50 and 20

Ephesians 5:16 – making the best use of the time…

Today our son, Joseph, is 20 years old, and tomorrow my parents will celebrate their 50th anniversary. Wow! Congrats Mom and Dad! Happy Birthday, Joseph!

It is just a special reminder to me of a few things. One being the blessing of family, marriage and parenting. There’s a lot of joy in these God-given relationships, but surely there are quite a few bumps on the road as well. But through the years as we grow closer to God and to each other, we see such a wonderful peace and fulfillment that comes from family.

But the other reminder that is just really glaring to me today is how fast time flies by! Thinking of my parents being married 50 years is just really hard to fathom. Seeing Joseph as a man now in his 20’s is even weirder! My mom told me many times in years past about how fast time goes by, and I didn’t really appreciate that until the past couple years.

Young men, if you are reading this, please listen to those older men and women who are telling you to enjoy the moment and rejoice in the blessings of today. They are so very right when they tell you that life hurries by. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the next stage/phase. Make the most of what you have right now.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

God’s Training – Time and Events

Where we are now is a result of a lot of people, choices, successes, failures, joy, pain, experiences, time and events.

My wife and I were discussing this topic earlier today, specifically in connection to her desire to start a soap business. All of her previous experiences, jobs, being a manager, and other entrepreneurial endeavors have trained and prepared her for this time and this opportunity. She has learned about customer service, attention to detail, marketing, confidence in your product, etc. Her confidence and abilities to do what she’s doing now have come from decades of doing other things, all of which helped shape her thinking to do what she is so passionate to do.

We talked about Joseph in the book of Genesis and how all his experiences, both good and bad, prepared him for the moment he would be called to be second in command to Pharaoh. You could say the same about many other people like David, Esther, Joshua, Nehemiah, Paul, Ezra or Moses.

Think of where you have been, what you have experienced and how that has shaped who you are today. It could be painful experiences that have taught you compassion for others. It may be developing the confidence of seeing your efforts pay off and your plans turn out successfully. Also there are times when you have to go back to the drawing board a thousand times and keep trying to make it work, and it finally does (Just like Thomas Edison)!

What has happened through all of that time? From a secular perspective, you are becoming a much wiser person, a more well-rounded individual. There are things you can do now that you may never have been able to do before because you are a much more seasoned individual.

Even better, if you are a follower of Jesus, God is working in you and through you to refine you and conform you into the image of His Son. He is preparing you to be a vessel in His house and an instrument of His righteousness. As He prepares you to work in the world developing your skills and talents, He is also molding and shaping your character. He sees farther than any business, trade skill, or sports ability you may have; remember He is the one who gave these things to you in the first place. Through you working in the world using your talents and skills, He is working on the rest of the world to show them His glory through you.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Jesus Our Brother

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
(Hebrews 2:10-11)

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Hebrews 2:18)

It was “fitting” for Jesus to be made flesh, live like us, and to be made “perfect through suffering.” This makes Him our brother. More than that, it says Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. He being the Son of God and we being the children of God all have one Father (“source”).

When you are tempted, and when you are suffering, you have a brother who understands. I know that I have a physical brother, Mark, who is also a brother in Christ. When I am struggling or down, I know he will listen, understand, pray for me and give me wise counsel. That is such a comfort. But even more than that, Jesus is my brother. He understands, and He listens, and He brings comfort. Jesus went through all that we have gone through, and He knows our situation completely. When we come to the throne we find mercy and grace because He is our brother.

I often think of Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and Christ, but not as much as my brother and my friend. Maybe you think the same way, I don’t know, but take time to meditate upon Jesus being your brother and what that means for you.

See to it

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

See to it. There are things that require our attention. The toilet is leaking at the base, I need to “see to it” and fix the problem. You realized someone stole your debit card information and is spending your money, and you “see to it.” You instantly know the seriousness and urgency.

The Hebrew writer tells us to “see to it” that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. Christians can and do fall away. Our hearts can be hardened, calloused over by the sin in which we are living. We can lose our confidence and joy and consider throwing in the towel. That’s why all Christians need to be on the lookout for each other, because those very things are going on in the brethren around you. Whether it is happening to you right now or not doesn’t matter, it is happening to someone around you. See to it.

Reach out to them today with encouragement. Say a prayer with them over the phone. Remind them with verses from God’s word about the presence and grace of God. Take them out for coffee. Sit with them. Listen. Be compassionate. Realize that they are at war and Satan is having a heyday with them. See to it that you be God’s instrument to bring a little comfort, relief and hope to their hurting hearts.

We do have incredible power and influence when we walk along with God to encourage our brethren. It makes a huge difference, don’t believe otherwise.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
(Hebrews 10:24)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
(Hebrews 3:12-14)

Mary!

Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus die. She witnessed Jesus’ body taken down from the cross, and she observed Jesus being buried (Matthew 27:55-66). When she same to the tomb Sunday morning, she was looking for the body of Jesus. Three times in John 20, it states that Mary was looking for what happened to Jesus’ body (John 20:2,13,15).

When Jesus came to her and began talking to her, she did not recognize him as Jesus, but “supposed” Him to be the gardener. Here is one of the most tender moments of the Bible. Jesus breaks through all her grief, her expectations and assumptions, her focus on her task, etc., and says, “Mary!”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
(John 20:14-16)

What an incredible moment for Mary! She was so focused on finding the body of Jesus that she did not see Jesus right in front of her.

I wonder how this may happen for us in our lives today. Can our assumptions or expectations cloud our eyes to the truth before us? Is it possible to be so overcome by grief that we forget the promises God has repeatedly given us through His word? Do we get so focused on a task that we don’t see the bigger picture? Does Jesus have to at times reach through the cloud of all our doubts, grief and fear and renew our faith and focus on Him?  Yes to all the above!

Hopefully we can take a lesson today from Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Thank you Lord, for showing us this example of Mary, and thank you for patiently loving us through those times when our faith and focus needs some renewal!

What We Share Together

We are getting ready to begin a study on Hebrews at our congregation. Many of the posts over the next several weeks will probably reference Hebrews in some way. Great encouragement in that book to consider Jesus, don’t give up, and consider one another.

Today are some bullet points below to look at what we share. I just noticed how many references there are in Hebrews to sharing and being partakers in some very special things. Please take time to meditate and pray about what we share together in Jesus Christ. It is just amazing. We are immensely blessed.

  • Jesus shared in flesh and blood to become our merciful and faithful High priest, and also to be called our Brother (Hebrews 2:11-15).
  • Sharing in a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1).
  • Sharing in Christ (Hebrews 3:13-14).
  • Sharing in an eternal rest, a homeland, an inheritance, a heavenly city (Hebrews 4:1,3,9; 10:34).
  • Sharing in the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4).
  • Sharing/becoming companions together in suffering for Christ (Hebrews 10:32-34; 11:25).
  • Sharing in God’s discipline/training (Hebrews 12:8), and through that we share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
  • Sharing what we have with each other (Hebrews 13:3,16).

As Christians, we have the most important things in common. Hopefully this changes our perspective of how we see each other and appreciate each other. Let’s fight even harder to draw closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ…we need each other!

Days of Feasting, Gladness and Giving

This will be the last post for 2017. Happy New Year! Thanks for being such an encouragement to me this year! God bless you all richly! 

But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another. And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them.
(Esther 9:18-23)

The passage above from Esther records the beginnings of an annual Jewish holiday called Purim in which the Jews remembered their deliverance from the wicked plot of Haman to destroy all Jews. Mordecai set these times up for all Jews to have “days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”

They were times of feasting, gladness and giving, not really much different than our holiday seasons. Even Jesus participated in festive times like weddings and feasts like Hanukkah (John 2, 10). The returning exiles in Nehemiah’s day also had a time of celebration, feasting and gift-giving, and they were commanded to do so by God’s priests (Nehemiah 8:10-12). There is a time for everything, including a time to rest, and celebrate God’s blessings in our lives. Solomon plainly said that this “is from the hand of God.”

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

We must always keep in mind, though, that all blessings come from God, and that in rejoicing in those blessings, we must put Him first in our hearts. We also because of God’s rich blessings, begin to think of others who are not blessed in the same ways. Hopefully we as the Jews in Esther’s day will look to find those who do not have what we have and share our blessings from God with them.

Enjoy your holidays. Keep God first in your thoughts. Rejoice that we are so richly blessed. Consider others who are hurting and find ways to help. Don’t feel guilty having a good time with your family and friends, as long as you are doing so in obedience to God. As Solomon said in the above passage, “For apart from Him who can eat or have enjoyment?”

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4)

There Remains a Sabbath Rest

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:6-11)

A Sabbath rest is coming, an eternal rest. Just like God rested from His works, we will rest from ours. Some will fail to enter it, as the text says, and the encouragement is for us to “strive to enter that rest.” We are saved by grace, no doubt, but the Lord calls us to work until He calls us home to rest.

There is a day coming, when we will touch the face of God and rest in the light of His glory for eternity. Are you and I thinking about that rest? Our we taking the time to think of eternity, heaven and living in the presence of God forever? I know I need that more, how about you? Re-centering our minds on heaven helps us to see things today with a more hopeful and joyful perspective.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

 

Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)

 

people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

When God Brings Justice

I was listening to a video by Frank Turek this week and he made an excellent point about our view of God’s justice. He said something to the effect of, “So many people wander why God doesn’t do something about evil, but when He does do something about evil we don’t like how he went about it!”

We all can probably relate. There are times, I’m sure, when you have read the Bible and came across one of God’s judgments and were tempted to think, “Man, that’s harsh.” David was angry when God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of the covenant. Habakkuk had a really hard time accepting that God would send a more wicked nation (Chaldeans/Babylonians) to punish the nation of Judah. Abraham was very concerned about God being a just judge and doing what was right when it came to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are many more examples of people questioning God’s decisions, and we can all say that at some time we’ve wondered about why God does things the way He does. It can be a real struggle for our faith, but as we come through those valleys of confusion, we can have a much stronger faith and a better appreciation for who God is.

Here are a few thoughts about God when He administers justice.

When God brings justice:

  • God has exhausted all other avenues to bring someone or a group of people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you read through the pages of the Bible and see the wrath and punishment of God, you can in those same texts see the mercy and long-suffering nature of God. He waits until there is no remedy but to bring punishment.
  • His punishment is at the right time, done in the right way, and is completely free of partiality (Romans 2).  This is why mankind does such a lousy job of vengeance and punishment. We often do it at the wrong time, with poor motives and full of favoritism.
  • He sees the hearts of mankind and sees the future. Since you and I can see neither of these, we are not equipped to make God’s judgments like He is. There is a lot of information He has access to that we will never have. I remember having a hard time wondering why God struck Uzzah dead while King David lived. God sees things that I don’t see, and I need to trust that.
  • God’s heart is always ready to forgive and receive back the sinner. We just studied about King Manasseh last Sunday. Manasseh was a really wicked dude. No king was as wicked as he was. God brought punishment upon King Manasseh and the nation of Judah, and what happened? Manasseh showed great humility and repented of his sins. God forgave him.

Our hearts can be built up in faith knowing that when God makes a decision, even a decision that causes us to shudder, we can be assured that it was the right decision with the purest motives. God will do what is right, and He will do it out of love.

then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
(2 Peter 2:9)