Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday, 28 June 2013 ~ Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 15, 16; Psalm 119:81-88; Romans 12
Today's scripture focus is Luke 7:11-18

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. 18 John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them,

Jesus, with a crowd following, listening, yearning for salvation from the rule of the Romans, travels toward a town called Nain, meaning pleasant or green pastures. This day was not looking so pleasant for a mourning mom who had just lost her one and only son. This mom had even more to be concerned about, as she was also a widow. In Bible times, this would have been an incredibly bad situation for a woman. A woman alone was fairly worthless in that society. A woman needed a man, father, husband, son, to provide for her, to give her a voice and status in the community. This woman had lost her husband and now her only son, her hope. 

The passage says nothing about daughters and I know that I am guilty of assuming that the dead man was her only child...but what if he was not? What if she had daughters to care for? to feed, to clothe, to build up dowries for? Would she have to sell them? Send them out to prostitute themselves? Go out to prostitute herself so that they would have a roof over their heads or food enough to eat? What other option might there be for her? The religious rulers of the day were not even caring for their parents as God had commanded them (Mark 7:11-13), how could she expect them to provide for her?

This is the woman Jesus sees. A woman crushed, wrung out, limp; no hope for the future; the joy of her youth dead and decaying; the only reminder of a beloved husband still and lifeless. No hope...and Jesus sees her. He sees her pain, her suffering, her hopelessness and "his heart went out to her" or "his heart overflowed with compassion" (NLT). Jesus is the walking, talking, fleshed out heart of our God...and his is a heart that over flows with compassion for His creation. He sees our pain, the very deepest, darkest hidden corners of it and it makes his big, God heart ache with sorrow. He sees our hopelessness...and knows that there is hope. He is our hope, just as He was this widow's hope...not her son, but Jesus. 

...and he says, "Don't cry." Now, the Bible doesn't say whether this widow had heard of Him or knew what He looked like or even that He was on His way. She was wrapped up in her world of mourning. When I worked in Children's Emergency, a young man was brought into our department, CPR in progress. He had been playing basketball with his school team..and his heart stopped. His anxious parents arrived soon after he did and we found out that our young patient was a good student, played sports, was completely healthy...their only child, born to them later in life...and now, suddenly, he was dying. How would those parents have reacted if I walked up to them and said, "don't cry"? Just like this widow, would resentment, anger, fear, shock have risen from the brokenness of their hearts? Would they have called me crazy if I acted as Jesus did, walking over to touch where the child lay and saying "Young man, I say to you, get up!" I know that my coworkers would have looked at me like I was crazy...maybe even called for security, but would they have done so if it was Jesus in the room? Just maybe, though, just maybe the heart of this widow recognized Jesus for who He was.

Do human hearts recognize the true personhood of Jesus? Does pain and anguish give us a clearer view of who He is? For myself, I know that it makes me look a whole lot harder for Him. It makes me yell and cry and stamp my little human foot, shake my tiny human fist, yet I cannot get away from the promises that He has poured out in His Word. No matter how bad things get, He does not change and His promises never fail.

...and the dead man sat up and began to speak...

The first resurrection from death since the days of Elisha. No wonder the people began to speak of Jesus as a prophet. Elijah and Elisha had each raised an only son from death to return him to the arms of a sorrowing mama. These people accompanying the woman, whether family or hired mourners, did not understand who it was that stood before them, returning a now living child to his more than grateful mom. 

No matter who they thought it was, the news began to spread like wildfire throughout the land of Jesus' power over death. Prophet or Messiah?? Could they dare to hope the latter had finally arrived? May our hearts be open to the truth...may we see the Hand of God...the compassion of Jesus' heart in our everyday lives. 

Monday's scripture focus: Luke 7:19-20
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 17, 18

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, June 27 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 13-14; Psalm 119:73-80; Romans 11.
Today's scripture focus is  Luke 7:1-10.

When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum.
2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” 6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

This is a great story.  Jesus marveled.  At a Roman centurion's faith.  Imagine that.  And here are some Jewish elders saying "This is a good guy.  He deserves this.  Help him out, even though he's a Roman.  He's been good to us and this would be a nice reward for what he's done for us."

But that isn't why Jesus healed the servant.  Not because the Roman was a good guy who deserved something good in return.  Not because the Jewish elders asked.

From Mark Driscoll's sermon:

They [the religious leaders] go to Jesus and say, “You owe this guy. “He’s worthy because he was really nice to us, and he built our church.” And see, religious people tend to work this way. They feel like if they sin, they owe God, so they have to pay him back through their good works, through going to purgatory, karma, reincarnation, suffering. But if they do good, they feel like God owes them. They’re always keeping score.
Religious people tend to think this, and even if you don’t think this, you know you’re a bit religious when you’re suffering or life is damaging, or hurtful, or harmful, or painful, or strife-filled, and you become disappointed with, and embittered against God. “God, you owed me, and you did not deliver.” You may not say that, but any sort of bitterness or disappointment with God is a declaration toward God that you did good, and he owed you, and he didn’t come through, because you assume that God owes you. God owes no one nothing. God gave us life and breath on the earth, and we sinned against God, we rebelled against God, and God is obligated to no one.

Christians have this proclivity to say, “Well, the non-Christians are the bad guys, and us Christians are the good guys.” And immediately one of the non-Christians says, “I know a bunch of Christians that are far worse than a bunch of non-Christians,” and we have to tap out because that’s true. I know some really nasty Christians. And I know some really nice non-Christians. Like if you let me pick, I don’t know, let’s say I was gonna do a car trip across the country, right, I would not necessarily pick, depending upon who the options were, all Christians. There are certain Christians I would not want in the car, maybe in the trunk, not in the car. Not in the car. Maybe on the roof rack, not in the car. There are certain non-Christians that I wouldn’t mind hanging out with, ‘cause they’re actually pretty nice, pretty gracious, pretty generous, pretty easy going. It’s not that Christians are good people, and non-Christians are bad people. It’s that everyone’s a sinner, and some people live out of the conscience that God has given them, and others fight the conscience that God has given them.

And let me say this, this centurion is an amazing man. He is, by all accounts at the beginning of the story, not a believer in Jesus, but by the end, he comes to faith in Jesus. Somewhere in this process, I believe, and most commentators agree, he experiences what we would call conversion. He goes from unbelief to belief in Jesus. But this man, even as a non-Christian, demonstrates amazing character. And so for the non-Christian, this moral centurion, he’s a decent neighbor and a good citizen. That was this man. Look at his character. He’s loving. That’s what the religious leaders say, “He loves us and our nation.” Do you know how loving that is? No one loves religious people. This guy actually loves religious people. That’s very loving. And he also loves his servant. Servants didn’t have legal rights. They couldn’t sue. They couldn’t take you to court. They couldn’t testify in court. They were treated like animals and property, and he really loves his servant. And he’s going above and beyond the call of duty, trying to get Jesus to come and save the life of his servant. That’s a very loving man.

Additionally, we see that he is very considerate. He sends the elders to meet with Jesus, not to disrespect him. Additionally, he’s a very humble man. As Jesus is approaching his home, he sends out additional servants and he says, “I am unworthy to have you, Lord Jesus, into my home.” How many of you, if Jesus said, “I’m coming to your house,” immediately your thought would be, “Yes. This is gonna be great. I’m gonna get a photo with him, put him on Facebook. I’m gonna have tons of friends. This is gonna be great.” And this man is so humble, even as Jesus is coming to his house, he says, “You know what? I don’t need to waste Jesus’ time. Jesus is very important. He’s got a lot of things to do, lot of people to see. Yeah, I’m an affluent man. I’m a generous man. I’m a powerful man. I’m a strong man, but I’m not worthy to enjoy friendship with that man, Jesus.” Very humble.

Despite all of his morality and his good citizenry, this man still needs to be converted. He needs to place his faith in Jesus.  And that is the turning point in the centurion’s life where Jesus looks at him, and we are told that Jesus said that he was amazed at this man’s faith, amazed. Because this man understands Jesus is God, that’s the chain of command, you need to trust him, and he does. And he does.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday, June 26th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 119:65-72, Romans 10
Today's scripture focus is Luke 6:46-49

Luke 6:46-49

English Standard Version (ESV)

Build Your House on the Rock

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Ultimate Religious Decision
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Beatitudes Part 2
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Of Danger and Ditches

Jesus ends His sermon with an illustration of two kinds of lives - one that survives judgment, and one that does not. And so you're left with a decision - which of the two lives do you want to live?

An orthodox Jew is about as close to Christianity as you can get, right?  We believe in the same Old Testament, so everything that's in there, we agree with.  But they don't believe in Jesus as the Son of God.  The Jews are close.  But Christianity is not horseshoes - close is not good enough.

Jesus is very clear on this here.  These people were calling Him "Lord, Lord" - or master of all teachers, one who speaks for Jehovah.  But here's the problem. The problem is they called Him Lord but they didn't do what He said.  Jesus is not looking for curiosity driven and fascinated admirers.  He's looking for true followers.


a true disciple has had the work of God in his heart so that he hates sin, the work of God in his heart so that he loves his enemies, and the work of God in his heart so that he follows Christ alone. He doesn't follow blind guides. He doesn't follow earthly teachers. He doesn't follow hypocrites who can't get something out of his eye because they have something bigger in their own eye. He doesn't follow fruitless trees, or trees whose fruit is wicked. Jesus is saying that's what all the other false religionists are, they're blind leaders of the blind, they're earthy and they can't take you any further than they themselves can go so their limitations become your limitations. They can't help you with that which is in your eye, that which is destructive in your eye because they've got something so massive in their own eye. And all they ever produce is bad fruit, wickedness and iniquity. And so everything isolates to Christ.
If you're going to go into the Kingdom of God, if you're going to go into the Kingdom of heaven, if you're going to have salvation, if you're going to go to heaven, then God must be doing that work of repentance, that work of producing an unnatural love and isolating you to following the true teacher who is Jesus Christ. And then He comes to the conclusion of the sermon and He says, "You keep calling Me 'Lord, Lord' but the problem is, you don't do what I say." Patronizing Me is not what I'm after. "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord' and not do what I tell you?" It's good to call Me Lord, if you don't call Him Lord you can't be saved, Romans 8:9 and 10, "If yo confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you'll be saved." That's good. First Corinthians 12:3, "No man can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit works a work in your heart, brings you to the place where you call Jesus as Lord and you confess Him as Lord and you are saved. That's very good. But don't do that, confess Him as Lord with your mouth, and not obey Him. That's not acceptable.....
He says it doesn't mean anything if you don't do what I say. And what I say is, you have to recognize your sin, see that you're poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed, that you are the poor, that you are the hungry, the starving really spiritually, that you are the sad over whose lives there should be endless mourning because of your alienation from God. I'm tell you, you've got to look at yourself and see yourself as a sinner, then you've got to look at Me and see Me as your Lord and cry out to God for mercy. Even before the cross they needed to affirm their sin, cry out for the grace and mercy of God on their sinful lives and not depend on their self-righteousness, which is, of course, what the system did as it does today even now....

It's the pattern of obedience that starts with believing, obeying the gospel. The gospel is a command to believe and be saved and then a continual pattern of obedience. John 8:31, "Whoever continues in My Word is My real disciple," mathetesalethos, real one. If you continue to obey what I say, you're My real disciple. And that's been reiterated all throughout the New Testament. The new child of God is the one who obeys Him, read that in John 15. Read it in 1 John, "If you say you abide in Christ you ought to walk the way He walked." Don't tell Me you're a believer, but you don't obey the Word of God. If you're a believer, the Word of God, the Spirit of God abides in you, you don't continue in a pattern of sin that's unbroken.

And He illustrates this truth with a simple story.  If you build you life with Christ and the gospel as your foundation, then the storms of judgment can never move your home. But if your foundation is built on anything else, even if it's something "close" like Judaism, it's not going to survive the judgement.

The houses may even look identical from the outside.  We can't see into people's hearts to see on what foundation they've built their lives. We can be fooled by appearances, by people who say all the right things. But God can't be fooled.  God sees the heart.  God knows what your foundation is built on.  Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.  No one.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 7:1-10
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 13-14, Psalm 119:73-80, Romans 11

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday, June 25th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 9-10, Psalm 119:57-64, Romans 9
Today's scripture focus is Luke 6:39-45

Luke 6:39-45

English Standard Version (ESV)
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

A Tree and Its Fruit

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Beatitudes Part 2
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Of Danger and Ditches
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Danger of Following the Wrong Spiritual Teacher

I'm not sure why I haven't caught on before that this whole section is dealing with following the right spiritual Teacher/teacher.

Several quick parable type proverbs that all speak to that important truth.

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?
This one is pretty basic.  You follow a spiritually blind man and you're not going to get where you think you're going.

I loved Matt Chandler's point here....

His main problem with the Pharisees and what made them so dangerous is they’re using the same Scriptures and pointing to the same God, but the path they’re laying to get to that God is wrong. Which is why you’re going to see Him engage them so heavily over and over and over again....They didn’t hold the truth, and yet they claimed to hold the truth absolutely.
A blind person leading another blind person is not only not helpful, it's flat out dangerous.

40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

MacArthur puts it this way.....
The options were clear on that day on the hillside in Galilee when Jesus was giving this Sermon on the Mount, as it is called. And what Jesus is saying here is you have leaders in your nation, Pharisees, scribes, priests, the spiritual establishment of Judaism and you have Me and you have to choose between us. They are spiritually deadly and I give life. That is clearly the issue in this sermon because the closing illustration in verse 46, "Why do you call me Lord and do not what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like."
In other words, the point is Jesus is saying you need to hear and obey Me, not them. If you hear and obey Me, you're like a house that stands when the judgment comes. If you listen to them, you're like a house that falls when the judgment comes. You have to make a choice. The wrong choice is deadly. Jesus is drawing a line and He is saying...You must turn from your former leaders and follow Me.
So that points up the question, what spiritual teacher are you following? ....

A pupil can't rise above his teacher. All you can know is what you've been told. You can't get above him. Where your teacher stops, you stop and whatever your teacher's limits are, those are your limits. And whatever your teacher's errors are, those become your errors. Unless you go to another teacher, you can't rise above the teacher you choose. You can't know more than you have been taught. So where your teacher stops, you stop, Jesus said.
That's the frightening thing here, folks. Do you understand? You follow the wrong guy and you can't get pass him. So if he doesn't know the way to God, if he doesn't know the truth of God, if he doesn't know the gospel, the way of salvation, you won't either.

I like Matt Chandler's summation....

So He’s going, “Okay, you can follow the teachings of men or you can follow Me. But you’re only going to go as far as your teacher goes, and I’m God. So you should probably let Me teach. You probably should listen to My teachings as opposed to others.” 

41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Self righteousness is always blind to its own sinfulness.  A self righteous person simply cannot help a sinner.  They can't.

This doesn't mean you have to be perfect in order to help others.  But you can't deny your imperfections and have any credibility whatsoever.

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Matt Chandler....

They just lack godliness, that they have this external shell of religiosity, but they are absolutely absent of compassion, mercy, love, grace, empathy. They lack these things that are intrinsically from God. A love for others that goes beyond self—they lack that.  

You get the wrong teacher and you know what's going to come out of his life? Evil. And you know what's going to come out of your life? Evil. That's an absolute.

Very simply, Jesus is saying - are you going to follow false teachings or are you going to follow me?

Matt Chandler has a great point - we need to be careful and discerning about the books we read and how we allow them to shape our theology.  The Bible - that is the one and only book that can be trusted implicitly, without reservation.  The rest?  He gives a few questions to consider when determining if there can be some dangerous theology being thrown around.

First - how does the book treat scripture?  Like it's cold and dead, or living and active? What do they say in regards to the purity of the Scripture?  Do they pick and choose what is true or do they believe it all?
Second - do they add anything to the cross? Is the gospel the cross alone?  Or is it the cross and ... ?
Third - what do they believe about the essence of man?  Is man intrinsically good or evil?  (The answer is evil, btw!)
Fourth - who do they say Jesus is.  If they say anything other than the wrath-absorbing Son of God, in the flesh, resurrected from the dead - then they're wrong.

There can be nuggets of truth in books that contain any of the above errors, but you've got to be really careful and discerning or your going to be the blind person being led by the blind person into the ditch.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 6:46-49
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 119:65-72, Romans 10

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday - June 24 - Luke 6:31-38 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 7-8, Psalm 119:49-56, Romans 8
Today's scripture focus is Luke 6:31-38

31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I remember listening to sermons as a child concerning these verses.  The message usually taught was how to love others the way God does.  And honestly, I can't seem to search out anything different that that.
In these words, Jesus is teaching us exactly how He loves us, and exactly how He expects us to treat others.  With loving, merciful, kindness.  We are never to forget how much we have been forgiven, how much God has truly blessed us.

The one warning I give is this - verse 38 - many  many people read this verse and expect riches to fall down from the sky if they are generous.  But that is not necessarily true.  God doesn't think in monetary value the way we do.  What often is given to us is intangible, and yet so worth it.  Often what is given to us when we truly give out of a loving spirit, is more than happiness, and difficult to explain.
Challenge for the day: Live this way, truly.  I know for me, my grace and patience can run out early, especially on days like today when it is shopping day, it's rainy, and my kids are already in rare form.  But I strive to love them with God's love, because my own could never be enough.
And that's another important lesson to take away: We can't truly love people without God's help.  We may be able to on our own for a little bit, but it takes God's mercy and grace flowing through us to truly love someone no matter what.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 6:39-45
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 9-10, Psalm 119:57-64, Romans 9

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday, June 21 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: 1 Chronicles 1-2; Psalm 119:41-48; Romans 7
Today's scripture focus passage: Luke 6:29-30 - Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back

Accompanying MacArthur sermon:  The Actions of Kingdom Love

Focusing specifically on the "turn the other cheek" portion of this passage, one thing that really stood out for me is MacArthur's description of HOW this is godly love lived out.  He says, "This is not about having somebody mug you at night somewhere when you're in a vulnerable position and you are lying down and say, 'Oh, kick me again, kick me again, this is virtue, this is virtue.'  It's not about that."  What it IS about, is accepting that we will be ridiculed, despised, and humiliated for following Christ, because the world hates, ridicules, despises, and humiliated Jesus, and CONTINUING TO ACTIVELY LOVE THE PERPETRATORS ANYWAY.

MacArthur tells about the processes involved in being "un-synagogued" by the Jews and how it not only often involved 39 lashes with leather thongs (which thoroughly tore up the skin because they usually contained bits of embedded stone), but also included the symbolic humiliation of a physical slap across the face in full view of the congregation.  This, he says, is what Jesus is referring to here.  When we use the expression, "it's like a slap in the face," it's roughly the same idea ~ the humiliation, the degradation, we experience when someone treats us with disrespect.  (or, at least, less respect than we think we deserve)

It's the determination to love despite being mistreated (whether as a direct result of our faith or for any other reason, I believe) that will set us apart as having a very different kind of love than the world has.  It's easy enough to love those who love us, to do nice things for the people we know will do nice things for us, but to show kindness and respect to those who have mistreated us and hurt us, is unique.  It defies conventional, worldly wisdom.  It certainly goes against our human nature!  But that's exactly why it will make us stand out, will make us recognizable as followers of Christ.

It is the vulnerability of loving repeatedly, despite the consequences, despite the pain, because the love doesn't come from us.  It comes from a gracious, reconciling God who cares about the souls of mankind and doesn't wish "that any should perish."

This sermon hit me hard because there are a couple of people in my life who I am simply not willing to love this way.  They have done things and said things directly to me as well as behind my back that have made me feel I'm perfectly within my rights to have nothing to do with them ever again.  And to not necessarily speak well of them if the subject comes up in conversation with others either.

But this verse says that's not true.

At least, not if I claim to be a Christian and that my mission, my desire, is to win others to Christ by loving like He loved.



Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: 1 Chronicles 3-4
Monday's scripture focus passage: Luke 6:31-38

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Kings 25; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 6.
Today's scripture focus is  Luke 6:27-28.

27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who [a]mistreat you.

Oh, boy.  These verses here are probably one of the biggest indicators of whether we have truly given our lives to Christ.  These things are the very opposite of our instincts most times, aren't they?  If you've worked in a position of service, then you know how difficult it can be to do good to some people, and it doesn't even have to have anything to do with you personally.  A customer comes in upset about something that has nothing to do with you, but they treat you as though it's your fault, and what is your first reaction?  Defensiveness.  Which usually makes you want to tell them where to go rather than assist them with the problem.  Mark Driscoll says the following in his sermon The Beatitudes, Part 1:

But love your enemies, and do good, ...

What he’s saying is take everything that you hold dear, and let it go. Jesus did. Did he have wealth? No. Did he have comfort? No. Was he in an official position of power? No. Did he have fame? He had fame, and then he had all of that fame turned toward venom. The same crowds who shouted, “Hosanna, Hosanna” shouted, “crucify him, crucify him,” so fame could be fleeting as well. And so Jesus is saying that the kingdom ethic is love, to love your enemies.

Who are your enemies? Don’t let this live in an ethereal, ideological, philosophical world. Right now in your mind, see the face of your enemy, the person who has done you the most harm, the most damage, the most evil, the most injustice, has caused the most grief, the most stress, the most anguish, the most strife, and Jesus says love.

Secondly, do good to those who hate you. He says, “It’s easy to do good to those who do good to you, do those who hate you.” Who hates you? Who really dislikes you? Who really despises you? Perhaps even who has disowned you, who has disregarded you? What he says is do good to them. Be kind to them, acts of grace, and mercy, and kindness. Don’t return evil for evil, the Scripture says elsewhere.

Number three: he says to bless those who curse you. How difficult is it when someone curses you, they speak evil against you, they attack you with their words, they malign your character, they gossip about you, rumor mongering, half truths and lies. The tendency is to throw more logs on the fire, Proverbs would say, and stoke it into a great inferno. That’s where James says that the tongue sets ablaze a mighty fire, and what he says is put water on that fire, not another log. No more reviling or gossip or anger or bitterness. Don’t return negative comment for negative comment, or negative blog for negative blog, or criticism for criticism; bless, bless, bless. And I want you to see this, friends, the most painful parts of life are the most glorious opportunities to live out the kingdom ethics. And so for the Christian what can often happen is when we find ourselves in these circumstances, we can ask God, “Why am I being persecuted, why am I poor? Why am I hungry, why am I hurting, why am I suffering, why am I opposed, why am I struggling?” And the Father would say, “Blessed are you. That’s a blessing. I’m giving you an opportunity to experience a bit of what Jesus did. I’m giving you an opportunity to become a little more like Jesus is, and I’m giving you an opportunity to show others a little bit of who Jesus is.” It’s an opportunity.

Every situation really comes down to your view of God. If you believe God is a God of woe, and he’s always judging you, and he’s always angry at you, and he’s always cursing you, and he’s always consequenting you, then when tragedy, strife, grief, poverty, and pain come, you’re angry at God, you’re frustrated, you run from God, you’re depressed, you’re despairing. And if you believe Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you,” you rejoice in all circumstances, and you look for the opportunity to practice the kingdom ethic, and to become a better kingdom citizen.

He goes on to say, “Pray for those who mistreat you.” You should have a list: who has mistreated you, who is mistreating you, in the future, who will mistreat you, keep a list. Does that mean you don’t call the cops if they broke the law, or you don’t call the church if there needs to be discipline, you don’t confront them if they’re in sin? Not at all, but you pray for them, two reasons: your heart and their heart. Your heart, that when you approach them, you do so righteously, not vindictively, not seeking your own vengeance, and you pray for their heart, that they would come to repentance and their senses, that they would come to Jesus, their king, that they would bow their knee, that they would join his kingdom, and that they too would become brothers and sisters in the kingdom.
Whew!  Tough stuff.  Two little verses, four little phrases, and they are absolutely some of the most difficult things to follow through on.

These verses have been running through my head this week, so I'm just going to share them here at the end, because they do accompany today's verses nicely, I think:

Romans 5:3-5:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (emphasis mine)
Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Luke 6:29-30.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Chronicles 1-2; Psalm 119:41-48; Romans 7.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday, June 19th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Kings 23-24, Psalm 119:25-32, Romans 5
Today's scripture focus is Luke 6:20-26

Luke 6:20-26

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Beatitudes

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Jesus Pronounces Woes

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: The Character of a True Christian Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Beatitudes Part 1
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Blessings and Woes

I really enjoyed Matt Chandler's sermon on this passage would encourage you to listen to or read it.

Now, obviously Jesus isn't meaning literally poor and hungry in this passage.  Our salvation does not depend on our wealth, where the poor go to heaven and the rich go to hell.  The parallel passage in Matthew (which is either a similar sermon given by Jesus at a different location, or a different take on the exact same sermon) is clear on this.

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

I was going to try to put this in my own words, but I just really like how he unpacks this so I'm just going to quote parts of his sermon (emphasis mine).  Chandler:

we’re talking about the state of the heart. So blessed is the man, happy is the man, transformed is the man, deep is the man who understands that he’s spiritually bankrupt, that he has nothing that he can give to God as a barter for God’s favor, for justification or for right standing. Blessed is the man who understands that no matter how many religious activities he’s in, no matter how well he pulls off the moral code, no matter how clean his life is, God still owes him nothing. And although I think a lot of us know that in our minds, I’ve been around enough to know that most of us still don’t really grasp that in our hearts. Most of us still feel that God owes us favor because we’ve been good. But he’s saying here, “Oh no, blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who understand that there’s nothing in them that they can give to God that’ll somehow make God go, “Oh, I’ll take that and give you this.” Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the ones that go, ‘I just can’t figure this thing out.’ Blessed are those.” Now, this starts to make sense, right? Because remember what Jesus said He quoted out of Isaiah, that He came to do? “I came to preach good news to the who? Poor.” But He’s definitely ministering to more than just poor people. So He came to proclaim good news to those who were poor in spirit and felt like they couldn’t do it, and that they couldn’t get close enough to God and that they were broken and they were wicked. Now, this starts to make even more sense when you look at who gets enraged by the gospel message. For the last two weeks, we’ve covered how the Pharisees have responded to Jesus coming and preaching grace, preaching mercy, preaching love, preaching reconciliation. What have been their two responses? Remember we did the scale? One was wrath and then last week, big time, fury. Wrath, fury. So the religious elite, those who believed that they were clean and they did have right standing because they were good and they did wash their hands and they did say grace and they didn’t do this and they went here and they did that, so God has to love them— those found Jesus’ message unbelievably offensive. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,”—now watch this—“for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I wish I could go on for like an hour and forty five minute tirade right now on the kingdom of God. “The present power of the King of the universe on hand for the poor in spirit, but woe to you who think, by your discipline, and by your humanistic good deeds, can find justification. Woe to you. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, theirs is the power of God to transform.” It’s pretty good news. I think it’s why they call it that....

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” It doesn’t stop. Let’s view this as progression. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the ones who can’t figure it out—they have issues that haunt them, but they know they can’t fix themselves. They’ve been trying; they can’t get there. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Now He moves to blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are hungry for forgiveness, who are hungry for intimacy with God, who are hungry for reconciliation, who are hungry for wholeness. Blessed are those who are hungry for those things, because if you’re hungry, you’re going to pursue Him.....

Everybody loves the conversion story. It’s a very sexy story. But nobody likes to talk about the next six years...ten years...twelve years...two decades. Nobody tells that story. “..and then he was converted. The end.” Nope. The beginning. After Christ saved me and I started going to church, it seemed everybody who touched the stage stood like this and had a cape on flapping in the wind. They’re like, “Yeah, I memorized the New Testament this year, and then I healed a guy with no legs. He grew legs and walked. My whole neighborhood believes in Christ now, and they come to my house for a Bible study.” And then you would hear really bad teaching, stuff like this: “If the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, you won’t even want those things.” Which is why those of us who grew up in denominations have been saved fourteen times and baptized thirteen times. So we’re just like in there again, “Please God, let it take. For some reason it’s not taking.” It’s like everybody I knew came out of the water knowing the whole New Testament. They like came out like, “Romans 8:28 says...” And I came out of the water, and I didn’t even know what happened. Nobody explained baptism to me; I was just supposed to do this. I came out of the water and went, “That’s weird,” and dried myself off. And here’s what happened: I still had monumental issues, but I was in this place where no one else did. Well, I’ve come to find out all these years later that’s a lie. Progressive sanctification is horrifically slow. What ends up happening in an information age is we learn truths quicker than we can apply them, and so we never want to come clean about what’s actually going on in our hearts because we would rather be a hypocrite than be seen as one. And so I want to be like, “Hey, if you’re all busted up, welcome to the family. Oh, you’re dysfunctional? Us too! Come on in. One of the crowd.”

But here’s the thing I need you to hear me say out of this text. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to stay there. Like if the Holy Spirit has revealed to you that you’ve got issue, you can’t sit on that; you have to move....

Blessed are the ones that hunger and thirst for righteousness. Why? Because they’ll be filled. Now hear me—because some of you are on the path, and it’s painfully slow. And so it’s easy to give up when like a year later, you’re still, “When’s it going to go away?” Just put your faith in His transforming power. I promise you, you’re farther along than you think you are. You don’t ever really get to see spiritual growth; you just kind of wake up there......

it’s not enough to know; you’ve got to be hungry enough to walk towards it. I’m not talking works-based. Please don’t hear me talk about that. He’s saying, “Blessed is the one who’s hungry enough to pursue God, because he’s going to find Him.” The problem is most of us like to stay in the poor-in-spirit mode. They don’t want to take that step, which is why some of you are on your way out. Like some of you are here for all those different reasons I gave at the beginning, but some of you are on your way out. You’re absolutely on your way out because you are not going to be willing to commit, you are not going to be willing to submit to the Lord. And so once that happens, once you’ve said, “I’m not doing that,” then you’re just on your way out....

Blessed are the hungry for they’ll be filled, but woe to the full. I think we’ve got to work hard at letting some silence into our day. Technology has really enabled us to not ever quiet things down enough to hear our hearts. And some of us don’t know that we’re hungry because we fill ourselves and our day— we hate silence, because silence starts going, “Hey, there’s a little unsettling here. There’s something not right down here.” But man, we can make that thing go away with Facebook. I tell you that, we can make that thing go away with a Myspace page, a 24 DVD box set. I think if we’re going to be serious about this thing, we’ve got to slow down enough to go, “Okay, what’s really going on in me? What’s really going on down here?” and then not be afraid of that. Let me assure you of something, this will be a little bit of a secret: it’ll be dark, whatever’s going on down there. But it’s okay to not be okay. Come on in. Woe to you who are full. Woe to you who think you have no need. Woe to you who think you have it all figured out. Woe to you who think you don’t need a greater power than you.....

Now, blessed are those who mourn. Mourn what? Mourn the fact that they’re bankrupt and hungry. This is repentance. That’s what this is. Blessed are those who mourn over their sin, whose hearts are overwhelmed at the darkness inside of them, who are overwhelmed with grief for how they’ve offended God. Now, the Scriptures make a distinction between worldly sorrow and godly repentance. Worldly sorrow is, “I’ve made a mess of my life. I wish I wouldn’t have.” But that doesn’t transform hearts and souls; that’s just regret.  

Repentance, godly repentance—“I’ve offended God on high. I’ll now submit my life to Him”—leads to repentance, transformation. The best way I know how to unpack this for you is the book of Ecclesiastes, which is in the wisdom literature—it says, now listen to this, because there’s a reason they call it the wisdom literature. Here’s what it says: “Only a fool laughs when he’s on fire.” People try to say the Bible’s not true. “Only a fool laughs when he’s on fire.” I think this is a great little cross- reference to this text. What it’s talking about is people whose lives are unraveling, but they continue to paint up a pretty face and smile and giggle as if it’s not. Their whole world’s on fire, and they smile and pretend it’s not. Woe to you. Blessed is the man who can scream out, “I’m on fire. Help me.”..

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” That’s going to be an important little line there, because some of you are just pompous jerks and people hate you because you’re a pompous jerk, not because of the Son of Man—because you’re an arrogant, graceless soul, and that’s why people hate you. Now I know you like to use this verse as a “They hate me because I love the Lord.” No, they hate you because you’re a jerk. Verse 23. “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Now look down in verse 26. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” ...

So He just said here, “Blessed are you when you’ve been so transformed that people see Jesus on you. Leap for joy. If they’re reviling you and excluding you and hating you because you love the Lord; if they’re going, “Oh not Johnson, he’s going to bring his Bible,”—if that’s you, then congratulations, Christ has begun to transform your heart in such a way that it’s now visible to others— leap for joy. But woe to you if everyone loves you, because chances are you’re lying to everyone, even you.” ...

Blessed, deep, full of life are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are those who mourn, for one day they’ll laugh, being set free from what haunts them. Blessed are those who know Jesus in such a way that it’s changed them, so that they’re excluded and reviled and at times hated, not because of their arrogance, but simply because of Jesus. But woe to you who are self-sufficient. Woe to you who are proud of your religious lineage. Woe to you who have figured it all out. Woe to you who have got it all right, for you’ve got the fullness of what you’ll have. And woe to you who are full, full and yet starving.
What an empty place to be. And woe to you who laugh while your soul decays. And woe to you who are loved by all, because you haven’t been transformed much. The good news in all of this is Christ and the grace of Christ covers where we failed here. Because if we’re honest, some of us would have to say, “Hey listen, I’m not hungry, but I want to be.” Okay then, that’s where we begin.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 6:27-28
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Kings 25, Psalm 119:33-40, Romans 6