Brick #54 – John 10:1-10

BBBNewIn order to really understand this passage it is necessary to have the context of John 9. In chapter 9 the Pharisees reveal their true colors when, instead of being excited that a man who was born blind has been miraculously healed, they use the healing (on the Sabbath) as an excuse to frame Jesus as a lawbreaker.

Jesus calls them out – without calling them out. He spins a narrative in chapter 10 about sheep and shepherds that calls to mind, for everyone listening, Ezekiel’s prophetic warning from Ezekiel 34. This would not have been missed by the religious leaders of the day. Jesus is saying that the very men who have been entrusted with caring for and providing for God’s flock have instead burdened them with a weight that was impossible to carry. They had made the Law do what it was never intended to do.

Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd that Ezekiel prophesied about in 34:22-24. He likens the Pharisees to thieves who would steal, kill, and destroy, the flock of God (John 10:10) – which they were indeed doing. They had taken all the joy out of being a child of God and had destroyed any desire to serve Him wholeheartedly because of their weighty demands that sucked all the life out of God’s people. Jesus instead offered them hope: “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b)

It is no wonder why people were attracted to Jesus and His teaching – He was a lifeline of hope to a people who were drowning in despair and religious frustration. 

And it is no wonder why people still flock to Jesus. We live in a culture that is also fraught with despair and frustration. Religion is just one more thing to add to an already busy schedule. But when people rightly understand that Jesus did not come to add something else to their life but instead to BE their life and to fill them with hope and to fuel them with strength and courage to face each day then following Jesus becomes a delight rather than a duty.

May this brick help you to find joy in the Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters; who restores our soul; who leads us in paths of righteousness; and who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)

Quotes Worth Pondering – William Gurnall

QuotesWorthPonderingFaith strips away the veil from the Christian’s eyes so he can see sin in its nakedness before satan disguises it with flattering costumes. Faith enables the soul to recognize not only the nature of sin void of all true pleasure, but also the temporal quality of its frivolous elation. Faith persuades us not to give up God’s sure mercies for satan’s transient thrills.

The Christian in Complete Armour

 

There is a lot to ponder in these sentences that help us to understand the practical side of what faith is. Too often we think that faith is belief without substance. Gurnall helps us to understand that our faith is to be exercised with every choice that we make.

Brick #53 – Philippians 3:12-14

BBBNew12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What does  “this” in verse 12 and “it” in verse 13 refer to?  A key principle for interpreting Scripture is to always look at the context of a verse or passage. In this case, Paul is referring back to verses 7-11. The thing that means more to him than anything else to knowing Christ, gaining Christ, treasuring Christ above all.

The reason this is true for Paul, and should be for us, is because of what he says at the end of verse 12: “Christ Jesus has made me His own.” Paul has never gotten over the beauty of the cross. Even after 30 years he is still overwhelmed by the wonder of the gospel and what Jesus did for him. And we should be as well.

And Paul is not content to just maintain his relationship with Jesus. He wants to keep growing and keep knowing Christ better and better. In verse 13 he talks about “one thing” that he is doing to make sure this happens. My challenge to you (and me) is to identify one thing that could help you to know Jesus better and treasure Him more. Just one thing! Never underestimate the power of making one simple change.

Here are three things that I have been pondering regarding treasuring Jesus above all else. I won’t make any further comments about them. I will just leave them here for you to mull over:

  • What we treasure most we think about constantly! (Philippians 4:8)
  • What we treasure most we pursue relentlessly! (Matthew 13:44)
  • What we treasure most we guard jealously! (Exodus 20:4-5)

Is Jesus your greatest treasure?

May the Lord use this “brick” to spur you on to know Christ even better than you already do and to consider doing whatever it takes to make Christ your greatest treasure.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Paul David Tripp

QuotesWorthPondering“Grace will bless you with deeper comforts than you’ve ever known before, but it won’t let you be comfortable. God’s goal isn’t that you’d be comfortable, but that you’d be transformed.”

We are very much creatures of comfort. What  do you need to do today to move out of your comfort zone? What risk do you need to take knowing that the Lord has been very gracious to you and desires that you live a transformed life not a conformed life?

Pop Pop Epistle #116 – Through the Years

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Eight One Eighty-One – or to say it a different way: August 1, 1981.

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 12.14.27 PM39 years ago today Nona and I stood before a cloud of witnesses in Kernersville, NC and said our “I do’s” to each other and before God. It has been a great journey and a wonderful adventure and a blessed partnership. And one of the best things about it is that now we get to share it with you.

Here are a few pictures of us through the years. Each picture has a memory that goes along with it. We have lots and lots of shared memories that we hope to tell you about over the years. Feel free to ask us about any of these pictures and the story behind it. And our hope and prayer is that one day in the future you will have a husband or wife that will be a blessing and joy to your heart and help you to honor and glorify the Lord.

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Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle #115 – HB Keller and About Firefighters

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Keller,

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 10.29.16 AMFour years old. What a great age to be. So much energy. So much curiosity. So much trust.

I had a great time at your birthday party on Saturday with you. The fire truck motif was a blast – especially when the firetruck showed up at our house blaring its siren and tooting its horn.

I was talking to a fireman friend of mine this past week and he was telling me a few things about the life of a fireman. It would seem that about 90% of a fireman’s job is preparation. A fireman spends a lot of time maintaining fire apparatus so that when it is needed it will do what it is supposed to do. They spend a lot of time training – not only do they have to be ready to fight fires but they are also first-responders. So they have to be ready to provide emergency care at the scene of accidents and in response to 911 calls. And firemen also have to stay in excellent physical shape in order to endure the physical demands of their job.

So preparation is essential! The 90% of their time that they spend being prepared will determine their success in the 10% when they respond and react to actual emergencies.

So it is with life!

These next 20 years of your life are all about preparing you for the 60+ years that will come after that. Your success spiritually will most likely be determined by your preparation during these years. As will your success vocationally, relationally, and financially. So here are a few things I hope you will learn that will help you prepare well for the days to come…

  • Learn to read and ponder Scripture
  • Learn the value of patience
  • Learn how to manage money
  • Learn the value of working hard
  • Learn the value of perseverance
  • Learn how to cook
  • Learn how to fix things around the house
  • Learn to think deeply
  • Learn the value of gratitude
  • Learn to take risks
  • Learn how to connect with people of all ages
  • Learn how to pray
  • Learn the value of generosity
  • Learn how to encourage other people
  • Learn how to fail successfully
  • Learn how to abide in the love of God
  • Learn how to learn

So that’s a lot to learn. But you don’t have to learn it all on on your own. Your mom and dad will help you. Nona and I will help you. And there will be others that the Lord will put in your life that will help you as well. Your part is to be willing to learn and prepare so that you will be equipped to deal with life as it unfolds before you. Mostly I will encourage you to learn the truth of this verse from Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Learn to trust God. He is always faithful.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Quotes Worth Pondering – George Whitfield

QuotesWorthPondering

Watch carefully over thy heart, O Christian; and whenever thou perceivest thyself to be falling into a spiritual slumber, say to it, as Christ to his disciples, “Arise (my soul) why sleepest thou?”

What answer would you give to the question, “what are the causes of a spiritual slumber?” Here are a few that come to my mind: boredom, entanglement in sin, neglect of fellowship with believers, avoiding the voice of God – whether it be reading Scripture of preaching. If you find yourself in a spiritual slumber take some time to figure out why this might be true and then resolve to WAKE UP!

Brick #52 – Matthew 7:24-27

BBBNewThese 4 verses are the closing verses of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Like every good preacher He left His hearers with a lot to think about. Part of his closing remarks say “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Here are a few questions that I think His listeners left pondering… and scratching their heads about:

  • How in the world is my righteousness ever going to exceed that of the scribes Pharisees? (5:20)
  • Does Jesus really expect me to cut off my right hand when (not if) it causes me to sin? (5:30)
  • Am I really supposed to let somebody slap my other cheek after they have already slapped me once? (5:39)
  • What did Jesus mean by “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth?” Am I not supposed to save and prepare for retirement? (6:19)
  • Did He really mean that very few are going to find their way into heaven? What do I have to do? (7:14)

Jesus talks in these verses about making sure that our lives are built on a strong, solid foundation and warns His hearers that if this is not true then they are setting themselves up for collapse. Unfortunately many people, even spiritual people, have a foundation that is faulty. Their lives are centered around being good enough to get into heaven. Or their lives are focused around the other people in their lives – and one thing we know is that people often disappoint and let us down. Or their lives center on how they are feeling at any given time – which can make for quite a roller-coaster kind of existence.

And then there are many people who have built their lives initially on Jesus but either because of compromise or neglect have allowed cracks to form in their foundation. These folks are always surprised when their lives start to collapse around them only to realize that they refused to do anything to keep the little cracks from becoming big cracks.

So how do you maintain a foundation that will support your life when the storms of life threaten to destroy you. Three things that you hear often because they are so crucial: 

1) Stay in church and connected to other believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
2) Stay in the Word. It has been said that sin will keep you from the Word or the Word will keep you from sin. Jesus said it this way, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them…”
3) Stay before the throne of grace. As the author to the Hebrews said, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

As you ponder this “brick” may the Lord strengthen the foundation you have built and cause you to exult in song proclaiming…

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Pop Pop Epistle #114 – About J.I. Packer

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

J.I. Packer died a few days ago. I’m sure that you have no idea who he is but you should.

For my generation, he was one of the guys that would be included in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith if they were accepting new honorees.

Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 9.07.02 AMIt’s fascinating to watch how God can take tragedy and turn it into triumph. This was certainly the case for Packer. When he was 7 years old he suffered a severe head injury in a collision with a bread van, which caused him to not be able to play sports, so he became interested in reading and writing.  This proved to be very fortuitous for the Church. In 1973 he wrote a book called Knowing God which is considered one of the most influential books for evangelicals of the 20th century.

It was definitely an influential book in my life. I became a Christian in 1974 and it was one of the first books I read as a growing new believer. I still have that book on my shelf and wanted to share a few quotes that I underlined (this was before highlighters were widely used).

“How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each Truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”

“Men who know their God are before anything else men who pray, and their first point where their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression is in their prayers.”

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”

“What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?”

“Knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a man’s heart.”

“The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.”

Read the book when you get a chance. I have written you a note on the inside cover of my original copy. Find it on my shelf sometime and read it. My hope is that it will be a blessing to you.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 113 – About Nero and the 200th Day of the Year

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)Dear Grandkids,

Today is the 200th day of the year.

Something very significant happened on the 200th day of the year 64.  Not 1964 or even 1864. But 64. That makes it 1,956 years ago.

The city was Rome. A fire broke out just south of the legendary Palatine Hill, which is just  a short walk from the Coliseum. I know this because Nona and I made this walk back in 2014. The fire raged for three days and destroyed much of the city. The emperor at the time was Nero and an unsubstantiated legend has it that he played his fiddle while the fire ravaged the city. We know that this legend is NOT true. But what we do know IS true is that he placed the blame for the fire squarely on the shoulders of Christians to clamp down on their growing influence. He arrested, tortured and executed hundreds of believers on the pretext that they had something to do with the fire. Which they did not!

Nero has been described as a “megalomaniacal, murderous tyrant.” He had an obsession with being known as a great ruler which turned into a delusion which fueled many of the atrocities he committed. He was put into a position where he indeed could have built a great and long lasting legacy but instead he will forever be remembered as one of the worst people to ever live.

I give you this brief snapshot of Nero to tell you this: We all have within us a desire for greatness. But greatness will not be found by being self-serving but rather by serving God and others. Jesus put it this way when talking to his disciples, The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

Today would be a great day to look for a way to serve someone. It will be one of the first steps you can take to greatness.

On another note about the 200th day of the year. Back on the 100th day of this year I mentioned that I had a goal to do 100 pushups everyday of the year. So far so good. So the next time you see me lets have a pushup challenge and see if this old man can still out pushup you.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

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