Friday, March 30, 2018

March 30: Psalm 71; For Reaching 70 and Older

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
Psalm 71:9

            Not everyone ages gracefully. Some of us wear our physically but our mental abilities are still sharp. Other decline with dementia but the bodies continue long after there seem to be no spark of the person that once inhabited it. When I was young I thought it would be cool to be a grumpy old curmudgeon. But then I met Christ and my outlook changed. What didn’t change is that I kept getting older. Several years ago, I met an older man who really impressed me with his sunny outlook and joy. He always smiled, laughed, and appeared genuinely pleased when we met and talked briefly. He loved Jesus and his demeanor impressed me. Over the years I would stop and say hi and after several years it was apparent that he had no idea who I was. But he always smiled, laughed, and appeared genuinely pleased to see me. I don’t know if Jim was still in there, but I knew Jesus was. The patterns of life he forged walking with Jesus kept going even as his mind was deteriorating. I pray that if that is the way I go, I’ll be like him.

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
Psalm 71:14

            I know that at some point, this body and maybe even mind may be outside of my control, but as long as I can, I will want to continually praise my gracious Lord who has blessed me with eternal life through Jesus Christ. This is a good reminder to praise him more and more.

 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Ps 71:18

            Today, I went to the memorial of another older man who always had a smile on his face even when he was going through a long time of physical demise. He wanted to tell the next generation about his Lord, so he planned every detail of his memorial. He wanted those that were left behind to have the joy of personally knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Bill came to know the Lord because was loved sports. He saw a sign held up behind the goal posts that read “John 3:16” and he had to find out what it meant. He made sure that the pastor clarified what it meant to everyone who attended his memorial. I also want to be like Bill. It is a good reminder that I don’t have to wait until my memorial to tell others about Jesus. It is also a good reminder that even after I’m gone, what I write and what I’ve said to others will continue to tell of God’s saving power through Jesus Christ who died on the cross that Good Friday nearly two thousand years ago.

Monday, March 26, 2018

March 26: Deuteronomy 5:24-29, 6:24; Fear of God or Is Jesus Your Friend

Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (Deut 5:29)

            When God appeared to Israel at Mount Sinai, he showed them just a little bit of his great glory. When God, who is spirit (John 4:24), come in contact with this small part of his creation, the result was a tremendous display of fire, thunder, lightning, trumpet sounds, and the earth quaking. Did they fear God? You bet they did. They were so much afraid that they thought they would die. They believed, and rightly so, that normally no one could see God and live. Their response was to ask Moses to talk with God and then relay the message on to them so they would not be in danger of dying. They swore that they would obey whatever God commanded them. God looked upon their request as a good thing.
            This fear was for their own good, to keep them alive and so that it would go well with them and their descendants forever (Deut 5:29, 6:24). They knew that disobedience would be punished and obedience would be rewarded. They saw that in the physical realm as God took care of the nation from generation to generation while they obeyed the laws and punishment came through oppressors and when they disobeyed.
            What about today? Is it any different? Should we be in fear of God in the same way that Israel did at the mountain? What would make that change in our attitude toward God? Jesus makes the difference. Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past God spoke to us in various ways but now, it is Jesus who has had the last word. Jesus said a few things to us that should change the way we “fear” God. The first is that he calls us his friends (John 15:13-15). How amazing is that? The God who stood on the mountain and made it look like a volcano is now incarnate in a human body and says he is our friends. Ah, but don’t get too hasty and think that means we don’t have to obey God. Jesus made our obedience to him a condition of being his friend (John 15:14). God doesn’t change. Even though God reconciled us to himself through the blood of Jesus (Rom 5:10), he still expects us to obey him. The motivation is different because we are doing it as his friends and not out of fear of physical death. The laws are different because Jesus fulfilled the Law and now we obey the spirit of the Law which is in our hearts. And his commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
            Those who know Jesus should still fear God (1 Peter 2:17), but it is not the same as at Mount Sinai. However, those who do not know Jesus still have reason to fear God and it is because of judgment (Matt 10:28; Rev 14:7). Is Jesus your friend? I hope so. If not, then repent and turn from your disobedience and sin to Jesus and trust him for your salvation. He will be your friend and relieve those fears of judgment. It is for your good.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 24: Luke 6:20-36; Only Three “Ifs”

             What is harder than reading the Bible? Doing what it says! In today’s passage it starts with a shortened version of the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5. It’s pretty easy to read these first few verses and confidently think that I’m doing pretty good. I immediately relate to what Jesus said in Matthew because it is directed to spiritual poverty, hunger, and mourning. But a closer examination of Luke’s version reveals it can’t be the same sermon. Jesus follows up these beatitudes with woes that condemn not those who are looking at this spiritually, but physically. Suddenly I’m face to face with the fact that I’m rich materially and I’m far from the edge of starvation. He is setting the tone for more conviction.
            That conviction comes when Jesus starts talking about loving enemies. I don’t have enemies, so I guess it doesn’t apply to me. No one that I know actively hates me and I do pray for some with whom I have unresolved conflicts. No one is striking me on the cheek or trying to rob me. Though all of these things could change in an instant. That’s why I need to be ready to obey what Jesus said and make up my mind to respond in the way he wants. There are no “ifs” in this part of the passage. This is the way Jesus responded and this is the way we are supposed to respond. Whew, I guess I rationalized my way out of having to change in any way.
            But he gets real personal when he tells me to give to those who beg from me. Here is where I want to add some “ifs.” If the guy isn’t smoking (then I know he doesn’t really need money from me), then I might give him something. I could add a bunch more ifs to this one just to make sure he doesn’t take advantage of me. It’s getting harder to be like Jesus now.
            Now come the three “ifs” (Luke 6:32-34). Unfortunately, these conditions aren’t loopholes for me to respond to people in the way I want. Rather, they are showing me how much more I’m like a sinner than I am like Jesus. If I only love those who love me, then that is as far away from Jesus’ love as anyone can get. Because he died for me while I was still his enemy (Rom 5:6-11). If I only do good to those who can reciprocate, then that doesn’t show that I’m anything different that any other sinner. If I lend, well, I lend in ways, expecting to get interest and my investment returned. So I can’t proudly say that I lend without expectation of return. I need to adjust my attitude on that as well.
            Jesus ended this convicting passage by tell me I need to be merciful just as God the Father is merciful. That’s just another one of those verses I like to breeze past because no one can be as merciful as God. Then why did Jesus tell me to be as merciful as the Father? There are no “ifs” here either.