Jesus

...now browsing by tag

 
 

September 15

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Signs. They are everywhere. It’s a political year. UGH! Speed limit. Directional. Enter. Exit. Signs for a restaurant. Signs on a door telling us to wear a mask (2020).  Reminds me of that old pop song: “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs/Clogging up the scenery, breaking my mind/Do this, do that, can’t you read the signs?” 

We have people, especially with the chaos and uproar of this day, talking about and asking, “Are these the signs of the times?” Back in 1967 when the Israelis won the 6-Day War and their land from the Arabs, they taught it was a sure sign that Jesus was coming really soon. I think it’s safe to say “soon” is relative. Same for today. Nobody knows.

Growing up near Pittsburgh I was surrounded by a large Catholic and Orthodox population. The sign of the cross was and still is big to the “practice” of that religion.

It strikes me then with all this talk of the signs of the time that Paul wrote in I Cor.1:21-25 the following words: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (Emphasis mine) Did you notice “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified”? Jesus Himself said the only sign given would the sign of Jonah (death, burial and resurrection).

Maybe it’s time we stop looking to the world events trying to interpret “signs” and simply draw people’s attention to the one sign most important: the cross of Christ. Even the OT people were not saved by looking around or looking inwardly. They were saved by looking at the snake fashioned by Moses and lifted up for the people to look at. A foretaste of Jesus’ own words: “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to Me.” (Jn.12:32)

“Father, may I lift up Jesus. May I preach the cross not man’s opinions. May I draw people’s attention to the cross, not the ‘signs of the times.’ May Jesus be exalted in all things.”

September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe 19 years ago today, 9/11/01, our country was the victim of a terrorist attacks. Two planes at the Twin Towers; one plane at the Pentagon; and one plane aiming for the White House that found itself crash landing in a field in PA.  I do not have the mind of a terrorist (thankfully) so I cannot conceive of that much hate dominating my thinking so completely that I have a careless disregard for over 3000 lives. All in the name of “religion.” Religion of peace my foot! It is a religion dominated by hate and fear which manifests itself in the careless disregard for life (even of their own). Sadly they will not find 7 vestal virgins awaiting them. Maybe the flames of hell but not peace and tranquility.  They are dominated by hate, fear and arrogance.  With that in mind, I write this devotion.

IMHO one of the greatest battles a Christ-follower faces is the battle with pride. It is so easy to get full of ourselves. So  full, in fact, that we are almost unbearable to be around. The Bible speaks to that in I Cor. 13 when it says, “Love does not boast.”

I read a wonderful story recently. It is from the book called Mauve…How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World.  In the mid-19th century the color-dyeing of materials was a painstaking and expensive process.

All that changed in 1856 when William Perkin, an 18 y/o chemist, was working on a treatment for malaria in his little home lab, and “accidentally” made a dark oily sludge (instead of artificial quinine). But it turned out this sludge could turn silk into a beautiful light purple-mauve.

It soon became the most sought-after shade in the fashion houses of London and Paris, and earned Perkin both a fortune and knighthood.

Sir William Perkin was a Christian. When on his deathbed someone said, “Sir William, you will soon hear the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” He began to recite Isaac Watts’ hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross {Note: a personal favorite of mine}. At the one stanza it says, “And pour contempt on all my pride.”  After quoting that line Sir William commented quietly, “Proud? Who could be proud?”

Who could be proud indeed. This man who had every right to be proud and to cling to his earthly accomplishments refused to be choked by it. Humility was and is so much more Christ-like. “Nothing more to Him I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That should be my sentiments. That should be the sentiments of every Christ-follower.

“Father, I have no reason to be proud. Strip me of my pride. Help me to follow the example of Sir William who followed the example of the Savior.”

August 27

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill has always been an interesting one to me. You can find it in Acts 17: 16-34. Paul is in Athens, the religious center of Greece. In fact, as you walk with Paul and listen to him, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Athens was the home of virtually every god known to man. In 17:16 it says, “Paul’s…spirit was provoked as he saw the city was full of idols.” In verse 22 it says he begins his sermon with “I perceive in every way you are very religious.” I’d say those are dead giveaways! 🙂

As Paul reasoned with the people, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were curious (they loved engaging with others for the purpose of learning and discourse), but some were hostile. Why? Because he preached Jesus and His resurrection.  He didn’t “preach” health and wealth. He didn’t “preach” a glory cloud will fall. He didn’t “preach” God wants to bring a miracle to your life. No. He preached Jesus and His resurrection.

They wanted to hear more, but it was more of a defense of what he believed. The Areopagus was a court named for the hill on which it once met. His defense is interesting.

  • He alludes to their multiple gods.  They were “very religious.”
  • He zeroes in on the altar To An Unknown God. They were “spiritual;” they believed in the supernatural. Sort of like many in our day. They believe in something; they just aren’t sure what or who.
  • He teaches with purpose.  Take note of it: The God who made the world (the one they classified as unknown); He doesn’t live in temples; He gives life, breath, and all things; He has made us all equal (one blood); He has put in all of us a need for Him and a desire to seek.
  • He presents the appeal. Now is the time. God has overlooked our rebellion but no more.

Such a far cry  from the mere pablum of our day. No hype. No promise of wealth. No “God wants His kingdom here now.” No “think better of yourself because you are worth it.” Just Jesus and our need for Him. Just Jesus and our need to repent. Just Jesus- and it was all cemented not by our agreement-but by His resurrection. And like today the response was mixed. Yes, as expected there was hostility. But that day Paul’s honesty in preaching brought some into the kingdom and raised the curiosity of others.   

“Father, my mandate is to preach Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected. Help me not to waver from that mandate.”

August 19

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

After yesterday’s post, I felt I needed to say something more. In all this talk about social justice, it is easy to forget what really is the task of the church-which is, in fact, tied to social justice.

We spent time last week with our grandson. Man, I love that dude and would gladly give my life for him. I’ve lived 67 very good years; he only 13 (soon to be 14). His mom and dad have split up and no reconciliation is in sight. At all. I/we have watched him grow from birth to be one of the lights in our world.  Our time with him is all too short, and I realize someday he probably won’t want to spend time with us. There are times I want to be closer but that is not to be. And I’m okay with that because I am in God’s will right now.

Children were loved but not really valued in Jesus’ day. He changed all that. When others were pushing them away, Jesus was saying, “Bring the children to Me.” He welcomed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the outcast, the demon-possessed, the diseased, and the poor with no qualms whatsoever. Who the person was or what his “deal” was, Jesus never shrunk away. He reached out. In that way, Jesus left us an example on how to treat others. In that way, He showed us what social justice was: doing for the “least of these.”

But notice what was missing? Protesting. Loud rhetoric. Inciting hate. Getting His message out for His cause. He wasn’t a warrior, least not as we think of one. He was an example of how it is to be done. All kinds of people fell under the loving eyes and touch of Jesus.

I find it interesting when reading about Paul’s life that I was directed to read Galatians. In Gal.2 Paul writes about seeing James, Peter and John where he and Barnabas were offered the right hand of fellowship.  They were sent out to minister to the Gentiles with one word of advice: “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I was also eager to do.” (2:10) Hmmmm, social justice in action. The mission of the church to get the Good News of Jesus out. Our work with people is simply an outgrowth of that mission. It is not to be the only thing we do.  Social justice must never take the place of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not just helping someone; it also to be used as a springboard to present Jesus.

“Father, help me not to forget others, especially those in need. And help me not to forget why I do what I do.”

August 18

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

As I write this devotion, I hesitate. I have, in the past, said I would not write on politics. But, even though I can say this is not political, there would be some who would take it that way. Such is the state of our world. But this truly is not meant to be a political statement.

There are always catch-words or catch-phrases people use. Some catch on but others go by the wayside after a time. One that is big right now (2020) is the term “social justice.” It has been spurred on by the different social events that have happened, and while it may sound innocent on the surface, those two words have become the rationale for all kinds of lawlessness and other actions. It has also become the litmus test for many in the church.

Right up front I will say social justice-the desire for equality according to the law (my definition)- is good. There is one factor which must never be forgotten. Social justice, especially when it involves right/wrong or evil, must never, never (did I say never?) usurp the gospel of Jesus Christ. Churches, and even pastors, who push aside the gospel of Jesus for the social justice banner have stopped being gospel churches and gospel pastors. If they are not going to preach the gospel of Jesus as the cure to this world’s ills, and if they are going to spend their time protesting and breeding hatred, they need to step down from their pulpits, get rid of the “pastor” or “Reverend” in front of their name and be what they really are-a social justice warrior. Speaking of which, don’t call Jesus a Social Justice Warrior. I don’t see Him marching in protest; burning buildings; hating cops; throwing molotov cocktails; looting. screaming and inciting riots; or any other type of inflamed rhetoric.

I repeat: Social justice should never, never, never take the place of preaching the Gospel message.

“Father, Your Word changes lives.  Our world doesn’t know that. Many people in pulpits don’t know that. And it stand to reason many in the pews/chairs don’t. Help me to always preach the gospel.”

*Note: I have more to say but kept it to this length to be more readable. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

August 4

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

In reading One Faithful Life, a harmony of the life of the Apostle Paul by John MacArthur, I read Acts 8. It is sort of the interlude between chapters 7 and 9. Chapter 7 ended with the mention of Saul at the stoning of Stephen and chapter 9 is the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. I see chapter 8 as a chapter of contrasts. It is the brief story of two men who make differing choices.

Philip takes the message of Jesus to Samaria. Pressure took him away from Jerusalem. As he preached in Samaria, people responded to the message and were saved. One individual specifically mentioned is Simon, a sorcerer. It says he believed and was baptized then continued following Philip.  Reading the rest of the account seems to tell us that Simon’s “decision” was not sincere but an effort to get close to Philip and to learn his secrets. Even when Philip rebuked him for his misguided heart, Simon didn’t repent. His reply (v.24) was not one of sincerity, but fear of the consequences. That’s like saying, “I want to go to heaven because I don’t want to go to hell.” That’s the wrong answer and the wrong motive.

The other man mentioned in Acts 8 has a different response. Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah 53 and doesn’t understand who it is about. Philip hops into his chariot and begins to teach him about Jesus and the eunuch responds to the message. No guile. No hidden agenda.

Two people. Two responses. It is no different today. People are presented the Gospel message. One responds with wrong or hidden motives; the other responds with an open heart in sincerity. The one is temporary; the other permanent. The one is outward; the other is inward. The one might be performance-based; the other is grace-based. The one has no change; the other has a lasting life-change.

Which one am I? Which one are you?

“Father, I want to be like the eunuch in my response to you. An honest seeker. One whose motives are pure and sincere and not for show. “

August 3

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I met and talked with someone in the past who has much to be thankful for. This person, even though he/she may not know it, or can put words to it, is one who has seen God’s magnificent grace in action. Rescued from a past that included addiction, abuse, shame and other ugly things, this person is in ministry to help others be free and learn freedom in Christ.

Grace has been shown to this person in a special way and their life’s desire is to help others experience that same grace. That is as it should be. Shown grace; give grace. It is unmistakable: we have been given grace to be grace givers.

That comes with an important element: forgiveness. To see God’s grace in all its fullness and richness we must forgive ourselves. I think-and this is me speaking personally-this is one of the toughest things to do. We often find it easier to forgive others-and even tell them they need to forgive themselves- BUT then struggle to practice that in our own life. I often wonder about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus told her He did not condemn her and go and sin no more. I’d love to know how she did. (Maybe my question will be answered when I see her in heaven).

Grace. Forgiveness. Two absolutely connected words. For me to someone else. For me to me. “Father, help me to receive Your grace and forgiveness and then show the same to others…as well as myself.”

July 30

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

One of the passages I like in Acts is found in 4:1-22. Following the healing of the lame man (chapter 3) word spread.  It’s one of those something-good-happened-and-I-can’t-keep-quiet-about-it things. Peter and John were arrested by the religious leaders and verse 4 says those who came to faith numbered 5000 men! I believe if I was a religious leader I’d be worried too. To capsulize this story, here are some thoughts I see:

  1. When something good happens, especially when your life is radically changed, you can’t keep quiet about it.
  2. Sometimes the impromptu is best. I’m not saying Peter speaking on Pentecost and at Solomon’s Porch weren’t, but this incident is specific. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…”  This was not rehearsed; it was “on the fly.” Sometimes our most effective moments are moments of inspiration.
  3. Peter made two good points: The one was made by quoting an OT passage in Psalm 118:22- Jesus was the chief cornerstone. Rejected by men; exalted by God.
  4. The second was immediately following in verse 12: the exclusivity of Christianity was stated: salvation by faith in Christ.  Only one of two paths are available-the broad road or the narrow road. The narrow one is Jesus alone leading to salvation.
  5. Being with Jesus makes all the difference.  It sets the Christ-follower apart. The religious leaders were astounded and perceived they (Peter and John) had been with Jesus. Oh, to have that said about me!
  6. A firm belief in the truth of Jesus gives boldness. Peter and John stood against the religious leaders when they were told to stop preaching about Jesus. Their words: “We cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (v.20) May I be that bold!

“Father, what a tremendous example Peter and John are in this passage. There is so much here. Help me to be bold and follow their example.”

July 29

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Sandwiched between two powerful, ground-breaking sermons is a story almost as equally stunning. Tragically, for us we we read it, the story becomes almost a by-word. The two sermons are the first two recorded ones of Peter- Acts 2 (the first on the Day of Pentecost) and Acts 3 (his sermon at Solomon’s Porch). Two sermons that specifically teach that Jesus is Messiah, the One who died for the sins of the people. Ironically, Solomon’s Porch is where Jesus taught the parable of the Good Shepherd. You can make the connection.

Anyway, sandwiched between those two sermons is the story of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. There is no hidden meaning. He asks for healing; Peter gives it. Oops, I was wrong there, wasn’t I? He didn’t ask for healing; he asked for alms. Peter knew what he really needed and it wasn’t money.  He even says that: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”

I’m going to push aside the snarky comment about so-called faith healers today and focus on something else. Something relevant to us. It is common for people to think they need or want something when what they need is something totally different. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Get rid of one thing; add another. Abandon God; add emptiness. The lame man wanted money; Peter knew what he really needed.

People today remind me of the lame man. In search of something, they can’t see what will really satisfy them. They can’t see what they really need. Don’t be fooled by their fake smiles and pretend happiness. What they really need is a WHO. Just like the lame man.

“Father, I know I need You. Those I come in contact with also need you.  Help me not to be fooled by their fake smiles and pretend contentment, but remember to point them to Jesus- the ONE they really need.”

July 16

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Because of the current pandemic, there was- originally- a lot of talk about the end times. Is this a sign? Can we find evidence of this in Revelation or Daniel? Thankfully, I have not heard much lately about this speculation. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I look forward to Jesus’ return, but I don’t spend much time worrying or studying the “doings of the world” to determine the “comings of the Savior.”

But there are some Scriptures which definitely make me stop and think:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

“…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  (I Th. 1:9b-10)

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.” (Rev.22: 12-13)

And lest we get impatient:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

And for the grand finale:

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. (Rev. 19:11-13)

Yeah, I believe with all that is within me that Jesus is returning. When? Only the Father knows. No amount of sign-finagling or culture-twisting or sky-watching is going to change that. I suspect we would be wiser living a life denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living a life of seriousness, righteousness and godliness than doing biblical calisthenics trying to figure out how close and when. When it’s time, He will return. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye to the sky, but our focus should be on living for Him here. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

“Father, may my eyes be focused on living a life that brings you glory and honor rather than focused on the ‘next sign.’ Help me to be living a life of readiness when that moment comes.”

My thanks to Bible Gateway for the copy/paste feature I was able to use. All Scripture is ESV.