Archive for the month “June, 2011”

Pondering the Passages: John 3:16-21

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): John 3:16-21  16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

You are no doubt familiar with John 3:16 but may  not be so familiar with the context  of the verse. It is a great passage to reflect on as you hear the extended conversation that Jesus was having with Nicodemus. I’m at camp this week so rather than do a lot of writing I’m only going to post a few of the questions that might have entered Nic’s mind as he heard Jesus speak. I’d love to hear your comments on this passage or these questions.

What does Jesus mean by “perish”?

What does Jesus mean by eternal life?

Is Jesus saying that I am condemned?

What does it really mean to “believe in Jesus”?

Does Jesus somehow know about my evil deeds?

What does he mean by evil?

Am I seeking Truth or just the traditions I am so familiar with?

Enjoy your time in the Word this week. Sometimes asking the right questions is just as valuable as finding the answers.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:10

Pondering the Passages: Titus 2:11-14

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The words that immediately stand out to me from this passage are the first 5: “For the grace of God”.  Here are the things that came to mind about the grace of God as I pondered.

The grace of God – a stark contrast to the Law: God’s people had for many years lived under a harsh taskmaster – the Law. It was impossible for them to measure up to the Law’s standards. The whole idea of grace that was ushered in by Jesus must have been a welcome relief. And it must have felt to the average Jew like an emancipation from the dungeon of legalism. Amazing grace must have seemed like a sweet sound to those who felt condemned by their inability to meet the holy requirements of the Law.

The grace of God appeared in the flesh: Jesus was grace incarnate. He was God’s gift to a hurting, hopeless, and helpless world. Jesus was God’s way of showing us what He really thought about us. He came to heal our sickness, to forgive our sin, to restore hope to a world filled with despair. He came with compassion and laughter and joy and selflessness. He made people feel like they mattered. He touched the untouchable. He gave life to those who had had life drained out of them. He demonstrated what it meant to have a relationship with God that gave purpose and peace and passion to our day to day living.

The grace of God teaches us to say “No” and then teaches us to say “Yes”: When we fully comprehend what grace is, when we finally understand the incredible gift that has been offered to us in Jesus, then it makes saying “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions very easy to do. Unfortunately, not many people grasp grace. We really don’t get it at all. It is the most taken for granted gift that has ever been given. That is why our churches are so anemic these days – because we sing about God’s amazing grace and then turn around and spit in God’s face as we live lives that don’t look a whole lot different from those who are outside the church. When you grasp grace, you run daily into the arms of God,  flee the evil desires of this world, and live “self-controlled upright and godly lives.”

Verse 14 is a great encapsulation of the gospel and the effects of the gospel and what grace is all about.  Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

This week lets be intentional to demonstrate our eagerness to do what is good so that the world around us can begin to see in us what grace really is all about.

I’m just sayin’.

Next Week’s Passage: John 3:16-21
Next Week’s Memory Verse: John 3:17

Pondering the Passages: Ephesians 6:10-20

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

The first time I read through this passage this week there were a few things that immediately stuck out to me. I’ll briefly elaborate on each one.

Our strength MUST come from God  (v.10) – We tend to try to find strength in places other than God – money, drink, family, friends, etc. Paul is imploring us to find our strength in the Lord. If we are going to be wage war against the enemy then He needs to be the source of our strength.

There is a devil. He is a schemer (v.11) – Just because we can’t see him does not mean he is not there. Satan is not fantasy. He is the enemy of our souls and is bent on our destruction. He is crafty and very good at what he does. He schemes to steal, kill, and destroy. That is his agenda for you and me.

We live in a dark and evil world (v.12) – Just read the headlines each day. Don’t need a whole lot more evidence to prove that we live in an evil world that has been ravaged by sin. This is the world into which we have been born again.

God has given us what we need to stand firm (vs. 13-17) – The armor of God! Faith, prayer, God’s Word, righteousness, salvation, the gospel. We have everything we need to withstand the assault of the enemy. We just need to suit up and not try to go into battle defenseless.

Prayer is crucial (v.18) – And yet we do not pray. No wonder the church and its people more often than not are fighting to survive rather than  thriving as we fight.

The gospel is a mystery (v. 19) – It is not magical but it is mysterious. I’m not sure I will ever understand how the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross provides a way for me to be reconciled to God. And when I demonstrate faith in what He has done then I become a child of God, my sins are forgiven, and I am given Life and can look forward to  an eternity in the presence of God. Amazing! And yet I know that it is true. The gospel changes lives! I know this because it has changed mine.

We are ambassadors of this gospel (v.20) – We have been given the job of telling this message to anyone who will listen. We have the opportunity to give people Good News when most of the time all they get is bad news. Unbelievably, God is making His appeal to return to Him and repent through us. Represent Him well today and as one of RBC’s heroes of the faith used to say, “Speak a good word for Jesus!” (J.B.Cash)

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Titus 2:11-14
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Titus 2:11-12

Pondering the Passages: 1 Peter 1:4-9

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

My dad died when I was 13 years old and because my folks had split up I received an inheritance. It was enough money to see that I could get through the college of my choice and have a little left over. By the time that I was 25 it was gone. The inheritance that we will receive from the Lord is an eternal inheritance. We will be able to enjoy it for always. And it will be so much more fulfilling than any earthly inheritance we could ever receive. There are only a few allusions in Scripture to what this inheritance will be like but they are enough to make me really look forward to it.

I notice too that until the time to receive God’s inheritance that we are “shielded by God’s power.” This means that His hand of protection is upon my life – much like it was upon Job’s life. It does not mean that we are immune to  trouble and difficulty. It does mean that in the midst of the trouble and difficulty that I can still find joy because my life is not about this world but about the world to come. And even “though now for a little while” may seem like a long time to us – in reality it is just a drop in the bucket of time.

I had breakfast this morning with my good friend Elton Earp. 93 years old and still a wild man. He graduated from high school in 1936 and he tells me that it seems like yesterday. He can still vividly remember the day and all that went on. He will tell you that “now for a little while” is exactly that – just a little while and that your life will be over lickety split. It won’t matter much what your inheritance, if any, is in this world. The only thing that ultimately matters is what is stored up for you in heaven “when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

That is why it is imperative to make sure that your faith is genuine because genuine faith is “of greater worth than gold.” You do not want to die and find out that your faith was made up of fool’s gold. Because fools gold will be burned up in the unquenchable fire. So I implore you to make sure that your faith will result in “praise, glory. and honor” to God. You will be incredibly and eternally glad that you did.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:10-20
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Ephesians 6:10-11

Pondering the Passages: 1 Peter 1: 3 (again)

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Last week we dealt with the first part of verse 3. This week we’ll deal with the last part of the verse.

“He has given us new birth” – Do you remember the day that you were born? Neither do I. Do you remember all the things that you did so that you could be born? There wasn’t anything to remember. My birth was a result of something that my parents did about 9 months prior to my birthday. It had absolutely nothing to do with anything that I did. It is the same way spiritually. There is nothing that you or did to cause us to be born again. It had everything to do with God. My spiritual birth was the result of a process that He orchestrated long before I “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved.” Here is a snapshot of that process that I can clearly see as I look at it in retrospect.

  • My folks divorce when I was six.
  • A move from Columbia SC to Aiken SC
  • A move across town in Aiken when I was 10.
  • An invitation from my next door neighbor to a church youth group in 9th grade.
  • Becoming best friends with the pastor’s son.
  • A youth pastor coming to the church named Kenny Crosswhite

All of these things were a part of the process that God used to prepare me for responding to the gospel. You will note that at least one of them was not a “good” thing and yet God used it for good purposes. It was because of His great mercy that I was given new birth.

And it was because of His great mercy that I have a “living hope!” – My hope is not some THING that I am looking forward to. It is not even some PLACE that I am looking forward to. My hope is some ONE that I am looking forward to. Jesus is the “living hope” that believers anticipate with excitement and joy. It is this living hope that drives me to live the way that do in this life. If I did not unreservedly believe that one day I will be with Jesus then I would live my life completely differently. But because I do believe and because He IS my hope then I experience a deep satisfaction as I live according to the magnificent purposes of God.

And my prayer is that you are also.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 Peter 1:4-9
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Peter 1:3

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