Close the gap

For thousands of years there have been gaps between generations. The younger ones always assume that the older ones have never gone through what they’re going through. They’re all alone in their experiences with no one to guide them through it. But if every generation feels that way, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they actually know exactly how you feel?

My younger friends poke fun at me all the time because most of my social circle is made up of women at least twice my age. While one can’t help but see age when you’re looking at wrinkles and white hair, I see more. I see myself surrounded by people who have lived. They’ve experienced. They’ve learned so much more than I have and possibly ever will. Each person has a different life experience, but we can learn from all of them. When I’m sitting in a room full of old ladies and spinning wheels, I’m in a room full of centuries of lessons learned. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of them.

A long time ago, there was a young king who failed to see the wisdom in listening to the counsel of his elders.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his life time. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.

1 Kings 12:6-8 (NIV)

Rehoboam, a young king, foolishly rejected the counsel of the men who had advised his father, Solomon. He chose not to follow the words of the men who had worked closest to the wisest man to ever live. Instead, he chose to take the advice of his buddies—probably as excited as Rehoboam to flex this newfound power.

If you are of a younger generation, do not scorn the advice of your elders. They may not have lived through the exact thing you are living through right now, but they have lived. Some things don’t have to be experienced directly for wisdom to be gained. Spend time with, listen to, and ask questions of those who have lived longer than you.

If you are of an older generation, don’t write off the kids and young punks. If you don’t teach them, who will? It is the responsibility of every generation to teach and train the ones to follow. The simple fact that you have lived means that you have something to give. So give it. Keep communication open between you and those younger than you. You may even learn something yourself.

Read: 1 Kings 12-13, Luke 24:36-53

True life

We’re all looking for something or someone. Everyone wants to find purpose or meaning in life. And most people go through their entire lives searching but never finding because they’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

The Sunday after Jesus died by way of crucifixion, the women who had been following him went to the tomb to anoint his body properly for burial. One would assume that the best place to look for someone who had died would be the tomb where their body had been placed, but when they arrived, there was no body to anoint. Just a couple of angels with a message.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:5b (NIV)

In the entire account of the empty tomb, this one question stood out to me. In all of our searching for meaning and purpose in life, most often, we look for it among the dead. In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If there is life to be found, there is only one place to find it, and it’s not in the world.

The world, as hard as it may try, cannot replace or replicate the life that is found in Christ. Anything that is found outside of Christ can only mimic true life.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)

Meaning and purpose cannot be found just anywhere. Paul wrote to Timothy to tell the people to do good, be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. That is where true life begins. It is not a selfish search for ourselves, but a selfless search for Christ.

And if there is any doubt at all:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:35a (NIV)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

John 6:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NIV)

You may be breathing. Your heart may be beating. But are you alive? Are you truly alive?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Life is too short to waste looking for it among the dead. Life, true life, can only be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Read: 1 Kings 10-11, Luke 24:1-35

The common denominator

Canada (and much of the world) was brought to its knees recently with the news of a horrific bus crash that took the lives of sixteen individuals on or working with the Humboldt Broncos, a junior hockey team. Prayers went out. Millions of dollars raised to cover expenses. The nation grieves. I know that some (if not all) of the victims were believers. It is impossible to make sense of the event. In some way, we all feel impacted by these senseless deaths.

Several attempts were made to kill a certain man. Eventually, in 1994, he was beaten to death. How does that make you feel? Do you feel a similar kind of grief that you felt when you heard the news of the bus crash? What if I told you the man who was beaten to death was mass murderer, Jeffrey Dahmer? Did he get what he deserved?

There is an account of Jesus with his disciples where a similar comparison is made.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)

I believe there is little to compare between Jeffrey Dahmer and the Humboldt Broncos, but it is a stark contrast and, when we think about our own responses, it sheds a bit of light on our attitudes.

The disciples shared an account with Jesus painting the Galileans as horrible sinners because of the manner in which they were killed. Jesus compared them to eighteen people who were killed in a tower collapse. By the disciples reckoning, those eighteen must also have been terrible sinners to have died in such a manner. While we might say that Jeffrey Dahmer deserved to die a horrible death, I don’t think anyone would say such a think about a group of young men entering the prime of their lives.

There is one common denominator between us all. Jesus went on to say not once, but twice that unless you repent, you too will all perish. Death is a staggering statistic. One in one will die. Ten of ten who are now living will die. No matter how you place the numbers, there is a 100% chance of death at the end of this life.

Our sin is not the direct cause of physical death, nor will righteousness spare us from it. It is not the manner of our deaths that will define us, but the way we live.

Repentance is the only true guarantee of life beyond this earth. A sinner can die in peace while a believer dies in violence. The only constant is that we are all guilty unless, like Jesus said, we repent. Upon repentance, we receive a guarantee from Jesus himself of life after death. Eternal life. Abundant life.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

1 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NIV)

Read: 1 Samuel 7-9, Luke 13:1-21

The Lord your God

Read: Deuteronomy 8-10, Marik 12:28-44

On the eve of Israel’s move to the Promised Land, Moses takes a few moments to set some reminders for his people.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)

Israel had a terrible habit of forgetting about God and the covenant they had with Him. In the morning they’d be picking up manna and by the afternoon, they’d be complaining that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Moses knew he’d been leading a stubborn group of people. They only existed because of his intercession on their behalf. After all the trouble he’d gone through, he wanted to be sure they got things right once he was gone.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV)

The Promised Land was not a reward for good behavior. If God were to reward His people according to what they deserved, He’d have to send them back to Egypt. But because of His covenant and Moses’ prayers, Israel would take possession of the land promised to their forefathers.

This possession was not without its trials. God had already let the people know that they would have to fight. And it would be a long fight. The land would only be cleared of its inhabitants as Israel was prepared to occupy it. God would fight for them, but they still had to go into battle. God would make them prosper, but they would still have to do the work.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to you forefathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1 (NIV)

The promise to possess did not come without conditions. God wanted the obedience of Israel and He wanted their love.

When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied:

Mark 12-30-31.jpg

I believe that we, too, need the reminder, like Israel did, that the Lord is our God. And, if the Lord is our God, we should love and obey Him. Twenty-four times, Moses used the words the Lord your God in Deuteronomy 8 through 10. It must have been important. Important enough for Jesus to used the very same words when speaking of the greatest commandment.

If Israel remembered the Lord their God, loved Him, and obeyed Him, all would go well for them. The very same goes for us.

And we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

That is the way to know

I believe that there’s more wisdom in Disney movies than we give credit for. In the 2007 movie, Enchanted, the displaced Giselle breaks out into song and dance with That’s How You Know—a song all about how you can tell if a man truly loves a woman. In the end (and after a lot of lyrics), the gist of the number is that he’ll find a way to show the girl.

You’ve got to show her you need her
Don’t treat her like a mind reader
Each day do something to lead her
To believe you love her

Imagine that. The way to make sure that someone knows that you love them and that you belong to them is to do things for them—to show them.

And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments. If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth. But those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did.

1 John 2:3-6 (NLT)

As Christians, we should never have to go around telling people who and what we are. Our actions, our obedience to the Word of God, should give us away. While God knows your every thought, He shouldn’t have to read your mind to assure Himself that you belong to Him. Your words and actions should tell the world.

What words? What actions?

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.

1 John 2:7 (NLT)

There is no excuse a believer can make for living a life outside of love. For if God—who is love—lives within us, there is no room for hate. And if we hate while claiming to love, we are liars because both darkness and light cannot exist in the same space.

You either love or you don’t. You either belong to God or you don’t. There is no place in between. No grey area. You’re one or the other and that is the way to know whether or not we live in him.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 1-2, 1 John 2

Silence the fools

It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who make foolish accusations against you. You are not slaves; you are free. But your freedom is not an excuse to do evil. You are free to live as God’s slaves.

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NLT)

The best way to prove a fool wrong is by your actions—not with malicious intent, but by simply living contrary to their foolish accusations.

The church is one of the most accused groups out there. It’s full of hypocrites. They just preach that prosperity stuff. The preachers all holler and spit. It’s only a place where weak people go.

The best way around all of those things is to live the exact opposite. Live with integrity. Preach a balanced message. Whisper and try not to drool. Be strong. Let the way you live exceed the expectations of others.

Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world.

1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)

If you’ve ever tried to argue your point with a fool, you know that it is a fruitless waste of time.

Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.

Proverbs 10:23 (NLT)

The best response to a foolish accusation is to live a life above reproach. In living wisely, not only can we find pleasure and honor, but we silence the fools.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 34-35, 1 Peter 2

I insist

When we insist on something, we’re usually polite about it. Let me get the bill, I insist. We’re just being nice.

INSIST: Literally, to stand or rest on. To press or urge for any thing with immovable firmness; to persist in demands.

Not so polite now, is it? To insist on something is to stand firm, without moving or wavering. Paul, in his letter to Titus insists that he stand on the truth of the message of Christ.

But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trust in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial to everyone.

Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)

Not only should we insist on the Truth, but we should insist on it for a reason—so that we will all be careful to do good deeds all the time.

Look at one who’s received a heart transplant. Someone had to die in order for that person to live. Now that they have a new heart, they will not—they cannot—go back to living the way they lived before. They must live a life worthy of the gift they received. The same goes for us. While we’re not going to drop dead if we don’t do good deeds, to live a life without change is hardly living a life worthy of the price Jesus paid so that we could be free from those things that tie us down.

We have been called to so much more than just a simple belief in Christ. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died and rose again to pay the price for our sins is only the beginning. God, the creator of the universe, has a plan for each of us. He, in His infinite grace and mercy, has far greater things in mind for us than we could ever comprehend. To keep on living the way we always lived is an insult to the price that Jesus paid.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

Let’s think about our lives. Think about the gift of grace we have been given. And think about the ways that we can live worthy of that gift one day at a time. Start with one good deed. Then another. Then another.

I insist.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 33-35, Titus 3

Walking contradiction

The life of a Christian is full of contradictions. To the world, it would make no sense at all, but to the born again believer, it makes perfect sense. Die so you can live. Bind yourself so you can be free. Fear God so you fear nothing else.

The Lord said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind close doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy one. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else.

Isaiah 8:11-13 (NLT)

When we have a proper, holy fear of God, there is no room for any other fear. In fact, the fear of God rejects all other fear completely.

FEAR: holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun everything that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience

Paul, like God, spoke to the church in Galatia in strong terms.

Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things.

Galatians 4:12a (NLT)

What things? The things of the law. Paul pleaded with the church to let go of the law that holds us back from the freedom that can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ. But we must wholly bind ourselves to that relationship. And that’s what faith truly is.

FAITH: to persuade, to draw towards any thing; to conciliate (to draw or bring together, to unite, to call; the primary sense of the root is to strain, to stretch, drive or draw); to believe, to obey.

Our faith in Christ draws us to him and to the Father. True faith stretches and strains toward the Truth, leaving all else behind—shunning everything that can offend God. Our fear—respect and reverence—for God leads us away from all other fear and through faith, calls us toward and unites us with perfect love which, we know, casts out all fear.

To try to understand all this through our human nature is futile. It can only be learned as we grow in our relationship with God and through divine revelation as as result of that relationship. So don’t worry if it doesn’t all make sense right away. The important thing is to keep at it.

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 7-9, Galatians 4

Those faith people

The Word of Faith has earned a bad reputation in many Christian circles. Faith, in many cases, has become a dirty word. You don’t want to be one of those faith people. Sure, there are some who are of the name-it-and-claim-it or blab-it-and-grab-it crowd—people who see God as a genie in a bottle just waiting for us to make our three wishes. But those aren’t the people I’m talking about. When it comes to the Word of Faith, I’m talking about those people who spend time reading and meditating on the Word of God, learning all the things God has said, done, and promised and firmly believe that what they read is true and, if it hasn’t already, will come to pass.

If you don’t want to be one of those faith people, I’d rethink your stance because I have news for you. You can’t be a Christian without being one of those faith people.

I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

In the same way, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are all those who put their faith in God.

Galatians 3:5-7 (NLT)

As Christians, our entire belief system is based on faith. You can’t knock those faith people, without knocking yourself.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

My faith is my confident assurance that Jesus lived, died, and lived again all as a holy sacrifice for my sins so that I can live in right standing God. And if I am in right standing with God, I want to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

So, if you have the faith to believe in God, why would you not also want to increase your faith to believe in all of His promises as well? If all you want is a safety net to keep you out of hell, that’s fine. But as for me, I want to live a life full of the promises God has made to me in His Word. I want the rewards that come with seeking Him. And if that kind of faith makes me one of those faith people, so be it. I’m not out to please you or the rest of the church. I’m out to please God.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 4-6, Galatians 3

No plan B

There are some things in life I like to have planned out. When I know I have to be somewhere, I plan my route. I know which roads I will take and, if there is an unforeseen backup, I’ll have a secondary plan. Plan B.

God had no such thing. There was no plan B in case His whole humanity thing went sideways—which it totally did. God is smart. He’s smarter than smart. He’s all-knowing. When He put mankind on the earth and told them not to eat from a certain tree, He knew full well that they were going to eat from that tree. And He also knew what He was going to do about it.

May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. That is why all glory belongs to God through all the ages of eternity. Amen.

Galatians 1:3-5 (NLT)

He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned. I’m sure that all of Jesus’ followers would have liked to have been in on that plan. I cannot imagine how they must have felt having the person they assumed would be their king killed for a crime he didn’t commit. We have the ability to read through both the Old and New Testaments and see a bigger picture. We can see how God’s plan for our salvation—which included the death (and resurrection) of Jesus—began with Adam and Eve.

You can look at God’s lack of forward planning two ways:

  1. He’s really not all that bright. Who works out a plan so grand without any backup measures whatsoever? That’s just crazy right? Everyone needs a plan B. But… we’ve already established that God is omniscient.
  2. He’s a genius. Before time even existed, He put into motion the greatest escape plan of all time. And it wasn’t even for Himself—it was for us.

God was so confident in what He started that He never worried about failure. He had one shot and He took it and let it play out for thousands of years. All so that you and I could be redeemed.

I can’t even get across town without a plan B. God rescued all of humanity.

Daily Bible reading: Song of Solomon 6-8, Galatians 1