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December 4, 2019, 2:46 PM

There's Room!


There’s Room

december 4, 2019 by revrunjon

I couldnt believe my eyes when I started down the hallway. This was our nativity set. It sits at the top of our stairs every Christmas as a reminder of what the season is all about. The wisemen, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and of course baby Jesus. So simple yet so beautiful a powerful reminder of Christmas.

Today however something was different, radically different.  The manger was surrounded by characters all sorts of characters from Toy Story to the Avengers.  Mario and Luigi even made an appearance, as did the wiggles in their big red car.  The two youngest had been playing, I thought I need to correct this but I’ve got other things to do.  I will straighten it out in a little while and let them know characters don’t belong at the manger.

I walked over to the computer and opened up the Bible to Matthew 1.  It is the story of the birth of Jesus and it begins with His genealogy: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.” (Matthew 1:1-6)

The rest of this section details other ancestors of Jesus.  We tend to overlook these types of lists but we shouldn’t because when you read just a few verses and a few names of Jesus’ genealogy it is eye opening.  His lineage goes back to Abraham and to David, it had to for Him to be the Messiah, but its the other names that are surprising.  Some of them are not even Jewish, they are gentiles.  More than that women make the list and in Jesus’ day that was seen as being extremely shocking.  Not only that but some of the women weren’t exactly people of good reputation.  Tamar’s story in Genesis 38 puts even the worst soap opera to shame.  She pretended to be a prostitute among other things.  Rahab didn’t pretend she was one, and Bathsheeba has her own set of problems doesn’t she?  These aren’t fine upstanding citizens, these are very sinful people.

The men that are listed fall into that category as well.  Sean Douglas O’Donnell says, “Look at the list of wicked kings here— Rehoboam, Abijah, and Ahaz. Ahaz! Moreover, look at the so-called “righteous” men of old—like Abraham (who lied) or Judah (whose idea it was to sell his brother Joseph into slavery and who was, after his own admission, worse than Tamar) or David (with his adultery and murder, two permanent marks on his background check) or Solomon (with his polygamy and idolatry) or even good Hezekiah (with his pride in being good). And you thought your family tree is a mess. It’s as if Matthew puts a criminal lineup before us.”  Jesus’ background is filled up with prostitutes, reprobates, and sinners.  His heritage is filled up with people that you don’t want living next door.  Someone said “look at the skeletons in Jesus’ closet”, but a skeleton in your closet is something that you don’t want anyone to know anything about, and Matthew under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit puts Jesus’ family tree on full display.

He isn’t hiding His families black sheep, He is telling everyone about them.  Why? “To let us know that Jesus didn’t belong to the nice clean world of respectability, but rather that He came from a family of murderers, cheats, cowards, adulterers and liars.”  This is fact and it is important.  So important that it is listed first in Matthew’s Gospel.  Why is it important? For several reasons (some of which are you can overcome the mistakes of your family, you don’t have to be like everyone else,…..) but the greatest reason is to show that the Gospel is for all people.

1 Timothy 1:15 says, “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  He came into the world to save people just like you and me.  He came into the world to show us the love of God and to lift us through His love.  As the hymn says, “love lifted me (even me)”.  Because of the grace of God, I can be saved.  Me, with all of my sins, my past, my faults and my failures! God can even save me.  He can save the prostitute or the person caught in adultery.  He can save those that lie and cheat.  He can save even those who commit murder.  That is the power of God.  Jesus’ heritage was filled up with sinners and Jesus came into this world to save sinners.  Jesus’ kingdom will also be filled up with sinners, who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

I got up from the computer and walked back to the nativity.  Those characters weren’t there the night that Jesus was born, but because Jesus was born all characters can come to Him.  We all can run to Him and be saved.  Emmanuel is born, God is with us.  He is the one who “came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21)”

 




November 28, 2019, 1:11 PM

Give Thanks!!?


Give Thanks!?
november 28, 2019 by revrunjon
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”


Over 200 times in the Scriptures we are told to “give thanks”, and interestingly enough the commandment to be thankful is also followed with the thought that this is “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Few commandments make such a bold declaration, it is God’s will that we be thankful.  When you link that command with another command that says, “do everything without grumbling or complaining” and it becomes obvious how God wants His children to live.  We are to live with grateful and thankful hearts.  We are to live with joy and we are not to grumble or complain.  In other words we are to be different than the world.  Grumbling and complaining come most of the time from selfish hearts so we are called not live selfishly but to live selflessly.

In the Old Testament the word for “giving thanks” means to acknowledging what is right about God in praise and thanksgiving (1 Chr. 16:34). It can also mean a right acknowledgment of self before God in confessing sin.”  The New Testament mirrors these thoughts but in many cases adds in “in Christ Jesus”, in other words we are to be thankful for all the good things that we have in our lives in Christ.  When you put those thoughts together then it becomes obvious that part of giving thanks is glorifying God.

We will gather together around our tables today and hopefully we will take time to be thankful.  But being truly thankful means more than just giving words of praise.  Sunday we will gather in churches and sing songs of praise and thanksgiving, but being thankful means more than just singing songs of praise.  Being thankful means that we glorify God.

Being thankful means that we keep our minds on what God has done for us.  In the light of the Gospel that means that we are continually thankful for what God has done for us in Jesus.  He has forgiven our sins, He has given us His righteousness, He has taken up residence in our lives through His Holy Spirit and He has given us the promise of heaven.  All of this is in addition to the other blessings that God has given us.  We have reason to give thanks and we ought to keep our eyes and our minds on those things.

When we turn our eyes away from God’s goodness, we begin to grumble and complain and then we are easily pulled into sin.  Think about Adam and Eve for a moment in Genesis 3.  God has given them everything in the Garden to eat from except one tree.  When Satan tempts them what does he point to? That one tree and all of a sudden Adam and Eve are looking at that tree.  They aren’t thankful for what God has blessed them with, instead they are longing for what they don’t have.  They have forgotten God’s blessings and they get pulled into sin.  The same thing can easily happen to us today.  If we start looking at what we don’t have and we forget the blessings of God, especially what He has done for us in Christ Jesus, then we will start grumbling and complaining and from that point it is a short fall into sin.

So we are called to keep our eyes on the goodness and the grace of God.  We are called to given thanks.  That is God’s will for us, and it is good for us and it brings glory to God.  Part of being thankful though means that we glorify God.  So if we are thankful for our families we should glorify God in the way that we treat our families.  If we are thankful to God for our work (and we should be) then we should glorify God in our jobs.  If we are thankful for our friends then we should glorify God in those relationships as well.  The same thing applies to our church, to our material blessings, to our hobbies, and even to something like sleep.  We are called to be thankful, to keep our eyes on the blessings of God, and part of the way that we live thankfully is that we glorify God in the things that we are thankful for.

 




November 27, 2019, 10:56 PM

CHANGE


Change?

november 28, 2019 by revrunjon

Mark 2:22 – “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Have you ever been a part of a conversation and walked away saying what were they talking about? That thought became the tag line of the show Different Strokes as Arnold, the lead character ofter asked his brother, “what are you talking about, Willis?”

Many people most likely walked away from Jesus in Mark 2 with the thought, “what are you talking about Jesus?” He was talking about pouring new wine into old wineskins and the old wineskins bursting, but what exactly did He mean? Surely His meaning was deeper than that. Surely He wasnt just talking about wine and wineskins. What is a wineskin anyway?

In todays world wine comes in bottles or boxes, but in Jesus’ time it was kept in a wineskin. A wineskin was made out of the skin of goats and it could easily expand when fresh liquid was poured into it. In that day and time when new wine was poured in, the wine would ferment and the fermentation process would cause the wineskin to expand so that it could hold the wine. If an old wineskin was used and new wine poured in, the wineskin would experience the fermentation process for a second time. It was not able to handle that and so it would burst and the wine and the wineskin would be lost.

So what is Jesus actually talking about? He is talking about pouring the new wine of the Holy Spirit into our lives. The Spirit rushes in and s every nook and cranny, for us to handle this winderful blessing of God however we have to be willing to change. We have to be willing to be made new.

Jesus’ point is simple, even though His illustration is complex: we must be willing to change. We have to be willing to be transformed because when the new wine of Jesus’ Spirit is poured into our lives, He will change us. He will take away our fears and our worries, our hatred and our prejudice, our unforgiveness and our selfishness. He will change our worldliness and our lust. He will take our hearts and make them alive and help us to desire the things of God. Yet we must be willing to change because God’s Holy Spirit desires to change us.




November 26, 2019, 7:31 AM

Festive Feasting


Festive Feasting

november 26, 2019 by revrunjon

person picking food on tray

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Mark 2:19 – “And Jesus said to them ‘Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.'”

Thursday is Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is usually a day for feasting.  It is a festive day, a day of celebration, a day in our culture of food, football, family, and friends.  It is a special day.  The celebration of Thanksgiving pales in comparison to what a Jewish wedding was like in Jesus’ time.  It wasn’t a day but a weeklong celebration.  It was festive, and yes there was plenty of feasting.  In fact a rabbinical ruling stated that during a wedding feast “a person was to refrain from anything that limited their joy.”  In other words this was to be a time of extreme joy.

Joy was something that the Pharisees didn’t like, and so when they saw Jesus rejoicing after eating with “tax collectors and sinners”, they came to Him and said basically “why are you feasting, you should be fasting.”  You shouldn’t be enjoying yourself was the implication.  Their thought process ran a little deeper as they believed that if a person had a relationship with God that that person should be miserable and forlorn in their actions to show the depth of their devotions and the things that they were willing to give up for God.  The Old Testament said that a person was to fast once a year on the day of atonement.  On that day they were to refrain from food and spend that time thinking about their sins and praying for forgiveness.  The Pharisees however had determined that if a person was a real religious person that they should fast twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays or at the very least on one of the days.

They would put on their shoddy clothes that were in disarray, they would throw ashes on their faces and put on a frown so that everyone would know they were fasting.  In their minds this would let people see the depth of their devotion to God.  This is how they looked when they confronted Jesus.  Jesus and His disciples were not gloomy, they were joyful.  They weren’t forlorn they were rejoicing and the Pharisees had determined that they had it all wrong.  How dare they feast when they should fast was the thought, and so they confronted Jesus.

Jesus’ reply takes us to that Jewish wedding feast as He says, “can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.”  His point is clear, He is the bridegroom and His followers are the bride of Christ so as long as they are together they are going to rejoice.  The contemporary application is clear, we as followers of Christ should be filled up with joy.

Why? Because we are the bride of Christ, we are participants in the marriage supper of the lamb.  We have heaven to look forward to in the future and our sins are forgiven in the present.  Not only that but God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us (Romans 8:9) and because of that we are never alone.  We as followers of Christ have tremendous reasons to rejoice.  Those reasons outweigh our circumstances and our situations.  Yes there are things in this life that cause us pain, and yes we go through struggles, but our relationship with Jesus gives us joy in the midst of all of that.

This truth is so far reaching that Paul says we can even rejoice when confronted with death.  Yes he says we sorrow then, but we do not sorrow as those who have no hope.  The hope that we have in Jesus Christ is so deep that it changes everything, it even changes how we approach death and how we grieve when someone that we love has died.  In other words the Gospel is so powerful that it transforms everything.

No wonder the psalmist says “He has turned my weeping into joy and my mourning into dancing.”  We have reason to rejoice and that reason in Jesus.  Jesus and His disciples were rejoicing in Mark 2.  Why? Because they were together.  So as we celebrate Thanksgiving and rush into Christmas lets rejoice.  Rejoice in who Jesus is, rejoice in what He has done, and rejoice in the relationships that we have.

On Thursday put down the electronics, don’t talk politics or religion.  Instead enjoy the people that God has blessed your life with, spend time with those relationships, and spend time talking about Jesus and what He has done.  Make Thursday a day of rejoicing.  But don’t stop at Thursday, make everyday a festive feast as you celebrate the goodness of God and the people that He has blessed your life with.




November 22, 2019, 9:09 AM

Scorching Sun and Scorching Anger


Scorching Sun and Scorching Anger

november 22, 2019 by revrunjon

red moon during night time

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

Jonah 4:9 –“But God said to Jonah, ‘ do you do well to be angry for the plant?'”

Jonah’s story fascinates me.  We know it fairly well.  God calls him to go to Ninevah and preach a message of repentance.  He doesn’t want to go for various reasons so he runs away.  This ends up with him being on a boat in the midst of a huge storm.  He asks to be thrown overboard so that the storm will stop and the boat be saved.  When he is thrown overboard he is then swallowed by a big fish.  We look at that and think how horrible, but if the fish (whale) wouldn’t have swallowed him he would have drowned in the sea, so God’s grace rescues Jonah through that whale.

After he is vomitted up on the land (there’s a story he could have shared with his grandchildren – I remember a time I was whale vomit), he reluctantly goes to Ninevah and shares the word.  Ninevah repents! But instead of rejoicing, Jonah gets mad and goes outside the city to see if God will still destroy it.  While he is there, pouting by his own choosing, the sun beats down on him, but then God sends a plant to give him shade.  He enjoys the shade but the next day a worm has destroyed the plant, and Jonah is back out in the exposed heat with the sun beating down on him again.  He is miserable and mad.  So much so that he wants to die.  God then asks him a probing question, “do you do well to be angry for the plant?”  In other words Jonah is this really something to be upset about? The plant is gone, its ok, there is no reason to be angry.  After all Jonah didn’t have to be sitting out in the elements pouting.  He could go back to the city, but he chooses not to.

The Hebrew word for anger that God uses there can also mean scorching.  So God is in essence asking Jonah “do you do well to be mad about the plant?” But He is also asking Jonah, “do you do well to be sitting out in the scorching sun?”  God is saying Jonah do you do well to make yourself miserable?  Its a convicting question isn’t it?  Convicting because sometimes we act just like Jonah.  The situation may be different, but the attitude the same.  We get mad, we pout, we grumble and complain.  We make ourselves miserable for nothing.

Things didn’t go Jonah’s way so he got mad, he pouted, he grumbled, he complained, he made himself miserable.  We do to don’t we? In our relationships when things don’t go exactly the way we think they should……..In our jobs, when we look at other people’s social media accounts and our lives don’t seem to be as good, what do we do? We pout.  Or we grumble or complain about the person, about the relationship, about the job.  Or we just simply allow ourselves to be miserable.  What should Jonah have been doing? The answer is complicated but when you boil it down its simple,  he should have been trusting God and rejoicing in what God was doing.

Therein lies the answer for us as well.  Instead of grumbling and complaining about our situation we should trust God in the midst of it.  Instead of living with the woah is me because life may not be where we want it to be, we should instead pray and rejoice in the blessings that God has given us.  Instead of making ourselves miserable we should instead rejoice in God’s goodness and love.  After all the Bible says “He lavishes His grace on us.”  So shouldn’t we as followers of Christ be the most joy filled people in the world? Joyful at God’s goodness, and love.  Joyful because of what God is doing and what He has promised to do.  Lets live our lives not in misery, not marked by grumbling or complaining, but instead in trust marked by joy and by peace.




November 21, 2019, 8:44 PM

Math? Math?? Grrrrr! Math!!!


Math? Math, Grrrr, Math!
november 22, 2019 by revrunjon
Romans 8:28 – “and we know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him and that are called according to His purpose.”


Math and God works all things together for good.  I laughed when I thought of the title, but it is true.  Tonight my oldest came upstairs and needed help with his math homework.  I used to be really good in math thanks to a dad that drilled me constantly about it, but I’m 30 years plus past needing to use most of the math that I learned in school.  Yet tonight God used math in a great way.

Austin asked me, “dad do you ever use this stuff in real life?” I muttered something about sure when you go to the store and you are trying to decide what cheese to buy that will be the cheapest and still taste good.  He looked at me, knowing that I was bluffing.  “Let’s get back at it,” I said.  He was working on systems of equations and he was stuck and as I looked at the problems I was too.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I was.  I used to know but I had forgot.  I wanted to tell him son I just don’t know, go to your teacher tomorrow, I’m not sure, but something wouldn’t let me, and so we pressed on.

x and y, why? was all I could think.  I need to get ready for a funeral tommorow night, I have been sick, I don’t feel good I want to rest.  But I couldn’t stop.  Maybe it was curiosity and wanting to figure it out, or maybe it was pride and not wanting to admit in front of my 14 year old that I had no idea, or maybe it was my wife’s encouragement, or maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t stand to disappoint him, but we pressed on when I didn’t want to and didn’t feel like it.

Then it clicked, one problem came together (he did it not me) and I thought he’s got it.  Yippee and then came problem 2.  Who knows, I thought and furthermore who cares.  But we pressed on and somehow figured it out.  I smiled, we had been frustrated and unsure, and now he was starting to get it.  Then the next and the next and the next.  he was figuring it out and I was glad that he was, but more than that all of a sudden I was thankful that we were spending this time together.

We were laughing and we were joking, my middle son even got involved and all of a sudden the horror of math homework turned into a wonderful time TOGETHER.  My oldest is 14 he spends most of his time at school, or with his friends, or on video games, but tonight because of math we got to spend time together.  It started as a night of frustration and ended as a night I am thankful for.  God lavished His grace on me tonight and I am grateful for that.

God’s word says that He works “ALL things together for our good”.  I believe that 100% but I tend to limit it.  I limit it to big things.  When my middle son has a seizure and I’m struggling and I don’t understand I remind myself in faith, God is somehow working through this for my good.  When things are hard in the family in other ways I remind myself God is somehow working this for my good.  When I struggle on a personal level, the reminder God is somehow working this for my good.  When Austin had heart surgery 14 years ago this week, I reminded myself God is somehow working this for my good.  And when I do a funeral, like I will tomorrow I remind myself when I stand to speak that God is somehow using this loss for our good and for His glory.  I limit it to the big events, but the Bible doesn’t say the big events, it says ALL (did you get that ALL, ALL, ALL!!!) things together for His glory.

Tonight, He used math.  Because of math I got to spend some precious time with a 14 year old, and because of math we laughed together.  God worked through math as we were working math problems.  The irony is beautifully hilarious and I will be forever grateful.

 




November 20, 2019, 2:23 PM

Encouragement from the Heart of a Child


From the Heart of a Child
november 20, 2019 by revrunjon

Hebrews 10:25 – “…..encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Kevin DeYoung rights says, “encouragement is not a small bit of gospel ministry, it is at the heart of it.”  What he is saying is that as followers of Jesus Christ we ought to be intentionally seeking out ways to encourage one another on a daily basis.  The writer of Hebrews told us the exact same thing years earlier when he said, “encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Why do we need to encourage one another? Because life is difficult.  Circumstances and situations can be very hard, and we need to encourage one another as we go throughout life.

The passage in Hebrews even seems to indicate that the need for encouragement will increase as we get closer to the Day of the Lord.  Why? Perhaps because persecution will come, things will continually be difficult, and people will become more and more selfish.  In the midst of that kind of culture we are called to encourage one another.

I am extremely blessed to pastor a wonderful church and because of that I am surrounded by people that encourage me.  The last couple of months have been hard on a personal level due to Isaac having another seizure, sickness, and busyness but God has used His people to encourage me, and for that I am thankful.  Many times those people may not have known that they encouraged me but they did.  God used them in a great way.

Maybe they prayed for me, maybe they patted me on the back, maybe they just simply told me they loved me, or took time to help in some way, but God’s people encouraged me greatly.  One of the most difficult things over the past few months has been the fact that our youngest son saw the seizure and it terrified him.  He struggled and we talked and we prayed, and I know that God sent other people to lift him up as well.

The other evening I was blessed to see the fruition of all of this as Lane came down the hall singing a song: “Jesus died on the cross for me, yes Jesus died on the cross for me, and I know that He is taking care of Isaac and I know that He is taking care of Isaac.”  People were praying for him, loving him, and encouraging him and I got to see those prayers answered and while he sang those words he became an encouragement to my heart, as he reminded me of what was truly important in life.

The funny thing about that night was it had been hectic with a lot of arguing between the three boys.  They were running, they were playing, they were arguing, they were complaining but then all of a sudden in the crazyness of life, God broke through.  He had encouraged my son and now he was using him to encourage me.  It really was a beautiful thing.

It led me to a question: what if we dedicated ourselves to encouraging one another each and everyday.  What if we intentionally sought out ways that we could encourage those that are hurting? We wouldn’t have to look far because most people truly are struggling in one way or another.  If we took time to love them, pray for them, and encourage them, God would show up in a great way and touch hearts and touch lives and the world might just sit up and take notice.   After all encouragement is not just a small part of Gospel ministry it really is the heart of it.




November 19, 2019, 5:58 PM

Look Daddy!


Look Daddy!

2m ago

Matthew 5:16  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

wooden robot

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

“Look Daddy, I’m reading the Bible”, Lane yelled earlier this evening.  I looked up and he was playing Minecraft, the somewhat Lego like building game except that its a video game, game.  I started to say Lane you aren’t reading the Bible, you are playing Minecraft, but then I saw it on the screen, there was an open book and Lane’s character was standing beside of it pretending to read it.

“I said wow Lane that is great,” and then he said, “I’m learning about Jesus on Minecraft!”  Was he? Not really, but his statement was revealing.  He knew that it would make me happy if he were reading the Bible and if he really was learning about Jesus, and so even though he was playing Minecraft he pretended to do those things.  I could have said Lane you aren’t doing those things you are playing a video game, but then I realized something he was wanting to please me, his dad.  He was wanting to make me happy, and then the light bulb came on, isn’t that how I am supposed to be living? Living to make my Heavenly Father happy.  My earthly dad was a football coach and because of that I watched hours of football, helped out on the sidelines, and learned how to diagram plays.  I’m a pastor so Lane wanted to make me happy by reading the Bible, even if it was just pretend.  And even though he was pretending it was a very deliberate act that he wanted to produce a very deliberate result.  He wanted to make his father happy.

I can’t help but wonder what if I lived with that same type of intentionality.  What if I lived every day with a moment by moment goal of making my Father happy.  What if I prayed that God would use me to glorify Him each day, and what if I honestly prayed this numerous times each day.  What if I asked the Holy Spirit to fill me so that I might truly do good works and glorify my Father in heaven?  What if again we lived like a little child?

Lane’s statement taught me something else: children really are eager to learn.  So what if we dedicated ourselves to teaching our children (or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or neighborhood kids, or kids at church) about Jesus?  What if we approached it with an intentionality that we aren’t just teaching them Bible stories, but that we are really teaching them about Jesus and making disciples?  I know the answer, God, the Father really would be glorified and the next generation would be touched for the glory of God!




November 18, 2019, 11:35 AM

Arguing??!!


Arguing??!
november 18, 2019 by revrunjon

Jonah 4:1-2 – “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….”

Have you ever argued with someone and used their own words against them? “I can’t believe you said……”.  Maybe in the heat of the moment you have attacked their character, “I knew you would do that, that is just how you are.”  Jonah did these very same things, except Jonah wasn’t arguing with a person, Jonah was arguing with Almighty God.  Jonah had reluctantly (after causing a great storm, being thrown overboard the ship, being swallowed by a great fish, and becoming vomit) went to Ninevah and preached.  To say that he didn’t want to is an understatement.  He hated those people and he feared what they might do to him and to the nation of Israel in the future.  However at God’s insistence he went and guess what happened? Ninevah repented and God did not wipe it out.

In other words revival broke out.  You would think that Jonah would have been happy but he is certainly not.  In fact he is angry and he uses God’s own word against Him.  The Bible says numerous times in the Old Testament that “God is a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  In fact God reveals Himself to the people of Israel in just that way and because of that those words are used in psalms of worship to God.  They are also used to teach the next generation about who God is.  Jonah is using them to attack God.  He is using God’s revelation, God’s word to attack God and to argue with Him.  He is using words of worship to slander God.  He is using teaching words to question God’s actions.  Make no mistake about it, this is a grievous sin.

As Jonah throws these words up to God what he is saying is, “yep its just like you God to act this way.”  He is using God’s character which is positive and turning it negative and saying basically “I can’t believe you would act like this but I should have known because that is who you are.”  Again it is a grievous sin.

Verse 3 doesn’t get any better as Jonah says, “You may as well kill me now.”  What he is saying is God wipe me out I’ve lost my reason for living.  Are you amazed yet? I am.  I’m amazed at the evil in Jonah’s heart.  I’m amazed that he talked to God the way that he did, and frankly I’m amazed that God didn’t wipe him out.  After all that was Jonah’s prayer, so why not answer his prayer positively? There is but one word and that word is GRACE.  Jonah’s sin was almost unbelievable but God’s grace IS amazingly unbelievable.  He doesn’t wipe Jonah out! Why? Because of grace and if you read the rest of the chapter you see that God continued to have a relationship with Jonah.  Why? Again that beautiful word – GRACE.  Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than ALL Jonah’s sin, and thankfully all of my sin as well.

Instead of shaking my head in disbelief at Jonah, really what I need to do is just be blown away by the grace of God.  I stumble and I sin, but the New Testament tells me that I am a “saint” (1 Corinthians 1:2) and that I am righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).  How? Only through the blood of Jesus.  It is all about His grace.  Nowhere in the New Testament is a believer referred to as a sinner, yes we still sin, but our identity has changed, we are saints only through the blood of Jesus.  Only by His grace, that is why God didn’t wipe Jonah out or at the very least give up on Him and that is why He doesn’t wipe us out or give up on us today.




November 14, 2019, 12:44 PM

CHILDLIKE BOLDNESS


Matthew 18:2-3 – “And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

selective focus photography of boy resting his head on his left palm

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One of the ministries that I have the privilege of partnering with is FCA or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Almost every Thursday morning the kids at our local school gather in the little theater for a time of fellowship and Bible study.  We also provide them with breakfast every week.  Today one of my friends spoke to the group, he is a lawyer in Kingsport, but by the end of the session he was on the witness stand.

He told the group, “God’s love is permanent, God will always love you.  The sausage biscuits would go bad if they aren’t eaten, but God’s love never goes bad, it is always there.  If I were to give you money to buy breakfast next week that money would run out, but God’s love never runs out.”  Several kids nodded their heads and I may have even heard one amen.

When FCA was over, one little girl who was around 7 or 8 wanted to hang around and talk.  It was obvious that she loved the attention but also that she had something on her mind.  All of a sudden the something came out, “so where’s my money?” My friend looked at me and I started laughing.  He said, “what do you mean?”  She said “well you said you were going to give us money, so I’m helping you not lie.”  All I could do (and all of the other adults as well) was smile.  She really was paying attention and because of that my friend was now paying up.

After I left I thought about that exchange quite a bit, he said if I gave you money, and she trusted that he would.  She even said “I don’t want you to lie.”  She believed that he would do what he said he would do.  She managed to come boldly to him and ask.  The more I thought about it the more I heard Jesus’ words about a child.  Jesus took a little child and set that little child in front of them and told them (the religious elites, the scribes and Pharisees) that they needed to become like a little child if they were going to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  What does it mean to become like a little child? I think I saw it today.  It means to trust that when God says He is going to do something that He really is going to do it.  It is also having the courage to come and ask.  In the book of Hebrew we are told to “come boldly before His throne of grace.”  This little girl trusted my friend and because of that she came boldly to him.  Shouldn’t we be the same way with our Heavenly Father.

Shouldn’t we trust 100% that He is going to do what He says He is going to do.  Shouldn’t we come boldly before Him and ask for our needs and to a degree even for our wants?  When this little girl got her money she was overjoyed, and that is what it means to be like a little child too isn’t it? To be filled up with joy and with gratitude.

Jesus said “unless you become like a little child you will never enter in to the kingdom of heaven.”  Today I saw a great illustration of what it means to become like a little child.  It means to be trusting, to be bold, to ask, and to be grateful and thankful.  The world that we live in today needs to see those things within us, in other words that need to see that we truly are children of God.




November 12, 2019, 9:03 AM

Trees, Trees, and More Trees


Galatians 5:16 – “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

I was able to play a round of golf today. The golf was mediocre at best but the fellowship was a blessing. We chose not to ride but to walk. I have grown to believe that I play better when I walk and there is certainly more opportunities to fellowship when you walk.

That was not the case on one particular hole as my playing partners both hit good shots off the tee and I found myself directly behind a tree. No problem I thought I can play up the other fairway and have a good shot in at the green. I might 2 putt for bogey but I might even catch a break and 1 putt for par, at least that was what was on my mind as I stood over the ball.

I swung and I hit the ball tremendously well. There was just one problem, the ball caught a tree branch and landed a few feet from another tree. My playing partners were encouraging, “you’ve got a good look now, knock it on.”

I walked to the ball and thought well its not exactly a good look but I can fade the ball right around this tree and maybe hit a putt for par. I set up to fade the ball and faded it beautifully……..right into the tree. One foot either way and I have made a great shot. Unfortunately, I faded the ball right into yet another tree. Now I was chipping for par. And I hit my chip shot which promptly found yet another tree.  I walked up hit another chip, putted and ran to the next hole to quickly put the debacle behind me.

I hit the ball pretty well on that hole but it wasn’t enough.  The day was perfect, the course in good shape, but it wasn’t enough.  It reminds me of life I can try and try to do good and I’m still going to make a mess.  I can give it my all under ideal conditions and still struggle.  The Bible tells me that “my righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).  The entire verse says, “we all have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our sins, like the wind take us away.”  In other words even when we are consciously trying to do right and we are digging in and trying to do our best we are still going to slip and fall.  In our own strength we are still going to fall into sin, and if we aren’t careful our sins are going to carry us away.

What do we need? We need to walk not in our own power, and live not in our own strength but in the strength and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Walk by the Spirit we are told Biblically over and over and over again.  Why? Because the Spirit gives wisdom, the Spirit gives strength in the face of temptation, the Spirit gives courage to help you do the right thing, and the Spirit makes your heart alive so that you can truly love the people around you.

 




November 11, 2019, 9:11 AM

RIGHT!??!


Jonah 3:1-3 – “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh.”


Jonah did the right thing, on the second try.  God told him to go to Nineveh and speak and share God’s message, and Jonah refused.  Now after being thrown into the sea and rescued by a whale, Jonah decided to listen.  The whale was definitely the grace of God because without it he would have drowned and when the whale at God’s command vomitted Jonah up, Jonah decided to listen.  I guess the order was puffed up, swallowed up, thrown up, listen up, and now Jonah rose up.  However the book makes it clear that he didn’t want to.  He did the right thing but with the wrong attitude.   He did the right thing but it was with the wrong reasons.

Do we ever do the same? We know what we are supposed to do and yet if we do it we only do it reluctantly.  Or we do what we know we are supposed to but we don’t do it with joy.  Take worship as an example, we know we are commanded Biblically to “not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”  In other words we are told to make worship a priority, but sometimes we don’t or we may come and worship but only do so reluctantly.  In reality as followers of Jesus we ought to want to worship and we should do so with joy.  Many times we do the right things, but with the wrong motives.

I’m guilty.  A few years ago I found myself correcting my oldest son fairly harshly and when I asked myself why I was so bothered by what he did (I don’t even remember what it was now), the answer was I didn’t want people to view me bad.  Whatever he did was wrong so I did the right thing in correcting him.  But I was so angry about it because of how it would make me look and that is the wrong reason.

We as followers of Jesus are called to do the right things and to do them for the right reasons and to do them not reluctantly but with joy and with passion.  Our motivation in all that we do should be loving God and loving people, not selfishness or worldliness.  We are to do the right things for the right reasons but that is hard to do.  In fact I would say it is impossible, at least for us.  The Bible says “that nothing is impossible for God” however.  So through Him and only through Him can we do the right things for the right reasons and do those things with joy and with purpose.  Our hearts are bent towards ourselves and that leads us sometimes to have wrong motives, but thankfully God can change our hearts.

There is a wonderful story in Scripture of God appearing to the prophet Ezekiel in a place of death.  They are surrounded by dry bones.  Bones belonging to people that have been dead so long that all the flesh is gone from the bone and they are dried out.  God asks Ezekiel a question, there in that place of desolation, “can these dry bones live?”  Then the dry bones take on flesh and they come to life.  Such is the power of our God.  He can take the dead and make them live, He can take those who are “dead in their trespasses and sins” and bring them to life in Christ, and He can take our hearts that are turned towards ourselves, and change them into something beautiful.  He can enable us and empower us to do the right things for the right reasons.




November 6, 2019, 7:20 AM

A Big Building Project


Jonah 1:17 – “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.  And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

I wonder if you can build a whale out of Legos or if there are Big Fish Lego sets?  God uses many things to build us and to mold us into what we are supposed to be and in the book of Jonah, God uses that big fish to build Jonah.

He actually uses that big fish to save Jonah.  I grew up thinking that the fish was punishment for Jonah.  He was thrown overboard because of his disobedience and God punished him with the big fish.  Nothing could be further from the truth, because the fish wasn’t punishment instead the fish was what rescued Jonah.  If God doesn’t send the fish then Jonah drowns in the ocean.  If God doesn’t send the fish Jonah dies because of his disobedience.  So the reality is that the fish was the grace of God.  God in His grace sent a great fish to swallow up a man who had looked at God and disobeyed Him adamantly.  Not only that Jonah’s disobedience was so deep rooted that he tried to run and hide.  He is a willful sinner and yet God gives him grace.

I admit I wonder what Jonah thought inside the belly of the fish.  There were probably moments of lapsing in and out of consciousness but when he was aware, what did he think about.  He probably asked a lot of questions: “What’s next?” “Why rescue me?” “I wonder what the weather is like in Ninevah?”  I’m sure when God commanded him to go he asked a lot of questions as well.  The Ninevites were sworn enemies of the Israelites.  Their history was brutal and violent.  “Why would God send me there?” I’m sure was one of his thoughts.  “Will God be good in the midst of the foreign country? Will God keep His promises? Is God in control? Does God even care about me?”  Those questions probably hit Jonah when God asked him to go and they probably continued to plague him while he was running on the ship.

In the belly of the whale however those questions were answered.  “Is God good?” No doubt he rescued Jonah.  “Will God keep His promises?” Yes 100% He does, Jonah had to see that as he was on his way to Ninevah.  “Is God in control?” Now there could be no doubt.  God is in control He sent the storm, He strengthened the storm at precisely the right time, and now He sent the big fish.  He is in control of everything.  “Does God care about me?” Jonah had to see the answer to that didn’t he? Of course God cares about you, that is why He rescued you.

In the belly of the whale we see the grace of God so Jonah’s questions were answered in the grace of God.  His disobedience was met with the grace of God.  God’s grace really is that powerful and it is not only the answer to Jonah’s struggles and sins, but it is the answer to ours as well.  Where are our questions answered? In God’s grace.  How are our sins forgiven? By God’s grace.  How does God give us the strength to overcome our sins and walk in obedience? Through His grace.  No wonder the hymn writer says, “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than ALL our sin.”

God may use something totally unexpected to build you.  He may use something that seems hard and difficult, but He is still working in you, building you for His glory.  It is His grace that does that, His 100% amazing grace.




November 5, 2019, 7:07 AM

LEGOS EVERYWHERE


Philippians 1:6 – “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

person playing mini fig
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com
When our oldest was smaller we spent a lot of time building Legos.  We built some random things just for fun but for the most part if he got a Lego set for Christmas or for his birthday we would build it exactly like it was supposed to be built.  There was a Lego train, a Lego Millenium Falcon, a Lego Batcave and even a Lego Death Star just to name a few.  Many of them required starting, stopping, thinking, taking apart and even rebuilding certain sections.  My youngest has now began a fascination with Legos and so the process repeats itself.  (If only I would have saved those older sets).

I will admit that many times in the construction process I would just stop and say, “what on earth are they doing here?” or “why would they do it that way?” It simply didn’t make sense, but I trusted the instructions (most of the time) and it turned out exactly right.

Sometimes life can be like that, we don’t see what God is doing, we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are, and sometimes life doesn’t seem to make sense.  What do we do then? We don’t try to figure it out on our own and do our own thing, that only leads to misery.  Instead we trust the builder.  We trust that He knows what He is doing and even though it may not make sense to us, He is doing it exactly the way it needs to be done.

Paul says in Philippians 1:6 God will finish His work in you.  That’s my paraphrase but it is essentially what Paul is saying.  God will finish His work in you and that work is a good work.  It is not an overnight process.  When we built the Lego Death Star with its 3000 pieces it took days.  God’s work within us takes more than days, it takes a lifetime, but know this God is working within you in a good way to make you what you are supposed to be.  That means that when the hard times come and life doesn’t make sense that God is using that to transform you.  That means when the good times come and you are thinking how blessed you are that it is God that has blessed you and that He is using those good times to make you more like Jesus for His glory.  God is working within you, so trust the process.  Trust Him with the bumps and the bruises of life.  Trust Him with the hard times and the hard people (He may be using them to transform you as well).  Trust Him with the people that you love and with the good times because God is working through it all.  You may not see it or understand it but God is faithful so trust Him in the building process and live everyday for His glory!




October 30, 2019, 9:45 AM

VICTORY!!


Deuteronomy 20:4 – “For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”


There is an old hymn that the church used to sing that says:

Tis the Church triumphant singing,
Worthy the Lamb;
Heav’n throughout with praises ringing,
Worthy the Lamb.
Thrones and pow’rs before Him bending,
Odors sweet with voice ascending
Swell the chorus never ending,
Worthy the Lamb.
2
Every kindred, tongue and nation,
Worthy the Lamb;
Join to sing the great salvation,
Worthy the Lamb.
Loud as mighty thunders roaring,
Floods of mighty waters pouring,
Prostrate at His feet adoring,
Worthy the Lamb.

Victory is an amazing feeling.  When our team wins, when we feel victorious at something there is a gladness that follows.  Victory is good.  Sometimes however there aren’t many victories, some life feels more like we are losing instead of #winning.  What do we do then? We remind ourselves of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We remind ourselves that God is on our side and that through Him we are ultimately victorious.

We really are as Paul says, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” and it really is true “if God is for us who can be against us.”  We as Christians are victorious and will embrace the ultimate victory.  This goes way beyond sports and way beyond just a good feeling in life in which you think everything is going well.  We are given the ultimate victory through Jesus Christ, which means our sins our forgiven, we have a relationship with the Creator of this Universe, and we have eternity to look forward to.

I’m not sure I have ever sung this old hymn from the mid 1800s but I love the words and I know that the words are still true today.  When we as the church meet together, with all of our faults and failures and struggles.  When we as the church meet together when many of us are dealing with situations of defeat, we still are THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT SINGING!  Why? Because of what that one line says: “Worthy is the Lamb”.  We are victorious because the Lamb was worthy, He was sinless yet He paid the price for my sin on the cross and because He was worthy, He triumphed over death, over hell, and over sin.  He won the victory and because He is worthy we are victorious as well.

Live in victory, share the victory and worship together with the church in victory.  We are the church triumphant singing: Worthy is the Lamb!




January 7, 2013, 6:33 PM

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