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.

When Your Kids Fail

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
(Luke 22:28-34)

How do you and I respond as fathers when our children disappoint us or more importantly fall prey to temptation? Just think about it…honestly.

This is not about whether we should correct our kids, or that we should never show disappointment and disapproval of their actions. It’s not about whether we administer consequences for our children’s disobedience. This is about our attitude. It’s about how you and I see our kids. Do we see others, especially our wife and kids, with God’s eyes?

Look at the above text from Luke. What did Jesus think about when he thought of Peter, even when He knew what Peter was about to do? Peter was going to deny Jesus three times that night, cursing and swearing all the way through it! But again, how did Jesus see Peter and talk to him through it?

Past“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials.” Jesus recognized what Peter (and the others) were doing that was good. You can look over the past three plus years of Jesus’ ministry and see plenty of times that Jesus had to correct and even rebuke Peter (and the rest). But what did Jesus see? That Peter stayed with Jesus! Peter had plenty of mistakes and misunderstandings, and a thousand put-your-foot-in your mouth experiences, but remember that Peter left all to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:27). Jesus was not unjust to forget the good of Peter, and He does the same for us (Hebrews 6:10).

Present“I have prayed for you.” Do you see the acceptance, grace and love in this? This, “I’m praying for you” is not out of a condescending, self-righteous air of supremacy, it was out of genuine love for Peter’s spiritual condition. Jesus was able to see the real enemy, the devil, and that Peter was at war with the devil. This brought compassion, not condemnation. Jesus, knowing what Peter was going to do, pulled Peter closer instead of pushing him away and withholding affection.

Future“When you have returned.” Jesus looked ahead and realized that this was a moment of weakness in Peter’s life, and that he would learn from it. Peter would become stronger for it, and that strength and renewed thinking would be a blessing to many others who would go through the same struggles. Look also at the text and see that Jesus promised Peter a place at his side at the table in the kingdom. In Jesus’ mind, Peter was at the table in the kingdom. Yes, Peter had to go through the valleys and fall flat on his face, but when he looked up, Jesus was there to hold his hand. Jesus was there with love and acceptance when Peter returned (Mark 16:6-7).

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
(Genesis 6:8-9)

The world was a pretty nasty place in the days of Noah, wasn’t it. The verses in Genesis 6 before and after verses 8-9 tell us of violence, corruption, and continually wicked thoughts in the hearts of all mankind. Noah was surrounded on every side with perversion and wickedness.

Here is the encouragement for me from this text and I hope you will be encouraged as well. Noah was able to live in a way that was pleasing to God even when everyone around him was doing the wrong things.

He was righteous when everyone else was unrighteous. Noah lived as a “blameless” man when all around him was corruption. Noah walked with God when all his friends and neighbors where walking the other direction.

So, can you do the same at work? At school? In your community? Absolutely. We are called by God to live the same way Noah did in his “generation.”

First we must be “saved from this crooked generation”:

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

We then walk daily with God’s power working in us to transform our minds from worldly thinking to Christ-like thinking.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2)

As transformed people, we are called to live as blameless and shining lights in this “perverse generation” just like Noah did.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:12-16)

We can live like Noah. With God’s power and help, we can live a righteous life in this wicked world.

Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
(Proverbs 9:6)

A Very Humbling Contrast

We were studying Micah last Wednesday night in Bible class, and a sister emailed me afterward with this note:

After reading Micah 7 it is interesting how in Hebrews 10 the word says if we keep willfully sinning we trample Christ under our feet. Then back in Micah 7 it says that God treads our sins underfoot and throws them to the depths of the sea. Such a neat and very humbling contrast. The great terribleness of our deeds to the great awesomeness of the mercy and grace extended from God

Here are the two passages she referenced:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26,29)

It is truly a humbling contrast for us to ponder today. God has trampled our sins under his feet because He has delighted in steadfast love. God is compassionate and has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. What then is my attitude and response to that grace, forgiveness and the blood of Christ?

Let us hold up that sacrifice as a sacred treasure by the way we think, the choices we make, the words we say, the places we go, etc. God has trampled on our sins, and it frees us to walk on a holy pathway of righteousness with the blood of Jesus covering our lives.

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:21-25)

How Can I Keep from Singing?

The point I am considering today and invite you to consider is that of contentment and joyful living and how that makes a huge difference in the lives of those we come in contact with each day.

One of the Shepherds at South Macomb Church of Christ once said to me… “God didn’t promise a smooth flight…He promised a safe landing.” The comment was made in reference to fact this world is tough, our lives will be tough, difficult circumstances will present themselves…BUT…if we cling to our God and Father through our Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ…we will one day make it home to be with God forever. That home has no tears, no fears, no sin, no death, no confusion and the list goes on. It is a perfect rest in the place God always intended for us to be…in His presence, in His family, forever.

Though we are not home yet…God is all around us! His glory and power are screaming at us…but we don’t always see it because of all the noise and confusion and suffering in the world. But He is there and if we look, and we consider Him and His promises…how can we not be filled with joy and peace? And if we are filled with this how can we not love and live in such a way that is different and makes those around us take notice? And how powerful is that opportunity when someone asks “How can you be so at peace or so joyful or so loving and so hopeful in a time or place like this?”? That is when the power and love of God that fills us pours out and makes a difference in the world.

Fill yourself up with Him to the point it overflows and others will notice and opportunity will arise for the Gospel. We sow the seed…the increase belongs to God. Go about your day singing and you will be different and you will have opportunity for Christ and in that God will be glorified.

I love you all and appreciate the work you do for the sake of Christ in your homes, in the Church, in the workplace and throughout your everyday experiences. May a song of Jesus fill your heart today and the spill over into the lives of others.

Fathers Teach not Provoke

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

This verse comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching to children to obey their parents in everything. The standard is clearly set for children in our homes just as the standard is clearly set for each of in the family of God…obey! Guess what…just like us…our children don’t always get it right and disobey and sin. The result…grief. With this in mind, what is Paul teaching us fathers?

Notice first that “fathers” are directed in this command. Paul knows how to say parents because he did so in verse 1. Why are fathers singled out? Ephesians 5:23 tells us that husbands are declared by God to be the head of the family and therefore responsible and accountable for what happens in the family. Fathers are to have an active role in the family, particularly in raising the children. Additionally, fathers are going to be challenged to not act in anger toward the children. There is a reason God says this to the men. The intention seems clear that this is an issue that we must be aware of. Fathers are going to have the temptation to provoke the children to anger.

Children test our patience, our will, and our authority as fathers. They grieve us, however, the command rules out excessively severe discipline/consequences, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, being unfair, nagging, being humiliating, etc. Children are persons in their own right and are not be manipulated, exploited, or crushed. Our Father is loving, graceful, merciful and long suffering…we must be the same with our children. With that said, this does not mean we allow our children to run the household. Children are not the head of the family.

The answer to the challenge of parenting…to fathering…is not to let the children do what they want. Verse 4 tells us fathers to raise our children and to not provoke them…both are required. So how might we do this? We might start with saying “no” with a reason. It is easy to just say “no”. But think about the frustration, confusion, and disappointment our child might experience if we do not explain the reason or make the “no” inconsistent with how we live. This is especially important with our children who are old enough to reason with and to make every effort with each “teachable” moment. Our Father teaches us with “no” and His consistent and Holy will gives us confidence “no” is right and best.

Please don’t misunderstand me…there are times as Godly fathers when our rule or word must simply be enforced. What I emphasizing here is we cannot let our attitude always be “my way or the highway”. The word “discipline” speaks to the activity of the education. Some translations rightly read, “training.” This is active and it is a partnership with our children. “Our way or the highway” all the time is not “parenting” or “teaching” or “leading”…that is simply “bossing”…and our God does not love us or raise us that way.

I know we all want our children to safe and in the loving care of our Heavenly Father because that is what they choose to be. I know we want our children to have the life skills to be independent of us when they leave our home. Fathers, we have a job to raise our children so that when they turn 18 they can live life independent of us but are especially dependent on our Heavenly Father! We must show them that we desire God and find our joy in God. What we are doing is not an activity as if God is something to do. We desire these things because this is the whole life and joy.

(NOTE: These thoughts were amplified by a sermon by Brent Kercheville from West Palm Beach CoC; 2014.)

His Servant Jonah

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
(2 Kings 14:23-28)

My Veggie Tales memories are coming back…”Jonah was a prophet…ooh, ooh! But he never really got it, sad but true. And if you watch it you can spot it, a doodley do, he did not get the point!”

Jonah was a prophet of God during a really great time for Israel. And what I mean by that is that Israel as a nation (not spiritually) was on the rebound. They were getting stronger and more prosperous. Possessions and lands that they once owned were now being restored. We can see in the above text that borders and cities were restored.

So then, what was the spiritual condition of the country? Wicked. Every king of the northern kingdom of Israel from the first King Jeroboam to the destruction by Assyria (931-722 BC) was evil. Jeroboam II (not a son of the first Jeroboam) was no different. The Bible says here in 2 Kings 14 that he was wicked just like all the other kings, and Israel followed right along with him in these sins.

Where is God in all of this? How did God see Israel? With what kind of heart did God watch over Israel? Again, in the text we see that God saw that Israel had no “helper.” The merciful God saw that Israel’s affliction was “bitter.” “He saved them” by the hand of the wicked King Jeroboam II.

Which prophet is right there by God and the king’s side through all of this? Who willingly prophesies to the king and is part of this great national restoration? Jonah.

Can you put yourself in the sandals of Jonah during this time of restoration and hope for Israel, and now God calls you to go to your sworn enemies, the Assyrians? God wants you to preach to those wicked and violent people? They want to destroy you! Nineveh, according to a later prophet, Nahum, was a “bloody city.” Why would God call you to preach to the very enemies that seek to destroy what God has been working to rebuild?

Because God is merciful. Jonah saw this clearly with God’s interaction here in 2 Kings 14 toward Israel. This is precisely why Jonah did not want to go to preach to Nineveh. He knew God’s heart of mercy and compassion.

Look at what Jonah said after he finally preached to the people and king in Nineveh and they repented of their sins.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Even after Nineveh repented, Jonah sat outside the city expectantly waiting in self-righteous hope borne out of his religious bigotry that God would still wipe out the city and destroy the Assyrians (Jonah 4:5).

Did you see how Jonah said “when I was in my country?” First of all he was wrong, it was God’s country. Secondly, it displays the heart that is not outward focused and concerned with every soul wherever that soul may be.

I’m not sure if the Veggie Tales song about Jonah is right that Jonah “never really got it.” We don’t know. The book ends with God speaking, as it should. Whether Jonah finally understood what God was trying to teach is between God and Jonah.

The question is, do I get it? Do you get it?

  • Will we be like Jonah, knowing of the grace, compassion and mercy of God and still try to flee to the farthest place possible to avoid teaching those God has called us to teach?
  • Will we be so filled with nationalistic pride that we fail to see that God is not an American?
  • Will I willingly go and preach where God calls me to preach only  if I agree that these people are worthy of God’s (and my) acceptance?

Do Good

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10; NKJV)

 We are empowered to be a change agent for good in all of our relationships. We stand firm on the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope of our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. We have a peace that surpasses all understanding in the tranquility of right relationship with the Great I Am. We are free to love others how He has loved us and God will be at work.

The great spiritual battle rages on around us and I pray we will become stronger in it rather than bitter or beaten down. We will be hurt and tired for sure. We will are all at risk of becoming defeated or bitter even when we feel like our hearts and spirit are at their strongest. Yet we have a choice to not allow the devil even an inch, put on the whole armor of God, and allow the love of God to prevail in our choices.

We focus on the steadfastness of the Lord and not the fickle or hurtful people in our lives.

We choose to see His smiling face rather than the downtrodden or frowning faces we encounter.

We concentrate on the majesty of our God and not the messes we find ourselves or those we care about sinking in.

We love people from a position of strength in our loving, abiding relationship with the Lord.

We are the first to forgive and we forgive often and we sow mercy and grace.

We work to find common ground with those in conflict, reminding ourselves of the relationship we have or desire in Christ…that God wants us all in the Book of Life.

We die to ourselves (Galatians 2:20) and in doing so we die to other people’s criticism AND praise and focus only on the glory of God and its revelation in our relationships in love.

No matter the situation, we cannot sow evil and produce good, sow discord and produce unity, sow lies and produce truth, sow sin and produce holiness. Those around us might not understand this and have no interest in seeing it. But if we do good…if we sow repentance, compassion, love…we can trust that the increase belongs to the Lord (1 Cor 3:7) and He is working.

Remember the Golden Rule.

“…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12; NKJV)

Look for the Golden Result. People might just surprise you and return to you what you have given to them. Do good, be different, be a light, be the reason people ask “why do you behave that way”, be ready to tell them your story about Jesus, and trust God!

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway, Came at the evening, cold and gray, To chasm, vast and deep and wide, Through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim; The sullen stream had no fears for him; But he turned when safe on the other side, And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “You are wasting strength with building here; Your journey will end with the ending day; You never again must pass this way; You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide — Why build you the bridge at the eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There followeth after me today, A youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been naught to me To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be, He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.” Will Allen Dromgoole

I came across this poem during one of my Air Force leadership classes and have kept it and shared with others when the opportunity presented itself. It resonated with me for all kinds of different reasons but today I wanted to share as we think about Choices and Consequences.

In thinking about my children as I write this, there are two things that come to mind in terms of raising them and the choices/consequences in their lives. First, I have always desired that my kids would not have to face the same heartaches and tough patches that I did due to bad decisions or improper focus. Secondly, I am sometimes frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged with the decisions my kids make and the reasoning they offer me when I ask them “why would you do that” or “what were you thinking?

Disappointed or not, what I know to be true in this is that my kids have to live their own life and make their own path. This is a hard thing to accept at times, especially when my kids stand on the brink of disaster or destruction…and I am not being melodramatic here…they don’t know how close they are sometimes to tragedy or how hurtful they are being.

In times like this, I look to my Heavenly Father and I have to believe He feels the same way about me most every day. Knowing that and what He has done and is doing for me puts my mind right for my kids. Though He is the Great I Am and is in need of nothing…He took the time to build a bridge of reconciliation with Him in Jesus. Further, He continues to work in my life to build bridges over perilous chasms in my life and most importantly…no matter how off track I get, the most important Bridge…the one that leads me home…Jesus…is always there. He is my Rock and I have Him because my Heavenly Father gave Him for me and closed the gap of sin because He knew I was going to have to pass that way and I would not get across on my own.

So…for my kids…for you kids, we can’t control their choices and might have to let them live through some pretty tough circumstances when they choose poorly. That doesn’t mean we stop parenting, stop demonstrating Jesus, stop teaching them the truth, stop loving them, or stop believing God is at work. Those are all bridges we need to continue to build…even if we don’t think we have the time or there might not seem a good reason to do so. If we do that, if we choose to build those bridges, then when most needed our kids will have a safe passage they might not otherwise have and if we do our jobs right…they will always have a way back home to us…and most importantly they will recognize their way back home to their Heavenly Father.

Sowing and Reaping: Simple, Difficult, Complex

Let’s continue our discussion from yesterday regarding “choices” and “consequences”. We are in control of our choices and we understand that our actions (based on those choices) have consequences. Wrong actions have negative consequences and right actions have positive consequences. This is biblical pattern and the foundation of the discussion in Galatians 6:6-10.

I have to sow to reap.

“The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4; NKJV); Matt 25

I will reap the same kind as I sowed.

“He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, and the rod of his anger will fail.” (Proverbs 22:8; NKJV); Job 4:8

I will reap more than I sow.

“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7; NKJV); Mark 10:29-30

 I will reap in proportion to what I sow.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38; NKJV); 2 Corinthians 9:6

I will reap in a different season than when I sow.

“Be patient…the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7; NKJV); Matt 5:12

These principles are simple and easy to understand and we know that we are to sow Godly choices, thoughts, and behaviors in order to reap everlasting life. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption and a whole lot of trouble. This is where it can become difficult…in the application.

 We are all living a lifetime of mistakes and so we don’t always sow what we should and find ourselves in trouble. This could be a momentary lapse in judgement or a prolonged choice to seek after pleasures, activities, or interests that are contrary to what God has called us to. Application of this principle is where the rubber meets the road and we don’t always get it right.

This becomes even more complex if we consider the fact we are not living in a bubble and we live each day in the context of our relationships. It is bad enough we hurt ourselves with our bad choices and negative consequences, but we also are in danger of hurting those closest to us. Further, even if we are right where we are supposed to be and making good choices; it might be that those who we have the most interaction with or care about the most are making (or have made) bad choices and their consequences/circumstances impact our lives negatively.

What if someone sows anger into their life and our relationship…do we get to be angry back? What if someone sows judgment, do we get to withhold mercy? No, we don’t. And I am not talking about tolerating sinful behavior, we cannot do that. What I am talking about is not allowing the consequences of that behavior to change how we see our God, His blessings, His peace, or the freedom He provides to love like He loves. If we hold firm and stay close to Him, we will have the reassurance, love, joy, etc. we need regardless of how the consequences of others impacts us. Further, if we are able to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, even if someone is full of the fruit of the flesh, we are right where God wants to us to be in order to be an influence for good. It doesn’t always feel good and it isn’t always easy, but if we are sowing love…we will reap love either today or in eternity. We control our choices…not the choices of others or the consequences associated with those choices. Choose God.

God has chosen us and He has given us a leadership role to fill at home and in the relationships we share with the women in our lives.  Some of us might be the only Godly man some women know and we certainly are the most important to our wives, daughters, and sisters in Christ.  He chose us, He has chosen to redeem us and He has left us here so that we will be blessing to those in our lives.  He is working and He will work for us and with us for the benefit of everyone…He doesn’t want anyone to end up anywhere other than at home with Him.