Give Attention to Reading

Read through the Bible with friends

James 4-5: Don’t Let Tomorrow Mess Up Today

James 4:13-17 is a reminder I need today.

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.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV).

I recognize the point of this passage is about relying on God and understanding that I cannot boast as if to say I am somehow by my own power going to ensure that I survive another year and by my own power will make sure the business I conduct is profitable. However, where this struck me today was the reminder that the reason such mental games are foolish is because I don’t even know if I’m going to be here tomorrow.

My problem is often the very opposite. Instead of thinking about how successful I’m going to be over the next year, I can get bogged down in worries. “Oh no, the economy is failing. What will that do to my income or my retirement or…” “Oh no, my kids are growing up and I know they are going to be faced with all kinds of temptations. What am I going to do about that?” 

One of the crazy “Oh nos” I have happened last night. My wife took the car to go to the store. It was raining like crazy and she lingered. Suddenly my mind was filled with fear that something bad had happened, at any moment the police were going to show up and now I was going to be a single father of four children. Actually, nothing happened to her. She showed up at home just as usual. However, this morning as I was stuck in traffic I started thinking about that scary possibility and I actually began to be filled with fear as if it were already true. How crazy is that?

The fact is, someday my wife will die. It may be before me or after me. It may be while the kids are at home; it may be after they are on their own. The thing is, it has happened today. She is at home right now doing her part of our family work. Why let all the possibilities of tomorrow over which I have no control mess up today.

You see it works both ways. I shouldn’t let my arrogance think I am going to ensure some success is going to happen apart from God’s will. At the same time, I shouldn’t let my fears about what might happen tomorrow send my today in a panic. Rather, I should just rely on God and pray “As the Lord wills.” Then, each day, I can rely on the strength He gives me to make it through whatever happens today.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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November 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, James, relying on God, Surrender | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 11-12: By Faith the Evolutionist Sees How the World Was Formed

evolution-diagram_op_800x467

Fact or Faith?

I know evolutionists love to pick on verses like Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (ESV).

“Oh, look at those stupid Christians. They base their ideas about how we got here on faith.”

Um…wait a minute. What exactly do evolutionists base their opinion on? Were any of them there when the world was started? Did any of them watch while species came into existence? So then, their opinion is faith as well isn’t it? They believe in what they did not see? 

They, of course, will claim the evidence is on their side. That is up for debate. However, the point is when they present all their evidence and creationists present all our evidence, it still comes down to faith. Neither of us saw what happened. The evidences may make a strong case one way or the other. I would just like everyone to admit they are working on faith.

By the way, for all of you who think evolutionists have everything down as facts, just do some searching about how many differing theories there are about how it all began and how the species developed. What you find out is there aren’t nearly as many facts as evolutionists would like us to believe. Rather, there is just a lot of speculation. Of course, it is okay to speculate as long as you debt let God in the picture. They don’t mind argument and debate as long as the spiritual is not included. 

Please, just be honest. Evolutionists work from faith as much as Christians do. So, Christians, quit being intimidated. Feel free to believe what the Bible says about how the universe was created. Don’t feel like you are unintelligent just because your opinion is based on faith. So is everyone else’s.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

 

PS: If you would like to look a little deeper at the faith of the evolutionist, check out the sermon I preached at the Franklin Church of Christ entitled The Origins of Man: Fact vs. Story.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Creation, Evolution, Faith, Hebrews | , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6-7: Today is the Day of Salvation

II Corinthians 6:2 drives it home: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Christianity is not merely something to think about. It is not something to tinker with for a while to see if it fits you. Christianity is about freedom in Christ. It is about freedom from guilt and shame by His love and forgiveness. It is about freedom from the controlling power of sin by His strength and grace. 

However, if you are just kind of playing with Christianity, it won’t do you any good. Half-measures accomplish nothing. We need to whole-heartedly surrender to God and submit to Him. If you haven’t done that yet, do it today. Today is the day of salvation. Trust me, this is one of those issues that if you put it off for a year and you are actually still alive a year from now, you will wish you had started today. And, having added another year of pursuing the lusts of the flesh you will find it harder to start then. So just go ahead and start today.

Just surrender yourself today to the Lord and let Him cleanse you of your sins. Then rely on His word and His people to help you grow. Do exactly what the Corinthians did to surrender themselves to the Lord. 

Acts 18:8 says, “And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” If you haven’t committed your life to Christ through faith in the working of God in baptism (immersion in water) for the remission of sins, do it today. Don’t wait. There is no other plan by which you may be set free from your sins and receive the salvation Jesus offers.

Don’t delay. Today is the day of salvation.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Baptism, Faith, forgiveness, II Corinthians, Obedience, salvation | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jude-I Corinthians 1: Folly and Wisdom

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…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” (I Corinthians 1:18, 21-24, ESV). 

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get discouraged as I walk through the local bookstore and hit the religious or philosophy section only to notice the academics who ridicule and berate anything to do with Jesus Christ and Christianity. Sometimes, I get caught in the trap of thinking I need to become as academic as they are and then try to fight them with their own sword. (Certainly, there are some very scholarly and academic Christians who fight these battles and I’m glad for them, I’m not disparaging them at all.)

However, this passage reminds me that the answers of persuasion will not be found in the halls of academia, philosophy or worldly wisdom. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for studying everything and seeing the whole picture. I’m not talking about putting my head in the sand and ignoring proven facts out there. I’m simply pointing out that Paul says if I move the battle ground into the halls of academia and philosophy of man’s wisdom, I can’t win the battle here. No matter what I say, those who don’t want to believe in Jesus won’t. No matter what I say, those who don’t want to believe the Bible is from God won’t. If I disparage some academic argument, they will only find another. 

Further, I do not have to feel foolish just because some academic thinks he is better and smarter than I am. No doubt, there are more people smarter than I am than I can count. God hasn’t asked me to be the smartest person in the world. He has simply asked me to trust Him that His way is right and, therefore, follow His way. In the end, wisdom will be vindicated by her children. 

Here is the problem, the Jews look for a sign and the Greeks look for wisdom. Though this was in a different age, I have met both of these kinds of people. I’ve met the guy who said if God really wanted him to do something, God would have to give him some kind of sign, like a bolt of lightening from heaven. I’ve met the guy who says the whole Bible and Jesus thing just doesn’t make sense to him. We preach Christ crucified. The one seeking a sign, merely sees this as a stumbling block. The early Jews just couldn’t get their minds around a crucified Messiah. The early Greeks just couldn’t make sense out of God who sacrificed Himself for His people. Modern men looking for signs don’t think a crucifixion and resurrection is enough. They want God to personally attend to them and give them a personal sign. Modern men with earthly wisdom, can hardly get their minds around a real God, let alone one who sacrifices Himself for us. 

What I have to do is simply keep sharing my faith. Instead of being discouraged by those who are so wise in the world they can’t seem to accept the wisdom of God, I need to simply pass on God’s wisdom. It will not return to God void. I don’t have to be embarrassed or discouraged. I know the wisdom of God will eventually be vindicated.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 16, 2008 Posted by | Evangelism, Faith, I Corinthians | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Peter 5-II Peter 1: Now That I’m a Christian, What Must I Do To be Saved?

For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

II Peter 1:5-11 (ESV)

I recognize we cannot earn our way into heaven. If we are saved, it will be because God is good enough; not because we are. At the same time, I recognize not just everybody will be provided with an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems not just everyone who has ever believed and obeyed Jesus for a time will be provided that entrance. 

Rather, those who pursue this standard of growth will gain entrance. Our growth rests on the foundation of faith, but we must add to it. We must continually work on…

  • Faith–believing in God, believing God and trusting God’s way is right.
  • Virtue–the moral excellence to do what is right because it is right.
  • Knowledge–getting God’s word into our heads and hearts.
  • Self-control–doing what is right in the face of persuasion to do otherwise.
  • Steadfastness–stringing moments of self-control together in a row, even in the face of opposition.
  • Godliness–honoring God and revering Him with every action.
  • Brotherly affection–treating our brethren with kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness.
  • Love–obeying God from the heart and seeking what is best for others.

There are some things I recognize from this passage:

  1. “Going to church” is not the equivalent of being a disciple.
  2. I need to work on me; I need to work on my relationship with others; I need to work on my relationship with God; I need to work on these every day.
  3. I don’t get to rest based on what I accomplished yesterday, I have to keep growing.
  4. I don’t have to be perfect today, I just need to make progress.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Growth, II Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, salvation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 9-10: What Mark’s Gospel is All About

No doubt, the Mount of Transfiguration experience was an amazing circumstance for Jesus and His inner circle. It was so profound to Peter he mentioned it when he wrote his second letter to the Christians dispersed throughout Asia  (cf. II Peter 1:18). 

For me, however, the more profound event is the one that occurred when Jesus and His circle returned from the mountain. The situation was not nearly as bad as when Moses returned from his mountaintop experience. However, Jesus returned into a hornet’s nest. The left behind disciples had been trying to heal a boy possessed of an unclean spirit but had failed miserably. The scribes were arguing with them. The boy’s father was pleading that they do something. The crowds were witnessing the whole thing.

I believe this is the central story and the key to grasping the purpose of Mark’s gospel account. It is certainly the central story as far as the order of writing. The middle verse of the book is Mark 9:16. However, it wouldn’t matter to me where this story was located in the book, I would still believe it is central to Mark’s theme. Everything in the gospel should be read in light of this story. It drives home the purpose of Jesus and His ministry.

Over and over again, Mark highlights the struggles the disciples had. Remember in yesterday’s reading we saw Jesus get exasperated with them because they still didn’t get it despite having seen Him feed 5000 with five loaves and 4000 with seven. The book will end with an intense highlight of the apostles not believing Jesus is resurrected despite His foretelling it and despite eye-witness testimony. In this story, we see the disciples lack of faith brought right to the front. Further, we see a man with a demon-possessed son provide the example for them. Jesus told the man, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23, ESV). This man then stood out as an example for the apostles, the crowd, the scribes and even for us. He replied: “I believe; help my unbelief!

That was where the apostles were. They believed, but their unbelief kept them from being able to cast out this unclean spirit. Check Jesus’ response to them when they asked why they failed. “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29, ESV). That is to say, “The problem is you guys didn’t rely on God. You didn’t rest in your faith on God. You were trying to cast this demon out on your own.” They hadn’t acted in faith. Their unbelief kept them from using the abilities Jesus had given them to cast out unclean spirits. They may have thought they were somehow special because they had been picked by the master, but this unknown man with a demon-possessed son displayed more understanding and more faith than any of them.

More than the apostles, this is where I often am. I believe in God. I believe God. But in the moment of trial, where the rubber meets the road and my faith is put to the test, I often fall back on myself and my own strength. Instead of stepping out in faith and just doing things God’s way, I often revert to what makes sense to me. How many times do I have to pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

What is so powerful about this story is Jesus followed this statement up with a great miracle. He didn’t wait until the man’s faith was perfect. He acted based on this man’s understanding that he needed to grow in faith. When I recognize I am not perfect, my faith needs to grow and I throw myself on Jesus to help increase my faith, God will work in my life. The Christian life is about progress not perfection. 

I will pray it again. You can pray it with me.

I believe; help my unbelief!

God will help us. The rest of Mark’ gospel is all about that help. Read it all in the light of this verse and its faith building message will come alive for you.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Faith, Healing, Jesus, Mark | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippians 1-2: To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

DEATH!

The word strikes fear in the hearts of most people. Yet, it didn’t strike fear in Paul. In Philippians 1:21, he said “to die is gain” (ESV). Why? Because death was the doorway to being with Christ for Paul (cf. Philippians 1:23). Paul has accomplished here what few seem to be able to do.

We hear so much about living by faith. We also need to learn to die by faith. No doubt, I could probably write reams and reams and reams on what it means to live and die by faith. However, Paul actually gives us the key in Philippians 1:21. He wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (ESV). He saw two options. If he died, he would have personal gain, going to be forever with Christ. If he lived, that would benefit Christ and Christ’s plan because he would have fruitful labor helping the lost be saved and the saved be strengthened.

The fact is, the only reason “to die is gain” for Paul was because “to live is Christ” for Paul. If the first half of that statement were not true, then the second half would not be. If we want our death to be gain, then we need our life to be Christ.

Therefore, we need to ask, “What is my life? Is my life about Christ?” If living is not for Christ and has no fruitful labor for Him, then dying will not be gain for us. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t live our lives totally for ourselves pursuing our own goals, following the desires of our flesh, seeking our own pleasure and entertainment and then expect death to be about Jesus. It just won’t work.

If we want our death to be gain, then our life has to be Christ. What is your life about today?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 25, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Death, Faith, Philippians, salvation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galatians 3-4: God Can Use the Bad Times

I spent the week of New Years in the emergency room and then confined to my house because I developed pneumonia. I have never been so sick in my life. As I have heard other people say, for a time I was so sick, I was afraid I was going to die. Then I was so sick, I was afraid I wouldn’t. I was miserable. 

To be honest, in times like that I wonder why on earth God let that happen. It messed up an opportunity I had to teach at another congregation. It certainly didn’t help my family finances. It hit while Marita’s dad was extremely sick and she had to leave to go be with him. 

Now that it is eight months behind me, I recognize it really wasn’t that bad. I can hardly imagine what it must be like for people to go through really, really difficult times–the loss of a job, break up of a family, sickness and death of a child. 

There is one passage in today’s reading that really struck me. It almost seems like a throw-away statement just tucked in there between the important stuff. But it really gave me some comfort.

“You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 4:13-14, ESV).

This passage doesn’t give a great number of details. However, it does claim the reason Paul ended up preaching in Galatia was because he got sick. Perhaps it was something with his eyes as the continuing verses suggest. However, I can imagine how I would have felt if I were Paul. Here I am traveling around, trying to do the will of God, spreading the Gospel and saving souls. Then God up and lets me get majorly sick. I’m so sick it messes up my travel and teaching plans.

In the moment of sickness, I might be pretty upset. However, from the perspective of the letter written later, we can see God’s bigger plan. I don’t know what Paul’s interrupted plans were. However, God apparently had plans for Paul to teach the Galatians. In addition to that, God had plans for Paul to eventually write this letter to them, which would be incorporated in Scripture to help all Christians of all time. None of that would have happened if God hadn’t let Paul get sick.

Therefore, I have to remember my God is powerful enough to use my bad times in a great and glorious way to accomplish His plans. It may mess up my plans, but His plans are better anyway. 

I’m not saying it will be easy to face tough times. I’m just saying this faith can get me through, knowing that God is with me and He will use whatever happens in a way that makes me better and accomplishes His glorious work.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Galatians, providence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 17-18: The God I Don’t Get

 Look at that picture for a minute. It is an artist’s conception of the Milky Way. Acts 17:24 says God made that.

Somewhere in one of the arms is our little solar system. Somewhere in that little solar system is our little planet. Somewhere on that planet is little ol’ me. God however is “bigger” than all of that.

When I think of that, the thought occurs that God made me, I didn’t make God.

What does that mean on a practical level?

God is going to surprise me. He is not going to do everything exactly the way I think He should.

I don’t know how many times I have heard from people that they just can’t believe in the God of the Bible because they don’t think God would do ______________ (fill in the blank with some shocking display of violence or some shocking display of power or some shocking display of grace or some shocking display of just not acting).

Then I remember the Milky Way. I remember God made that. I didn’t. I remember God made me, I didn’t make Him. I remember that if the God I believe in only ever acts and reacts in ways that make complete sense to me, then I am probably serving a God I have made up in my mind and not the real God who made my mind.

So, I admit it. I serve a God that I just don’t get sometimes. But He is God, so I serve Him. Maybe I’ll have questions for Him when I get to see Him face to face. Most of the time, however, I think I’ll just be so happy to be visibly in his presence that it won’t bother me that I don’t fully get Him. I’ll just be glad that He got me.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Faith, God | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Luke 23-24: Only Two Believed

The Bible contains amazing stories and illustrations of faith. But perhaps the greatest comes from today’s reading. Just consider this picture. 

Jesus is on the cross. His closest disciples and students have fled or followed “at a distance.” The crowds were mocking, having accepted the release of a hardened criminal and rebel in place of Jesus. His mother was in the crowd at his feet, crying. Only John was there with her.

At that time, who in their right mind would believe that this man, broken, battered, bruised, bleeding, gasping for breath with His last bit of strength was going to establish a kingdom. Of course, Jesus believed. But there was one more. There was one who just moments earlier had been hurling insults. However, something changed. I don’t know what caused the change. Perhaps the dying man had heard Jesus teach at some time. Who know, but perhaps he had even been baptized by one of the apostles when Jesus was teaching and all the people were going out to Him. But maybe he merely knew Jesus’ reputation. Maybe he simply saw how Jesus faced this execution. Maybe he was moved by Jesus’ statement, “Father, forgive them…” 

Who knows what did it. But at that moment two people believed Jesus was going to establish His kingdom. Jesus and the thief on the cross. In the face of the longest odds, the thief believed. I hope we can all develop this kind of faith.

ELC

July 15, 2008 Posted by | Faith, Luke | , , , , | 1 Comment