Where would you like to go for dinner? That’s the question Betty and I often ask each other after church. What are you hungry for? What sounds good? One of us may ask the other. Steak? Seafood? Mexican? Italian? Hamburgers and fries? Bar-B-que? Deli-style? We keep going through the list of opportunities until someone says, “that would be good.” Here’s the thing, this kind of hunger-driven decision making is also one of the ways temptation trips up our walk with Jesus. So far in our exploration of overcoming as promised in 1 John 5:3-5 we’ve discovered that overcoming may not be what we often assume. While John does say that “everyone born of God overcomes the world” the context is the commands and overcoming the temptations we all face. We’ve also learned that there are three sources o
A few years ago I wrote a series of articles on God’s intentional tensions. Those seemingly contradictory verses which are campfires for division. Instead of staking a claim for which side is right I staked out the middle-ground and found God’s truth in both sides. In that series, I compared this middle-ground to a guitar string that only sings when held in tension between two points. In this article, I’m adding an additional tension to that series, the tension between freedom and holiness. Getting this tension right has been an issue since the earliest days of the church. Consider Acts 15 and the Jerusalem council concerning what laws the Gentiles (non-Jews) should adhere to. Verse 7 begins by saying “after there had been much debate…” While the Jerusalem Council did arrive at a conclu
It all began in a garden. A lush paradise where every need was met and there was only one “don’t do this” rule. The rest, as they say, is history. Adam and Eve broke the “don’t do this” rule, played the blame game with God, and changed the course of humanity. That discord between going our own way or going God’s way has plagued us ever since. But that is not the end of story. Last week we looked at An Overcoming Life and discovered that overcoming is different than we may have imagined. John wrote, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
There are many Biblical phrases that have become idioms in our culture. Phrases like “the blind leading the blind”, “go the extra mile”, or the “writings on the wall” all have their origin in the pages of the Bible. Another such idiom is “fight the good fight.” But the problem with idioms is that they are often divorced from their original meaning and purpose. I’ve heard this phrase about the good fight used in connection with any number of meaningful causes, sometimes even from both sides of the same conflict. So, let’s take a step back and look at what the Bible says about the “good fight.” In a way, we begin with the end. In 2nd Timothy Paul is saying farewell. He feels he will soon die. The early church fathers tell us Paul was beheaded at the direction of Nero in Rome. Paul wrote,
Reading the Bible and hearing those precious promises can be disheartening at times. We read about how we overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus in Romans 8:37, but our lives may feel like a train wreck and a constant struggle. We see the promise of having a rich, satisfying, and abundant life in John 10:10, but only see failure. We hear that everyone born of God overcomes the world in 1 John 5:4-5, but we often feel like wheat between the grinding wheels of a flour mill. How do we solve this discord between God’s promises and our real lives? For the next few weeks, we’re going to practically explore the Biblical concept and promise of overcoming. Let me say up front however that this is not a magic formula to a wonderful life with a fat bank account, a perfect spouse, a well-paying enjoy
For a moment think about a small boat or raft. The kind of vessel you’d see on a small lake or slow-moving river. It’s not a large boat, but one that is rowed with a set of oars. I’ve been in a few of those. Sometimes for fun just to see if I could do it. A few times to fish places that couldn’t be reached from the shore. Sometimes the rowing was easy. More than once it felt like hard work and wasted effort with little movement to show for it. A few years ago my walk with Jesus felt about the same way. Lots of struggle, plenty of effort, but little in the way of progress or fruit. I compared those days to walking in a fog so dense that I could barely make out where to step next. Maybe you’ve had days or even years like that too. What I must share with you today not only impacts those
I have these rules. By now you’ve probably figured that out. One of my rules goes like this, be slow in assigning motives to others. This rule is not catchy, flashy, or cute. It is, in fact, plain and somewhat boring. But let’s dig into it anyway. We all do this. We all assign motives to others. When someone does something, especially something we don’t like, we try to figure out the “why” of their actions. We often assume this answer without asking and create it from our own experiences and imagination. Listen to the world (especially the news) and you’ll see that the fact to motive ratio is way out of whack. We don’t want to know what happened as much as why it happened. The what may be indisputable, but the why is often subject to interpretation at best and propaganda at worst.
We end our exploration of Jesus’ commands where we began. We started with Jesus’ final command, often called the Great Commission. In that first article, we examined the command to make disciples, not in the sense of force but in the sense of inviting others to follow Jesus. But in that first look we ended with a question – What are the commands Jesus is instructing His followers to obey and teach? That question launched the journey called “Jesus Says.” To refresh our memories. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, NIV) This simplest way to phr
To be honest, we could have skipped most of the Jesus Says commands and gone straight to this one. The simple fact is this, most of the previous commands are found in this one command. But exploring all of the Jesus Says statements inform our understanding of this command. Jesus said, “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17, NIV) Jesus spoke this command three times in John’s Gospel. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV) And, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, NIV) Finally, “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17, NIV) I think Jesus really means it, what about you? Jesus describes the kind of love He has in mind by saying, “Greater love has no one th
It so happened that a Pharisee invited Jesus to share a Sabbath meal with him. It was a subtle trap. Also, at the meal was a man suffering from painful and possibly life-threatening swelling. The unspoken question was if Jesus would heal this man on the Sabbath, a no-no in the mind of the Pharisees. Jesus revealed their trap, healed the man, and challenged the Pharisee's assumptions (Luke 14:1-6). But the lessons were not over for this dinner party which brings us to our next Jesus Says command. As the guests began to take their places Jesus noticed them jockeying for seats of honor. This lead to Jesus’ encouragement to take the lesser place. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, NIV) But Jesus wasn’t finis
On the surface, our next Jesus Says command seems limited to only a few. But when we dig a little deeper, think a little broader, and really understand what Jesus is saying we see that it applies to everyone. Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15, NIV) This statement was Jesus' response to a man who wanted Jesus to command his brother to share the inheritance. Jesus responded by stating he wasn’t the judge or arbiter between himself and his brother. Jesus then spoke the command above and went on to illustrate what he meant with a story that can be summed up as “you can’t take it with you.” Jesus concluded, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich
There are some of Jesus’ commands that we elevate and others that we hide in a box. We don’t throw them away, we know better than that, but push them into a corner. Maybe they don’t seem to apply to us. Surely Jesus didn’t mean for us to do that. It must have only been for the twelve apostles or the folks that immediately heard it. Our next Jesus says command has either been pushed in the corner or in a few cases elevated as an idol. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadl