The Will of the LORD Be Done

 

In Acts 21 Paul ends up in Caesarea staying with Philip, the evangelist (Acts 21:8). While Paul was there a prophet from Judea came and prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind Paul and hand him over to the gentiles (Acts 21:11). Because of this Luke and those with Paul began to entreated him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12).

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

After they realized Paul would not listen to them, they submitted:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. – Acts 21:14

Reflecting on today’s reading from Acts has me asking myself these challenging questions:

  1. Do I desire God’s will or my own? Is my will wrapped up in this world?
  2. Am choosing God’s kingdom over one a kingdom of my own in this world with the things I am thinking, saying and doing? Am I today? Will I tomorrow? Who can hold me accountable in this? Have I asked them to? Do I really want them to?
  3. Am I able to discern my LORDs will from my friends advice? How can I hear God’s voice? Am I listening for it? Do I desire to hear Him separate from my desires of this world?

What other questions might we consider in applying today’s reading the things we think, say and do?

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 3rd, 2016’s reading: Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30–31; Mark 16

 

Victory Plan

 

As I read Matthew 16: 21-28 I can not help but echo @BakerPastor’s sermon from this past Sunday. Victory is Christ changes everything! The sermon series; Victory, the sermon; Victory Plan. The key takeaway for me was a key question: Do I still love this world? It came by way of Pastor Baker referencing John 16:33. With this perspective of truth in mind he paraphrased a prayer that many may have prayed, “God let us stay in this place that hurts longer.” He prefaced it with a challenging rhetorical question, “Isn’t it weird to you? how much we want to stay in this world?”  

The key question above used the word still in it because in Christ’s victory, everything should be different. Before Christ I certainly loved this world. All my hope was of this world. I pursued its worthless promises and hurt more and more every time I realized them empty. Now though, through victory in Christ, my hope is restored and strengthened in truth, backed by the power of God’s word in His promises. Why then do I still struggle with trusting in this world (Romans 7:15)? God make us complete (James 1:4). God give us discernment to know truth from lies (Philippians 1:9-10). Empower us with Your Spirit LORD and light our paths (Psalm 199:105). Protect us from the evil one (Ephesians 6:12).

In Matthew chapter 16 just after Jesus established His identity with His disciples, He began to talk plainly with them about the victory plan. How He would suffer, be killed and raised in three days (Matthew 16:21). This was quite contrary to the the victory plan Peter (and presumably most of Jesus’s followers) had in mind. Their’s was one of the world. A great warrior king to overthrow the Roman empire, etc. Peter quickly begins to rebuke Christ upon hearing His non worldly victory plan. Christ then tells Satan in Peter to take his proper place, behind Him, as He gives clear instruction on how to live with an enlightened perspective in victory. He makes clear that the victory plan is above the world (Isaiah 55:8):

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. – Matthew 16:24–27

I often hear this scripture misused, in my estimation, due to a lack of context. I hear of a call to take up one’s cross, as if it were some sort of burden to bare. Instead consider it a release from the burden and bondage of this world and its downward spiral of empty promises (Galatians 5:1). Keep in mind that someone carrying a cross in this time was literally a dead man walking. Would they not be looking to things past this world? Christ tells us to live this way today. Run the race this way today. Where is your mind stayed today? What do you have your eye on? What are you hoping to accomplish today? … Do you love this world? 

God would you give us a single eye for Jesus’s Kingdom? Would You send Your Spirit to empower us to run this race to win and finish strong? God we ask this in Jesus Name. Thank you LORD. Praise Your Name! Amen.

 

Extra Credit.

If you missed it, consider reading this post: This way to happiness, trust me – Satan

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 6th, 2016’s reading: Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

 

The Gospel is absolutely unique and complete

 

JK’s sermon this Sunday, Victory Realized, made clear the prophecy of the Great White Throne from Revelation 20:11-15; you are in or you are out. The decision is final and perfect. In Mark 2:21-22, Jesus helps the Pharisees along to with this idea. They were struggling. Their religion, passed down from generation to generation, was quite comfortable to them (Luke 5:39). They had it figured out. They lived according to the law of Moses, or at least they thought they did. They certainly had each other thinking they were good to go (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 23:5).  Judaism did not recognize Jesus as the Christ. They were constantly trying to fit what Jesus did in to their ideas of their salvation plan: saved through works. A heart wrenching denial for me to read about (Matthew 23:37). God’s children, His chosen people, chose themselves and their adherence to the law to save themselves (John 12:43). God would you rescue them? Please God?

Jesus was constantly fulfilling their law. The fruit of the Spirit filled it all up (Galatians 5:22-23); check, check, check; and this confused them. They confused the fulfillment of the law with breaking the law (Matthew 5:17). It was as if they never really knew God (John 8:9). It became more and more obvious to those that followed Jesus that the Pharisees did not know the law after all (Matthew 23:24).

In the scripture for today, Jesus had just called Matthew Levi, a despised tax collector that the Pharisees would not associate with, to follow Him as a proclaimer of the Gospel. As if they could not stand this outrage, the followers of the Pharisees challenged Jesus with a question in an attempt to illuminate how He and His followers were out of step with the law. “How come your followers do not fast?” Jesus used one of their manufactured documents to help them understand. The Rabbi’s produced a document called the Megillat Taanit, translated as the scroll of fasting. While Yom Kippur, or day of atonement, was the only prescribed day to fast per the law, and certainly voluntary fasts to accompany life’s circumstances seemed true to the spirit of a true fast, they had manufactured other prescribed fasts. Some even subscribed to a twice a week fast on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, etc. When they fasted they fasted to please men (Matthew 6:16), they fasted publicly and because of this, this scroll of fasting set out rules that would be sure not to let fasting interrupt with other important celebrations, like a marriage feast. Apparently a public fast meant showing up to a celebration looking disheveled. Perhaps they thought drawing attention to oneself at a celebration centered on someone or something else would be in bad taste.

And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. – Mark 2:19–22

John MacArthur explains it this way in his sermon The Matchless Distinctiveness of the Gospel:

So our Lord is simply saying, in effect, the Messiah’s here, this is not a time to fast. It is completely inappropriate for Jesus’ disciples to fast and moan while He, the long-awaited Messiah is present. He has come. He has arrived this day as He said in the synagogue in Nazareth, the Scripture is fulfilled in your ears, He is present. The fasting of the Pharisees, the fasting of the followers of John the Baptist, that’s what’s out of place, completely out of touch with God’s purpose and what God is doing, completely out of touch with the reality that the Messiah was there.

Jesus makes clear that He was the Christ, He brought with Him a new covenant, and it stood on its own. It could not fit into their ideas of salvation through works. It would break them. It would not work. They were incompatible. So then the decision is yours, do you believe or don’t you? Will you abandon your salvation plan for Christ’s or won’t you (Acts 13:39)? Like the pearl of great price, Jesus’s invitation requires you to sell everything to buy it. All your beliefs of how you might be saved, how you ought to live, what is right and wrong, who you are and who God is, what is the truth and what are lies. You have to give it all up, have faith and trust in God. Are you in or are you out?

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 20th, 2016’s reading: Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2

 

God’s law loves you too

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 27–28:19; Psalm 119:1–24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2

June 22nd, 2016

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalm 119: 1-11

To me the law is a beautiful thing. It is full of judgement, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23-24). The law is love written on our hearts (Romans 13:10, Hebrews 8:10). In my estimation, so that we are hardwired with the ability to love others with the love of Jesus Christ. Like an operating system for our soul, when we divert from the law and choose not to love another, the system gets confused and pushes back; “processing, processing, processing…” God reboot my soul, reset my system anew with love. My soul longs for it. God’s law leads me, directs me, governs me and to the extent that I accept this truth, seek after it and hold to it moment-by-moment, my soul is at rest in the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Still from time to time I encounter a sort of push back amongst Christians when the phase God’s law is used. For some the word law carries with it evil connotations of the very worst sort. To the extent the word ‘law’ or phrase ‘God’s law’ is perceived as an enemy of love. A fear arises in some that God’s law will push non-believers away. The phase “old testament god” is used, as if there were such a thing. God is God and has always been, no shadow of turning (James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). Oh how this angers me. I hate this perversion of my Masters holiness. My anger of course is with the evil that has managed to redefine the meaning of the word law through hypocrisy.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. – Matthew 23:23–24

James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees.
James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees.

In my estimation, Jesus here criticizes the religious leaders for their blinding attention to detail that caused them to lead others astray from the truth of the law. My prayer is that the Pharisees and hypocrites perversions of the law will be untwisted and made straight. That we may dismiss the worldly definition of God’s law, wave God’s banner and return to the truth proclaiming a biblical definition of His law. That we would all fall in love with God’s beautiful law. That we would never be deceived into a judgemental nor self righteous nature. That we would not be fear-driven conditional lovers and so pervert God’s law. That any inner Pharisees within us would be vanquished by God’s truth (Psalm 139:23).

Judgement is not about one person assessing another’s keeping of the law but rather the law helping one keep their own affairs in order (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:9–10; Micah 6:8; Habakkuk 2:4). Praise God for writing His law on our hearts that we may live abundantly (Jeremiah 31:31-34)!

Keeping the law is beautiful

Straining out the gnat is not evil in any way. Jesus makes it clear that we should do it. His criticism is that the Pharisees had done it to the dismissal of things that were more important.  Loving the LORD thy God with all one’s heart and soul and mind and desiring to do His will in all things; Beautiful. Thinking one’s self capable of judging another’s love for God. Ugly; Deep concern for one’s own stewardship; Wise. Being overly concerned for someone else’s; Foolish. Judgement is a gift from God to help us with our stewardship. Let us not pervert this gift by trying to unwrap it for another. Instead let us rejoice in it. Praising God for His gift to us in humility as we are judged in grace and mercy to the glory of God. As we are made whole and mature in Christ.

Let us also consider the inverse. If we pass by and see another straining out a gnat and think, “that hypocrite” are we not in judgement of another? Is it not a matter of their heart whether they should strain the gnat in secret or let the light shine? Are we capable of knowing their heart? By straining a gnat have they said everyone else must also do the same, that it is right for all, certainly this would be judgement on their part, but have they done this by simply straining out the gnat? If so how is one to obey Jesus command to let their light shine? (Matthew 5:16)

Shine Your light oh LORD and vanquish darkness. Here is truth about the law:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Romans 13:10

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:36–40

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12

 

Extra Credit:

  1. Check out the eight woes of the Pharisees, this post mostly drew on the fifth.
  2. Golden Rule thought experiment on the power of God’s law in love

Scripture: Matthew 7:12, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 13:5

God gives us a simple and basic, at the most fundamental level, instruction on how to keep the law well. Many call it the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). I say it is most fundamental because it is by way of that which we are most intimate with than any other; ourselves. We know exactly how we should like to be treated and regarded and so forth. Even if not consciously, subconsciously we are hardwired to love ourselves well. Follow along for one simple illustration of this truth. We know that love thinketh no evil or, put another way, keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).

What if we were to apply how we feel about ourselves in this matter on to others? In order to explore this question I encourage you to join me in a thought experiment on your being wrong. Popular exercise, I know.

  1. Name a time when you were wrong; no excuses, no circumstances at work that were out of your control, no anything but you and your wrongness hanging out being wrong.
  2. Let’s say you came up with something. Then let us go to how long it took to recall. Checking all those excuse boxes may have taken a bit of time. Well that one wasn’t really all my fault, etc. So how long did it take you to recall?
  3. Now think back to the first time you had admitted you were wrong in this instance. Think on how quickly and completely you forgave yourself. Did it even take a second? Did it really even register?

Is not love a beautiful thing?!?! Praise God that His law is written on our hearts! (Jeremiah 31:31-34) His forgiveness, His grace and His mercy are written on our hearts!!! The questions then become, does it take you as long to come up with something someone close to you has done wrong? Has it taken you more than a second to dismiss it from your mind?

The point here is that our love of ourselves is much nearer perfection in fulfilling the law than our love for our fellows. God has written it on our hearts to help us, to enable us for the good work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). How can we not fall in love with His law? Is it not beautiful? Does it not equip us to save souls and rescue others from bondage as it all the time

Walking in the Way

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Leviticus 24; Psalm 31; Ecclesiastes 7; 2 Timothy 3

April 20th, 2016

We feel very fortunate to live near the Constitution Trail in Normal, IL. We endeavor to use it as a spiritual tool for our family. As we walk along the path we reflect on the thoughts, words and deeds of the day and measure them against God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 comes to life for our family as we walk along the way.

walk in the path

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. – 2 Timothy 3:16–17

Setting out with doctrine. As we look ahead we can see the path and where it leads. We equate this to doctrine. God’s word lights our way and allows us to see into the distance. (Genesis 1:3, Psalms 119:130, Proverbs 6:23, Proverbs 4:2, Isaiah 28:9)

Stepping off with reproof. As we look down at our feet and notice they are off the path we Praise God for reproof. God’s word is light and it exposes our missteps. (Psalms 119:105, John 8:12, Ecclesiastes 2:13, Ephesians 5:15, John 3:19-20)

Setting back with correction. As we seek out the path again we trust God to correct us with a straight path back. His rod is comforts us. God’s word brings us right home. (Deuteronomy 32:2, Psalms 5:8, Psalms 107:7)

Staying on with instruction. As we find ourselves back on the path we praise God for His gentleness, grace and tender mercy. We have been instructed on the application of God’s doctrine to our specific experiences. God’s word strengthens us to do His good work. (Isaiah 29:24, Job 5:19, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:7, 2 John 9)

May we all walk in the way and do the good work God has purchased us for. Amen.

Leadership and Love

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

March 23rd, 2016

Leadership

Whenever the topic of leadership comes up I like to pass on a simple truth I was taught. I call them the two things. They are simple to understand. Simple to remember. Simple to see why these two things are it. Still they are not so simple to enact without fail. They take sacrifice at the most fundamental level. Self. They take us out of ourselves. Away from us. Away from this world. They leave us with less self and more others. A good friend of mine taught me what leaders do. Leaders do two things:

  1. Leaders lead by example
  2. Leaders serve those they lead

Search your experiences and you will hopefully find a leader in your life who does these two things well. One thing to mention here is that anyone can lead. Power is not needed to lead. Authority is not needed to lead. Though power and authority will accrete to those who follow these two things. Do you want to be a leader? Are you doing these two things?

Leadership and Love

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law

Here I just want to share a collection of verses that point to the importance of love and close with a few verses I encourage everyone to memorize. They are verses you have likely heard several times, but please do not let that cause you to pass over this encouragement without prayerfully considering memorizing them. Once memorized you can meditate on them throughout the day and call them to service as the ultimate checklist against what Jesus has called you to do in any situation. Running late in the check out line; run through the list. In the throws of a tough conversation; run through the list. Frustrated, worried, concerned, angry, scared, upset… go through the list, one by one and make sure you align with God’s word. 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

If ye love me, keep my commandments. – John 14:15

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans – 13:10

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

– 1 Corinthians 13:4–7

God would you give us understanding that we may keep your law and obey it with all our hearts? Would you turn our hearts toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain? Would You turn our eyes away from worthless things and preserve our lives according to Your word? Thank you. Amen.

Parenting: Good-night Words

Good night words to a child ought to be the best of words, as they are words of greatest potency. The last waking thoughts of a child have a peculiar power over his mind and heart, and are influential in fixing his impressions and in shaping his character for all time.
-H Clay Trumbull

Parenting Good night words

Before Eleanor arrived and since her arrival, in small talk, folks seem to gravitate to a common place. In jest, advice, and curiosity Eleanor’s sleep seems to be thee topic of interest. It became clear to Jamie and I that this was an important issue before Eleanor came to us and so we asked and sought out and knocked on the door of scripture, books and friends to learn.

Here are some of the larger takeaways from Mr. Trumbull’s chapter on laying a child down to rest:

  • This is an hour unlike others in a child’s day where they are particularly left to themselves and so a child craves sympathy and appreciates kindness and is grieved by harshness and cold neglect at this hour where they are most alone.
  • Children are particularly malleable just before they sleep and so it is at this hour that a parent’s word and presence are most potent.
  • A wise parent will prize this hour as the golden hour of good impressions on the child’s heart. There should be no severity then, no punishment. Every word should be one of gentleness and affection.
  • The last waking thoughts of a children’s are of particular importance in the shaping of the child’s character through all time.

Eleanor has nearly outgrown her bassinet and so we are preparing her for her crib. A bedtime blessing was prepared. In our studies on sleep we found there are some 139 verses on sleep in our Bible. Most all of them point to this idea of trusting in a God who is worthy of our trust. I believe Mr. Trumbull came to a similar conclusion through his studies and perhaps that is what lead him to include this story in his chapter on good night words:

A sensitive, timid little boy, long years ago, was accustomed to lie down to sleep in a low “trundle-bed,” which was rolled under his parents’ bed by day, and was brought out for his use by night. As he lay there by himself in the darkness, he could hear the voices of his parents, in their lighted sitting room, across the hallway, on the other side of the house. It seemed to him that his parents never slept; for he left them awake when he was put to bed at night, and he found them awake when he left his bed in the morning. So far this thought was a cause of cheer to him, as his mind was busy with imaginings in the weird darkness of his lonely room.

After loving good-night words and kisses had been given him by both his parents, and he had nestled down to rest, this little boy was accustomed, night after night, to rouse up once more, and to call out from his trundle-bed to his strong-armed father, in the room from which the light gleamed out, beyond the shadowy hallway, “Are you there, papa?” And the answer would come back cheerily, “Yes, my child, I am here.” “You’ll take care of me tonight, papa; won’t you?” was then his question. “Yes, I’ll take care of you, my child.” was the comforting response. “Go to sleep now. Good night.” And the little fellow would fall asleep restfully, in the thought of those assuring good-night words.

A little matter that was to the loving father; but it was a great matter to the sensitive son. It helped to shape the son’s life. It gave the father an added hold on him; and it opened up the way for his clearer understanding of his dependence on the loving watchfulness of the All-father. And to this day when the son, himself a father and grandfather, lies down to sleep at night, he is accustomed, out of the memories of that lesson of long ago, to look up through the shadows of his earthly sleeping place into the far-off light of his Father’s presence, and to callout, in the same spirit of childlike trust and helplessness as so long ago, “Father, you’ll take care of me tonight; won’t you?” And he hears the assuring answer back, “He that keepeth thee will not slumber. The LORD shall keep thee from all evil. He shall keep thy soul. Sleep, my child, in peace.” And so he realizes the two fold blessing of a father’s good-night words.

When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid:
Yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
– Proverbs 3:24

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
– Psalm 4:8

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
From whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD,
Which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper:
The LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil:
He shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
From this time forth, and even for evermore.
-Psalms 121

Trusting in the LORD is a beautiful thing. From my studies, I have come to believe that so much of my sin has come from wanting things for myself. Adam and Eve in the garden; the apple, a way to say “If I have the knowledge I won’t need God. I will make my own way. I won’t need to depend on the LORD.” What a complicated mess. A simpler way to rely completely on the LORD. To trust completely in the LORD for He is completely trustworthy. May our children know that the LORD always watches over them, that He alone is enough for them, that they can trust in Him in all things and sleep sweetly and always go in peace.

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciate