Traditional Religion

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Text: Colossians 2:8 & 9

Wow! This one is right on point! So often churches get stuck on traditions. Annual events, the order of service, time of service, how the choir sings, even seeing the church as their own family’s business can be tradition! We humans can turn anything into tradition. We humans so easily blur the line between tradition, conviction, and Biblical principles. To me, this verse says it’s one thing to be taught or to practice traditions, but it becomes another thing when you are captive to it, to the point where you can’t move forward and do what Christ has called you to do. It is an entirely different thing where observing those traditions outweigh obedience to Christ. That ought not to be so. Our beliefs and convictions should be based on Christ. This verse reminds me that whatever authority has set up those traditions, Christ is still head over them and as such, He is who we should be captive to. I pray God gives us all the strength to consciously recognize and submit to the Lordship of Christ in every area of our lives.

Don’t Get Cut Off

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Text: Psalms 37:1-38

There’s a whole lot of cutting in this chapter. I think the purpose of this chapter is to remind us to trust in God and wait on Him. When we don’t, we tend to do things that are ungodly to get the results we are seeking. People tend to resort to wicked means to get ahead when “conventional methods” do not appear to be working. Even in the law, doing the wrong things for the right reasons is still punished. God constantly contrasts the end of the wicked with the end of the righteous. The righteous shall have peace (v. 37) and the wicked shall be cut off (v. 38).

First comes faith and then comes trust. Once faith is used to overcome, it becomes the foundation for trust in the future. Trust is knowing God has done it before and can do it again. My pastor says, a person can have faith in God but not trust God. He says faith is knowing that God can and trust is knowing that God will. This second part is the hardest for most people: knowing that for US God can and will move the mountain. We can have faith that things will work out, but when it doesn’t go the way we had faith for, we then need to trust God. Trust is greater than faith. We trust God by keeping His word in our hearts and meditating upon it. By doing so, we not will falter (v. 31).

“We need to trust God more than we have faith in God.” – Pastor Donnie Copeland

“Trust is faith in slow motion.” – Pastor Phil Munsey

The Love Chapter

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Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

I feel like I’ve never read this chapter before. I feel like this is all news to me! All along I thought this chapter referred to love as in the love of or for humans. Boy, was I wrong. It is all about God’s love in us, God’s love for us; God’s kind of love. The kind of love that caused Him to sacrifice Jesus. But it started all the way in Genesis. It then causes or inspires us to live this way (as discussed in Chapter 13) and to see things from His perspective! I’m speechless at these definitions of faith, hope, & love though. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of what it means to hope, to love others, or to hold on to faith. It amazes me how strong and enduring these 3 elements are:

  1. FAITH – conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things
  2. HOPE – joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation
  3. LOVE – true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us

They’re like water, earth, and wind or earth, wind, & fire. I now see how essential they are to the Christian journey. I pray for grace for each of us to live by them and to walk in strength.

The Tongue

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Text: James 3:2-8

Verse two states, ‘we often stumble and offend’. This suggests to me that even as Christians we will offend people and we will stumble. He speaks in the present tense and even uses the word often. In other verses though, Paul mentions what we used to do when we were not Christians. But here James says “we all often“.

I find that interesting because so many times we think becoming a Christian means automatic perfection in everything we do and say and experience. But this debunks that. It’s NOT making allowance for sin or allowing sloppy living, but it is saying that as humans on this earth offenses will happen. He then goes on to say, ‘but if anyone does not offend in word, then he’s a mature and perfect person’. Why is that? Because the tongue is usually what causes problems to start in the first place.

We all have or have experienced problems with, ‘this person said…’, ‘I heard this one say about…’, ‘she said…’, ‘he said.. .’ Verse six speaks to this! It defiles the body.

  1. the individual body, by speaking negative words about ourselves,
  2. the body of believers by causing trouble and unnecessary strife.

Let’s look briefly at The Garden of Eden. If Satan’s tongue never wagged, we probably wouldn’t be here today. If Eve never opened her mouth and just walked away, she would not have been defiled and the course of life would not have been changed as we know it. And if Adam kept his mouth shut and took the fruit to God, perhaps there would have been some other remedy.

Verse eight then gives some scary insight: ‘the tongue is untameable’! James did say though in verse two, ‘if any man does not offend in speech he is a great man’. I’d like to believe there is much room to achieve such a great feat. May the Lord give us the grace to keep our tongues from evil purposes and used only for His glory.

The House Behind the Narrow Gate on the Rock

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Text: Matthew 7:14-26

The narrow gate and the rock are related. The broad way is used to symbolize a life of sin that leads to spiritual death. The narrow road is used to symbolize a life of righteousness that leads to eternal life. It is hard to get through something that is narrow; just as it is difficult to build a house on a rock. I would imagine building on sand is a lot easier. Sand is right there. It’s close to water. It looks good. It’s easier and doesn’t require much. Maybe even feels good in the breeze. Similarly, it’s easier to live a frivolous life, care free of right versus wrong.

The point is when we take the easy road to build our home (our life) and the storms and troubles of life come, what we have built on is what will keep us. If we built on nothing sturdy we will fall. But building on a sturdy foundation takes time, energy, sacrifice, and denying ourselves of certain things. The usefulness and sturdiness of a house is not determined by how beautiful it is when nothing is going on around it. The usefulness and sturdiness of a house is determined by how well the house stands AND keeps water, the cold, and the other elements OUT when they come as a deluge or as a windstorm. This is why people build bunkers and fortresses made of iron to keep bullets and bombs out.

When our life is tested, that is the time we know exactly how strong we are and what we are made of. I pray we build on the Solid Rock which cannot and will not be moved.

Fruit

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Text: Matthew 7:16-20; John 15:1-6

In Matthew, He begins and ends with, “by their fruit ye shall know them.” Statements are repeated for emphasis.

  1. He asks whether grapes and figs are found among thistles and thorns. I think the answer is no. I guess that means if a person clearly has thorns (or is thorny) and thistles, there would be no fruit there.
  2. He takes it further and says even if there are no thorns and thistles, nobody wants bad fruit (at least that’s how I summarize those couple of verses).

We will be good fruit because Jesus is a good tree. He is the vine, we are the branches. And if we are bad fruit, then it is very likely that we are not attached to Jesus. We must bear good fruit. We must continually check that we are attached to The Vine. As we do so, Jesus will equip us with all we need to grow and flourish for His glory!

If/then

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Text: Colossians 3:1-5

“If/then” statements. You can find them in computer programming and you can even find them in the law. But now here they are in this verse. Verse 1 starts with an “if/then” but I think it really reads, ‘if you were raised with Christ, then seek those things which are above’. Meaning, this statement is for those who have died to sin and given their life to Christ. Being raised to Christ precedes everything else. Seeking heavenly things is conditioned on being raised to life with Christ. Our life IS Christ. How awesome! No wonder our life is hidden in Him (v. 4). Even though we have died (v. 3), we must still put to death the desires/members of the earth (v. 5), meaning the ways of the earth. That is very interesting. It means it is an act of our will to continually have life in Christ. We must do something and not sit idle thinking Jesus did it all. Let’s make up our minds this day to daily remember our life is in Christ and it is for Christ that we live!

Unbelief

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Text: Hebrews 3:10-19

Unbelief is evil. Unbelief is not believing God’s word to be true, whether it be commandments or promises. The heart is the root and source of our actions. If we dabble with unbelief, it will cause us to err and sin because we do not believe God’s commands are righteous and right to be followed. If we dabble with unbelief we will miss out on God’s blessings, just as the children of Israel did not enter the Promised Land. I pray God will help my unbelief to be converted to full faith in Him, no matter what I see or don’t see, no matter what I feel or don’t feel, and no matter what people say or don’t say. And I pray it is so for you as well.

Following Faithfully

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Text: Acts 1:15-23

It’s amazing that these two men, Joseph and Matthias, were with Jesus the whole time, but we (the readers) are just now hearing about them. They didn’t vie for a position with the disciples. They were steadfast and served where they could. But the day came where they would become part of the leaders. This tells me we should be faithful to Jesus because of Jesus and not for anything else. One day will come and He will reward our service, even as something we were not expecting. The Bible doesn’t say they approached Peter about it. They probably didn’t see this coming, but Peter decided the twelfth position needed to be filled. And so it was that their faithfulness was remembered. I pray that God will cause us to be faithful to Him, not because we want something, but because we desire to know more about Him and because He is faithful. And I believe that as we are faithful, He will remember us for good.

Unselfish Concern

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Text: John 13:34-35; Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18; 1 Corinthians 13:5

Jesus calls it a NEW commandment. We could call this the 11th commandment. Or we could interpret it to mean a higher calling than what was given in the old treatment. It is a higher calling not because it is new but because Jesus said we should love one another as HE loves us. Before, it was, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. The sad truth is some people don’t love themselves. So, Jesus says to us to love as He loves. On second thought, I’d be cautious in calling it a higher standard.

In Mark 12:31, Jesus says no other commandment is greater. But it can be new. Another version I read describes this love in John 13 v. 35 as “unselfish concern for one another”. That too is a tall order. Often, we can be concerned for someone but is it unselfish? Is it because we have an agenda or is it because we want something from them? Whether it be attention or something tangible? That’s not pure love. Putting another’s needs before our own is pure love. Love does not seek its own. It’s a challenge but it is one I’m hoping to overcome as I daily pray that my love will be pure and unadulterated and unhindered by my thoughts or feelings about others.

Let’s ask God to give us a pure love for one another.