Faithful and Just

www.bible.com/1713/1jn.1.9.csb

Good morning. Another selection from 1 John reminds us that confession and forgiveness are an ongoing reality for Christians. Even after we have been forgiven from sin, we still need this reminder of where we come from. We have always been wont to sin. Temptation dogs our heels everywhere we go. While we live, we will always be tempted, and often we sin. This reminder is here to tell us that God forgives sin. If you have sinned, if you’ve fallen, and especially if you think you can’t get up, God offers forgiveness. He is faithful and just. Jesus has paid the penalty for sin. Justice has already been met. We have only to ask and sin is forgiven. Jesus paid for all our sins. Forgiven is guaranteed, but it is not always felt.

If you fail victim to a particular sin, like gluttony or pornography or something equally damaging, it can be hard to experience God’s forgiveness because you’ve gone back to that well so many times. I think this verse here is a reminder that there is still forgiveness. There is still hope for those who think they are beyond help. For those caught in the trap of addiction, this verse is hope. God forgives. God’s chief goal is to have you in heaven with Him. Because Jesus has paid the penalty for sin, forgiveness is guaranteed. But for your sake, for your own sense of need, ask.

A burden shared is a burden lightened. A burden shared with God is a burden lifted. That’s why He tells us to confess our sins to Him. Sins are a terrible burden to bear. He knows all about it. He calls us to share the burden of our sins, to face the reality of them, to be accountable for them, so that we unload that burden to Him. Confession is good for the soul.

I hope you all have a great Monday. Let the worship and filling from Sunday overflow and fill your week. God bless!

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What Love the Father Holds for Us

www.bible.com/1713/mic.7.18.csb

I cannot conceive of this love. It is too powerful, too awesome for me to comprehend. It is an overwhelming love, such that I’ve felt from anyone. No human love, not even mother to child, can compare with this love. For this is God’s love for His creation. He enfolds it and envelops it in His Being. He is Love. He inhabits His love. We benefit from this love daily. How great the Father’s love for us, for it is beyond all measure.

On this day of worship, I want to encourage you in your walk. No matter what you are going through, what trials you face, what heartbreak you experience and still labor to be free from, God still loves you with an everlasting faithful love. He holds you in His arms. You are not enduring this pain and suffering alone, but that your Father holds you close. We have but to open our eyes to Him and feel the warmth He brings to our soul. God loves you more than anything, more than the majestic stars and galaxies, more than the heavenly host. He loves you as He loves His own Son, because you are His child. We are co-heirs with Christ.

My kids introduced me to “Rick-roll”-ing yesterday. But Rick Atchley’s famous song is descriptive of God’s love for us. Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you. 😁

Love you all. God bless you today.

Protection

www.bible.com/1713/isa.54.17.csb

I am reminded of the monsters going from business to business demanding protection money, so that something bad doesn’t happen to the shop owner or his family. Usually, this payment was protection from the “protectors” who threw in a “or else” statement at the end of their offer. The price of protection was usually high enough to make it a significant part of doing business in certain parts of town.

While the God of Heaven offers protection, it’s not like this. His protection comes at a cost, but it is devotion and obedience to His Word, whatever that costs. His protection is positive, but also comes with an “or else” at the end, followed by a description of calamity and destruction at the hands of others. God offers real protection from the storms of life. But remember that God takes the long view. He sees exactly in the tempering you need to fulfill His purpose.

Yeah, I know His protection won’t feel very protective sometimes. Sometimes you will wish you could pay protection from the mob bosses and it might be easier. But God is not working to protect you from harm. He is working to protect you from Hell. You see it is your eternal soul, made in the image of God that He is working to salvage from sin and restore to righteousness. He loves you and works from that eternal perspective.

There is no weapon formed against you that will hurt your soul. There is no accusation in any earthly court that applies to eternity. God is the last judge that matters. And God will see to it that your eternity is secure.

That said, is there no hope for this life? Should all our hope be focused on eternity that we cannot see until our eyes close in death? Lest you think faith in Jesus is a death cult, remember that the Lord delights to give you what your heart desires. He loves giving good gifts to His children and He protects you in His purposes. If you are working according to His will, He sees that you succeed. He is as much God of this life as the next. God loves you, and He wants you to experience real joy (not merely happiness). He will bless you with family or friends or spouse or children or any number of good relationships as long as you seek to do His will.

Case in point. 26 years ago I met the woman who would be my wife. But t was not by accident. I was to work a week of camp as a counselor at a Christian Camp as part of my internship to become a minister. I really did not want to go, because I’m not a big fan of camp. But, it was something I was required to do, so I did it. If the Lord was calling me to ministry, He was calling me to do this week of camp. I left my comfort zone, and though I had been earnestly praying for her, didn’t expect to meet her for the first time working the same camp as a counselor. We’ve now been married 24 years and have four amazing children. Why? Because the Lord delights to give us joy, but especially as we work out His will.

I want to encourage you today to seek His will in your life. Make His Word and work a daily part of your walk. Who knows. You might find the love of your life.

God bless!

I Saw What You Did There

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.3.12.csb

Call me behind the times, but I’ve recently discovered that this is a thing. I am not sure if it’s a meme or something else. But the “I saw what you did there” phrase is attached to something meme-ish. Yeah, I’m getting old. I probably need to ask a sixteen year-old to explain it to me.

However, the phrase works extremely well for what our verse says this morning. God is very much in this business, for He sees everything. He sees the good that we do and the bad. His eyes are on the righteous but his face is against the wicked. When God sets His face against you, you better watch out. He controls every atom in your body and He wrote the laws of physics, so I would worry.

Listen, God does not owe us anything. There is nothing we can do that can remotely compare to what God has done. God can build galaxies out of nothing. What can you do?

And don’t ever think that just because we can shock someone back to life means we can raise the dead. They are not even close. There is a very short time after someone’s heart stops that it can be viably started again. And if you wait too long, the brain starts to die. We are beautifully and wonderfully made, and we have but a brief time. Enjoy your family while you can. You might need to lose that weight to linger longer.

You might note that inside the verse above, there was a promise. The ears of the Lord hears the prayers of the righteous. Yes she watches over us, and He sees what the wicked does, but He hears the prayers of the righteous. Know this: when you pray, God hears you. God offers a hearing before the Almighty at any time. All you have to do is speak.

I saw what you did there. I hear what you said there. Ought to be a meme about that.

God bless!

CONTEXT!

www.bible.com/1713/exo.14.14.csb

I love it when little verses like this are quoted on the verse of the day, and they are pregnant with meaning; until you actually look them up in Scripture!

This verse sounds like a very peace-inducing text. Oh, the Lord, He will fight life’s battles for you, oh yes. All you need to do is relax, stay calm, just be happy. Wrong!

This is in fact God telling the Israelites to “shut up!” The situation is much more tense. Pharaoh and His army were bearing down on the Israelites after their recent escape from Egypt. The people were clamoring in fear and grumbling against Moses and God in fear of their imminent death. The Israelites seems in imminent danger, and Moses receives this message: “the Lord will fight for you. Be quiet!”

That subtly changes the meaning, doesn’t it? Instead of “be calm, I got this” it’s more like “stop worrying about it, stop complaining about it, I got this.” The Lord knew then as we might today that all of that fear would induce panic, and the Israelites would be much harder to rally and take through the Red Sea. So a short, sharp word from the Lord zipped that right up so God could bring them through to safety.

God does not deal with us as our sins deserve. Praise be to the Lord! When we worry and complain we are speaking against God’s providence and planning. Yes, bad things happen to us. And there are things that God would never wish on his children, but they still happen.

I want you to note what God did here. God stopped the Egyptians, and provided a way of escape for the Israelites. God did not hurt the Egyptian army until they pursued the Israelites into the sea. The same circumstances that saved people of Israel overwhelmed the Egyptians.

I’m not sure if there is a greater lesson here, but in this instance, God did not send His angels to destroy he Egyptian army. They were destroyed by entirely natural means. They pursued Israel into what was obviously an act of God, the holding back of the waters, thinking that they too would benefit from it. But they only survived as long as it took the Israelites to cross the sea. Then the blessing was over, and they perished. They only benefited from God’s blessing as long as God’s people were present. They received the natural consequences of their sin when God’s people were removed.

Our nation receives blessing as long as we are here. If we abandoned our community, then they would suffer the natural consequences of its sin. When Lot and his family left Sodom, it was destroyed, but not until they left. When Noah and his family boarded the ark, the earth was destroyed, but not until they left. See a pattern here? God’s people have a preserving influence. There may be times where our influence is only staving off certain destruction and judgment (“Let those in Judea flee to the mountains”) but we are called salt for a reason. Salt preserves as well as flavors. We are the salt of the earth. As long as we are present, we still have a chance to do some good in this world and make an impact for Christ.

Yes, bad things happen. Yes, they happen to Christians. But we are not made for this world. We have a home waiting for us when our work here is ended. I hate to admit it but all we endure on this earth are growing pains. When our faith grows, it often hurts. But our faith is seeking maturity. And our faith affects those around us. It shows them a different way than the world. The stronger our faith, the more our influence.

So in the end, it comes back to the beginning. Do you trust God to fight for you? Trust His way of escape even when it doesn’t make sense. Do you run to water when you are surrounded by armies? Do you trust Him to wait on His leading in a bad situation? He will offer the path to escape. And sometimes your enemies will try to follow. It happens. But God didn’t make the escape for them.

All of this to say there is a much deeper story than what you can get in a single verse. The verse itself, read in isolation, offers a different flavor than when read in context. Read each verse in context. Please! Don’t run off and start new churches!

I love you all. God bless you and have a happy Monday.

Good Gifts

www.bible.com/1713/luk.11.13.csb

I think I know better than to give my children things they can’t handle. Jesus says you would not give your child a snake or a scorpion if they ask for an egg. We know better then that. If my child asks for some food, I don’t give him a spider. We are not that cruel. Even cruel people don’t do that to their own children, at least I hope not. There are always exceptions.

But Jesus’ point here that that even we, who are evil by God’s standards, are not so cruel to our children so that we willingly hurt them when they ask for a gift. We may not give that exactly what they want, but what we think they need, in order to help them. My kids would ask for carbs and sweets, but they get proteins and veggies because that’s what they need. But as a father, I know them well enough to give them what they really want on occasion. And that’s a key point. If you know your kids, you know what gifts make their heart sing. And if I know my own children in this way, God knows us even better.

So when we ask God, He knows what we want and what we need. He also knows how to bless us that truly satisfy us. I believe God will occasionally bless us in a way that doesn’t necessarily exalt Him, But is something that makes us really happy. Sometimes God gives because He wants to see us smile, not for His own glory but for ours. Mind you this doesn’t happen often, but I believe it does happen.

What have you asked for lately?

So What’s the Promise?

www.bible.com/1713/eph.6.2.csb

We have a lot of Scripture to thank the Apostle for. We can attribute much of our daily practice and theology to him. Which is why this passage presents us with a problem.

Paul has written elsewhere that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law, and that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. That said, he presents this text “Honor thy father and thy mother”, the fifth commandment, complete with its context, for this commandment contains a promise “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” the Lord God is sending you to, i.e., the land of Israel. Here’s why this is a problem.

The promise of the fifth commandment is to the people of Israel, so that they could occupy and inhabit the land of promise indefinitely. The promise involved a particular piece of real estate. However, Paul does qualify this promise in its original context. Instead, his quote ends at ” land”. The problem, one might argue, is that Paul is appropriating the land promises made to Israel and passing them on to the Christians of his day. In a greater argument that Paul is extending the promises (and obligations) given to Israel are also to Christians. That’s a lot of weight to put upon one verse, especially taken out of context of the rest of Paul’s words.

Rather, Paul is extending the promise here made to Israel by observing a different focus. His focus is on the promise of “long life” rather than the land. The land here really could be anywhere Christians find themselves. The strength of this promise comes from the authority of God Himself. So why do Christian children, who have honored this commandment, still die young?

Let me present the third possibility. That the land of long life promised here isn’t eighty years and dying of old age. What’s in view here, a child that honors his father and mother by clinging to the God that saved them is a child who is promised eternal life in the land God has prepared for them.

If we are honoring father and mother, we are working out God’s will in our lives. We are honoring those He chose to bring us life, and this is important, whether we actually respect them or not. Being able to honor them is to fulfill the commandment, and to honor the God that maybe even despite them, brought you to Himself.

Not every parent is perfect, and many don’t come close. But the commandment of God is non-negotiable. Honor means respect, both in life and in memory. Honor can be honest, but it must be respectful. If you have good parents, this is easy. If not, this is one of your greatest challenges. But know that we are all in this together. If you need help, ask. Let us pray with you.

I hope you can have a happy Father’s Day. God bless you all!