10/17/17 - Heb 2

Oct 17, 2017

Because Jesus himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Heb 2:18

Temptation doesn’t lead us to sin, we sin by not seeking Jesus in the temptation.

You may not know this, or want to hear it, but you’re not strong enough to defeat temptation.  

Decades ago, a comedian by the name of Flip Wilson coined a phrase: “The devil made me do it.”  People laughed and he used it for incredible parodies to show how we tend to excuse ourselves for sinful behaviors.  Unfortunately, it was both true and terrifying.  The devil is excellent at tempting us, and we let him dictate our actions way too much.

The challenge of temptation is not having the strength or discipline to overcome it ourselves, but having the humility and dependence to seek Jesus in the midst of temptation.  Jesus is the only one who gives us the power to overcome temptation – whether that’s through His intervention, or His instruction, or His discipline.  Sometimes He works through the help of others, and sometimes He does the work Himself, but you and I don’t overcome temptation without Him.

By the same token, we also can’t blame the devil for our failures.  It’s our choice whether we pursue the help of Jesus or not.  We have the ability to call on Jesus to help us.  We can pursue His Word to teach us, and follow His example to lead us.  It’s still our choice whether temptation is permitted to rule over us, or whether Jesus is.  Jesus is ready to help, but we must make the choice.  Jesus knows how to win!

Best of all, Jesus endured temptation just like we do, so He knows how we feel.  That’s as important as anything else about Jesus.  He understands our struggles, because He faced them.  Jesus knows our pain and loneliness, because He endured it like us.  That makes seeking Jesus much easier, because we don’t just pursue a far-away God who is disconnected from our situation, we call on a friend who understands our situation.  Getting Jesus to help is like calling a sponsor or phoning a friend.  We get help (not a lecture). 

Get it clear.  We can’t overcome temptation on our own.  We are just as susceptible to sin as every other person around us.  Our only answer is to call on Jesus, and get His help.  He has the power to overcome it with us, or take it from us, but we must choose to pursue His help.

So what are you waiting for?  Seek the help of Jesus, and you’ll have a friend who can help you win!

10/16/17 - Heb 1

Oct 16, 2017

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Heb 1:3

Jesus shows us the image, character & will of God---imitating Jesus honors God.

When we read about Jesus, we think of Him as a man.  Our understanding of Jesus is based on the people we are used to living around.  We read His miracles and His teaching, and recognize His Lordship by the Scriptures, but still imagine Jesus as a divine man.  That’s understandable, since we only have direct physical experience with human beings.

But Jesus was far more than that.  Jesus was “the Word in flesh”.  He wasn’t just a Divine Man, He is humanized God.  Out of love for us, Jesus chose to take on the limitations of flesh and live among us in the limitations of earth, so that He could be sacrificed in our place.  Just because He took on the limitation doesn’t reduce His divinity.

That means Jesus was still the image of God, He still had the full character of God, and He lived out the will of God – because HE IS GOD!  Don’t miss that!  He wasn’t just a man with godly qualities, He is God living inside the flesh of a man.  That makes Jesus far more important than just a great teacher or leader, it makes Him fully qualified to be Lord of our lives. 

I encourage you to spend today THINKING ABOUT THAT!  Jesus is the complete Godhead, taking on the limitation of human beings out of love for you and I.  How amazing!  His love for you and I is SO GREAT that He was willing to limit Himself in a bodily form.  So if you want to know what God’s will is for your life, look to Jesus.  If you want to know what character qualities to develop, match to Jesus.  If you want to be a success in life, imitate Jesus.  That may not require a physical crucifixion, but it will likely require taking on limitations.  It definitely will call us to follow Jesus and imitate His lifestyle.

It also speaks to the power of Jesus’ words.  Everything He said was Divine!  That makes His words SO IMPORANT and so vital to understand, because they carry the weight of both authority and power.  Just as God’s Word had the power to create everything in the universe, Jesus’ words have the power to change our lives forever.  Learning His Words should be the top priority in our life, because they define the structure and essence of how life is created.

We have been given an amazing gift!  Unlike those in the Old Testament, we don’t have to try and figure out God’s will by following rules.  We get to learn how to follow God by imitating Jesus.  Instead of an outline to live by, we have an image to follow. 

10/13/17 - Philemon

Oct 13, 2017

In Christ I could order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. Philemon 1:8-9

God doesn't want obligational obedience, He wants passionate pursuit --- make it your passion to obey.

A boy was unhappy that his mother called him in for dinner, and continued to stand in defiance.  Mom realized this was a battle of the wills that she needed to win, and insisted he sit at the table with the family.  Eventually her authority (and maybe her size), won the argument, and the boy sat at the table.  But as he sat, he exclaimed in pride:  “I may be sitting on the outside, but I am standing on the inside!”

Sometimes people treat God the same way.  We don’t like His principles, and don’t want His instructions.  In our own arrogance, we’d rather go out and play instead of do what He asks.  Maybe we actually know He is right, but prefer to live out our own ways instead.   And when things go bad, we “sit” because we HAVE to, but not because we WANT to.  It might not be stated, but we’re still “standing on the inside”.

God is the best parent, and He’s not interested in us obeying out of obligation or coercion.  God is interested in us knowing and understanding His will.  He wants our passion to obey, out of love for Him instead of trying to get something from Him.  Forced obedience does nothing to help us know Him better. 

Here’s what God does when we have passion to obey:

-          It saves time & energy – just ask the Israelites who turned an 11-day journey into a 40 year trip.

-          It protects our families – learn from David, who damaged his family from one night of disobedience

-          It saves people, and often saves us – just look at Jonah.

-          It releases miraculous power – see what happened to Paul when He obeyed God’s whispers.

All of us have authorities in life, and it brings glory to God when we obey them wholeheartedly.  Obedience out of obligation may accomplish the task, but it doesn’t breed unity.  DESIRING to obey is what brings glory and breeds unity.  Make it your DESIRE to obey.  Don’t be “standing on the inside” … be “sitting” even before you’re asked to J. 

10/12/17 - Titus 3

Oct 12, 2017

Remind the people to be subject to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, Titus 3:1

Living in faith instead of selfishness is not natural, so we need to remind each other to do it.

Someone once said that men don’t need to be taught, they need to be reminded.  Maybe that’s why our mothers repeated themselves so often!

It must be true, because we look for reminders all the time.  We want the alarm to remind us when to get up, and set up calendar entries for us to know when appointments start.  We write down tasks and checklists so that we don’t forget to do things.  Many people use reading plans to remind themselves what to read next.  Signs remind us what laws need to be followed while we drive, and commercials are rerun regularly so we ‘remember’ to buy the products they sell.  The truth is, we need reminded a LOT!

That just shows how quickly our behavior declines without having reminders.  God knew that about us, and even wrote the Bible so that we would be reminded constantly (if we would read it).  He also commissioned prophets and teachers to keep reminding us regularly.

Paul caught onto this truth, and instructed Titus to make that his pattern.  Titus didn’t need to be original or innovative, he just needed to be disciplined and continuing reminding people of what to do.  Being the reminder for people is not always pleasant.  Often, people know they need reminded, but don’t always like the reminders.  Jesus is a good example of that --- they crucified Him for His message.  Yet the message Paul & Titus were given was worthy of being restated often.  In fact, the Gospel is a message we need to hear DAILY (even more often than that at times). 

Jesus also recognized our need for reminders.  So He instituted the practice of communion (The Lord’s Supper), so that we would never forget the Gospel message.  Every time we gather, Jesus encouraged us to remember His death and resurrection, so that we would be encouraged to live for Him.  We need that reminder, so Jesus used the common elements of food and drink to help us keep remembering.

Don’t be so negative about reminders.  REMEMBER, they are gifts to help us grow and improve, avoiding the natural decline our behavior tends to go.  Be submissive, be obedient, and be ready to act.  (Those are reminders worth hearing regularly!)

And maybe it’s a good time to thank your mom (or other caring persons) for giving you reminders.

10/11/17 - Titus 2

Oct 11, 2017

Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:14

Jesus didn't die just to forgive our history, He died to change our destiny.

How does poisoned water become pure again? 

The common approaches are evaporation or dilution.  While both can make the water useable, they are seldom complete in purifying the water.  Toxins are still evident after a filtration process, and dilution never completely removes them.  The only answer is replacement.

That’s what made God’s challenge of turning sin-filled people into holy children so difficult.  He could try to filter or purify people with His law, but there was still the seed of sin left in us.  And since sin cannot enter the presence of true Holiness, we were destined for hell.  So Jesus made Himself into a human to be a replacement for us.  By sacrificing Himself as payment for our sin, He turned us into Holy Children.  His purity replaced our impurity.  His Holiness replaced our sinfulness.  God didn’t dilute or divide our sin, He replaced it.

But that’s not the best part.  When Jesus took on the cross, He replaced our destiny as well.  Not only was our past forgiven, our future was replaced as well.  Not only do we have access to God, we have fellowship with Him.  That means we are NOW able to live differently, to have authority over sin, to be victorious against temptation, and to produce great results in THIS life!   Jesus didn’t just die to forgive our past, but to change our future.

So often, people look for Jesus to be a toxin remover.  We keep seeing the scars of sin and the temptations of life to draw us back into sin, and don’t recognize the full healing we have received.  But Jesus doesn’t want us living in the past, He wants us to focus on the future.  Why would we let our new purity be corrupted again by sin?  Our freedom from sin permits us to live eagerly for Him!

Don’t go back to sin, choose to live for Him.  Live in the purity that Jesus paid so much to give us.  Be pure water again.

10/10/17 - Titus 1

Oct 10, 2017

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. Titus 1:15

Humans tend to see others the way they see themselves---looking for failure or corruption in others comes from knowing our own corruption.

Jesus made a statement in several places of his ministry that our words reveal our hearts.  If you’re like me, the power of that observation continues to grow stronger the longer I live.  For example:

-          A man was constantly talking to me about the financial practices of others.  It seemed like every conversation led to some discussion about money.  Can you guess what his focus was on?

-          Similarly, I had a female friend in college that was constantly critical of the appearance of others, especially other females.  I didn’t put it together at the time, but my guess was that she was very self-conscious about her own appearance (which would have explained the high volume of makeup she wore).

That’s two revealing examples, but there are hundreds of simpler ones:  people who love a sport tend to talk about it all the time, those living with a sin tend to notice the sins of others, many who suffered traumatic pain become advocates for those dealing with pain. 

What gets to me is how often I critique what another person is doing, and later find it in myself.   For instance, I noticed a person who dripped with sarcasm in their comments, and as I thought about it, God revealed to me my own recent sarcastic behavior.  Even in bringing up someone who struggled with finances or another person only interested in their looks makes me recognize my own struggles with those two issues. 

Paul tells Titus not to get distracted by the comments of others.  Often it just reveals where their heart is.  Many times it will say more about where they are than where you are.  But also be aware of what you are thinking about others!  It may be revealing something going on in your own heart.

So before we start making observations about the poor behavior of others, we may want to look in the mirror and see it in ourselves first.  And when someone makes a judgment about our behavior, realize it might just be coming from experience in their own lives.

10/09/17 - 2Tim 4

Oct 9, 2017

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do your job, fulfill your ministry. 2Tim 4:5

Don't let your life be controlled by feelings or circumstances, let it be controlled by God's purposes.

There is a difference between passions and feelings.  Passions are a calling toward something, feelings are a desire for something.  Both can be good things, but they don’t always make for healthy choices.

Golf carts, along with other vehicles, often have something called a “governor” built in to regulate how fast they go.  This device allows the engine to run as fast as the driver wants up to a limit, and then regulates the speed from going higher.  It is a safety feature so that the engine’s speed doesn’t exceed the safety level of the vehicle.  Some people remove this special device so that they can go faster, but by doing so create the risk of a crash.

Passions are a calling in your soul.  They were given to you by God and are as unique as you are.  Every person has at least one passion that serves as a marker to show we matter and we have a purpose.  But passions have a “governor” called character.  When our passions exceed our character, we tend to find breakdowns in ethics, which eventually slow down the passion.

Feelings operate a little differently.  Instead of being a calling to fulfill a purpose, they tend to propel our hearts toward a desire.  Feelings are not bad in themselves, but they can often cloud over the “governor” built into us called “our mind”.  When feelings exceed logic, they tend to create breakdowns in morality, which crash us into the wall of failure.

Paul warns young Timothy to handle both passions & feelings by staying true to character and logic.  Continue to pursue passions, but keep your head.  Pay attention to your feelings, but let logic endure over fears & frustrations.  Don’t dump your passion when things get hard, fulfill your ministry by being a man of character. 

Passions and feelings have great value in helping us along the course God planned for us, but they often need the “governors” of character and logic to keep them in line.   Keep those governors installed in your life, and your journey will continue forward on the road God has laid out for you.