Monday, Jan. 23
Pastor Doug chose to focus on the Gospel of John starting in January. To prepare us for that he suggested that we read the entire book in one sitting. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea. I’ve studied it for years, have preached from it many times and taught it to high schoolers for years But I followed his suggestion, and read it, albeit not in one sitting. What a blessing! I saw things I had never seen before and will share some of it with you. John states clearly his reason for writing the book. John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” That was not new to me, nor the fact that belief is a common thread throughout the book. But I got a new view of this as I read through the book. Belief was at the core of everything Jesus said and did. What was new to me was that none of it focused on redemption per se, nothing about his vicarious death to redeem us. No, the issue was simply who Jesus was. The last part of John 20:31 does mention redemption—“and that by believing you may have life in his name.” But before they could believe the redemption message, they had to know who he was. For the Jews, he was their Messiah, a truth they found difficult, largely because it seemed to contradict their core belief in “one God,” the one truth that set them apart from all other religions. Identifying Jesus was crucial to all that was to follow. The Jewish leaders’ rejection led to the crucifixion. The positive response of the disciples led to the founding of the Church, and to evangelizing the known world. Jesus knew what he was doing.
Sunday, Jan. 22 T
“We need others to need us.” This short statement needs to be pursued. In recent weeks I’ve stayed at home more—partly because it’s winter—and have had less contact with people. The result is that I’ve felt somewhat discontent and even irritable. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of my dear wife. The truth is that I need to be needed. It’s a bit of an ego trip to feel that way—as though people won’t get along just fine without my input. It shakes my little world a little bit to think that I’m a non-factor for most of the people that I know, but it’s realistic and it makes me think. How can I better the lives of others? I need to re-evaluate my interpersonal relationships. I need to look to the Lord for help. And that brings up another side of this issue. Not only do I need others to need me; I need to need others. I need to actively seek input from others. Of course, the sin nature with its focus on self is at the bottom of all this. God is still trying to make something of me. And sometimes he has a hard time just getting my attention. Do I need to change? Of course I do. I will always need to change while in this life. That’s one thing that doesn’t change.
Saturday, Jan. 21
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”—Anne Frank. Totally correct. First of all there’s a double meaning here. There’s poverty in terms of material things and there’s poverty in spiritual things. So you can have zero material assets and still be rich. The entire N.T. supports this. Paul speaks of the riches that we have from Christ in Colossians and he’s not talking about bank accounts. Jesus spoke of the widow who put her last two cents in the offering box. Luke 21 1-4. In contrast to others who gave much more “out of their wealth,” she gave sacrificially out of a full heart. Jesus saw this and commended her for it. Being commended by Jesus is not being poor! But there’s another aspect of this statement. If I’m giving as unto the Lord, as the widow did, I will never be a loser. God will not be indebted to anyone. I have found that many times when we have given to others, we often have unexpected gifts come to us. I’m not into that televangelist line that by giving the evangelist $50 or $100 that God will pour out material riches on us. If the evangelist really believed that he would be giving away all his money and become a millionaire. I don’t see any of them doing that. They are simply depending on their pitch to make themselves rich at the expense of gullible people, many of whom are also greedy. And that is my two cents worth. So go ahead and give—and please avoid those televangelists.
Friday, Jan. 20
“Discipline is a sign of love.” We all know that, but that’s not the point I want to make. This adage was designed for parents and young children. The parents are aware of dangers that a child knows nothing about. A young child thinks Mom or Dad is keeping him from something he wants and assumes that he is not loved. “If Mom loved me she would let me play in the street or play with matches.” Explanations are lost on him. Obedience doesn’t come by enlightenment, but by force. At this point, parents sometimes waffle—sometimes to their regret. A child will eventually understand, but in the meantime there’s a war going on. OK, here’s my point. As children of God, we are often like young children. There is so much we don’t know about living a godly life. God’s infinite knowledge is beyond ours. Some of it will never be understood—in this life or the next. This is where trust comes in. We need trust—confidence in God—when we don’t understand. I guess that’s why our walk with the Lord is called “the Faith.” And why we need to pray—as Jesus did in the Garden before his crucifixion—“yet not my will, but yours be done.” And that’s why the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer. Rom. 8:26-27. “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Being born again means that we go through infancy and childhood before becoming mature. But we never get beyond trust and dependence in a loving Father.
Thursday, Jan. 19
The greatest thing about an attitude is that its yours and you can change it.—Joyce Meyer, in Guideposts, Dec. 2016. Attitude is a vital part of everything we do. It pervades every moment of life. It is just as constant as breathing. Because it is ever present we rarely realize it’s there. Only when we deviate from the normal pattern do we acknowledge it’s presence. We feel good when we demonstrate a good attitude in a trying circumstance. We likewise feel guilty when we show a particularly poor attitude. And that’s when the above quotation comes into the picture. But there’s a process to go through. First, we need to take ownership of our attitude and take responsibility for it. Then we are faced with whether or not we want to deal with it. Maybe we can minimize the damage by making amends. After that, we might want to broaden it to include a pattern. Is this a single occasion or do I have a habit that needs to change? If we get serious about changing, then we will have to weigh what it will cost us to change. Now to that last part of the quotation—“and you can change it.” Yes, we can change it, but not on our own. The root of the problem is in our sin nature, which will dominate us without God’s help. If you have trouble with this view, read Rom. 7-8. God will do his part, but you have to do yours. Call it a joint effort.
Wednesday, Jan. 18
I’ve always wondered why Satan continues to oppose God. Doesn’t he know that he is going to end up in the lake of fire? He is limited by God and that would include not being omniscient. What he knows and what he doesn’t know is something we don’t know. I recently heard the comment that Satan was surprised when Jesus rose from the dead. That surprises me, but maybe it’s right. It occurred to me that if that was the case, Satan would perhaps say “It is finished.” It would be appropriate since he’s always wanted to copy God’s agenda. These words are a fitting climax to the most crucial event in history, the act that brought redemption to sinful man. And though the words are the same, the meaning behind them are probably the most diametrically opposed statements in history. One is total victory and the other is total defeat. Satan might or might not have said those words, or thought them; that is pure speculation on my part. In any case, he continued to fight God and will continue to do so until cast into the lake of fire. As Martin Luther stated in his well known hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, “For lo, his doom is sure; One little word shall fell him.” Taking it literally, that word could well be “finished.”
Tuesday, Jan. 17
An addendum to yesterday’s blog. I mentioned that God was concerned for man before creation. He knew before creation that man would sin and would have no solution to it on is own. He knew that he would provide a way out. He knew it would mean his Son dying on a cross. Every person born into the human race was a concern to him. It is unlikely that he would leave generations of mankind without disclosing something of a solution. I don’t understand the entire picture, but there is evidence of God revealing things to people other than what we have in the Bible. There are hints of God dealing with men before Abraham’s time—the note about men calling on God (Gen. 4:26), Enoch walking with God and God taking him home (Gen. 5:21-24), and the account of Melchizedek, king of Salem and “priest of God the most high” (Gen. 14:18), who became a type of our high priest, Jesus, as recorded in Heb. 5-7. Then in Daniel 4 is the account of God “encouraging” King Nebuchadnezzar to yield to God. It took seven years of eating grass like a cow, but I suspect that Nebuchadnezzar was more than content with the result. Daniel says that Nebuchadnezzar praised God and glorified him forever (Dan. 4:34). God’s ways are past finding out, but he is more that just; he is merciful and gracious.