Perhaps

www.bible.com/1713/zep.2.3.csb

I feel a bit more certainty than my brother the prophet Zephaniah. On the Day of the Lord’s anger, which many feel is even today, I know where my soul is going.

Righteousness and humility both seem to be at the heart of this text. This isn’t a relative righteousness where you compare yourself to your neighbor and tell yourself, “At least I’m not as bad as that guy.” This is an absolute righteousness, where the standard and model you compare yourself to is Jesus Christ. God does not grade on a curve, but on grace. He knows you cannot measure up, so He sent His Son to die on a cross for you, so that you would believe on Him and accept His gift of righteousness in exchange for your filthy rags.

For humility, I can think of no better example than the Holy Spirit. Consider that the third person of God, co-equal with God in every way, calls no attention to Himself. God the Father is the Creator, the Provider, the King of the Universe. Jesus the Second Person of God is the Savior, the One who rose from the dead and offered eternal life to all who believe. But the Third Person of God, the Holy Spirit, simply points to the Father and the Son. He does not glorify Himself or point to Himself, but points others to the Father and the Son. I think this is why there is such stern penalty against blaspheming the Holy Spirit. All the Holy Spirit wants to do is to bring us through the Son to the Father. He doesn’t ask for praise or worship Himself. I think in many ways, the Holy Spirit is the humility of God, and the reason He calls us to humility. As much as there is glory, laud, and honor for the Father and the Son, there is humility in the Spirit showing us what it means to be co-equal with God, and yet desire only that you give glory to the Father and the Son. What would it mean for your life if you only worked to bring people to the feet of Jesus, instead of taking any praise for yourself?

No one of us can live up to the standards set by God in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, but thankfully, Jesus came and lived out these ideals for us. We then trust in Him to school us and raise us up according to His word, that in every day and every way, we work to be more like Him. Let us praise the Name of Jesus before the Father!

Lord Jesus, thank You for taking this one for the team. Because of You, I have a chance, no, a certainty by my faith in You to spend eternity with You in Heaven. May every day be a day that I give honor to my calling. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Prosper

www.bible.com/1713/jos.1.8.csb

It’s not a word I used daily. I don’t actively think about “prospering”. But I think it is tied indelibly to the concept of “white privilege.” Of interest is the fact that “white privilege” only exists in the contexts of “white” cultures, that is, American and European contexts. Elsewhere in the world, it’s simply known as “privilege”. If you are born into wealth and/ or power, you are born into privilege. If your father is the chief of the village, you are born into “privilege” or if your family has done well in business, your family is “privileged.” It only becomes “white privilege” when whites are involved. We don’t call “affirmative action” privilege, even though it was a way for people of color (specifically people who identify as “black”, regardless of how “black” they actually are) to get ahead of other students, regardless of skin color, and be admitted to colleges. This was a system which put whites as a disadvantage because of their skin color, and blacks at an advantage. That sounds like privilege. But I’m probably wrong about that.

The argument that I’ve been hearing is that black people (specifically black people, not Asians, who were treated as slaves on the West Coast for many years), nor Irish (who were considered slaves on the East Coast for many years), nor the Native Americans (who were treated like trash pretty much the whole time), have suffered so much and have been hampered in their progress today because of American Slavery that ended in 1865, 155 years ago. The argument as I understand it goes (and I’m probably wrong, so take it with a grain of salt) is that Black African Slaves, who were brought over against their will, were put to work as slaves in the American South. Because they began their lives here as slaves, they missed out on financial opportunities to thrive and prosper, and instead spent their valuable time working for others, so that prominent white families thrived at their expense. Therefore, white people (who may or may not be related to those prominent families) owe reparations and justice to black people (who may or may not have had ancestors who were slaves). I know this is just one facet of the current Black Lives Matter issue, but one thing at a time.

So as this “justice” is playing out, it becomes okay to take and to destroy what white people have to even the score. It becomes okay to loot and pillage white-owned businesses because that’s just getting even. It is even okay to kill white people, because blacks have historically been killed in the name of white supremacy. Do you follow me so far?

So what happens to black-skinned people who prosper? Of course, they defy the narrative of justice and are marginalized. A number of black-owned business have been destroyed. Successful black individuals have been labeled “Uncle Toms” or even traitors. Black people who don’t believe in systemic racism have been ignored and excluded from the conversation. It doesn’t matter what Justice Clarence Thomas says about the issues, or Dr. Ben Carson. It doesn’t matter that people with black skin have defied the “systemic racism” and are prospering today. They are irrelevant, because they don’t support the narrative.

Is it true that there are places in this country where skin color matters? Absolutely. But isn’t it also true that there are places in this country where the content of your character matters more? Where your job experience, your wisdom, your view on the world matters more than the color of your skin? Are there places in this nation where your faith shines brighter than your melanin? Are there voices you listen to for whom their skin color has no bearing on your willingness to listen? Or does skin color make all the difference? Tell me again what racism is? Remind me what “privilege” is? Do you privilege certain people to speak into your life because of their skin color?

When the words of the Bible were penned, they were penned by people who do not share my skin color. They were inspired by a God who has no skin color, but whom sent His Son to the Jewish nation, a people whose skin reflects their residency around the Mediterranean Sea, not the abodes of the northern Europeans. Jesus wasn’t black, but He wasn’t white either. But that doesn’t mean He didn’t die for me. Jesus considered all human lives to be of equal value and worth. His red blood was shed for all who possess red blood and human souls.

That’s why His words work for everyone. Everyone who follows the words of His book will prosper. Everyone can enjoy the privilege of prospering if they heed the words of this Book and do them. Prospering is not limited to whites, but for all who obey the Word of God and do it. Would you rather prosper, or feed off of your hate, anger, and bitterness?

Heavenly Father, we’ve made mistakes. You know that we have. And Father I believe that today we are paying for those mistakes in a national sense, with not only the disruption of our economy and normal lives, but also with the violence, the hate, and the disruption of our general welfare. Our sins are coming back to us tenfold. And we are being destroyed from within. Father, may we repent on behalf of our nation. May our nation see its faults and return to its Creator? Father may Your people be salt and light in this corrupted world. May we be a preservative influence, and a light in dark places. May You embolden us to stand for You, because You died for us. May I pray these things in the name of Jesus, my Savior, Amen.

As Scripture Has Said

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.7.38.csb

When you start quoting the Bible, people stop listening.

I’ve noticed this, of course, in ordinary conversation with people when talking about spiritual things. Many people like to talk about their spiritual experiences, conversations with God, and visions they’ve had from Him. But when I start to quote Scripture, then conversation seems to take a different turn. It’s all fine and dandy when they can control their conversation with God, but when God’s authoritative Word comes into play, they have nothing else they want to talk about.

But coming across this gem this morning, I hadn’t notice before what Jesus is talking about. He doesn’t quote from a single Scripture, but the message of several scriptures:

The LORD will continually lead you; he will feed you even in parched regions. He will give you renewed strength, and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring that continually produces water.
(Isa 58:11)

Moreover, on that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it will happen both in summer and in winter.
(Zec 14:8)

He will pour the water out of his buckets, and their descendants will be like abundant water; their king will be greater than Agag, and their kingdom will be exalted.
(Num 24:7)

The closest is Isaiah, but the others point to it. In essence, being a follower of Christ (and God) will allow you to both be filled with His life-giving water (remember that the Middle East is often a parched land, so water was an important resource) but also be a conduit for such water for others.

What’s more important is how Jesus frames this quote. He doesn’t apply it to a single prophet, but to the whole of Scripture. It is as if all of Scripture were designed for this purpose: to fill people up with the presence of God! It isn’t the message of one or two prophets, but of the whole of the 39 books of the Old Testament Scripture, and by implication, the remaining 27 to be written in the New.

So if you need a lift today, a filling, might I suggest that instead of waiting on God to “send you a word” or a “dream”, pick up a Bible. Many people who cry out to the heavens for a word from God ignore the Bible sitting at their elbow. If the whole book seems overwhelming to you, and you don’t know where to start, start here. Start in John. Read through it. The whole Bible is designed to fill you, so start here. Don’t demand that God answer your questions. That is futile. But listen for God’s voice. As you begin to take the words of Scripture into yourself, you will become more familiar with it, and will know when He is speaking. Tune out the other voices in your world, just for a time, so that you can focus your attention. He will speak to you.

Dear God, I have let so many other voices speak into my life, but I have neglected the One that matters most. Please forgive me this indiscretion and help me focus again on the Voice that made me, loves me, and died for me so that I could live. Help me listen again to Your voice so that my paths will be made straight. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Seated

www.bible.com/1713/heb.12.2.csb

After a long day at work, the first thing I want to do when I get home is to sit down. I want to be able to rest after my long bout with the world and its worries. Of course, I don’t get to sit down for long, since there are always more things that need to be done. (I have to write a blog of course.) But there are few things that compare to being able to rest after your work is finished. I can imagine that something like what the Son of God felt.

You see in our text above, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God after He had finished the work of saving us all from sin. He had expended great effort in shedding His blood upon the cross and rising from the grave. I would guess that the power expended on those two acts rivaled the power expended at creation.For this God who knew no sin suffered and bore the sins of the world. This God who is Life Eternal died. As someone once said, “I usually do two impossible things before breakfast.” God certainly did. In Him were these two great ironies. He who is the Judge suffered the penalty for sin. He who is Lord served all. “God proved His own love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So when you see Christ sitting down at the right hand of God, you see a Christ who has finished His work. There is no more work that needs to be done in the saving of the world. His plan is complete.

“And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation.”
(Heb 9:25-28)

So the next time you see Him, it will be to welcome you home. That’s when your work will truly be done. And you too will be able to rest in his presence. That’s why the rest of this verse stresses our service and obligation to Him for our salvation. We must keep our eyes on Him, our only hope in this world, as our sure beginning and finisher of the faith to which we have applied ourselves, and in which we are saved.

Christian, we owe today and every day to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Every minute is His. Don’t forget today who you Master is, for He has given everything for you. Mind what you have given Him today.

Lord Jesus, both author and perfecter of my faith, lead me today in Your service, showing me what you would have me do to follow You. Every minute I possess is Yours. Nothing I have do I own of myself, but I am steward of all You have given me. Show me today what I can do to further and advance Your Kingdom. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Dying

www.bible.com/1713/2co.4.16.csb

A little but every day, in such small increments that we don’t notice it, we are dying. Our bodies were never designed to live forever. Not even in the perfection of Eden, even the bodies of Adam and Eve needed to be sustained by the fruit of the Tree of Life. This same Tree stands in the Heavenly City at the end of Revelation, where it says explicitly that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (peoples, ethnicities). Of course, in that realm there will be more mire crying, sin, or pain either. Not so here.

Paul acknowledges this in this 2 Corinthians passage. We are always dying a little bit. But we are also being renewed day by day in the inner man. For every bit we lose externally, we are being built up into an inheritance that cannot fail internally. We are destined for greater things that this world, which is why we have hope. There are no things on this world that are so dear that we will not find better in the world to come.

No where do I find this verse more applicable than in hospital chaplaincy, where I could quote this verse all day to every patient, both to explain why our body isn’t cooperating like it should, and also to explain that even in the midst of suffering, we still have hope, because this body isn’t all we have. We lay hold of by faith so much more.

And this is the encouragement I want to leave you with today. Don’t give up. Don’t belief God is done with you. For He who began a good work in you will see it to completion. He will finish His work in you. But you must wait on His work, while you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, knowing what God it is we serve.

Lord, thank You for saving me. Thank You for rescuing me from this body of sin. I know these parts will fail. I know it is appointed for man once to die, and after that the judgment. Thank You for offering me faith in the midst of my failure, so at the day of judgment, I may stand before You covered by the blood of Jesus, and clad in His innocence. I pray that every day I work will be testimony of my faith in You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Incomplete

www.bible.com/1713/rom.10.10.csb

Though I’ve often been tempted, I’ve never actually turned in an incomplete when it comes to school work. There are times you just want to give up, and say “I quit!” but I’ve never done that. I have however turned in work just to say I was done, only to have to do it over again when I was better prepared for it.

Back in 1997, I was taking a class a Cincinnati Bible Seminary on Restoration History. That particular year we were going through some stuff on the homefront. I was fired from my first church. We had to move out of the parsonage and find a new place to live in a 30-day period, I was trying to get my Masters Degree done at Cincinnati, but with the personal turmoil, my wife and I were also struggling with infertility, life just seemed to be going down the toilet. Everything that I’d worked for, and struggled with as a student, and then failing in my first ministry, just put me in a bad place. The only thing I had left was my school work, and I just didn’t have the heart for it anymore.

So when the final paper came for the class, we were told specifically that we had to mail it in. I didn’t have money for postage, things were very tight. So in frustration, I just emailed it to the professor. I ended up failing the class. In hindsight, I could have done more, but I just didn’t care at the time.

Do after a few years, life had improved. We moved into a new church situation, had a couple of children, and both wife and I were gainfully employed. I went back to that institution, getting ready to graduate, but still had this core class to pass. So I took the class online, took all of my notes from my previous run-through, and had no problems passing. Even turned in my papers online. Oh the irony!

So when coming to this verse, I am reminded of that time in my life, just because the idea of turning in work short of what was needed. This verse is often quoted for this purpose. While it is true that belief in Jesus and confession of faith are essential to salvation, many quote this verse as if it is all that is needed. This is the idea of the prayer of faith. Just say the words, and you will be saved. Really?

Faith is at the heart of this verse. Belief is more than just an acknowledgement of the facts. Belief is faith in the implications of those facts. There is a supernatural God who reigns over the universe who sent His only Son to die for my sins because I am a sinner against the Almighty and I need saving from the eternal consequences of sin. Belief acts out on those facts and offers my own life to the God who saves me. Belief speaks with the heart and the mouth of this faith in God, of putting my own life out there as witness to the change God has wrought within me. I confess before others that Jesus saved my life. It is far more than thinking and making a speech.

So the next time you are tempted to say to yourself, “I believe and that is enough.” or “I went forward in church once, so now my eternity is secure,” think again. God’s salvation is once and future. It saves you in the past for His work in the present. Ask yourself this, “What am I doing today that shows I am a believer in Jesus?” Don’t turn in an “incomplete.”

Lord help me today to show You that I live and work for You and not for myself. Help me to grow each day to follow You and nourish the spirit within me with Your word and work. Thank You Lord for saving me. May my every waking moment be an expression of gratitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Legal

www.bible.com/1713/exo.20.16.csb

In what sounds like a court rule, Exodus unilaterally forbids bearing false witness against your neighbor. Elsewhere in the Law, like Leviticus, lying in lesser contexts is also forbidden. Nowadays, we would call this illegal lying perjury. Committing perjury in a court case can have legal consequences for the perjurer, including time in jail or worse. It is a bad idea to lie in court.

But what about other contexts? Is it ever okay to lie? The highest form of this is what Plato (?) called the “noble lie” wherein a person would lie in order to prevent a greater evil. A good example of this is when some German families hid Jews in Nazi Germany. They lied to prevent the capture and certain death of their Jewish friends.

Another example of this is in the Scripture, in Exodus 1, when the Hebrew midwives lie about the birth of Hebrew boys (they were ordered to kill) by saying that the Hebrew woman are just too vigorous and give birth before they arrive. For this, God rewarded them with families of their own.

Another example would be Rahab in Joshua, who lied to her neighbors that the spies from Israel had run out of the city, rather than tel the truth that they were under her floorboards. Rahab and her family were spared from Jericho’s destruction because of her lie.

So it makes me wonder, if it is wrong to bear witness against your neighbor, what if you tell a lie to save your neighbor from something worse? Because it seems that God does not condemn all lying, just the lying that is to the hurt of your neighbor.

When a wife asks her husband if she looks fat, he could be honest, he could lie, or he could change the subject. She may have a little weight on her. That’s not the issue. The issue is, is he brutally honest about it, or does he offer a comforting lie, one which they both know is a comforting lie. “Honey, you look perfect to me.”

Honesty is always the best policy, but there are other policies which preserve the innocent from tyranny, and in those instances, they are better served.

The issue of the Hebrew midwives brings a certain moral ambiguity to the commandment, “do not bear false witness against your neighbor”, but I think that is why “against your neighbor” is part of the commandment. There is a context where lying is always bad. There are some, like the midwives, where lying is better.

Lord help me discern with wisdom those rare cases when lying will preserve life. Knowing that from Scripture those cases are rare, and in the context of greater evils, help me not rationalize to myself that I could lie. But rather help me to be honest. You are Truth, and You do not tolerate lies. May I ever testify to the truth. In Your Name Jesus I pray, Amen.

Freedom

www.bible.com/1713/2co.3.17.csb

Getting ready to celebrate a little freedom? With the Fourth of July (American Independence Day) coming up next week, this verse seem apropos for the occasion. So what is freedom?

For some, freedom is the ability to exercise and carry out your own will, to do whatever you desire. It is the ability exercise your will upon the world around you, such as the freedom to build, freedom to explore, or as the picture suggests, go out in the woods anytime you wish. What limits freedom? Really, the free ability of others to do as they please. Your freedom stops where theirs begins and vice versa. We are not free to take away someone else’s freedom, so we are not free to kill, steal, or take another man’s wife. We are free to tell the truth (for lying binds us) and we are free to own property without the fear of someone taking it from it. We are free to exercise these freedoms as often as we like. But as you might have noticed, freedom must be free, or it ends up in bondage.

If you choose to exercise your freedom to take someone else’s life, you will be arrested, charged for murder, and put in prison, or executed. That doesn’t sound so nice, does it? If you use your freedom to tell whatever “truth” you feel like, you will be bound by that “truth” until you come clean. For example, if you were with another woman, but come home to tell your wife you were working late, you are bound by the lie. You have to prove you were “working late” if you do it too often. Also, you are now bound in a relationship that is served by lies. Should your wife ever find you’ve been lying, your marriage is in jeopardy, so you have to work to not only conceal the illicit relationship, but figure out how to reinforce the lie.

Using freedom to sin only leads to greater bondage. With the Spirit of the Lord, who is holiness and truth, there is real freedom. Freedom from deception, bondage, and guilt is worth more than all the sin in the world.

If you have found you are in bondage, you can find freedom in Jesus. Embrace Him in faith, be baptized into a local community of believers and be saved from your sin and strife, receive the Holy Spirit, and you will be truly free.

Lord Jesus, by myself, I have been led astray far too many times. I know that only in You will I find freedom. Will You accept me as Your own? I pray my repentance over my many sins, and pray that I might finally find peace in You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Mountains

www.bible.com/1713/psa.121.1-2.csb

Had a conversation this morning with a family who asked about my moving to Kentucky. I told them I was from Indiana and where I lived it was flat for miles, with little difference from rolling hill to rolling hill. Moving to Kentucky was a great difference for me, for where I live is surrounded by proper hills, covered in trees, that form valleys between them where the city dwells. I feel that the mountains referred to in the Psalm were more akin to the hills where I live than the stately Rockies or even the Appalachian range.

Back in those days, people built their cities on hills, primarily for defense, as you could see an enemy coming for miles if your city was built high enough. You could also defend it well as city walls would create an effective deterrent. Thus if you were in the valley, engaged in some conflict, you could look to the mountains, where the fortified cities were, and call for reinforcements. David takes this analogy into the spiritual realm. Where is safety and protection? In the fortress. God is the refuge, the safety, and the fortification. Where does my help come from but from the Lord. He will provide rescue.

When you are in trouble, there is a Rescuer who stands by, ready to send reinforcements. God bless you in your walk today!

Rejects

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.3.36.csb

Selecting the title above leads me two different directions. Both stem from the meaning of the word. Taken as a noun, rejects are those who have been cast off, the outsiders, or the factory seconds that could not be sold for retail. Taken as a verb, we reject those that are different, unwanted, unloved. Both involve a casting off or casting away.

“The one who rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Why do you suppose that is? I am reminded of the story of the young man who asked for a new car upon his graduation. His father called him into his study and offered him a Bible. The boy rejected the offer and cast the Bible aside, storming out, so angry that he did not speak to or see his father until his father’s funeral many years later. Rummaging through his father’s things afterwards, he found that old Bible, still sitting in the study. Curious, he opened it. Inside he found a set of car keys.

Like that man, we see the outward appearance of faith and religion, remembered the many hypocrites we have come across, the fake preachers and false teachers. We recall the many times we have been hurt by churches, fellow Christians, and even those who were supposed to be trustworthy. We reject the appearance, and thus refuse the gift. For the man, it was a Bible, an effort by his father to teach him what was truly important in life. When he rejected the Bible, he rejected the gift that was inside.

When we see the crucified Christ, the shame of our sin painted over Him in blood, we reject Him, because we cannot acknowledge the seriousness and impact of our own sins, refuse to believe that we could be so bad as to crucify the Son of God. We reject the horror of the offering, and miss the gift that lay beyond. For when we acknowledge that indeed Christ suffered for the sins of the world, for our own sins, for my sins, and when we accept that needful sacrifice for our own sake, we are witness to the resurrected Christ, the Lord of all, the Son of God who takes us as His own. Then we receive the gift we have truly desired: life. For in the end, when all else has been said, what is the one thing everyone wishes they had? But more time. This life isn’t for a day or an hour, but for eternity, all the time you could ever want.

Don’t reject the gift because you don’t like how it looks. The guilt and conviction you feel come from the nature of the gift. When you are offered something so pure, so holy as this, your natural man reacts involuntarily. You are horrified that something so pure could exist, because you are used to impurity. But Jesus offers His purity to you, in exchange for your filthiness, the nastiness of the corruption of sin in your life.

Will you accept Jesus, or reject Him. The Choice belongs to you.

Dear Jesus, please accept me, broken and corrupted as I am, for there is nothing in me that can possibly earn this gift. I am not pure. I am not holy. I am what remains of that divine image laid upon me, led astray by temptation and sin. Please accept me in return for my faith, devotion and commitment to follow you. Do not let me forget all that I have promised, and may Your work in me prove fruitful, that I may share this amazing transformation with others. Thank You Jesus. In Your Name, Amen.