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Weekend Extra

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Supposed to have another big snow event later today. Bummer. But life goes on. I have no control over the weather; only my response to it. In this weekend extra I’d like to write about something familiar.

I’ve been reading Lies Men Believe by Robert Wolgemuth. Lie #3 is “I Can earn God’s favor” spurred my thoughts this morning. If you know your Bible at all, you know there was one group of people Jesus had very little tolerance for. It wasn’t whom many of us would turn away from; it was the religious leaders. Pharisees in particular. Ironic then that Nicodemus (Nic) came to Him to talk. But Jesus minces no words either. “You must be born again.” How’s that for a fine “How do you do?” No beating around the bush. No soft sorry. No mercy. What was required of him was and is required of us all. In spite of status. In spite of “religiosity.” In spite of so-called piety. He slammed home at the Pharisees’ arrogance. Now…I can give Nic the benefit of the doubt that he was different from the others. He sought out Jesus. There was something in him that saw Jesus as someone different. I think it shows by his actions at the cross. But he was also a secret disciple (until that moment). Gotta wonder how he pulled that off-hiding his loyalty for 3 years.

Anyway, Jesus’ words were for him and for us. No man comes sinless and good enough. God is holy; I am not. God is sinless; I am not. Nic needed a rebirth; so do I. My sin nature is no different than his. God is holy; he cannot stand sin; therefore, I’m not good enough to earn his favor. Nic wasn’t. I wasn’t. Neither is anyone else. Theologian? Nope. Pastor? Nope. Lifelong student of the Bible? Nope. Those who believe in complete sanctification? Nope. Nobody. I’ve come to a very staunch conclusion over the years. It is this: my standing before the Father is not determined by how I’m doing, but by what Jesus, the Son, has done.

That settles it. I cannot earn God’s favor. I can only receive His unconditional love. Nic found that out. John 3:16. That verse still stands as a beacon of and to that truth.

“Father, salvation is mine, not by merit, but by your Son’s blood and your unmerited favor. Help me to not forget that and try to impress you or anyone with my religiosity. I simply come to you as a sinner in need of grace.”

Weekend Extra

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

It’s snowing to “beat the band” this morning. Our first significant snowfall this year, maybe in two. Meeting together in worship tomorrow is still up in the air, although I believe we will. I was looking forward to preaching this weekend on “My One Thing.” I still may but that largely depends on the snow and the roads. Lots of rural roads in Owen County. So I had a little extra time on my hands and decided to do this weekend extra.

Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” Coming into God’s presence is not something to be taken lightly or flippantly. The holiness of God “demands” that I approach Him with reverence and awe. My hands, my heart, my speech and my very soul are to honor Him.

Another thought. One of the questions I’m often asked is this: is it wrong to have doubts? Or to put it another way: “Is doubt sinful?” I’ve told people it is not wrong to doubt as long as those doubts are honest and lead to seeking answers. Doubts because of culture/home life/friends say so is not honest.

G.C.Morgan once wrote: “Doubts are by no means sinful. The limitations of our finite minds must create problems for us at times. You get a perfect illustration of this in the prophecy of Habakkuk…He declared them to God, which proved his faith and gave God the opportunity to answer Him.”  (p.30)

I tell people if you have doubts take those doubts to God. Don’t pretend. Don’t act as though you don’t have them. He wants to hear from you. Honest doubts/honest questions get honest answers.

January 4/Weekend

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Since this is the weekend and since our daughter, Tami, had surgery yesterday, I am going to put two thoughts into one devotion.

If I were to ask you who is the most maligned or misunderstood person in the Bible, what might your answer be? Jonah? Abraham (for being with Hagar)? Jacob for his deception? Someone else? My answer would be…Thomas. Doubting Thomas we call him.

But consider this: maybe Thomas was actually more on the money than we think. How many of us have automatically accepted something just because someone told us it was so? How many of us haven’t thought for ourselves on matters of faith or biblical interpretation? We have just accepted things because a pastor told us or a teacher said so or a college prof taught us. I was one of them. Only when I started thinking on my own did I break free from the legalism which had bound me.

I see Thomas as more of an historian than I ever was. He wanted the facts before he would believe. It wasn’t enough to just take it as “gospel”  because the other disciples said so. I agree with Mr. Morgan who said Thomas’ language was “the language of absolute honesty, the language of a man who would not be credulous. He declined to profess a faith he did not possess.”  He goes on to say this:

Thomas was a man at once cautious and courageous…We speak of Thomas as a skeptic…He was a skeptic. He was a man who was compelled to investigate, to inquire…a man who would make no confession of faith, of hope, of confidence unless it was a confession absolutely honest, true to the profoundest convictions of the mind. (p.25)

I believe Mr. Morgan is spot on. For way too long I believed and taught that which I had been taught to believe. Only when my eyes were opened by God’s Spirit and my own desire to truly seek Him in His Word did I break free from the chains. I can’t malign Thomas. In many ways, he is my story.

“Father, give me honest eyes and an honest heart to truly seek you with purity. With an unblemished view. Let me see you for who you truly are not as others tell me.”

{Quote from In the Shadow of Grace}

For your weekend thoughts: It is too bad there is a chapter division between Psalm 7 & 8. “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” Don’t you think those go together? I do.

May this weekend…may this weekend of worship…be one of thanksgiving to the One who is the Most High and more majestic than all.