Friday, July 03, 2020

"Knowing Nothing is Harder Than it Looks"

1st Corinthians 2.1-2 NASU

“When I cam to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Paul was a smart man, an actual scholar. Trained by the famous Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22.3), The Apostle was highly educated according to the strictest sect of his religion (Acts 26.5). He was “a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee… as for legalistic righteousness, faultless,” (Philippians 3.5-6). If anyone had reason to boast in his knowledge, Paul did. He could have ‘wow’-ed any audience with his grasp of deep theological concepts. Yet, this amazing man of faith was “determined to know nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Why?

Most of us spend our lives acquiring knowledge. Culture attaches a premium to good schooling and rewards the well-educated. A young professional in any industry can easily rack up over twenty consecutive years in the classroom (from Kindergarten through post-graduate studies). That's a lot of preparation; and for what reason? Blind Bluegrass guitarist, Doc Watson, once recorded a tune about it [1]…
“You can go to your college,
  You can go to your school;
  But if you ain’t got Jesus
  You’re an educated fool.”
There’s only one thing harder than acquiring knowledge and that’s learning to put it aside  once we have it when it is not needed. It takes serious determination and true humility and a revelation from God, to clear our minds and make room for truth.

“For I determined to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

________________

The image "Clear Minded" was used by permission of by Jakes Jacobs from the Republic of South Africa (http://www.flickr.com/photos/koosroos). 

[1] This verse may have originated from the old blues tune "Denomination Blues" which was probably authored and first recorded in 1929 by Washington Philips. Doc Watson likely heard this song growing up in the 1930's. It has been recorded by other notable guitar masters like Ry Cooder and Mark Knofler.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

"God's Foolish Plan"

1st Corinthians 1.18; 26-27 NIV

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

I am the opposite of God. I value strength and wisdom, power and intelligence, beauty, brains and brawn. He, on the other hand, elevates the simple, foolish, weak things of this world to demonstrate His character and convey His message. 

If I were God, I would do my divine thing differently. I would select smart, good-looking, super-fit, and successful people to prove my point. To achieve my objective to inspire the masses and win a following, I would utilize individuals who already command universal respect… movie stars, political leaders, war heroes, famous artists, beautiful models, rock icons, the filthy rich, and big name authors.

By contrast, God chose me and people like me. He chose complete unknowns to promote the most important message in the universe. This strategy seems questionable to me.

“God deliberately chose men and women that the culture
over-looks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to
expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’”.
1st Corinthians 1.27 “The Message”

God chose shame as the pathway to salvation. I would rather use inspiration. Shame seems so, well, shameful. For me the way up is the way up. For God, the way up is the way down. Humility, weakness, human frailty have no place in my plan. But God used weak and foolish people to shame the proud, powerful, popular, and pretty. I would have paid the proud, powerful, popular, and pretty to reach everyone else. Apparently, God and I are very different.

At the beginning of time the members of the Trinity consulted together and formulated a plan to reach the world with the message of God’s love. Jesus agreed to die on a cross. They knew it would seem foolish to everyone else. They did not consult me. I would have voted against this foolish plan. It is a very good thing that I am not God.

_________________

The beautiful shot of big hands cradling a tiny foot is called "daffodil" by Pawel Loj (http://www.flickr.com/photos/48745248@N00/).

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

"Satan Crusher"

Romans 16.20 NIV

“And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”


I have an enemy. He hates me and has a plan for the destruction of my life. His name is Satan. He is older, smarter, and stronger than me. Like me, he knows and believes in God (James 2.19). Unlike me, God does not dwell with him.

What an amazing thought... God lives inside of me!

With God in me I am able to overcome the enemy of my soul. I am assured of this by the promise of Scripture:


“…greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”
1st John 4.4 NIV

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
2nd Kings 6.16 NASB

Jesus and His angels are greater than all the demonic forces of hell. You can endure anything Satan throws your way because…

“…the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

________________

The photo above is called "Chris Stomping" by Brunswick, Georgia photographer Amanda Moncus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/amandamoncus/). Chris is Amanda's husband and they gave me permission to use their photo in this post.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"Keeping Hope Alive"

Romans 15.4 NASB

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Our existence depends on hope... hope for a future filled with fun, love, adventure, peace and security. We possess an incredible capacity for patience in difficult situations as long as hope is alive. But when the flame dims and hope is extinguished, it’s all over. We engage in a process of slow death grasping at habit-forming activities and their false promise of a life with meaning. We want truth that “will set you free” (John 8.32). Instead, we settle for a 'B.T.N.' (better than nothing), lesser truth. It’s counterfeit truth, but it’s all (we think) we have or deserve. Our bad situations turn worse and misguided actions escalate in our desperate search for hope in all the wrong places

Many nine-to-fivers live for the weekend in hope of filling the space of forty-eight hours with enough television, recreation, sex, food, sleep, and alcohol to sustain them for another five days of drudgery at meaningless jobs. The overachiever falls into exactly the same trap. As a 'successful professional,' he gropes for significance and he trades his family and faith for a career promising status, peer approval, and the finer things only high salaries can provide. But hope is not a commodity. It cannot be bought even with hyper-dedication toward a temporal goal.

Hope begins at a particular point… the point of truth. It’s more than theological truth. It’s the truth about you… your calling, your important responsibilities, your God-given design, purpose, and dreams, your right standing before God. You must be clear, very clear on the truth about you. Get to know and appreciate this truth. Don’t sell out for a lesser truth or another person’s truth. Find your own truth. Keep searching until you peel away every layer of false hope and find the real, naked, and unencumbered you. Jesus will meet you there. He’ll take you by the hand and show you the worlds you must conquer. He’ll reveal your original destiny. He’ll impart a single-minded focus-ability empowering you to drive with all your might “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.14). This is your truth and it’s the only place to find lasting hope. This is the hope worth living for because it’s based on a truth worth dying for. Once you get this hope, never lose it. Keep hope alive...

“...through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures”.
_______________

The image of the child looking through the curtains is called "3\365 a new hOpe" and used here by permission of an artist from Kuwait by the name "Anwaar." Find more of her creative photography at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sadfeeling/.

The portrait "Hope" is by photographer Ferran Jordà of Queralbs, Catalonia, Spain, whose work can be found at http://www.bw-color.com/fotos-245-hope.htm. Ferran gave me permission to post this beautifully expressive photo here.

Monday, June 29, 2020

"My Account of Me"

Romans 14.10b; 12-13a NIV

“For we will all stand before God's judgment seat…. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.”

Twelve years ago I stood before a judge at Beaverton Municipal court. On May 26th, 2006, I failed to notice the reduced school speed limit and was photographed driving 32 MPH in a 20 MPH zone. The judge asked me to “give an account.” This was my account: “I thought I was going the speed limit of around 35 MPH. I was right about my speed but wrong about the limit. I was driving 32 MPH in a 20 MPH zone… just like the ticket says. I’m sorry and will try not to let it happen again.” The infraction cost me time and money. I was lucky, though. The judge was gracious and reduced my ticketed fine of $242.00 to $192.00.

Someday, I will “stand before God’s judgment seat.” There I will be required to “give an account” of myself to Heaven’s Judge. This is a sobering thought. I was not overly worried about my first speeding ticket in many years. But what will I say on the day I face my Creator? I deserve the eternal death penalty for the sins I have committed. I am indescribably grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which covers the price of my offenses. His blood pays the debt for my sin. But I cannot avoid a personal appearance at the “judgment seat.” I will stand before God and “give an account” of me. What will I say? How will it go? The text offers a small clue that may help things go a little better for me on the Last Day…

“Let us stop passing judgment on one another.”

I cannot live a sin-free existence. There will be an accounting to make. But I can work on being less judgmental of others. I can learn to more quickly walk away from another person’s crime scene when Jesus quietly reminds me, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…" (John 8.7). Extending mercy to others now will make things go better for me then.

“For judgment will be merciless for one who has
shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
James 2.13 NASU

Friday, June 26, 2020

"My Parent Paul"

Romans 13.14 NASU

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

“Put on your coat,” I used to holler at my kids when they ran outside to play on a cold day. Why did I care? They obviously didn’t know any better. They were so intent on playing with their little friends that they easily forgot the essentials… shoes, coats, going potty, etc. I cared about their welfare more than they did. That’s a parent’s job.

Today, Paul is my parent and reminds me to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I become so intent...
obsessed, hell-bent, preoccupied, fixated

...on playing with my little friends...
work, money, busy schedules, screen time, unending list of distractions, etc.

...that I can easily forget the essentials.
relationship with Jesus, prayer, Bible, seeking God, loving others, etc.

Sometime in my very near future, I will go outside and face cruel and wild forces of adversity, cold winds of failure, sub-zero temptations of the flesh, and the freezing power of fear. I should anticipate the conditions and listen to my parent Paul...

“Put on Jesus”!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Choose Your Pathy"

Romans 12.15 NASU

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

What ‘pathy’ am I on?
  • A-pathy ~ I could not care less. I feel nothing toward you.

  • Sym-pathy ~ I understand you are experiencing pain or joy. I express my understanding and acknowledge your feelings, but remain emotionally distant.

  • Em-pathy ~ I allow myself to genuinely feel and express your emotions.
Am I empathetic, sympathetic, apathetic, or plain pathetic? I certainly can’t fake it. There are times when I actually don’t care and wish to ignore the subtle request for a shoulder to cry on. I may not want to laugh at a silly joke. I often deem myself incapable or unqualified to enter the ‘feeling realm’ with another human. I cannot respond to every cry for help, so I erect an emotional wall shielding me from all but the most urgent or, in my opinion, the most legitimate of needs. 

This selection process allows me plausible deniability, so I can later claim, “I didn’t know.” But the real question is:  Should I have known? Or, would I have known if I had wanted to?

Upon reflection, perhaps there is a more self-serving, even sinister motive... “Which needs, after I have met them, will have an eventual outcome that serves or benefits me in some way?”

Real caring is a choice. If I am to shed tears when others cry or truly enjoy their happiness, then I must explore the idea of empathy; that is, learn to develop a well-functioning emotional radar capable of reading signals others are trying to emit. Without a finely-tuned, personal sensitivity meter, I may miss a chance meeting when I am most needed and waste my energy on low priority, safe, sterile, and comfortable caring gestures. 

What a waste! I may never share another’s sorrow when he learns his wife has terminal cancer. I could miss the opportunity to celebrate when a friend is promoted to the position he always wanted. I might miss a connection with a person whose contact would enrich us both. Is it possible that I have not “shown hospitality to angels”  when I had the opportunity (Hebrews 13.2)?

Without empathy, I am a lesser man.


Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
________________

The wonderful images entitled "Empathy" and "Empathy x3" are used here by permission of Swedish photographer Per Jorisch (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jorisch/).

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

"Unalienable Gifts"

Romans 11.32 NIV

“For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” [1]

What does the Declaration of Independence and the Bible have in common? Both refer to the equality of “all men.” [2] The focus of our founding fathers was the entitlement of opportunity afforded all people because of their essential equality in the eyes of the Creator. Paul’s focus in the book of Romans appears to be the mercy freely granted “all men [people] because of the loving nature of their Creator. No argument regarding the beneficiary. Both documents name “all men[people] as the recipients of the Creator’s good things. 

But questions emerge. Are we endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights? Or, are we bestowed upon by our Creator with undeserved mercy? The book of Romans says “all men [people] are disobedient and deserve the sentence of death…

“All have sinned... the wages of sin is death”
Romans 3.23; 6.23

Merging the theological and historical documents produces a new concept: 

“We hold this truth to be Divinely-revealed and self-evident,
that all people are created equal, insofar as they are self-centered
sinners and destined for destruction, and yet all are bestowed upon
by their Creator with certain unalienable Gifts, that among these
are undeserved Mercy and Eternal Life in the pursuit of Jesus.”
~ The Declaration of God ~
_________________

[1] From the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence. “The term inalienable rights (or unalienable rights) refers to a theoretical set of individual human rights that by their nature cannot be taken away, violated, or transferred from one person to another. They are applicable only to humans, as the basic necessity of their survival” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inalienable_rights).

[2] I use the term “all men” as interchangeable with “all people.” This was the intent of Paul in the book of Romans and, if it wasn't the intent of the authors of the Declaration of Independence it should have been.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

"Surprise!"

Romans 10.19 “The Message”

“Moses had it right when he predicted, ‘When you see God reach out to those you consider your inferiors – outsiders! – you’ll become insanely jealous. When you see God reach out to people you think are religiously stupid, you’ll throw temper tantrums.’”

Moses. Isaiah. Paul. They all preached the Universal Love of God (Romans 10.12, 19, 20). No one is beneath God’s dignity. No one is beyond His reach. No one is lost for good… unless they want to be. But why would they want to be? Why would anyone want to remain untouched by the All-Encompassing Love of God? 

People want God’s love and doubters need to be informed, just as the Bible says...


“For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? 
And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? 
And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

 Romans 10.13-14 NLT

Maybe people just need an opportunity to trust Jesus. Could they be waiting for me to bring the message? Are am I resistant to share the truth with those who think and behave differently than me? Am I prone to pass judgment on outsiders? Have I developed a holier-than-thou attitude? Do I believe, “They’re pagans in fast pursuit of hedonistic pleasures. They obviously want nothing to do with Jesus. Their behavior is deplorable. Disgusting.”

It’s not easy to extend the Love of God to all people at all times. I once channel surfed to a public access TV show featuring a gay pride parade in Seattle’s Fremont district. Supporters cheered a troupe of naked bicyclists who had painted their exposed bodies with flamboyant and colorful designs. What would you think if you were taking your family for a neighborhood stroll and saw that? 

Perhaps we forgot…
  • Jesus died because He loved the naked gay guy on a bicycle as much as you and me.
  • Every behavior is either an act of love or a cry for love.
  • God has plenty of love to spare.
God, deliver me from the attitude of religious superiority that grants me permission to conclude You love me and people like me more than those I consider to be unworthy “outsiders.” Broaden my mental boundaries. Increase my capacity to love. Surprise me by an act of Your Universal Love.
__________________

Photos above are of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride March in New York City on June 26, 2005 by photographer Don Wiss (http://donwiss.com/pictures/) and used here with his permission.

Monday, June 22, 2020

"For the Sake of My Brothers"

Romans 9:1-4a NIV

“I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.

How much do I love my brothers?

Enough to serve them selflessly? Yes, occasionally.

Enough to die for them? If given the chance to be a hero, I suppose I might possibly act impulsively and give my life for that opportunity, as long as my death was quick and relatively painless.

Enough to give up my salvation and suffer eternal separation from God? Absolutely not. Emphatically no!

Was Paul crazy? He claimed he would sacrifice his eternal future with Christ “for the sake of his brothers.” The Living Bible paraphrases the apostle: “I would be willing to be forever damned if that would save you” (Romans 9.3). Even if Paul was under emotional stress (“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart”) or tended to exaggerate, nevertheless it appears he believed what he said to be true:

“I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying,
my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit”
Romans 9:1 NIV

Paul’s statement is audacious, fantastic, almost unbelievable. Was this a ‘messianic ego’ running wild? Did he honestly think the sacrifice of his eternal destiny could secure the salvation of his brothers? Or, was it love? Did Paul literally love his people enough to trade his salvation for theirs, if he could? A similar offer was made by Moses over a thousand years earlier and recorded in the book of Exodus:

“But now, please forgive their sin – but if not,
then blot me out of the book You have written.”
Exodus 32.32 NIV

Is this what it takes to be a leader? If so, count me... out! I would never qualify! But I follow One who does. One who made Himself “cursed and cut off from” God for me and my brothers:

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted,
‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ”
Mark 15:34 KJV

For my sake and “for the sake of my brothers” Jesus was willing to forsake it all.
________________

The inspiring image of Jesus on the cross by IZZYGALVEZ (2007) is featured on Photobucket (http://media.photobucket.com/image/jesus%20on%20cross/izzygalvez/IZZYGALVEZ-JesusCross-John3-16-Sepi.jpg).

Friday, June 19, 2020

"Inseparable"

Romans 8.37-39 “The Message”

“None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love ...because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”


Some unions are held together with such force that, in spite of their dissimilar essence, they remain bonded for life. I’m told good wood glue forms a bond stronger than the original materials. I am in awe of great marriages between two unique individuals who said (and meant) “till death do us part.” They each promised “I do” and they did!

Certain friends seem inseparable: Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Jack and Jill, Penn and Teller, Hall and Oates, peanut butter and jelly, Beavis and Butthead, Captain and Tannille, Starsky and Hutch, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Batman and Robin, Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans.

‘Dynamic duos’ form partnerships that inspire hope in those of us who still believe that ‘two can be better than one’ and, in some cases, ‘two can become one’ (Genesis 2.24). It’s a unity of essence that cannot be separated. My youngest girl and her mother were like that. When she was four years old, Rachel was her mommy’s shadow. She insisted on a constant verbal and physical connection. She would be seen, heard, and known. Rachel wiggled between us every time I tried to hug my wife. She had to have her mother. They were inseparable until the day our precious wife and mother died of Leukemia nearly five years ago. I dearly loved this woman, and still do. Rachel was only thirteen when her mother went to heaven. 

Ruth and Naomi were inseparable…

“Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and
live wherever you live. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the
LORD punish me severely death if I allow anything but death to separate us!”
Ruth 1.16a, 17 NLT

“Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love.” Thank to Him, Jesus and me are forever inseparable. 
___________________

"Inseparable" is the title of Dan Bowles' photo of two candles and used by permission above. Dan's photostream can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/danpb/.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

"A New Reality"

Romans 7.6 NASU

“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

“We serve.” Members of the church of Jesus Christ serve. 
Why? Because we have to? No. Rather, because we get to.

I don’t have to read my Bible… I get to.
I don’t have to go to church… I get to.
I don’t have to talk about Jesus… I get to.
I don’t have to serve others… I get to.

To serve from “the oldness of the letter” means…
  • Servitude
  • Slavery
  • Unfair submission
  • Class distinction
  • Oppression
  • Prison
Serving in “newness of the Spirit” is different…
  • Servanthood
  • The last shall be first
  • Opportunity
  • Fun and joy
  • Personal growth
  • Freedom
Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23.11 NIV). I have been released from the ‘have to’s’ of my old way of thinking and being. In Christ I have a new reality. By some unexplainable miracle of God’s grace, I’ve been transported to a new realm of ‘want to’s.’ I want to serve. Not always and not perfectly, but with enough enthusiasm and consistency to prove to myself that I am changing.

I don’t have to serve. I get serve in this amazing new reality.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"Die a Little"

Romans 6.6-7 NASU

“…our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

The bad news is I have to die before I can be free from sin. The good news is I don’t have to wait! I can die anytime I want to.

Paul said, “I die daily” (1st Corinthians 15.31). However, the choice to die is not an easy one. It hurts! There’s pain! I would rather not die. I wish there was an easier way. Yet the One I follow made the same choice long ago...

“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2.8 NAS

Jesus had no death wish. He did not want to die; He chose to...

“Abba, Father, all things are possible onto
thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless
not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
Mark 14.36 KJV

Many others “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11.35-38) chose death because they preferred to “endure ill-treatment with the people of God [rather] than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews
11.25).

I am not alone. I can face both my daily and ultimate death because I am not alone.

  • Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, there is someone else in that fiery furnace with me (Daniel 3.25).
  • Like Paul, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2.20).
  • Like every other believer, I “should not be surprised at the fiery ordeal” I must face (1st Peter 4.12).
Lord, the next time I want to sin…
  • Reach for another cookie
  • Ignore a veiled cry for help
  • Allow a twinge of personal entitlement
  • Look (too long) at a beautiful woman
  • Take pride in myself
  • Act impatiently toward a child
  • Nurture a poor attitude
  • Blame someone else for my mistake
  • Indulge a little self-pity
  • Waste another hour with screen time
  • Speak despairingly of fellow human
  • Behave rudely toward a friend
  • Remain pessimistic about anything
  • Cave to the pressures of a hurried life
  • etc., etc., etc.
… give me the grace to suffer and die a little instead.
________________

The death certificate image is called "It's Official" and used by permission of photographer Bryan Bope (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanbope/).

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"One"

Romans 5:19 NIV

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

One vote. One percent. One decision. One person. Any one can make all the difference. Nowhere is the power of one demonstrated with greater force than in this one chapter of the Bible. One dozen times in the span of only eight verses (vv. 12-19), author Paul describes the enormous impact of a tiny word. 

One individual introduced sin to the world. “Through the disobedience of one man” all people in every generation inherited the effects of sin. Then one man changed all that…

“…one person did it wrong and got us all in trouble,…
another person did it right and got us out of it.”
Romans 5.18 “The Message”

The power of one. There was one Adam who got us into this mess and only one Jesus who offered us a way out. There’s only one me and only one you and only one good choice to make.
___________________

The photo "one is the loneliest number" can be found on Jeff Meyer's photo site (along with lots of other great photos) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebolasmallpox/. This image was used with Jeff's permission.

Monday, June 15, 2020

"Dare to Trust"

Romans 4.17-18 
"The Message"

“Abraham was first named ‘father’ and then became father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.

There are many possibilities in life.
Dare to trust.

There are just as many im-possibilities.
Dare to trust.

When asked to sacrifice what you cherish the most on the altar of no return…
Dare to trust.

To be a person in whom others will place their trust, you must…
Dare to trust.

A leader, a father, a man of influence earns his position because he…
Dared to trust.

Some things that must be done, only God can do.
Dare to trust.

To have hope when all is lost…
Dare to trust.

To have faith in life when hope is dead…
Dare to trust.

Do you need God to miraculously make “something”
of your “nothing” marriage, job, or future?
Dare to trust.

Facing the fear of crippling disappointment after decades of failure…
Dare to trust.

God has a plan to do what only He can do.
Dare to trust.

God raised Christ from the dead.
Dare to trust.

Jesus loves you. You matter to God.
Dare to trust.
_________________

I found the photo above "better catch me daddy!!!" originally at a now non-working link on Photoblog. Photographer abbeyh13 kindly gave me permission to use it here.

Friday, June 12, 2020

"A Hole in My Argument"

Romans 3.4 NASU

“May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.

If I disagree with God, I am a liar. I do not understand all things. I cannot know the reasons behind the actions of others. I often misunderstand my kids, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even my wife, when she was alive. I try to be agreeable but occasionally engage in arguments. Disagreements and confrontations are distasteful to me, however, differences of opinion persist in playing a too-active role in my life.

Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m wrong but I think I’m right. Sometimes I am partly wrong and know it, but obstinate enough to cling to the shreds of truth in my position. Others may see, more clearly than I, the glaring hole in my argument. Sometimes I see light shining through that hole and find the grace to apologize. Sometimes I have to compromise for the greater good. Sometimes I act stubborn longer than I should.

I have no debate with God. I may try, but He’s right, not me.  If I disagree with Him, I’m wrong. There’s no compromise, no change, no meeting of the minds or middle ground. God is true, right, and just. I am a liar.

In the midst of my passion, when things are not following the course I charted, and the dawning of this realization enlightens my over-determined soul, making it (often painfully) evident that I am (perhaps) wrong, may I clearly hear the distinctive voice of God through the clamor of my contrary pleadings. Against my own limited grasp of the truth, may I receive enough grace to plainly see the hole in my argument. May I go with the grain [1]; that is, cooperate with the obvious course of events over which God alone has absolute control. I want no argument with Him. 

________________

[1] On his way to Damascus, Saul heard a voice from heaven: "Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?", (Acts 26.14 “The Message”).

"The hole in the argument" image was created by John Dalkin. Check out his photography at http://www.flickr.com/photos/59303791@N00/.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

"Who Are You?"

Romans 2:29 NIV

“No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”


It’s not what you do. It’s not who you know; or what you wear or drive or the house you live in. It’s not your bloodline, heritage, ancestry, or upbringing. It’s not your job or the amount of money you make. It’s not your friends or social standing. It’s not your reputation or past achievements. 

It’s not what others say about you, either good or bad. It’s not how pretty, desirable, or virile you try to be. It’s not your niceties, etiquette, or manners. It’s not how refined or educated you are. It’s not where you got your education. It’s not the things you own, the places you go, or the time you get off work to go there. It’s not the size of your company, congregation, bank account, financial portfolio, or male private parts.  It’s not your SEP, IRA, or 401K. It’s not how popular or influential you are. 

It’s not what you want others to believe about you or even what you think about yourself. It’s not your self-esteem, self-image, or self-confidence. It’s not your philosophy of life, view of the world, doctrine of the Bible, or theological position. It’s not how much you once had, now have, gave away, or hope to gain. It’s not your goals, dreams, ambitions, or desires. It’s not how well you behave or how much good you do. 

It’s none of that.

Look inside. What do you see? That’s who you are. Jesus was a Jew... on the inside. I claim to be a follower of Christ. I am either Jesus-follower on the inside or I am not one at all.

“No, a man is a Jew [or anything at all] if he is one inwardly...”
Romans 2.29a NIV