Daily Devotional – Take 2

3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.

To me Jonah 3:2-3 are some of the funniest verses in the Bible, yet they are very profound. They are funny to me because they mirror the verses in chapter 1 where God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh the first time. We know that in chapter 1 Jonah runs from God’s command and suffers a great trial because of his disobedience. In this “take 2”, there is no running just simple and instant obedience.

What is profound about these verses is that they represent a key component of God’s relationship to humanity. Second chances and grace.

God has every right to kill Jonah for his disobedience, yet He has compassion on Jonah. He has love for Jonah. He offers salvation to Jonah. Salvation from death.  Sound familiar?

The cool thing about the Bible is it really is a mirror of humanity. As we gaze at the images it contains, we see ourselves. We see the rising and the falling of men and women. We see disobedience, God’s grace, calls to repentance, and the restoration of others who have fallen and it gives us hope for our current situation. We see salvation time and time again.

It’s all about salvation. It’s all about Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and your salvation. Thank you God that you give us so many chances to respond to your call to repentance. Thank you Lord Jesus for your sacrifice for our restoration. Father let us hear your voice today and respond to your call. Thank you for loving us so much that created a way back to you. Keep us today. In Jesus name. Amen.

Writing tips from C.S. Lewis

Found this link at Tim Challies site.

These are tips from C.S. Lewis on writing with commentary by David Hughes.

Here’s an except of one that spoke to me:

4. Write only about things that interest you. If you have no interests, you won’t ever be a writer.

There is genius in these words. Too many Christian writers compose their literary work out of a sense of divine obligation, a quest for profit or a deadline–rather than pure godly passion.  Obligation, profit or a deadline often debase passion, but of course it is nice when all three elements can be combined. Sacrifice them all if you must–except for your passion for those things which interest.

Check the whole list out at:

Christian Writing Today

Grace and Peace,

Tony

Daily Devotional – What is Next?

Acts 1:6-7 (ESV)

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Can you imagine spending three years following Jesus, seeing Him crucified, resurrected, and then hanging out with Him before He leaves to take His place in Heaven? That’s where we find the disciples in Acts 1:6-7. They are hanging out with Jesus one last time before He returns to the Father, and they are concerned. They want to know what is next. Their expectation was that  Jesus’ coming was all about restoring Israel back to the glory it had when David sat on throne in Jerusalem and they wanted to know if that what was going to happen next.

How often does that happen to us? We get in a groove and we set an expectation about what God will do next. We see God working in our lives and we go ahead and jump forward in our minds-eye and say “ok God is doing A so the end result must be B”. How many times has A not led to B? How many times when we have it all figured out is it not that at all? I know for myself it has been many times.

How do we know what is next? I think the response of Jesus in verse 7 here holds the key. It’s a theme that we have been hitting a lot lately. Jesus points to the Father. Jesus reminds us again that its the Father’s story. The Father sets in motion all things. He has a plan that he reveals to us a part at a time as we diligently seek Him.

My brother Chris, reminded me yesterday that Jesus teaches us in the Lords prayer how to go to the Father.

Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,

12 and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

Notice how the first part of the prayer is all about recognizing that this life is about the Father first and foremost. It is about His glory and His Kingdom and it about His will/plan.

The second part of the prayer is about asking the Father to work in our lives to get us to the next step in His plan.

So what is next? I think that is a question the Father will answer for us daily. I think the challenge is to make sure we are asking Him often.

Heavenly Father, we lift praise and worship to your honored name. Father may your Kingdom come and be established according to your plan.  Thank you for your gift of citizenship in that Kingdom. Father help us today with our daily needs of provision, forgiveness, protection and guidance.  Teach us and keep us. Teach us what is next. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Daily Devotional – A Gentle Rebuke

Luke 22:41-42 (ESV)

41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

This weekend in a moment of busyness I responded to a request from my 11 son in a way that I thought would teach him something about relationship which has over the last day taught me something.

The scenario was this. We had a large group of family over and I was working on getting food grilled for lunch. I was out on the porch and my son came out asking if he could use my computer to play a game.  Mind you this is not an uncommon request, but in that moment I was a little offended that my 11 year was so needy and so unaware of the bigger picture. Not being cross or short with him, I said,  “I will get this for you, but can’t you see that Daddy is very busy trying to help all these other people be able to eat?” I said, “It would be nice if every conversation we had wasn’t based on me doing something for you but occasionally it would be nice if maybe you were just concerned about how I was doing.” I did my best to explain to him that it was the give and take between each other in relationship that really builds solid and lasting connections. I thought my teaching was pretty profound until I was gently nudged by the Spirit to answer it for myself.

As I finished grilling I found myself thinking do I ever check in with the Father just to be concerned with how He is doing or is it usually just about me?

The thing I have been really challenged with lately is how in such a busy time do I really get to know the Father? How do I become more concerned about His story and His Kingdom. How do I let go of my story and my kingdom? How do I get to the place of Jesus where I say not my will but the will of the Father?

I don’t really have a good application this morning. Honestly, I really could use some help and guidance in the area of cultivating a deeper relationship with the Father.

I have also been chewing on this A.W. Tozer quote from his book, “The Pursuit of God”.

We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.

I really do need some help here. How do you guys cultivate a deeper relationship with the Father?

Heavenly Father, as deep calls to deep, I long to know you better. I pray God that my focus would be on you alone and on the completion of your work. Thank you that you allow me to bring my own personal needs to you. Please forgive me where looking for answers to those needs have  taken the place of real communion  and fellowship with You. Thank you for your grace and your Fatherhood. Please allow me to know you better. In Jesus name, Amen.

What Does it Take to be Saved?

John 3:3

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Over the last few days we have been looking at some of the more challenging teachings of Jesus. Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ declaration that He was the Way, the truth, and the life and that no one would come to the Father unless it was through Him. The natural question that arises is how does that work practically? How do we get connected with Jesus so that we can be reconciled to the Father?

This is a tough question to answer because we have seen it play out in many forms. There are “altar calls” and “sinner’s prayer” and “inviting Jesus into your heart prayers” and many other methods that teachers and preachers use to help those who are newly responding to Jesus begin their journey. What I would like to do is look at three instances from scripture where the “what does it take” question is addressed.

First, let start with Jesus. The scripture above is from a conversation Jesus is having with a name named Nicodemus. Nicodemus professed to Jesus that he believed that God had sent Jesus to he Jews. Nicodemus was concerned with being a part of what God was doing. Jesus tells him that to see the Kingdom of God he must be born again.

What does it mean to be born again?

What Jesus is describing here is man’s condition before and after responding to Him. Prior to faith in Jesus and His saving power, man is living in a dead world as a slave to its fallen condition. The man who lives and dies in this life without Jesus will die separate from God and be subject to judgment for his sin. However, for he who has faith in Jesus, his life will start new. His life will be lifted out of the spiritual despair of this world and he will be reconciled in his spirit to the Father. When this natural life ends for that man, he will pass into an eternity of loving communion and fellowship with the Father free from the judgment and punishment of sin.

Jesus is saying that faith in Him will result in the death of the broken sinful man and the birth of new regenerate man.

Jesus says to be born again.

The second instance to look at is from Acts 2.

Act 2:37 (ESV)

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In this chapter Peter the Apostle is preaching to a crowd in Jerusalem. He is telling them about the redemptive and reconciling power of Jesus. At the end of his preaching the crowd wants to know what it takes to be saved through Jesus. Peter tells them repent and be baptized. Let’s look at these terms.

Repentance is the act of turning away from something. In the context of Peter’s exhortation it is the turning away from sin. It is recorded that several times when Jesus was ministering to the people He would tell those who he was healing to “Go and sin no more”.

Baptism is literally submersion in water. Why would this act be related to our response to faith in Jesus? It goes back to being born again. To accomplish our reconciliation to the Father  Jesus was crucified to death for the sins of humanity, our sins. After He was dead He was placed in a tomb and then God raised Him from the dead. Baptism is similar. It is the symbolic death of the new in faith to die to the old life and to born again to the new one with Christ. It is also a public proclamation of faith in the redemptive work of Jesus.

Peter tells us to repent and be baptized.

The final piece of scripture I want to examine is from Romans 10:9.

Romans 9:10 (ESV)

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The context of this scripture is a letter that Paul the Apostle is writing to the church in Rome. Many of Paul’s letters in the Bible deal with what life should be like and how we should live after we have come to faith in Christ. His answer to the what it takes question is confession and belief.

Paul is really hitting the heart of the matter here. He is dealing with many people who have heard the message of Jesus and many who are professing that it has changed them. Paul is concerned that there are some who are confessing with their mouth but not believing in their hearts. Paul brings up a good point that while some may confess Jesus, even be baptized, that without  repentance and belief in the heart they may not be born again.

Paul tells us to confess and believe.

So what is the application? I know this post is long and if you gotten this far I appreciate it. I can’t think of anything more key than how we respond to new followers of Christ. If you are a seeker or a new follower of Jesus I would ask that read a little further. A couple key things:

1) faith is gift from God and He freely offers it to whoever He wills for His glory.

2) individuals become aware of this faith when they hear the Gospel of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of their soul.

So what does it take?

First, it takes faith to be born again. Faith that Jesus died as a punishment for the sins of humanity. A punishment that we should have felt and faith that God raised Jesus from the dead to usher in an eternal life for all who believe.

Secondly, as we recognize that we have faith we need to continually flee from sin and be baptized so that we can symbolically partake in the miracle of Jesus’ redemptive work.

Finally, confess Jesus and share with someone the belief you have Him.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your salvation. Thank you God that you love your creation and that you desire for those who rebel against you to be saved. Father please give faith to those who do not have it and increase the faith of those who do. Help us believe. Help us be born again. In Jesus name. Amen.

Daily Devotional – Jesus Said What? I Am!

John 14:6-7

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Out of all the things Jesus said I think the one above my be the hardest one for most people to accept. In these verses Jesus draws a line in the sand about humanity’s relationship to Him and to God. Also, in these verses Jesus reveals something about His very nature that is hard for many to accept, His divinity.

John 14:6

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Here is the ultimate claim of Jesus. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. No one will know God unless it is through knowing Jesus. There is one path. All other religions, all other schools of thought, all other philosophies, and all other causes will leave the seeker empty handed. Jesus is exclusive. The way to find God is not broad. It is narrow. One way. One path. One truth. One God. Jesus.

John 14:7

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

How can Jesus be the only way to God? I think verse 7 helps us out. Jesus is the only way to God, because He is God. Jesus says here if you know me you know God. If you have seen me you have seen God. Why is this significant? It is significant because God who is separated from humanity because of our sinful rebellion stepped into to time so that He could fellowship with us. So that He could teach us. So that he could lead us. So that he could become sin for us and save us.

What do we do with these verses then?

For me these verses take the Bible and the teaching of Jesus to the next level. Many in our world herald Jesus as a good moral teacher, and He is held as a Prophet in other religions, but at the end of the day Jesus boldly told crowds of followers and the established religious leaders and the Roman government that He was God and He was the only way to a life beyond this one. A bold claim.

Do you believe Him? You have to choose.

Matthew 7:13-14

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Heavenly Father, thank you. Thank you that in your abundant goodness you have provided a way. Thank you for your truth. Thank you for this life of forgiveness and reconciliation. Father, help us to stay on the narrow path that leads to life. Father, give us a greater measure of faith and empower us to be bold witnesses for the Kingdom. Father, touch those today that don’t know you and don’t call you Father. Thank you for your unending mercy. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Daily Devotional – Jesus Said What? Who Is?

Matthew 12:46-50

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Can you imagine the scene? Jesus’ mother Mary shows up to talk to Him. This is the Mary who the Father himself chose as the vessel through which He would enter this world, and Jesus basically dismisses her request for an audience with Him.

We know from the Scripture that Jesus was a Rabbi and that He affirmed the teaching of the Old Testament, so how could He dishonor His mother in such a fashion when the 5th commandment is to honor your parents?

Is Jesus rejecting His family in this teaching?

Honestly, I don’t think so. I think Jesus is trying to teach us something about the Kingdom. Scripture affirms that Jesus had great concern for His mother. John records in his Gospel the request of the dying Christ to John is to care for Mary.

John 19:26-27

26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

So what is Jesus teaching us?

I think what Jesus is teaching us that our commitment to God and our commitment to the advancing Kingdom is preeminent. Jesus is stressing here that God’s plan comes before all other plans. I think it is easy to forget sometimes that the story of this life isn’t really about us but it is rather about God and His glory and His plan. Jesus echoed this saying, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees that Father doing.” (Jn 5:19, ESV)  Even for Jesus his own story was secondary to the Father’s. So while we have relationships outside of our commitments to God, such as family and friends, none of these relationships stand before the relationship we have with God. This is the same for all who call upon Jesus for salvation.

So what is the application? For me Jesus seeming rejection of His mother and His brothers remind me that something greater is at work in this life than even the universal bond of family. It is a heavy affirmation that the Father commands us to lay everything else down and look to Him first in everything. I am challenged to think about many decisions I have made  without giving the Father  and Kingdom first consideration. I am reminded of how many times I looked at myself for direction and guidance instead of the one who created me. I am thankful for grace.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your plan. Thank you that part of your creative process included us who call upon you. Father, forgive us where we have not put you first. Father help us understand and live out the reality that we really can do nothing worthwhile by our own means, but rather it is only by putting you first, ahead of all things, that we experience true life and relationship. In Jesus name. Amen.