Keeping in the Love of God

That’s the real trick, isn’t it? Because if we can master that one, then the rest is easy. Funny how Jude tells us that the key this whole thing is keeping in the love of God. That sounds like that’s something in our power to do, as if we must be doing something in order to stay within the love of God.

Christianity is no passive effort. It is a faith that must remain active, be active, and be proactive. Note the things that Jude suggests we are to be doing: building yourselves up in faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit. Building up can be anything that involves doctrine and instruction, as well as the practical exercise of that faith, living out the principles of Jesus life and work, stepping out in faith in all areas of life. This is trusting the Lord for the outcome, putting in our best efforts as unto the Lord.

Praying in the Spirit, or even, according to the Spirit of God, means that we pray in the confidence of His work, His power and ability. But we also pray according to His will, For while His power is limitless, He determines those things He will do, not us.

Why go through all of this? As Jude offers, it is for the mercy expected from Jesus to invite us to eternal life with Him. And it will be worth it. All the suffering we endure for the Name in this world will be worth the glory and mercy we will experience then.

So let us live day to day in the love of God, seeking His will, speaking to Him, strengthening our relationship with Him so that one day we will see Him face to face. God bless you in your walk today!


Monday Cure

As much as we hate Monday’s, this is one of those that’s not so bad. Today is Labor Day and it is a federal holiday, so anything that can be closed is closed. Which means I am on-call today instead of actually going in. Such is the life of a Chaplain.

Ironic then we have this text today. For all of Jeremiah’s pleas for salvation and safety, God’s response to Him seems odd. God tells him to go to the Kings’s gate and tell the people not to work on the Sabbath day by bringing in loads through the gate. Here, let me show you.

“This is what the LORD says: Watch yourselves; do not pick up a load and bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.”  (Jer 17:21)

Now it seems ironic to me, since this is Labor Day, that God’s warning to Jeremiah and to Judah is about labor. They wanted to work so much (and make some extra money) that they wanted to work on a day God has set apart for rest. Later on, God appeals to this desire by saying He wOuld make them a great and powerful nation if they would just honor Him on this one day is the week, and not work on the Sabbath.

Labor Day is not a Sabbath, but it can be and often is a day if rest from our usual labor. Maybe we could go the extra step today, instead of celebrating ourselves, to actually use it to honor God. For Christians, every day is the Lord’s Day, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Everywhere we go is the church, because we are the church.

So if you are off today, make some time to rest in the Lord, have some prayer, do a devotion or two, but make today holy, for He has made you holy.

Future Love

Does it trouble anyone that Jesus promises love to those who obey Him in this verse? The love of the Father and the Son are both placed in the future for the one who keeps the commands of the Lord, rather than the present. The one who loves will he loved. Hmmm.

Now I have other Scriptures, like Romans 5:8 that say God loved us do much and proved that Love by sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. I have John 3:16, same book, where Jesus says God loved the world before He sent His Son, so I am not worried about not being loved. It’s just that this verse places obedience and our own love for Him as necessary prerequisites for His love for us. Out of context this would be troubling. In context it tells me that additional love awaits me for my obedience and love for God. A father loves all his children, but he also has extra love for those on the same page as he is, who share his interests and pursuits.

My children tell me all the things they are interested in. I can follow some of their conversation. I find myself more drawn when they are talking about things I am interested in. It’s human nature. When my children and I share a common interest, I find extra enjoyment sharing it with them.

I believe God loves all of his children equally, proof being Christ Jesus. But I believe He likes spending time with those who share His interests. Those who by their obedience to His commands and love Him in return find themselves loved by Him even more. This is something that I would not understand if I was not a father myself.

What can you and God do together today? What are the things that interest God? And would we be pleased to do the things that bring Him joy?

If you have kids, you know that one thing they like to do, when they are young, is bring you their artwork. I feel like we do that with God, because we want to feel His approval. But our artwork is satisfying what she has told us to do, so that we might present Him ourselves. We don’t do this to earn His love, but because He loves us first. He only loves us more.

Put your stock in this future love. Look for opportunities today to please your Father, and He will love you more.

God bless you today.

You Can Do Nothing

Apart from Jesus, you can do nothing. Little commentary is needed here. As the Vine, Jesus gives life and support to us, the branches. We must remain firmly rooted in the Vine in order for us to have access to that life. Thus nothing that furthers the Kingdom, Nothing that matters can be done apart from Christ. We cannot do His work without Him.

That makes me wonder about the kind of work I am doing. Am I doing something that advances the Kingdom? Does my work means anything? I admit that work can and is often often done without Christ’s involvement. Many people who are not believers do good work. So what is Jesus talking about here?

I think that if you are looking for life-giving work, and not life-sapping work, you need to involve Jesus. If you want to be energized about what you do, you need to involve Jesus, involve His teaching and His grace, His love and joy. If Jesus is not involved, you fee like you are spinning your wheels, running like a hamster accomplishing nothing. Every victory seems hollow and empty. Life has no meaning. Apart from Jesus you really can do nothing, and it feels like it.

Keep Jesus wherever you go. Abide in Him and He will abide in you.

God bless!

Major in the majors

Graduation season is here and many have taken their next steps into a larger world, sometime a more complicated world, where we wish we could step back and write that final paper than have to write checks to pay bills. I’m sure everyone who has ever been through college can attest to that some days. As I and many others have learned, our college degree doesn’t necessarily become our life’s work. In my case, having a major in Bible only pointed to my present career in Chaplaincy. But if you’d told me that Chaplaincy is where I would be in 25 years, I wouldn’t have believed you. We find that after a time, what we major in has little bearing on the real world.

However, our verse today points out that strength comes from the Lord. But what is strength? We often define it as ability. If you are strong enough, you are able to perform a task. But strength can also be defined as resiliency. Strength allows you to adapt and endure to changing situations and thus be resilient. Emotional strength points to enduring crisis and loss while strength of will translates into determination, even stubbornness.

What is the kind of strength that the Lord provides? Or as this verse suggests, being strong in the Lord? Having strength in the Lord is a major. We want to major in this major. That is, we want to exercise skill in this area as of undergirds many of the other areas in our life. If we are weak in the Lord, then our ability to fight temptation, overcome adversity and hardship and even exercise faith is hindered. So we major in working on the strength we have in the Lord. That strength is improved by spending time with Him in prayer and worship. That strength comes from assurance that He is with us. We always feel more confident when the bigger, stronger warrior is with us. And He is the strongest by far.

Put your trust in the Lord and in His strength and He will never fail you. He may let you fight on your own to test your mettle, but He will never leave your side. Fight and work in the strength of His might. He never runs out.

God bless.

Thoroughly Equipped

Is it possible to be thoroughly equipped for every good work? What people miss about this text, because they get stuck on the inspiration section, is that Scripture can thoroughly equip the servant of God for every work God calls us to do. I discovered this when I was getting some extra classes for counseling and this was pointed out. Biblical counseling doesn’t need the principles of psychology, based on man’s ideas, but the word of God.

Consider what “every good work” entails. Every work that God considers “good” toward advancing the Kingdom of God can find guidance from the word of God. Are you looking to make what you do something that God can use for His Kingdom, look no further than the word of God. Confused about what you can do in this world that matters to God? Apply the principles you find in the pages of this book. The Bible was written to equip you, not just in part, but thoroughly, so that you can do God’s good work.

Teaching, Rebuking, Correcting, Teaching in Righteousness. The Word instructs us in what is true. It rebukes is because we have sinned. It corrects us because we have made mistakes. It teaches us righteousness because it is showing us how to do it God’s way. The Word of God is a divine mirror, showing us not only our faults, but also the solutions. We cannot discern these things from science and nature. They have to be revealed to us. God has already given us what we need to do all He has called us to do. God will not call you if He has not equipped you for the task. The Bible equips you for every good work He calls us to.

There is in this a sense of priority. If the Bible has nothing to say about something I want to do, is it a “good” work? Am I spinning my wheels or wasting time? Am I expending valuable time and energy doing something God has not called me to? I know this is arguing from the silences of Scripture but it makes me wonder. Does everything I do need to have a divine decree behind it? I know Scripture says elsewhere, whatever you do, do for the glory of God. Is what I am doing glorifying God?

I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you that the Bible has something to say about everything we put our mind to doing, whether direct commands or passive ones. The Bible isn’t just a book on the shelf. It’s God’s express commands to us about how He says we need to live. Don’t let it collect dust.

God bless you today.

Rest in Jesus

At the time Jesus spoke these words, He was talking to a group of people who were literally carrying heavy burdens and were physically tired. I think we have to understand what He was saying to those people before we start turning it into metaphor. What kind of rest was Jesus offering to those who carried their belongings, their livelihood on their backs? They carried water from the well to their home. They carried grain from the field to their grindstone to mill into flour. They carried goods from the market and to the market. They carried their lives on their back. What kind of rest was Jesus offering them? Was he offering a rest for the weariness, or from the work itself, or both? If they did not work, they did not eat, or pay their taxes, or pay their creditors.

Yet when they came to Jesus, as in this instance in the text, they were not working. They were listening to Him. While they sat and listened to him, they weren’t busy doing all the other things of living. So in this sense, He was giving them rest. He was inviting them to stop from their labor and listen to Him for a while.

We place a high priority on work. We are to be commended for our diligence. But Jesus says sometimes we pause our busy schedules and pay attention to Him. He is as important as a paycheck. I would argue more important.

What we want to do is say that Jesus offers relief from stress and overwork in this passage. That simply giving our life to Jesus will allow us to keep doing all the things but with only half the stress as before. That’s not what He is saying. His audience worked everyday (but the Sabbath) just to survive, and He is calling them to rest. We work everyday to be comfortable. If it was about merely survival, we could probably make do with less, but we like our conveniences, like electricity and internet. Do you have time to stop and listen?

When you look at the context of Matthew 11:28, you will find on the next verse that Jesus offers rest for their souls. Doesn’t that mean this is a metaphor? Not necessarily. It seems to me in the larger sense that Jesus is offering rest because we no longer work for ourselves, or for the Man, but for Him. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. When we place ourselves under a His yoke, we find it slot easier. Less stressful? Yes. Less burdensome? Yes.

As you work today, consider who you are working for. Don’t forget to stop and listen along the way to the words of the Master. He offers true rest, a respite from the tyranny of labor and its curse. You will never be able to do it all anyway, for there is always more to be done. Like Mary, take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

God bless you today!