in the LORD.

  Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
  You will see the wicked destroyed.

35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil.

36 But when I looked again, they were gone!

  Though I searched for them, I could not find them!

37 Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.

38 But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future.


39 The LORD rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble.

40 The LORD helps them, rescuing them from the wicked.

He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

and as they went...

Luke 17

11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.

12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance,13 crying out,

"Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"


  14 He looked at them and said,

"Go show yourselves to the priests."


And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.


  15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting,

"Praise God!"

16 He fell to the ground at Jesus' feet, thanking him for what he had done.

This man was a Samaritan.

  17 Jesus asked,

"Didn't I heal ten men?

Where are the other nine?

18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?"


19 And Jesus said to the man,

"Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you."



I've been intrigued with those 4 words I underlined...


And as they went...”


Lepers were terrible outcasts.

If a person got leprosy, they lost everything – family, home, job, social standing & contact – everything.

They had to go live outside the city, with other lepers, waiting to die a slow, horrible death.

If they were brave enough to be around healthy people, they had to constantly yell, “unclean!” to warn people to stay away.

Often people would throw rocks or offal or whatever at the lepers to chase them away.


The 10 lepers took a terrific chance to try & get the attention of Jesus.

It would not have been unusual for a large crowd like what was probably around Jesus to turn on the lepers & stone them to death.

But the lepers took the chance for healing.

And when they caught Jesus attention, He simply tells them to go show themselves to the priest, which was what anyone did to authenticate that they were healed of leprosy.


Imagine though the lepers situation...

Jesus says go show yourself to the priests, indicating that they were healed.

But when the lepers turned to go, they were still lepers.

It does not say when their healing occurred, other than that it happened as they were on their way to the priest.

It doesn't say if the healing occurred within 50 feet of Jesus, or a mile or 2 down the road.

It just says that “as they went”, they were healed.


Imagine the faith for those lepers to take one step after another toward the priest to present themselves, but yet they were still lepers.

And then, somewhere along the way, they realized they were all healed.


It is of note that only 1 came back to say thank you.

And he was a Samaritan – someone the Jews considered unclean, a heretic, a lower life form.

That was the person who came back.

1 out of 10 who came back to say thank you was a pretty good ratio.

It is my experience, particularly in this postmodern world, that a thank you is a rare commodity – entitlement is a strong concept.



I said all that to say this...


Often times when we ask for a miracle from God, we expect it to be instantaneous.

But I have found in my life, & in the lives of others, that frequently the miracle doesn't happen fully until we step out in complete unsubstantiated faith & start walking toward it &/or operating in it.


Who is that needs to hear that today, besides me?

Who needs to hold on to that shred of promise in an impossible situation.


Hold on to it today...

and as they went...”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

love & loving

John give the last word on love.

These 14 verses are so chock full of truth it is amazing.

Don't just read it once – read it 2 or 3 times, or more.

There's SO MUCH truth about love & loving.



1 John 4

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another,

for love comes from God.

Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

8 But anyone who does not love does not know God,

for God is love.

  9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.

10 This is real love;

not that we loved God,

but that he loved us

and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

  11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

12 No one has ever seen God.

But if we love each other,

God lives in us,

and his love is brought to full expression in us.

  13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them,

and they live in God.

16 We know how much God loves us,

and we have put our trust in his love.

  God is love,

and all who live in love live in God,

and God lives in them.

17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.

So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment,

but we can face him with confidence

because we live like Jesus here in this world.


  18 Such love has no fear,

because perfect love expels all fear.

If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment,

and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

19 We love each other because he loved us first.


  20 If someone says, "I love God," but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar;

for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

21 And he has given us this command:

Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

who wants to hang with us?

Luke 15

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.

2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!


  3 So Jesus told them this story:

4 "If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?

Won't he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness

and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?

5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.

6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying,

'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.'

7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God

than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away!



First, understand that tax collectors were at the bottom of the social ladder back then.

They were collaborators with the hated Roman conquerors.

They also stole LARGE sums of money from their fellow Jews by overcharging them for their taxes to Rome.

Tax collectors were roundly hated by Jews.

The Jews considered them BIG TIME sinners.


I'm not sure what constituted a “notorious sinner” back then, but whatever it was, the Jews hated them too.

Sinners were usually subjected to a lot of hateful speech & comments from Jews.

Sometimes the Jews would throw things at sinners – food, offal, mud, or rocks.

Jews would NOT be seen with sinners.

Since eating with someone was considered an intimate social interaction, Jews CERTAINLY would NEVER be caught dead eating with a sinner.

Contact with sinners defiled the Jews & made them ineligible to go to the temple.



It IS interesting to me that even in the face of all the social ostracizing & hateful treatment with their fellow Jews, these tax collectors & notorious sinners “often came to listen to Jesus”.

It was assumed that these sinners had hardened their hearts so much toward God that such interest in the holy life would simply not exist in their hearts.

And yet, Luke says they come often.


When Jesus finds out what the Pharisees are thinking & saying, He tells a parable that basically says there is more virtue on going to rescue these sinners from their sinful lives than taking care of these prissy & precious “holy people”.

That must of burned the Pharisees holier-than-thou egos just a little bit!



You know where I'm going with this...


In our day & time, how many “notorious sinners” in our culture like to be around us?

If we claim to be followers of Jesus, & say we are trying to live like Him, then wouldn't it follow that the very kinds of people Jesus came to seek out would be drawn to us?

But are we known by the people who are around us as such a person of Christ-like personna that they often take the time to connect with us?

Or do they look at us much in the way the notorious sinners back then looked upon the Pharisees – hateful, harsh, judgmental, unloving, crabby, arrogant & holier-than-thou?


We both know the answer to those questions – people who don't believe in nor follow Jesus today think the latter, not the former.


And how do we change that?


I would say we need to begin by remembering that we haven't always been so uber-righteous that we pee holy water.


Maybe we should also remember that if someone hadn't come looking for us when we were as lost as a pig in high grass, we'd still be going slam to hell.


Also, perhaps we should recall that Jesus said in more than one instance in the Gospels – the accounts of His life in the new Testament – that our task was to “love God & love others”.

And that some of those “others” are “notorious sinners”.


Sometimes, I'd rather hang with “notorious sinners”...

they are many times a lot more real than prissy self-indulgent white middle class evangelicals

who are trying to pass as uber-holy

while still being as sinful & self-centered as the very people they are too good to hang with.


Enough of this sweet talk...


Let's be more like Jesus.


If we are, those “notorious sinners” in our world & culture will find us.

And maybe as a result, they will begin to believe in & follow the Jesus we claim to be so hooked up with.