“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” (Psalm 40:3)
That’s where He finds most of us, isn’t it? Some are so deep in the pit that He has to really reach down deep. And He does just that, happily.
I began writing this, intending to make a point about how far some of us have come since the day of our salvation. But that thought was quickly replaced by something completely different. Here it is.
The story of the Messiah washing the feet of the disciples is one that we’re all familiar with. It’s told in every church, and it can be read in the Book of Yochannan (John), chapter 13. I’ve heard it many times, always with the same message. The speaker makes reference to His servanthood and humility, as if that’s the whole story. But it isn’t. Not even close. So many miss the real point, because they’ve dismissed the “Old” Testament as being irrelevant. But the fact is, everything can be found there. Everything.
Let’s go back to today’s verse. Where did He find us? He found us in the exact same place that He found the disciples, in the muddy pit of destruction. So, He pulled us out and put our feet upon a rock. What rock? Peter described the rock in detail when He told the Messiah that He is the son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). That answer became the rock, the foundation for our security and salvation. And as long as we remain on that rock, we’ll never have to worry about walking on the path to the gates of Hades.
On the feast of Passover, the celebration of the freedom of the Jews from slavery, He began to wash the feet of the disciples. Why? Because when you are pulled up out from the mud, your feet are still dirty. You can wash and you can bathe, but your feet require extra attention, because you continue to walk with them. Yes, it’s that simple. As a matter of fact, when Peter resisted, Yeshua (Jesus) told him, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”
You see, our feet the farthest parts of our bodies from our brains and our hearts. We have to keep them clean to stay on the right path. They get dirty easily. Even after He set our feet on a rock, they still need to be cleansed. He washed their feet, and then He told them to wash each other’s feet. The moral of the story is this: We need to do for each other what He has done for us. Is the story mostly symbolic? I think so. And it tells us that we need each other’s influence, love, compassion and correction to remain stable on the rock of righteousness.
How clean are your feet?
Have a great day everyone!
“‘But a redeemer will come to Zion, and to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 59:20)
It’s a self-explanatory verse, yet the online commentaries by the so-called “experts” reveal that many don’t want to accept it for what it actually says. I often wonder why people are so willing to accept Isaiah 53 as prophesy, yet unwilling to accept the rest of his words. Is the Bible only partially true?
Just as I picked and chose this verse to make a point, others like to pick and choose other verses. The debates are perceived to be “won” by those who can quote more verses that appear to prove their point. I recently realized that the debates are pointless. In Saul’s (Paul’s) writings to Timothy, he says not to quarrel about scripture. He was paraphrasing Titus 3:9, which says, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” He goes on to say, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” I am learning to start taking that advice.
Today’s verse begins with, “A redeemer will come to Zion (Israel).” That’s simple, and most agree on its meaning. But then, it says, “and to those in Jacob who turn from transgression.” Turn from transgression? What does that mean? According to Webster, the definition of a transgression is “a violation of a command or law.” So this verse could be written to say, “But a redeemer will come to Israel and to those who stop violating the commands (or laws).” Simple, right?
OK, but that’s not what we hear when we sit in the pew chairs, is it? Nope. For the most part, we’re told that all we have to do is believe in Him, and we are automatically “saints.” But that is far from scriptural truth, and I trust God’s word much more than that of any man.
Folks, the enemy is sin. Our Messiah came to teach us how to live a sinless life, as He did. He expects us to follow His example. He suffered and died to redeem us from the transgressions that occur as a result of our stumbling, not for the ones we choose to commit over and over again. We’ll make mistakes, but we can’t take advantage of Him.
There are those people who go to church for about an hour a week, often out of habit. But they spend the other six days and twenty-three hours showing their true selves to God. Do they really think they are fooling Him? Are they actually believing in Him, or in the version of Him that they choose to create? There is one God, yet mankind has created multitudes of variations. It’s time to get back to basics.
God’s word is not as complicated as people want to make it. The stories contained within are sometimes connected in complex and intricate ways, but the word itself is simple. Do we truly believe that He appreciates what we’ve done with it? Translation after translation, denomination after denomination, interpretation after interpretation? What is really going on? Why? Who’s really pulling our strings?
Sometimes I get frustrated, as you can see today. My frustration is not with any of you, or with any other person. It’s with the enemy’s skill. He is so good at diverting the truth, because it is our nature to prefer his version than God’s. Even though I know that the truth will ultimately prevail, waiting patiently isn’t always as easy as I wish it was.
And that is why those of us who seek and embrace the truth must patiently endure together. He is coming soon, and everything we’ve wanted to understand will become clear. We will all worship the same God, in the same way, just as He wishes we would do now. Until then, we will have our struggles, just as it is written. His word is good, and our struggles are good too, even though they’re difficult. They’re designed to bring us closer to Him, even when they don’t appear to. One day, we’ll all understand.
I’m sorry about my rambling this morning, and my intention certainly isn’t to bring anyone down. But just as the prophets spoke some uncomfortable truths, sometimes I do too. Read today’s verse. Read the whole chapter, and the rest of Isaiah. Read the whole Bible. Put the pieces together yourself.
As children, we used to play with puzzles. What was more satisfying, when we did it ourselves, or when someone did it for us? God’s puzzle isn’t difficult to put together. But His is different than any we’ve done before. When someone else does it, we can’t see the picture, but when we do it ourselves, it becomes crystal clear. Open your Bible, and begin work on the puzzle. What you’ll see is absolutely magnificent!
Have a great day everyone!
“Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.'” (Exodus 5:2)
I’ve heard it said that the first step in curing a problem is admitting that you have one. And that’s exactly what Pharaoh did when he said that he does not know the Lord.
What does that really mean though? Did Pharaoh ever hear anything about the Lord? Surely, being around all those Israelites, he was aware that they believed in God. So it wasn’t that he didn’t know anything about Him. He just didn’t know Him. Big difference.
Unless you go to very remote parts of the world, just about everyone has heard something about God. It might not all be accurate, but most people know that He is worshipped by many, even if they themselves don’t believe. Knowing a little something about God and knowing God Himself are two different things. Had Pharaoh actually known God, his response might have been different.
Any time we don’t obey Him, it is as if we’re saying that we don’t know Him. So what is that God tells us to do that we must obey? If you ask that question of a priest, a pastor and a rabbi, you’re likely to get different answers. Why is that? It’s not so much because of how they interpret God’s word, but more likely, it’s because of how God’s word was interpreted for them. I often wonder how someone with no pre-conceived notions would interpret the Bible, but someone like that is nearly impossible to find.
Who is the Lord that we should obey Him? Well, if you’re anything like Pharaoh, you put yourself above the Lord, so clearly you don’t know who He is. And if do you claim to believe, but the word of man has taken precedence over the word of God, then you are likely to be deceived. Going back to the priest, the pastor and the rabbi, all three are likely to have something valuable to bring to the table, and yet all three are likely to be missing something valuable as well.
I constantly stress that we read the word, not because people are intentionally trying to deceive us, although some are. It’s because the only accurate truth is in the word. With prayer, it enters our hearts in a way that can’t happen otherwise. The truth is contained in those pages, and we are blessed just for reading them (Revelation 1:3). Only in them can we really get to know more and more about God, to the point that we actually know Him.
Pharaoh didn’t know Him. The rest of the story tells what happens after he spoke the words in today’s verse. It tells us what happens when we don’t know him. The Israelites knew a little more about God than Pharaoh did, though not much more. God’s word isn’t a fairy tale, so that part of the story certainly doesn’t end by saying that they lived happily ever after. But here’s the good news. One day it will. And that’s what we’re all waiting for.
Read. Pray. Believe. Do.
Have a great day everyone!
“Although I have much to write to you, I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. But I hope to come to you and speak face to face so that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12)
We could relate this same verse to modern times by changing the words “paper and ink” to “text messages.” It seems as though we’ve become experts at avoiding face to face conversations. Just the other day, I saw a family at a restaurant, six people, all glued to their cell phones. Some of us might be just as guilty of this behavior.
It’s as if we don’t want to talk anymore. I remember as a child, that I would write letters to my grandparents, because they lived far away, and long distance phone calls were expensive. As the years passed, prices became more affordable, and we spoke every now and then, still watching that we didn’t spend too much. Once computers started to become household items, email became a preferred method of communication. Cell phones started out as being something that only the wealthy could afford. As that changed, they became more widespread, and now everyone has one.
I remember when video chatting came around. It was great! You could see the person on the other side, no matter how far away they were. It was like something out of a James Bond movie. But it never caught on. To this day, most people won’t use it. They’d prefer to send text messages. A conversation that could be had in five minutes can take an hour or longer. And the only way to express emotion is to change the size of the letters. Some people never even speak on their phones. But they’ve trained their thumbs to move faster than the speed of light.
John understood the importance of face to face conversations. As great a writer as he was, he still knew that his voice was more powerful than his words on paper, and that looking someone in the eye is more effective than looking anywhere else. Today, more people look down into their lap than into each other’s eyes.
Technology in itself is great. It allows us to do things we never dreamed of. But just like all good things, mankind keeps turning it into a tool to create further separation between ourselves. It’s designed to bring us all closer, but we don’t use it that way, do we?
God also wants to bring us all closer, to Him and to each other. But man has once again gotten in the way, and instead, we use His word to separate us. What is it that we fear? Why are we worried about being close, and about looking each other in the eye and speaking? Are we so protective of our emotions that we’re worried about being offended, or offending others? I have an idea. Always speak the truth.
God has given us the truth, in His word. For thousands of years, it’s been picked apart and twisted, often beyond recognition. People want it to say what they want to hear, so they convince themselves that what they believe is true, even when it isn’t. But it doesn’t work that way.
We need God, and we need each other. “It is not good for man to be alone..” (Genesis 2:18). It isn’t. But when we isolate ourselves even when we’re in each others’ company, it’s as if we’re alone. We have to learn to communicate more with our mouths and our eyes, and less with our thumbs.
Today, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or better yet, pay them a visit in person. It really makes a difference.
Have a great day everyone!
“For to you was granted for Messiah’s sake not only to trust in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same struggle you saw in me and now you are hearing in me.” (Philippians 1:29-30)
What is sacrifice? Where do we draw the line, when it comes to the things we do for God? Should there even be a line?
Most parents would agree with me when I say that we would do absolutely anything for our children. The thought of them doing without something that they need is so unbearable for us that we’re willing to put aside our own needs for them. When they’re suffering in any way, we would be willing to have their pain put upon ourselves if we could. In that regard, I don’t think God is much different, as He has already proven with the sacrifice He made for us.
But what are we willing to do for Him? It’s a question that every individual needs to really think about. Each one of us will have a different answer. Would you be willing to go as far for Him as He did for you? The great news is that you probably won’t ever have to, although many have died because of their faith. But what if you were in a situation that required you to make a choice between professing your faith or denying it? What if your answer determined the course of the next chapter in your life? Would you stand firm, or would you waiver?
Anyone who denies their faith is telling the truth. Let that sink in.
And it’s not just about the words. It’s about the way we live our lives. It’s easy to call oneself a “Christian.” It’s another thing to live like one. Unfortunately, I think more people prefer the title over the lifestyle. And that’s another reason why we’re told that only a few will enter the gates of heaven. Many will call on His name, and claim to know Him, but He doesn’t know them (Matthew 7:22-23). Only those who put His words into practice are worthy of His rewards.
Faith in God has never been about living easy lives. Some people believe that their burdens will disappear if they just put their faith in Him. Just believe and every bad thing will go away. That’s just not true, and that’s dangerous teaching, because it causes people to lose faith when their situation doesn’t change as quickly as they would like it to.
Faith helps us to get past the challenges we face. It protects us and it guides us. It keeps us focused. But it will still be accompanied by struggles. And those struggles help build our character, and actually strengthen our faith. The ones who embrace the struggles are the ones who grow in understanding.
Our God is good. He’s so good that He has given us a way to permanently remove the eternal struggle that we face. During our short lives in the bodies that He has given us, we need to be willing to show Him that we would do anything for Him, without hesitation, just as we would do for our own children, and even more. Without Him, we are hopeless. But with Him, there is no struggle that we can’t endure.
Have a great day everyone!
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Everything? Really? Can we do that? Can we sincerely give thanks for everything, even the things we don’t necessarily feel thankful for?
The way someone answers this question will depend on their perspective. And perspective is always a choice. So while the answer is clearly “yes,” it is often difficult to put into practice. Our lives are chock full of ups and downs, with happy times and sad times. We laugh and we cry. We rejoice and we mourn. There are times when we feel compelled to celebrate and there are times when celebration might not feel appropriate. And yet, it is always appropriate.
At any given moment, there are people around the world experiencing every imaginable emotion. While one person is rejoicing at life, another might be devastated by someone’s passing. Today, there are weddings and there are funerals. In every sporting event, there is a winner and a loser. New businesses are enjoying their grand-openings, while others are permanently closing their doors. Let’s face it, the feelings we have today aren’t the same for everyone.
But God’s will for us is to give thanks in everything. Can we see the silver lining in everything? Yes, if we choose to. Can we rejoice when a loved one loses their life? Yes, especially if we know where they’re going. Death is a personal loss, and it’s temporary for those who live God’s way. I’m not saying that it’s easy. It’s ok to cry. Our Messiah cried when He saw Lazarus’s lifeless body. So, He understands the emotions that we experience. The fact is, we can celebrate, even when we’re sad.
What do we have to give thanks for? That’s a personal question, and everyone on earth can answer it with something different. It’s also a universal question that can be answered identically by everyone who believes in God’s word. We can all give thanks for Him. Everything we have is from Him. He owes us nothing, and we can’t do anything to ever earn His love. He gives it to us anyway.
Saying “thank you” is often a conditioned response to show gratitude for a specific deed. It’s expected by some, and many consider it rude not to say it. It’s usually followed by “you’re welcome,” and then both sides have completed their duty. We said it, so we don’t have to say it again.
But here’s the real question. How many times do we need to thank God for what He’s done for us? Is it enough to only say it once? Should we just say “thank you,” and move on with our lives? Absolutely not! Everything He ever did is for us, and we owe Him everything we have. As a matter of fact, the degree to which we are grateful to Him is directly reflected by the way we treat others. When we show anything but love to someone He created, we show ingratitude to Him.
So, is it ever ok for us to be angry with God? I suppose, but that only shows our lack of understanding. Our lives are His. He is preparing us, each in a different way, for His return. Some of the things that He puts us through aren’t pleasant, but they’re necessary, often in ways that we can’t understand. But we will.
So true faith must come with true gratitude, all the time, in every circumstance. This is His will for us, because He has done it all for us. Give thanks to Him!
Have a great day everyone!
“Those who have never been told shall see, and those who have not heard shall understand.” (Isaiah 52:15 and Romans 15:21)
Same words, two different books of the Bible. When Isaiah said it, he was prophesying the word of God. When Paul said it, he was demonstrating the fulfillment of that prophesy. And that is how our Bible works.
Reading only one “testament” makes it impossible to fully understand anything about the Bible. Paul made reference to Isaiah, as he prefaced these words with, “As it is written.” Of course, as Paul was unknowingly writing new scripture, he was well versed in the scripture that already existed. And we should be too.
Today’s verse reminds us that there are still many who haven’t been told and haven’t seen. There are people all over the world who haven’t heard, so they don’t understand. But what is it that they haven’t been told? Is it the story of Yeshua (Jesus), living as a man? Absolutely, but that’s not all there is to it. We can’t start there, because His story didn’t start there. Why would anyone start a story in the middle? The Bible has an order to it, for a reason. The story starts with creation, not with salvation.
I have heard people proclaiming Him by asking total strangers, “Have you heard the good news?” Folks, it is good news, but that news cannot be understood without the complete background. And good news becomes much more meaningful when it is the culmination of the events leading up to it.
We all need salvation, but if we don’t know what we need salvation from, we won’t see the need for it. There is no shortcut to preaching the gospel.
Know the whole story, by reading the whole story. Then share it, in its entirety. It’s the greatest story ever told, and every word of it is true and wonderful.
- Have a great day everyone!
“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Before reading any further, pause for a moment, and ask yourself if you agree with the statement made in these verses. What does it mean to you?
Reading the Bible requires a desire to understand it, beyond that which will be taught by most everyday preachers. Often, we have to read the same verse over and over again before we are able to grasp what it is saying. And even then, this really only happens when we break it down, word by word, looking at everything, based on the context in which it was written. Understanding history and culture is important as well. And then, of course, is the timeline. When was it written?
Saul (Paul) is writing here about scripture, telling us that it is not only good to learn, good to live by and good to use as a way to correct unbecoming behavior, but that it is necessary to be a complete man of God. Without it, we are not properly equipped. So, what scripture is he talking about? The New Testament wasn’t written yet.
What we’re reading in today’s verses is just a portion of a letter that Paul wrote to Timothy. Although it ultimately made it into the Bible, it wasn’t scripture at the time he was writing it. The scripture Paul is talking about is what too many people like to refer to as the “Old Testament,” as if something else came along later to replace it. The reality is that is was completed with the books of Matthew through Revelation, in order to reveal everything that was previously concealed.
Anyone who knows me already knows my position on the importance of scripture. My Bible starts with Genesis and ends with Revelation. To me, it is all meaningful and true. I read it as a single entity, breathed out by God, for the same reasons that Paul so eloquently explains.
And because I accept everything in it, I also must accept something else that Paul says in this very same letter. “Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead into more and more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16). He also writes that we should “not quarrel about words” (2 Timothy 2:14). And he finally sums it up in another letter, this time written to Titus. He says, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).
Paul’s God-inspired words are truth. There is no point to quarreling about scripture. It is a complete waste of time. First, it is very difficult to convince someone that they might be misunderstanding something that they’ve believed their whole lives, because that is what they were taught. And second, our ability to know the truth is only as powerful as our desire to know it. Only when we truly want the true meaning of God’s word to enter our heart will it actually happen. Until then, we will believe what we choose to believe. This is why we must constantly pray for understanding.
I have spent a lot of time reading and praying over verses such as today’s verses from Paul’s letter to Timothy. I believe that the meaning has entered my heart, because that is were I want it. So I’ll ask you to once again read these verses, and to decide if you agree with the statement he is making. It doesn’t matter what it means to me. The question is, what does it mean to you?
Have a great day everyone!
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Non-believers will probably disagree with what I’m about to say, and might even be offended, but I speak from experience. So I’ll just go ahead and say it, with no apologies. Without God, it is impossible to love.
Today, my wife and I celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary. Approximately one and a half years into our marriage, I became a believer. The forty seven years of my life leading up to that moment made me ready for what happened that day. I realized that my commitment to my marriage was something that I made before Him. He selected her for me, with wisdom that I wasn’t yet fully able to understand.
What is marriage? To some, it’s nothing more than a legal contract. But marriage was created by God long before our legal system existed. He designed it for many reasons, one of which is that we should not be alone (Genesis 2:18). But a deeper understanding of God’s word helps us to realize that He wasn’t simply talking about companionship. He was helping us to develop a way to love Him, through our love for each other.
As I’ve been experiencing lately, these words are just flowing right now, as the Holy Spirit puts them into my heart, so forgive me if I’m all over the place. I trust His direction, knowing that He has a point to make. I just don’t know what it is yet.
God wants our hearts. We can only give ourselves to Him with love. As much as I claim to love Him, my ability to show it to Him is limited by my ability to show it to my wife. At the moment I professed by love to Him, I also professed my commitment to my marriage. Without that commitment, I couldn’t possibly be the man that God wants me to be.
Marriage takes work. It’s not always easy, but He makes it worthwhile. My wife is exactly who I need to be with. How do I know that? He put us together, and He doesn’t make mistakes. The changes that have happened in me over the past seven years would boggle the minds of anyone who knew me prior. Being “born again” is an understatement.
The days are coming when all will know God’s truth. Right now, we’re living in a world filled with options. Some choose to believe in God, while others choose to be the gods of their own lives, because they doubt His existence. But with doubt comes hopelessness. And with hopelessness comes the inability to truly love, because for them, the future is too blurred to see what God has planned for us. Love isn’t just about today. It’s about forever. It’s easy to claim love for someone, but that love can only exist when God is there to nurture it. Other emotions are often mistaken for love, but they are simply temporary, blinded by the moment.
Today, I thank God for my wife. I don’t know how I’ve ever lived without her. I have no regrets about my past, because everything that happened was necessary, according to God’s plan. He took all those years to mold me into the man that I am, while taking years to turn her into the woman that she is. Together, we are one creation, in Him. As one, we hold each other up in times of need. We support each other, and we sometimes redirect each other, as needed. Together, hand in hand, we will walk the path that God wants us to walk, and in the end, we will enter His narrow gate that only a few shall ever see.
We love, because He first loved us.
Have a great day everyone!