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Heroes

black and pink love me printed textile
 
 
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
 
Do you have a hero? Is there someone who you look up to? Many people do. There are those individuals who impact our lives and inspire us, they may even cause us to do more than we ever thought possible because we have seen it in them.
 
During the current pandemic, there are those in our society who are being called heroes. Frontline workers and first responders, doctors, nurses, and many others who continue to do their jobs despite the personal risk that they might be facing. We owe them our thanks, but especially thanks to God for those who are so willing to serve.
 
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we are constantly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, or examples, of faith. These models, or heroes, of faith have gone before us and shown us what a life that focuses on God can be like. And that most perfect of all examples is, of course, Jesus. Much more than just an example or model though, Jesus is the very founder and perfecter of our faith. It is Jesus who, more than anyone else, we need to keep our eyes on as we continue this race of life.
 
Easier said than done. Our sinful, wandering eyes, so often drift away from Jesus and onto so many other distractions in life. But even when we lose sight of Him, Jesus never takes His eyes off us. He continues to pursue us and draw us back to Himself. He forgives us when we sin and helps us carry on toward the finish.
 
During these challenging days when so many activities have been canceled and businesses are closed, there is perhaps more opportunity than ever to give time to the reading of God’s Word and time in prayer. With all the uncertainty that now surrounds us, the certainty of God’s love will see us through.
 
Prayer: Gracious Father, thank you for sending Jesus to go before us and to be even more than an example, but to be our Savior. May the forgiveness that He brings fill us with hope and peace to face the challenges of our time. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Passing Judgement

be kind sign

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”  Romans 2:1

Few things come as naturally to us sinful human beings as judging others.  It’s so easy.  Doesn’t matter if we’re judging behavior or personality, hair style or work performance.  And, of course, when we judge others we’re instinctively trying to lift ourselves up, make ourselves feel better or superior in some way.

It’s sad, really.

And most of us our pretty good at justifying our judging.  We may even consider it a godly thing,that we’re recognizing and pointing out sin.  But it’s the motivation that condemns us.  We rarely are wishing for the good of those we’re judging.   We just want to put them down because it makes us feel good.

But Paul in our passage presents an even more damning problem with our judging.  We do the very same things as those we’re judging.  Check yourself.  Who have you been judging lately, and for what “sin.”  Are you struggling with the same sin?  I checked myself while writing this…and repented quickly as I realized Paul was exactly right.

Of course the good news is exactly what we need to hear.  Jesus absorbed all the judgment of the Father that we rightly deserved.  Instead of deflecting it to us who earned it, he let it fall on Him – and it killed Him.  But death could not contain Jesus, and sin cannot contain us.  So repent, rejoice that you are forgiven, and leave the judging to God.
 
Dear Father in Heaven:  I confess today that I often judge others.  Forgive me, for Your Word has condemned me so completely.  And help me, that in my relationships with others, I might be one who lifts up and encourages.  In Jesus my Savior’s name I pray, Amen.


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A New Normal?

family photo
 
“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  Numbers 14:3
 
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had delivered His people. Under the weight of Egyptian oppression, the Israelites cried out to God that things could be different. They cried out for freedom from slavery and to be brought to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
 
God heard their cries and raised up Moses to lead His people. Through a series of plagues and the death of the firstborn children of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s own son, God’s people were set free and began their journey to the promised land. God promised that He would be their God and that they would be His people. When they approached their destination, spies were sent in to see what was ahead for them. Behind them was slavery, ahead of them was the promised land.
 
When the spies returned, ten of them gave a report that put fear into the hearts of the people. Even though they told of a land that was flowing with milk and honey, there were also reports of giants in the land and armies that would be too difficult to defeat. Faced with this new reality, suddenly the past didn’t look so bad anymore. In Numbers 14:3 we read “Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” Really? Go back to being slaves? Go back to the grueling life that they faced in Egypt? Was that really better?
 
When the “safer at home” order was put in place, it was not unusual to hear people yearn for things to “return to normal.” People wanted life to be like it was. In one sense, that is absolutely understandable. The restrictions and risks that we face have been very challenging for many. But were the “good old days” really that good? Think about how many young families spent their entire week running from event to event, whether sports or music or clubs. It seemed like we were slaves to our schedules. Or other adults whose calendars were packed with no room to breathe. But now life is different.
 
Do we really want to go back to life exactly as it was? Might we reconsider how we use our time and fill our calendars? While the isolation that many are feeling is a burden, consider the gift of time that God is giving us; time to spend with Him in prayer and reading His word; time to spend with family or to connect with friends. Even in challenging times like these, God is with us and blesses out for Jesus’ sake. Perhaps our future can be even better than our past.
 
Prayer: Father, we can’t go back and we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that You are always with us. Grant us peace and comfort in the assurance of the love that is ours in Christ and it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

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Our Strength

cross mounted on gray painted wall
 
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you
    will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
    will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies,
    you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
    will be as nothing at all.
Isaiah 41:10-12


We are so strong, right? Yes, but most of us forget where our strength comes from. We often sit in fear of many things but forget that we have God Almighty on our side in this journey we call life.

Revenge is something that tends to be in human nature where we really want to get back at someone for doing something bad against us. As much as we want this, it is not in our place to do so! We must stay level headed and offer love. Our strength comes from God and our enemies and evildoers will have what is coming to them from God but all we can and must offer is love and righteousness just as Jesus did.

When I read these passages above, I get reminded that strength comes from God and revenge is no place for us. God provides for us through these times of trial where the evil of the world looks so tempting to us but we must stay strong in the truth that we have, and that is in Christ. All evil will have what is coming to it, and all we can offer is our love because that is the strength and greatest weapon that Christ has armed us with. Stay strong in these times my brothers and sisters; don’t forget to give thanks and pray often.

Prayer: Almighty and Merciful Father, you have equipped us with our strength and have helped us spread the love of your son around the world. Be with us in these times, so that we don’t lose sight of the Cross and continue to spread the Gospel news around despite the evil in the world. Through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Forgiveness

heart-shaped red and beige pendant

 

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

I don’t live among perfect people—even when I am alone!  Sin has been the surge of life since our first parents grasped the forbidden fruit and brought sin into paradise.  Since that time our relationships have fallen into disharmony.

Take another glimpse into the Garden of Eden.  As sin enters the world, the man and woman run when they hear the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day.  A broken relationship.  When the Lord asks Adam what happened, he blames his wife.  Eve in turn blames Satan.  Relationships are broken because sin reigns.

Generations have passed since the door to paradise was closed.  Sin still wreaks havoc on our relationships.  Our modern social sciences have tried countless remedies to provide greater tolerance among us and a deeper esteem for ourselves.  Nothing has worked.

This is because we have neglected the antidote to the cause of broken relationships—forgiveness.  The Lord Jesus sacrificed Himself that we would be forgiven.

It is important for us to remember that Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).  We have received forgiveness in generous quantities that we may be generous in sharing it with others.

Forgiveness is the mortar that binds our relationships together. Forgiveness allows us into the presence of God.  Forgiveness makes marriages lasting.  Forgiveness makes friendships stronger.

 Prayer: Constantly remind me, Lord, Jesus, that I have received forgiveness, not only to have new life, but to share with others the grace that comes from Your cross and open tomb.  Use me to be a dispenser of Your forgiveness.  Amen.


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