Brick #57 – 1 John 5:11-15

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There is much that can be pondered from this passage but I will focus on verse 13:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

Jesus defines eternal life back in John 17:3 like this: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

So another way to say 1 John 5:13 might be like this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you know God and His Son Jesus.”

Know that you know. It is important that we know that we know. That we have confidence and assurance that we are children of the King. So let me explore this word “know” a bit.

 The word “know” can be pretty nuanced. I can think of at least three different ways this is true in relation to God…

1) It is possible to know about God and not really know God. It is even possible to express love for God and not really know Him. For example, when I was growing up my first favorite musical artist was Jim Croce. I did not know Jim Croce. But I did know a lot about Jim Croce and even had most of his songs memorized. It would not have been unusual for me to say, “I love Jim Croce.” Now of course what I meant was that I loved his music. In the same way, it is  possible to know a lot about God and even have a lot of His Word memorized but to not really know Him at all.

2) It is possible to know God personally but to not know Him intimately. In other words, it is possible to have a relationship with God and that that relationship is only superficial. And it is superficial because that is the way that we choose it to be not the way that God chooses it to be. The Prodigal Son is an example of this. The father yearned for a close relationship with his son but the son kept him at arm’s length for much of his early life. Much like we do with our Heavenly Father. We know Him and have a relationship with Him but we don’t have the kind of relationship that the Father longs for.

3) It is possible to know God both personally and intimately. The Hebrew word for “know” in the Old Testament is an interesting word. It is transliterated “yada.” ( Some of you will remember the yada yada yada Seinfield episode from the 1990’s.) Genesis 4:1 says “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” There was an intimacy in that kind knowing that husbands and wives (hopefully) experience when they make love. As believers we are the bride of Christ and designed to know Him not just personally but also intimately. The Lord longs for a closeness with us as a father does with his children. He doesn’t want to be kept at arm’s length.

May the Lord use this brick to help you discern the level of “knowing” that you have with the Father and to take the next step to know Him better.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Dane Ortlund

QuotesWorthPondering

“Do not minimize your sin or excuse it away. Raise no defense. Simply take it to the one who is already at the right hand of the Father, advocating for you on the basis of His own wounds. Let your own unrighteousness, in all your darkness and despair, drive you to Jesus Christ, the righteous, in all His brightness and sufficiency.”
(Dane Ortlund – Gentle and Lowly)
We tend to forget that our Savior is our great Defender and Advocate – so that whenever the evil one would seek to condemn us for our continuing sinfulness, Jesus is right there with His nail scarred hands showing the Father that the penalty for our sin has been paid in full and that Satan has no argument that can convince the Lord otherwise.

Pop Pop Epistle #118 – About Math

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Solve: 9+8×7-6+5-4×3÷2-1

It’s a pretty simple math problem – as long as you know what to do. For some reason math always came easy to me. It still does. Now I am talking about simple math. Not differential equations and certainly not geometry but your basic addition and multiplication kind of stuff. Math is the reason I majored in engineering in college. Math is the reason I know how long I’ve been married to Nona. Math is the reason I know how many of you grandkids there are.

Math is something that you need to know because it is useful in almost everything. Just in the last 24 hours I have used math to shop and bank and cook and play golf and do my 100 push ups and even to write this epistle. But did you know that it helps to know math if you want to read the Bible well? I could give you lots of examples but here are just a few:

Peter needed to know math to understand a lesson on forgiveness: Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22). He also needed it in his fishing business: So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. (John 21:11)

John needed to know math to understand The Revelation: The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. (Revelation 9:16)

And there was a time when I needed math to get the full impact of this verse from Matthew – though not so much these days: But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

Right now I’m counting down the days until we get to hang out at the beach together – that takes math. 

Tell you what – give me a call and tell me the correct answer to the math problem up above and I will give you a Chick-fil-A gift card. I’ll just need to figure out how much that will cost me – which will take math.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Brick #56 – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

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7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The context of this passage is really interesting. 14 years earlier Paul had an out of body experience that left him awed, overwhelmed, and speechless. It was the kind of experience that he could have boasted about; that he could have written a book about; that could have led to a lucrative speaking tour. But the Lord, in His sovereign care, made sure this did not happen. And Paul didn’t really understand why God did it the way that He did it.

Most of us have what we might call a “thorn in the flesh.” It might be a chronic physical ailment. It might be a person. It might be a  “proneness” – some habit or inclination that we just can’t shake. It might be a financial or other life situation that makes life difficult. And no matter how many times we ask God to take the thorn away it seems that we are stuck with it – much to our dismay.

We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was but we do know that it was something that weighed heavily on him. I have written elsewhere what I suspect it was but we will never know for sure. So two questions come to mind:

What purpose might our thorn in the flesh serve? Paul is able to recognize God’s larger purpose which is always helpful. He knows that God is using his thorn to refine his character and transform him more and more into the likeness of Christ. And this is what God wants to do with us as well. So if we can get past the whining and grumbling stage and get to the gratitude and worship stage then the Lord will use whatever thorn we might have to do a good work in and through us.

How do we get to the gratitude and worship stage? 1) Remind yourself daily that God is enough! This is what the Lord means when He says “My grace is sufficient for you.” No matter what we find ourselves going through, God is enough to see us through it and to satisfy our soul while we endure.  And make no mistake, sometimes it is a matter of enduring. Taking one day at a time. Putting one foot in front of another. And with each step we say a prayer to God, “Thank you Lord for letting me take another step. Do in my life what You want to do and use me to honor and magnify Your name.”

May the Lord use this brick to help you deal with the thorns in your life and to understand God’s greater purpose when the answer to your oft prayed prayer is “NO.”

Quotes Worth Pondering – C.S.Lewis

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“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
(C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

We live in a time when it might look like “every trace of Him seems to have vanished.” And yet, the triumphant cry of believers is that God is STILL on His throne and STILL working all things together for our good and for His glory – therefore we joyfully obey!

Pop Pop Epistle #117 – About the Womb

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Just curious… do any of you remember your time in your mommy’s womb? Most of you hung out in there for about 9 months. Keller only wanted to stay for 7½. A few of you would have been quite content to stay for 10. But my guess is that you don’t remember much about that time.

Here are a few things that might jog your memory about those prenatal days…
  • It was a time of incredible growth for you
  • All your needs and desires were taken care of
  • It was a place that was safe and secure.
  • You didn’t have to worry about anything
  • All the voices you heard were so excited about meeting you
  • You didn’t experience anything like fear or anger or frustration

But in the fulness of time you made your grand entrance into this world and the first thing that you did was to cry. Yeah, me too. It was as if you knew that you had traded a place of health and happiness for a place of hurt and hunger; a place where you would constantly have to work to have all your appetites satisfied; a place that you quickly realized was anything but safe and secure; a place where you were reliant on the whims of others to have your needs met.

Here’s the good news: Just like the womb was a short term incubator to get you ready for this world, this world is a short term incubator to get you ready for the next world. Now I know that sometimes our time here does not feel like short term but compared to how long eternity is it is just a dot on an unending line.

Check out this awesome Scripture in Romans 8. It is worth spending some pondering time on:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. 

Right before you were born your mommy started having “birth pains.” These were an indication that it was about time for you to leave the comfort of the womb and make your grand entrance into this world. It was not an easy time for your mommy and I suspect that even you were kind of weirded out by what was going on. I can kind of imagine you thinking something like this: “Wait, what! You mean this isn’t what life is all about. You’re telling me that I have to leave the comfort of this place and go to a place that has so many unknowns and where everyday there will be some kind of trouble to deal with. No thanks, I’ll just stay right here.”

But of course you can’t do that.

Here is my promise to you. If you can keep things in perspective you will be OK as you navigate your way through this world. Remember that this is NOT the world that you were created for. This world is just getting you ready for the world to come. Every hurt and every hardship is just an opportunity to grow. Lean into them. Learn from them. Let the Lord use them to transform you and prepare you for the life that is truly LIFE. And while you are on this crazy oft times frustrating journey…

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

P.S. – Turns out that 2 of ya’ll have a dad that exited the womb on this day 30 years ago. Happy Birthday Tucker.

Brick #55 – Ephesians 4:29-5:2

BBBNewLet no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Here is the big picture context for these verses: The first three chapters of Ephesians lay a theological foundation for what Paul talks about in the last three chapters of Ephesians.

In chapter four Paul is reminding the Ephesians that they have been given new life in Christ and therefore their lives should look different from those who are not identified with Jesus. As well, he subtly reminds them that they are in a spiritual battle and implores them not to give the devil any kind of a foothold in their lives (verse 27). These verses reflect some ways that this might be happening.

What is “corrupting talk”? The word corrupt is likened to rotten fruit. It refers to anything that is destructive, selfish, and especially grace-less. It might be foul language, gossip, lies, slander, etc. It is language that does not nourish others, that is cancerous, and is harmful – both to the talker and the hearer.

Where does corrupting talk come from? – According to Matthew 12:34-36 it comes from a corrupt heart: “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

How do you fix a corrupting talk problem? – If you are a believer, you need to repent and be reminded of the cross and the fact that you are beloved by the Father and seek to imitate Jesus. A good place to start is by watching how Jesus used language in the gospels to help people rather than to hurt people. If you are not a believer, you need a new heart. This is something that only the Lord can do as you come to Him as the Great Physician asking that He would take your heart of stone and replace it with a heart that beats for Him. (Ezekiel 36:26)

May the Lord use this brick to remind you that the Lord wants to use our words to build others up and that starts by having a heart that is overflowing with God and the gospel.

Quotes Worth Pondering – John Newton

QuotesWorthPonderingThe times look awfully dark indeed; and as the clouds grow thicker—the stupidity of the nation seems proportionally to increase. If the Lord had not a remnant here, I would have very formidable apprehensions. (John Newton, 1778)

Sounds like it could have been written today. Praise God for the remnant.

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.

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