Romans 4:16 | Faithful Loving Children

God has made many promises that are recorded in the Bible. Maybe the most important of all those promises is the promise made to Abraham about a future nation. Abraham is the father of the Jewish peoples and they recognize him as their patriarch. But this promise that God made to Abraham was bigger than just a physical blood bond. God’s promise to Abraham is that he would be the father of many nations.

5 And [God] brought [Abraham] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6 ESV

Abraham is not just the physical father of the Jewish people. Abraham is the spiritual father of all people who believed in Christ. Abraham is the example of trusting God even when we can’t see what God is doing. Abraham is the father of faith. Abraham’s example is our example of trusting and loving God.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16 ESV

One of my favorite recounting of saving faith involves Jesus and a tax collector. In this event recorded in the Gospel of Luke we see a Jew who is the physical son of Abraham come to a saving faith that makes him the true spiritual son of Abraham.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10 ESV

Jesus pronounced this son of Abraham saved. Is Zacchaeus saved because he “also is a son of Abraham” or is he now a son of Abraham because salvation came to Zacchaeus on that day. Is Zacchaeus saved because he promises to give away his wealth or is Zacchaeus saved because he has a miraculous saving moment with Jesus and out of the overflow of that love, trust, and faith Zacchaeus wants to give up his ill-gotten gain?

We tend to look at the physical situation first. Those Paul is writing to claim to be physical heirs to Abraham and they look to the law of the Jews for salvation. But Paul wants them to know that the promise God made to Abraham and the response of Abraham to trust God is what made Abraham the father of faith. Paul wants us to see the spiritual response first. I am not Jewish but Abraham is my spiritual father because we share in the same faith. Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham not by physical blood bonds but by spiritual faith bonds. Abraham, Zacchaeus, and any follower of Christ share the same faith.

Salvation and the promise of God comes not from our physical circumstances but from the condition of our heart. Do you trust God like Abraham trusted God? Jesus lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and rose from the dead that we might be saved. Do you believe him? Do you trust him to do what he says he will do?

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16 ESV

Luke 4:28 | White Hot Wrath

Facts are bright, hot, and painful. Facts can also shape us into who God wants us to be if we will listen. When I was younger, I thought everyone would respond to facts, logic, and reason and I foolishly engaged with anyone to discuss truth. It did not go well. I made more than a few people mad, but that was never my intent or desire. The real world has proven to me over and over that facts are not all that useful when dealing with a group of people. A twitter mob moving from timeline to timeline to roast and skewer others is devoid of reason or facts. Watching cancel culture rage on without facts or reason is terrifying. And I think I know why. Facts are unfeeling and they can be wielded in ways that cut deep. Facts, truth, and reason are inconvenient when social standing and peer perspective is more important. One on one someone might admit that a certain fact is true but in public that same someone will move along with the culture in lockstep to their own doom.

Before Jesus had even called a single disciple at the beginning of his ministry, he spoke a factual truth to the people of his hometown and the reaction of those he had grown up with was that of a full-blown mob and all the scary evil that comes with mob behavior.

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luke 4:28 ESV

Wrath here is the kind that boils up and then quickly subsides. It is unreasoned like the kind of a husband and wife toward the end of a marriage where they can set one another off at every unseen slight. The words of Jesus to those in attendance sparked a wildfire of dry pinestraw that is quickly consumed because there is no real substance. This wrath was so white hot that here we are in just Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel and already the people are ready to kill him.

29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:29-30 ESV

Many falsely believe that Jesus was all full of love and only love. I can do anything I want because Jesus loves me reason some. However, that is just not the case and does not hold up to facts. Jesus spoke inconvenient facts to this community of devout Hebrews right where their pride would be wounded most. Their reaction to the facts betrays the evil in their hearts. What was it that Jesus said to them? He spoke to them about all those that God healed and saved who were not Hebrew. Jesus dared to give a complement to the godless gentiles. Interestingly Luke, a gentile, wrote of a similar message from John the Baptist in the Chapter right before this one.

8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 ESV

Jesus wants the people to understand that God is in the business of saving all of humanity not just a single culture or a single people. Racism has not part in God’s kingdom. God is in the business of saving those who would humble themselves and follow him.

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:28 ESV

Dear reader what facts have you pushed way? Is running with the mob really that satisfying? Come let us reason and discuss true truth. Put away the personal truth that is not really true and does not align with God’s creation. Jesus came to speak facts about himself, about God, and about relationship with neighbors. Jesus has proclaimed salvation from sin and that people all over the world will listen. I pray that you will be one of those to hear him speak and respond with repentance.

Exodus 14:14 | Me in My Way

I like to be in control. I avoid organizations that require me to submit to some kind of leadership structure. I would struggle to be part of the Methodist church for example because there are so many decisions that happen outside of the local church leadership and if the local church does not like it then too bad. Now this is not to disparage the Methodist church it is just that I would have a hard time submitting to that authority. This frustration says more about me than it does the church. I like the rugged individual ideals of conservative politics and Americanism. Leave me alone and let me live my life as I see fit. I work in the corporate world and I am much happier when the work space trusts my judgment and gives me freedom to be creative solving problems. I do not last long in a work space where everything is scripted and the script must be followed blindly.

I think I am this way because of a single parent home where the one parent that was at home was always at work. I fixed my own dinner at night (hello frozen dinners). I was responsible to do my homework, or not. I came and went as I pleased. It is only by God’s grace, mercy, and restraining hand that I survived unsupervised as a teenager. I reflect on my desires and personality to come and go as I please because it is contrary to God’s expectation of submission as a central tenant of Christianity. Christians should submit to God’s authority and follow Christ, sometimes blindly because his ways are always the right ways. But I know I am not the only one to struggle with submission. Look at the fledgling nation of Israel marching out of Egypt for God’s glory.

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today … The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14 ESV

They had just left the devastated Egyptian nation as slaves made free when the people of Israel realized that the King of Egypt had changed his mind and was bringing an army against them to kill and recapture. Israel was afraid and they questioned Moses. I would have done the same. Why did we go this way into a dead end? Why did we not arm ourselves before we left? Maybe we should have waged war before we left? I could solve these problems but no Moses tells them to they have only to “be silent” because the “Lord will fight for you”.

The Lord fights for us in three ways that I have struggled to learn. Can I wait on him? Yes, I want to be silent because I want to submit to the King of King for His Glory.

God fights for us even now in our current problems

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32 ESV

Whatever our worldly issues, whatever our current danger, whatever our failures right at this moment God is bigger. Israel was stuck between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea. They could do nothing to fix the problem. They like peoples of today needed to do nothing more than trust God and yield to his authority. He provided a safe path forward for them and the same is true for those who would put their trust in Him today.

God Secures our Salvation Apart of Works

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

God is the fighter who not only fights to free Israel but fights to set people free today. God is here to give this gift to freedom and salvation. I don’t need to fight for it I only need to be silent and yield to his plan.

God is the Righteous King and the Future Victory is Secure

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Revelation 22:12-14 ESV

Whatever our limitations and struggles here and now Jesus is going to return and set all of it finally and completely right. Those who have waited on God in salvation and daily life will be given the right to the tree of life inside the city gates of the King of Kings. Those who are not submitted to God will be washed away like the Egyptian army.

Do you want to fight for yourself or will you stand down and allow God for fight for you? If you want to yield to the King of Kings then there is life. I pray that I would put aside my failed independent and controlling nature to trust God to fight for me.

Exodus 12:11 | Door to Mercy

One of the most fearful, memorable, and horrifying judgments on this present earth by God is found in the final plague against Egypt when Moses at the direction of God demanded that Egypt let the Hebrew people leave to worship God. The King of Egypt was stuck in this awful cycle of rebellion, stubbornness, and arrogance against God due to his own selfish and evil nature. In this final plague Pharaoh comes to the end of himself and he finds God’s crushing judgement on his entire worldview.

6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. Exodus 11:6 ESV  

God’s wrath is not looked upon kindly by modern man and many Christians willfully overlook God’s judgment to think and speak only on God’s love. But God’s love is not true unless God’s judgment is also sound. God’s judgment on Egypt is juxtaposed against his mercy for Israel here at this moment in history as recorded in Exodus 11 and 12.

God’s Judgement:

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. Exodus 12:12 ESV

In this final plague where the firstborn in every household dies in one terrifying night God communicates clearly that this death is a result of his judgement on Egypt. They are being judged as we all will be judged based on the life lived in service to self or stuff apart from God who created us. Egypt put their trust in false god’s that promote selfishness and hedonism. Egypt killed the first born of the Hebrew people out of selfish desire to remain in control. Egypt the same Egypt that is keeping as slaves the people of Israel deserved this judgment. It not my judgement or the judgment of the Hebrews or modern man’s judgment but it is the perfect righteous judgement of God who is the creator of all things.

God is also allowing this judgment on Egypt to be an example to the Hebrews and indeed the rest of history since we are still to this day discussing this terrible event and why it happened. God has chosen this moment with Egypt and Israel to reintroduce himself in a permanent way. God is taking control of the narrative and altering the course of human history. From this moment forward people will know God the one true God. No longer will people be ignorant of their Creator.

God’s Love:

11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Exodus 12:11 ESV

God’s love is found in His mercy. The Hebrews could have been left to the same fate as the Egyptians. But God provided an undeserved way of grace. If the people would follow his instructions and listen to His voice, they could find Passover from the judgment to come.

God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb for each household. The blood of this lamb placed on the doorframe of the house would allow the angel to Passover them in the moment of judgment. Yet there was more to God’s instructions that speaks to us today. There is a realization that this meal must be eaten in haste with nothing left for tomorrow because God is leading those that will submit to his word out of the world and they should be ready to go as one just passing through. Don’t put down the kind of roots that fools us into believing that this is our one best life. But stand with cloak on and staff in hand ready for the life with God that awaits. The Passover meal represents how they should live as one covered by the blood of the lamb.

My Response:

…For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed… 1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

All that happened as recorded in Exodus is but a sample of the perfect justice and perfect love that God is working out to a final conclusion. Judgement is coming on those who willfully live lives in service to their own selfish desires. Our sin will be judged by God just as Egypt was judged. All are guilty of sin before God. I am not here to judge others because I stand condemned as well. Yet because God is also perfect in His love, He provided a perfect Passover lamb in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blood of this lamb is available but it will only cover households that want to receive and trust God. The Hebrews received the instruction of Moses and were saved. The Egyptians rejected those instructions to trust in their own ways and were condemned by their own actions.

My response to God’s instruction is to yield to Jesus and partake in the grace and mercy God poured out in his Son. I am covered by the blood of the lamb and judgement will Passover me not because of my worth but because of my faith in God’s worth.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 | Full Assurance

Jesus saves. It is not just a slogan. It is a truth. I want to look at Jesus saving and what is involved. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonian church tells them he knows they are saved by Jesus.

because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. 1 Thessalonians 1:5a ESV

There are four components of this salvation and truly all four need to be in place for a Jesus saves moment to be real and meaningful.

First the gospel came to them in “word”. λόγος (logos) is the Greek word that is loaded with meaning (I have written more here). Essentially the good news of Jesus is communicated by word. The reason that people share their faith, the reason we have preachers, the reason the Bible is the best-selling book of all time is that the gospel, the good news that Jesus saves, must be communicated. Paul had previously traveled to this city and had preached the good news to them. They heard the word of Jesus as spoken through other Christians. If you are saved and you never tell anyone about Jesus then the primary role as a Christian you have in saving others will not be accomplished.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

Second is the word of the gospel also comes with “power”. δύναμις (dynamis) is the Greek word that is defined by Strong’s dictionary as “force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself)”. Paul knows the Thessalonian church contains people saved by Jesus because God himself has intervened in a miraculous way. We know in the early church there were miraculous events described as healing, raising from the dead, jails opened up, and more. Are all salvation events where Jesus saves as evident as these? No, however when God intervenes there is something miraculous happening. When the word comes with God’s intervention it comes with power. My own salvation was a miraculous event. Some may have spectacular stories in their testimony where God altered their lives in profound ways. My salvation happened at young age but it came with power. God stepped in and called me to accept that Jesus died to save me. Every salvation event is by definition miraculous and we should be able to recognize the very hand of God in our lives.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV

Third, the word of God comes with power by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples that he had to go away so that a helper could come. Jesus may be God in the form of a man but God in the form of a man is limited in time and space. The Holy Spirit is God in the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is able to transcend time and space. This means the Holy Spirit can be with all those saved by Christ at the same time anywhere in the created universe. The Holy Spirit is God’s way of residing with our spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guide and the Holy Spirit is the messenger with a direct connection to God the father.  Even more than all that the Holy Spirit is the down payment on being saved by Jesus proving that we will be able to enter the presence of God in heaven.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

Fourth and final in knowing where we stand in salvation is conviction or assurance.  πληροφορία (plērophoria) the Greek word means assurance or confidence. Paul knows the members of this church are saved because they heard the word of God preached, he witnessed the miraculous intervention of God in their lives, Paul has seen his spirit testify with the same spirit living in them and he has seen them stand with conviction and assurance in their faith through pain and suffering. Being saved by Christ does not mean happiness or being “blessed” (although some people do seem to be happy and blessed in Christ) being saved means that come heaven or hell one will not waiver but have conviction to trust God no matter what (that is called faith).

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you … 2 that [your] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. Colossians 1:1-2 ESV

Those saved by Jesus are new creations. Saved from the death of their souls rotting away in selfish ambitions and godlessness. Jesus has accomplished what he set out to do. He died on the Cross for your sins and my sins. He died so that I might be a new creation marked and sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is a real transformation. I am not who I was before or who I might have become apart from God. Dear reader you are at this moment reading the word of God. The gospel of good news. Lift your eyes toward heaven and tell God that through Christ you want to be saved.

Acts 4:12 | Focused Courage

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If asked to describe yourself in one word what word would be used? If others described you what word would be used? At a funeral today for a relative that I did not know as closely as I would have liked there were several words about this person’s life that stood out from those who knew the individual well. Determined, driven, lived for the spotlight were a few. Funerals are a sobering event and I am reminded of the biblical wisdom about funerals.

Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2 NLT

The life finished and the life complete is an event that will overtake all people rich or poor. So take to heart that maybe we waste precious time in vain pursuits, selfish ambitions, and pointless unforgiveness. The disciples understood the gravity of a funeral and that knowledge fueled a focused courage. When their lives were done the one word used to describe them was disciple. They embraced Christ the first born of all creation and truly lived the words they shared to all people rich and poor.

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 ESV

Salvation is an eternal treasure. Money is temporary. Salvation is final success. Liars gain for but a moment’s advantage. Salvation is a secured hope. Sexual lusts apart from God’s design secure lonely despair. Salvation serves the triumphant King of Kings. Politics serves a selfish movement that will eventually fail. The disciples grasped these truths and submitted to the one name under heaven that is in complete control. Jesus is the only name that saves.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Courage is what the disciples demonstrated when they told their jailers that they would obey Jesus and not the jailer. The author of Hebrews drawing from their example tells me a would be disciple to take courage in the name of Jesus. Set aside the politics, the sexual identity, and the selfish ambition that are all fleeting and temporary. Throw off those chains and look to the one name, the one identity, that brings Glory to God and salvation to those who have placed their hope upon his eternal salvation.

16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” Acts 4:16-17 ESV

I pray for courage, and wisdom to speak the name of Jesus. There is no other name or identity only Christian. There is no other group to be called into fellowship only fellowship as a Disciple. What will you dear reader do when confronted to speak no more this name? I pray you are running the race now in such way that the answer will be Christ only always.

Acts 3:6 | Divine Appointment

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Have you ever crossed paths with a person in a random setting or situation and that interaction changed your life forever? An introduction to a future spouse? Introductions to someone that later provided entry to a job opportunity? Introductions to someone that fixed a lifelong issue? Was this all fate or randomness?

God’s workings are a mystery. The people I have been drawn into relationships with are part of his design for my life. Some people have caused me pain but most people have been an encouragement and a blessing. In the same way I have caused pain to some and encouragement to others along the way.

Gladly we desire even expect God to give us blessings, but I have found what I desire from God rarely works out the way I expect. What I mean by that is that God’s gifts and God’s plan for my life is perfect even when I don’t understand or find it painful. Take for example Peter and John the beloved disciples making their way to the temple to worship when they are encounter a beggar who is clearly disabled. This beggar is doing his part asking for money, for charity, from the people headed to the temple. The worshipers need to do their part by providing money, charity, to the beggars they find on the way. The beggar’s life is not glamorous. Yet on this day his request for money is rejected for something greater.

5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:5-6 ESV

Americans collectively give more than a billion dollars a year to Charities. This is in addition to the billions the US government pays out in food, housing, and medical subsidies each year. We are generous with money because we have it in abundance. Many people want the government to provide all needs to all people (free education, free healthcare, free jobs) but the world and the government cannot offer what God has freely given to all who would receive it. This beggar has crossed paths with two men who give him something greater than charity and greater than any earthly government.

8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:8-10 ESV

God used Peter and John in a random interaction to change this beggar’s life for the better. What about this divine appointment from Peter and John’s perspective? This beggar now healed provided attention and an immediate platform for them to preach Christ to the temple worshipers. How great is that? Read what happened next.

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:1-4 ESV

Peter and John were able to share Jesus to a large crowd many of whom believed in the message from God. But the disciples were also thrown into prison that night. Do you think Peter regretted the pain this beggar caused him? It was not the beggar’s fault but the outcome remained that a night in prison was the result this miraculous act.  Whatever hurt Peter and John received in their service to God seemed like nothing because they were excited, emboldened, and grateful for the opportunity to heal this beggar in spite of the night in prison.

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. Acts 4:18:22 ESV

Divine appointments from God are available each day. Will you be the beggar or the disciple today? Your path may have already crossed with someone that changed everything. That beggar who was healed was a catalyst that saved thousands of people. If God changed your life would God be glorified and would others be saved? Are your prayers for blessings from God for selfish reasons or that God would be glorified? What about the other side of the perspective? Do you want to serve God if there is a downside that the world would be so angry that it might cost you freedom or friends?

This life is short. Healing all the beggars or ending poverty is not God’s purpose at the moment. God’s purpose is to bring glory to himself that we his children might be saved. War, death, famine, evil, hunger, and sin will be removed when Christ returns. However right now God’s divine plan and purpose is to call sinners to repentance for eternal salvation. Would you slow down to engage with others for God’s glory and blessing?

2 Timothy 2:10 | The Task Ahead

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Ever have one of those weeks where the schedule is so full that the calendar is hour by hour events that must be attended, work to be completed, or deadline that overshadows life? Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these situations. Bring on the panic attack and the disappointed friends. If I can just endure and push until after this last event or deliverable then I can relax. The problem being that time to relax most likely is weeks away. Non-essential time like sleep, time with the kids, or maybe even food will be pushed aside. Even then the work accomplished is sloppy. I hate when the schedule backs up like that. Most of the time this kind of crazy is my own fault. Saying yes when I should have said no.

The problem is that there are so many things that I want to accomplish. There are things I want to see my church, my business, my kids, my community, and my friends accomplish. All of this, all of it, requires my participation, engagement, and love. Paul when he wrote to Timothy said much of the same.

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10 ESV

There is a task that Paul desperately wants to see accomplished. His task is urgent and his task is life consuming. Paul wants to see others fall into the saving grace and eternal glory that only Jesus provides. The difference between Paul’s need to endure hardship for his task differs from my over-packed schedule in three ways. First Paul’s task and desire has eternal ramifications. His overriding desire is to share Christ with everyone. My task and schedule do not rise to that level nearly enough if at all. Am I prioritized the right way? Second Paul unlike me has nothing but time on his hands. He reveals in the verse right before this that he is bound by chains. Most of my life is consumed by frivolous time wasters. Paul’s time was consumed by the knowledge that he could not freely execute the passion in his heart. This most urgent task of preaching Christ was outside of his ability to accomplish in the way he would have liked. My most urgent tasks are outside of my ability most of the time but my tasks are not nearly so urgent as Paul’s. Finally Paul gladly endures prison and even eventual death because he knows God is going to accomplish a great work through Paul’s obedience. Paul is walking in a long line of Godly examples as found in the prophets who endured all kinds of hardships to proclaim God’s message of salvation.

10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:10-11 ESV

How the Lord is merciful indeed. My scheduled is consumed by things that are of importance to me even though most of those things are temporary. God wants me to focus more time on the primary task, for the sake of the elect, that others may see eternal glory and salvation in Christ. While Paul is imprisoned his task, given by God, falls to me, even in some small measure. Do I adjust my schedule to make it God’s schedule for my life? Do I slow down and listen to God’s direction for today? Would I remember the main thing when I interact with people today? Would the thought that the cranky and rude person I bumped into may need and want the gospel of Christ today get in the way of my current distraction and waste of time?

Creation, Laws, and Christ

laws

God, the maker of heaven and earth is present and draws men and women to himself. He is drawing people to himself because in our rebellion we have distanced ourselves from His perfect holiness. But God made a way and He…

4 desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 ESV

The knowledge of truth God wishes is for all people to know Him. Understanding God’s desire from the following facts may lead to a restored relationship with God. These truths while boiled down to the following statements here does not mean an easy answer and there is no simple prescription when it comes to God because each person is unique in how they react to these truths. In fact, Jesus claimed few people will navigate this narrow road.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

To know God and reconcile with Him the following three key truths must be understood, believed, and embraced. Each of the following facts are progressive and many reading this may find each successive truth more difficult to agree with but Christianity and salvation require all three.

Where there is a Creator there is a creation.

Creation is an irreducible truth it is not an accident or a random occurrence. The humanist champions of science worship the order and the repeatable laws that make up the scientific method. But those same worshiper’s state that random nothing created the perfect order of science. An atheist worldview is such an odd paradox. And truth be told most people assume and accept some type of Creator be him personal or impersonal.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV

Where there is a Law there is a Law Giver.

Accepting a Creator is an easy first step with religions and people the world over finding peace with this truth. Where the specific truths of Christianity become complicated and many find objection is in man’s relation to the law. The scientific method assumes natural laws are in effect. Force and friction are mathematically measurable. Violating those laws of nature will not allow society to create the combustion engine. In the same way God of the creation has put in place laws of human nature and violating those laws causes death and failure of the engine, our body and soul. The well-known Ten Commandments are a perfect representation of God’s laws and the recognizable effects of their violation. Do not steal, or lie, or kill. Also worship God and God alone are examples and yet people break these laws and know in their heart what they have done is wrong. All men and women have fallen short of God’s standard (be honest) and Paul writes the penalty is death. Sinners (you and me both) deserve death because all have broken the laws of God. Each person has a broken fellowship with the Creator and He sits in judgment on our crimes.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 ESV

Where there is Christ there is Salvation.

While most people accept “god” in the first truth about creation few agree with the second point that they have broken the laws of God and are therefore guilty sinners deserving of death and punishment. As stated in the intro being Christian is not an easy road. Sadly, people in a dwindling percentage agree and accept the second truth about sin and law breaking. Because of that even fewer will listen for the final truth the best truth of the three which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus resurrected from death and Peter’s first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago states the final key perfectly. If you accept God and you acknowledge you are a sinner breaking God’s laws then listen now to the greatest news ever told.

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:36-39 ESV

Judges 10:13 | God Stopped Saving

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Something that I fear personally happened to the Israelites. They rejected God for such a long period of time that God refused to hear them when they finally called out to him.

13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” Judges 10:13-14 ESV

“I will save you no more” is such a devastating response. Topped with a burning challenge from God to them… “cry to the gods whom you have chosen”.

There are two key words that must be addressed that highlight the gulf between these people and God. The rebellious people are so selfish and shortsighted that they are oblivious to the eternal picture that God operates from. God created life to be enjoyed and to delight in Him as the Creator, but people want to enjoy what is right in front of themselves to the extent that they become slaves to that desire and then fail to enjoy what would have been wonderful.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

God turned away from their cries for help and he tells them that he will not “save” them this time. Moses is not here to stand in the gap to advocate on their behalf.

Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. Psalms 106:23 ESV

The first key word from God is that he would no longer “save” them. Salvation is not secured and because of their rejection of God for so long God is giving them what they wanted by their choice and life without need of him. A common but incorrect idea is that God in the Old Testament is unforgiving and the God of the New Testament is loving. It is not true because God is unchanging. He is the same then as he is now. He was loving and merciful to these people but he is not to be taken for granted and he will not force himself on anyone.

22 “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! 23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense…But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. Isaiah 43:22-24 ESV

Why should God save them? Is he obligated to them to be there like the rich father who is always bailing a spoiled ungrateful son out of jail? God created us the only obligation is ours to be amazed by a God who is loving, just, and powerful. God does not need me. I need God and only He can save.

The second key word from God is that he tells them to ask the gods they have “chosen” to serve for help. Obviously the gods of man-made material will not save however for the contemporary reader don’t think this does not apply to you. What do we serve? What do we put our trust in? Money, scientific advancements, power, sex, drugs, work, or what? Will they save you? Will they provide joy, contentment, and love? For a short period of time maybe, but what then when you get old or tragedy strikes? At some point in this temporary life our obligation to the creator will be called on. Will any of your man made gods that you have chosen to serve save you?

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:33 ESV

God resolved the problem in that Moses could only intercede for that generation of his time God provided a perfect king and priest. Jesus came that he would stand with the father and advocate on our behalf. God will listen to those who he has “chosen” and those who have “chosen” Christ because Christ is interceding for us. Do not be consumed by the temporary pleasure, power, and money that is right in front of you. God calls us to see the big picture. The eternal picture. God did eventually save the Israelites because they repented in a real way.

16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. Judges 10:16 ESV

They put away those things that kept them from serving God and they chose to serve him and because of that God once again heard their cries and provided someone to save them. Ask God for the desire to choose him, to serve him over the idols of today. Repent from self-serving evil that consumes today. Christ will intercede and God will save you today and for eternity.

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 ESV