February 12, 2017
Owe no one anything, except to love each other,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
It seems to me there has been a constant buzz about debt in America. We hear about our national debt. There is discussion about the rise in the average household credit card debt. More recently there has been concern about student loan debt and the burden put on these young men and women just as they are starting their life and careers.
It is true that financial debt can be a great burden and in most cases, it is best to carry as little debt in your life as possible, but there is one kind of debt that you should always owe – the debt of love.
By saying “owe no one anything, except to love each other” is Paul’s way of saying “love your neighbor as your self.” It is the act of showing them mercy and kindness in there every day needs.
The great reformer Martin Luther explained it in this way:
Then let us show mercy to our neighbor, that is, let it be our pleasure to help a neighbor, to seize every opportunity to help a neighbor. Let us also stir up others to perform the responsibilities of love, so that in this way our entire life yields to the good of our neighbor, since we owe nothing to anyone, except that we love him.
When Luther speaks of showing mercy his is pointing us to Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
To “love kindness” and “show mercy” comes from the Hebrew word hesed. It means mercy that has been shown. It is the loving kindness that Christ showed us by dying on the cross for our sins. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that hesed “implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.”
Therefore, to show mercy or to show loving kindness or to owe a debt of love means that we are called to take action. To do something to help our neighbors, both near and far. The world calls this random acts of kindness, but from a Christian perspective these acts are not random at all, they are acts of loving debt owed.
So then, turning back to Martin Luther’s quote, we should be doing two things in light of the grace and mercy that Christ has shown to us in our salvation.
First, we are to “seize every opportunity.” What opportunities will you have today to show loving kindness? Will you see them? Will you be aware of them? In order to pay the debt of love owed we have to make every effort to become more aware about the needs around us. What are the needs of your neighbors next door? What are the needs of your neighbors in your greater community? We can’t seize opportunities if we are not looking for them.
Second, stir up others to do the same. Be an encourager to others to show loving kindness. Work together as partners in love to those in need.
February 05, 2017
The apostle Peter ends his first letter to the early church with these encouraging words: “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
Peter here is not simply being sentimental or cliché, he was speaking from the confidence of having a “word more fully confirmed” (2 Pe 1:19). A word spoken by Jesus that he would be with us always (Matt. 28:20). A word he remembered that Moses used to encourage the people of Israel that God would “not leave [them] or forsake [them]” (Deut. 31:8).
Peter also knew this truth by experience. On the night before Jesus’ death, Jesus had a conversation with Peter; which we find in Luke’s gospel.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Lk. 22:31-34)
Jesus was warning Peter that in the providential care of the Father that he was going to allow Satan to sift Peter; that is to test his faith. Jesus makes it clear that he will fail, he will falter, he will fall in his denial of Jesus. But Jesus also spoke words of encouragement to him in that Jesus will pray for him so that his failure would not be final, that he would be restored and when he is restored to go and strengthen his brothers.
The reason we can give all our anxieties to the Father and trust him with our heartfelt concerns in this life is the providential care he shows for his children. That does not mean that life is a bowl of cherries, or that life will be without difficulties, but it does mean:
“… that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28).
These words are meant to comfort our weary souls in this life with confidence that all things that come into our life – both the good and the evil – are under the sovereign control of our loving, heavenly Father.
Joseph knew this truth all too well. He suffered at the hands of his brothers when he was sold into slavery. He suffered at the hand of Potiphar’s wife who forced her husband to cast Joseph in prison unjustly. He suffered for two additional years as Pharaoh’s Baker “forgot” about Joseph. But in the end, God raised him up to be a savior, not only of Egypt, but of his own father and brothers, and eventually all of Israel.
Joseph realized that all these things that happened in his life were under the sovereign hand of God’s control. That God was the one who brought all of these things to pass. That God was the one who determined the life Joseph would life, a life that God would use to fulfill his purpose in redeeming a people. Joseph makes this clear when he says to his brothers:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:20)
So, be confident, knowing that in all circumstances, your Father cares for you and is working everything for the good.
January 29, 2017
You may not know it, but I wear glasses; actually I wear contacts, but you get the point. Thanks to the “good” genetics of my family (read a tone of sarcasm here), I have been given the blessing of needing some type of corrective means to see clearly. Without them I could not read the big “E” at the top of an eye chart. In fact, I only know it is an “E” because it is always an “E” no matter which eye doctor you visit. So you would rightly surmise that my eye sight is downright bad. I personally sympathize with the man whom Jesus healed of blindness who at first could only see people as trees. However, thanks to technology I am now able to see quite clearly with the help of my corrective lenses. With them I can see things I would never be able to see without them.
In the same way I am challenged to see because of the bad genetics passed on to me, so is all of humanity unable to see God clearly without outside aid. When our first father, Adam, sinned in the garden he corrupted that perfect sight he had to see God, and passed down to his children (all of his children) the blemished, imperfect, blurred vision that prevents us from see God clearly and rightly.
I say that our vision is blurred from seeing God because we are told in Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).
Paul adds in the book of Romans:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19, 20)
But the clarity of God in creation is blurred by our own spiritual nearsightedness. So we need help. We need corrective lenses. Thank God he has given us those lenses by which to see him in all his beauty, holiness, glory and majesty. He has given us the Bible. The Scriptures are our corrective lenses by which to see God clearly and rightly, for in the Bible God has revealed to us who he truly is and what he has done.
John Calvin put it this way in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it to be some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly; so Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God (1.6.1)
There is no other place we can look to see the pure and clear knowledge of God. The Bible shows us who the true God is, what he is like and what he has done. Peter calls it “the prophetic word more fully confirmed.” He then goes on to admonish us with these words: “to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
So as you spend time in the Bible this week, think of it as putting on the glasses you need to see God more clearly.
January 22, 2017
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
Paul indicates here that at the resurrection our bodies will be transformed. Earlier in the chapter he says that our perishable bodies will be changed to imperishable. But what will our bodies be like? Below are nine observations from the Scriptures that help fill in the gaps for us.
1. They will be recognizable
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
2. They will be like Christ’s glorified body
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
3. They will not be limited by space
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)
4. They will be eternal
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 5:1-5)
5. They will be glorious
It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1 Cor. 15:43)
6. They will not have pain
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)
7. They will not die
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more…(Rev. 21:4)
8. They will not hunger or thirst
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. (Rev. 7:16)
9. They will not sin
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Rev. 21:27)
With these truths in our minds we can all join in that wonderful refrain:
When we all get to heaven, / what a day of rejoicing that will be! / When we all see Jesus, / we’ll sing and shout the victory.
January 18, 2017
7. The Bible enlightens us to areas where we need to grow so that we can be changed and trained into the image of Christ.
We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As we see Jesus in his word, we will also see that we don’t measure up. We will see sin and areas for growth. Jesus is the standard for change and the means of change. As we see him, the Spirit goes to work to change us more and more into his image, and to set us free from the silly little desires and idols we’ve been settling for.
8. The Bible equips us for good works that bring glory to our God.
All Scripture is breathed out by God . . . that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible stirs us up and equips us to do good works that beautifully adorn the gospel. And as we do these good works, others see them and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12). We want our lives to count for his glory, and God gives us the guide for that great cause in his word.
9. The Bible produces healthy and happy families and relationships.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. . . . Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1, 4).
We cannot know how and why we ought to obey our parents, at least in a way that honors God, if we do not know the word of God. And we cannot know how to raise our children to know, and love, and obey the Lord if we do not know the word of the Lord.
Families and church families will be much healthier and happier places, for all of the reasons already mentioned above, if we are people saturated with the Bible.
10. The Bible keeps us from being conformed to this world.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
The world bombards us with sinful and foolish temptations. The world screams for conformity to its systems and ways. We desperately need to be people who fix our eyes on Jesus, and meditate on all his words, so that we are not conformed to the world, but transformed to be more like him.
11. The Bible teaches us to pray.
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination (Proverbs 28:9).
Without the Bible, our prayers too easily drift into our own fleshly, sin-driven complaints, desires, and pity-parties. With the Bible, we can see reality, see our sin, even see the sins of others against us, and approach the throne of grace for help, with deep and lasting truths ringing in our ears.
12. The Bible spurs us toward genuine and healthy fellowship and accountability.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
The Bible helps us in our families and churches to make God’s glory the goal, sin the enemy, and perseverance in our faith the priority. It gives us the courage and wisdom to humbly and lovingly admit our own wrongs to others and to confront sin in one another.
Make this next year a quest to find joy in God by hearing from God. He’s worth all the effort.
(This article appeared in our church bulletin on 1/15/17. It originally appeared on Desiring God website, written by Dave Zuleger - HT: source)
January 12, 2017
As Christians, we know that without taking in God’s word, our faith will become anemic, shallow, and weak. And yet, so often, we neglect the precious gift of God’s word in our daily lives.
This is a simple list meant to help motivate souls-prone-to-wander see that giving ourselves to God’s word in 2017 will be worth it.
1. The Bible enables us to know and love Jesus more.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me [Jesus]” (John 5:39).
The Bible is not ultimate. Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, is ultimate. But the Bible is the place where we know for certain that we can see and savor Christ each day.
2. The Bible gives us hope in God no matter what is happening in our lives.
Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).
The Bible is the foundation under our feet that gives us the encouragement we need to remain hopeful in Christ through times of depression and suffering. We have a God who wrote a Book so that we might be people with hope. We should take advantage of that precious gift.
3. The Bible leads us to supreme happiness in God.
Blessed [this means happy!] is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
God has revealed himself in his word. In the Bible, discover the path of life that leads us to “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
The happiness the Bible offers us is as unchanging and durable as the God who wrote it and who is himself our greatest Treasure.
4. The Bible arms us to kill our sin by the Spirit of God.
If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13).
The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
The word of God is the sword in the hands of the Spirit of God. The sword goes to work to hack up sin in our life that keeps us from God. The sword pierces through bone and marrow to reveal our hearts. With sin removed and cleansed, we can see Christ more fully and find greater holiness and happiness.
5. In the Bible, we hear directly from the mouth of the God of the universe.
All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16).
May we never be bored reading the Bible. May we never forget that the almighty God of the universe is speaking directly to us in those moments.
6. The Bible is a free course on life taught by God himself.
All Scripture is . . . profitable for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16).
If God is speaking, and his word is profitable for teaching, then we get to go to class every day under the professorship of God himself. And it’s free. Indeed, God has given us his Spirit to teach us his secret and hidden wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:7, 10).
(This article appeared in our church bulletin on 1/8/17. It originally appeared on Desiring God website, written by Dave Zuleger - HT: source)
January 01, 2017
It’s that time of year again when people will make New Year’s resolutions. Some will resolve to lose weight. Others will resolve to learn a new language. Some will even resolve to go to church more.
Resolutions can be good. The New Year is a time that gives us an opportunity to evaluate our life and see where we need or desire to make improvements. Resolutions are a way for us to try to focus ourselves to make those desired improvements come to fruition.
However, as many of us know, resolutions are often abandoned, forgotten, or put on hold never to be considered again until the next New Year comes around.
Jonathan Edwards, the great American pastor and theologian had a way of dealing with resolutions, he made life resolutions that he had written down and would regularly review. Here are a couple examples of his 70 life resolutions:
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.
If you are planning to make some New Year resolutions, make them life resolutions. To help you with that, let me give you five to consider.
Mortify my sin (Col. 3:1-10) – mortify means to be killing your sin. John Own said it best, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Peter warns us to abstain from passions of the flesh as they “wage war against your soul” (1 Pe. 2:11).
Meditate on God’s Word (Ps. 1:1-3) – this is to think upon, ponder, consider the Word of God like a cow chewing its cud. Jerry Bridges says of meditation, “When we meditate on the Scriptures we talk to ourselves about them, turning over in our minds the meanings, the implications, and the applications to our own lives.”
Memorize the Scriptures (Ps. 119:11) – In order to properly mortify our sin or even meditate on God’s Word, we must first hide it in our hearts. Memorizing Scripture is a way to feed your soul, strengthen your will, and warm your heart anytime and anywhere.
Master Sound Doctrine (Titus 1:3) – If we do not have a firm grip on the truth the Bible teaches we will be easily swayed by those things that are filled with half-truths, that sound truthy, but are actually false. A. W. Tozer said: “It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian.”
Magnify Christ in all that I do (1 Cor. 10:31) – Exalting Christ is not one thing on our to do list, but it is to permeate everything we do. John Piper said, “There is no part of life, no matter how seemingly insignificant (Christ-exalting teeth-brushing), in which making much of Christ is alien.”
I trust you will take on these resolutions, not for 2017 only, but for life.