Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Firsts – Acts 1 and Betrayal

The disciple Peter speaks in Acts 1:17 Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us…21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

I’m continuing my look at the first chapter of each Bible book from the perspective of my three New Years’s questions.  In some respects Acts 1 is easy: Judas made the one of the most heart wrenching bad choices on record.  Look at the credentials we can assume he had because he was a chosen disciple: he was one of the “men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us.”  Whatever Judas was committed to in those years required real sacrifice and hardship and then everything was not only wasted but destroyed.  How could that possibly be? 

These men were face to face with God “in the flesh” and even that wasn’t enough to protect Judas from himself.  Judas was a victim of his own spirit, his own mind and his own answers on the night he betrayed Jesus.  Those are the most important facts of this pitiful story that remind us to be thankful.  God has chosen to promise us protection and assurance of grace and forgiveness through the indwelling Spirit of his Son.

Judas’s story is ugly but there is beauty in this same scripture that changes the story.  It’s the backstory of the “other” betrayer, Peter.  Peter is the disciple who surrendered his own denials made that same night to the reality of Jesus and God’s promise of grace and forgiveness to become  “a witness of Jesus’ resurrection” and it’s promise  for us today.

New Year’s Questions

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I lay awake as an early morning thunderstorm crashed over us thinking and praying about the presence of God in all circumstances and choices without being anxious.  I found myself stumbling over my own words of prayer.  It was sort of the “digital” version of prayer where I had to keep backspacing and editing because it’s such a mysterious thing that the Sovereign God is always present in the thoughts, actions, emotions and choices of the believer. 

I swear I believe that but then I find myself asking for “something more.”  Some  “sign” that will be confirmation my heart, mind, emotions and choices are right because there aren’t enough details to guarantee that.  That insecurity belies what I swear.  I don’t really have a good track record with New Year’s Resolutions so here’s my alternative: Three New Year’s Questions to read and ponder throughout 2019.

• What if the presence of the Holy Spirit really does dwell within us as part of every thought, action, emotion and choice?
• What if it were possible to quit struggling to figure out all the details and be assured the relationship the Spirit has created between God and us through Jesus is enough for “every situation”?
• What if questions are a purposeful part of how God works to take captive our thoughts, actions, emotions and choices guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to give us access to “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”?

“God is always speaking to us, but it requires spiritual discernment to hear God’s voice, see what God sees, and read the signs in daily life.”  Henri Nouwen from Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

The Firsts – My First…Again

For the “first” time since I began this blog in 2015 and settled into two posts a week I missed my post this Sunday.  Oh, I have a list of reasons but when I ticked them off to myself I didn’t find much justification in any of them.  I just don’t always get it right.  In keeping with my recent theme of “Firsts” I’m reposting an updated version of my very first post.  The reality is I need to remember what inspired me to begin this blog in the “first” place.   Consistency is of great value in a blog but it doesn’t compare to God’s consistency.  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

Hello world! – Edited “First” Post from June 5, 2015
I began what I call a timid, limited slog through the Old Testament.  It’s timid because I’m not a scholar, limited because what I read is often far less than a whole chapter and slog because sometimes reading to find faith in my daily life feels like trying to run in a dream.  I wanted to explore the human identity of some of the main characters of the Old Testament that I pretty much skip over to get to Jesus.  They often seem so remote to me but they’ve become heroic examples of what faith looked like in the “good old days;” days that were so much closer to God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of those real people.  

I wanted to look at them as people who didn’t always get it right the first time and see what happened in their lives.  Some stayed faithful and learned from their mistakes and some just let their worry or anger destroy them.  You know, people just like us.   People knowing and believing God but held back from becoming what God created them to be by flaws, or maybe just indifference.  This is exactly where many of us find ourselves.  This word journey is my attempt to see how God moved them, and still can move us, from being satisfied with being not Godless, but not Godly either.

I am absolutely convinced there is a process God has designed for the purpose of revealing himself to those who care to look and listen.  It involves his Word, the Holy Spirit and time.  I read many versions of Scripture online and watch for the mental “stop sign” in those words that says “notice me.”  These are the methods of the digital age.  I copy and paste them into my iPad journal.  Yes, I’m a geek.  I type, I think, I backspace [a lot] and then I think and type some more until there seems to be a completion of the thoughts I believe the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind.  Sometimes I need to be reminded what makes my thoughts important is where they come from and my ability to hear what God is trying to tell me.  That’s where I am today.

It brings a smile to my face to imagine that God might use that oft repeated cell phone phrase of the digital age, “can you hear me now” as an object lesson for me.  I want to listen, I want to hear, but sometimes I just have to quit moving and stay in one place long enough to get good reception.  One thing is absolute though, God is faithfully consistent to ask the question over and over, “can you hear me now?”

Lord,  “yes.”  Amen.

The Firsts – John

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  

We all know about keeping schedules don’t we?  They depend on arriving at the right place at the right time.  That’s why the word “came” defined the reality of the first 5 verses of John for me.  There was a plan!  There was a time!  There was a schedule!  There was a baptist and there was a Jesus!

* John “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
* Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet …to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—…born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen…the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”
…so….
16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
‭‬‬and that’s still on the schedule.  Don’t miss it!

The Firsts – Luke

Luke 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught

This chapter’s recent history as part of the Christmas celebration gave me pause as I began.  The familiarity of these beautiful Christmas passages can make it easy to overlook other details.  I read the chapter several times before something caught my eye.  The angel brings up the Holy Spirit when he introduces Mary to what God has in mind for her but the Holy Spirit “filling” John, Elizabeth and Zechariah is a big truth that got lost for me in the familiar.

*15… he [John the Baptist] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
*41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
*67 His [John’s] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied

It makes so much sense now that I’ve noticed that truth.  The main characters of this unlikely mystery were given the verification of one Spirit to another.   The Holy Spirit was a work of God in the flesh for them that knit them together in unique kind of baptism of spiritual recognition. 

This is truth for us today too.  Living a life of faith is still a mystery of God that only becomes recognizable to the eye or mind when the Holy Spirit verifies itself in the flesh, one to another. 

The Firsts – Mark

You might wonder why a chapter about baptism and the confession of sin for repentance would possibly include “Jesus the Messiah,” the perfect, sinless Son of God.  I wondered too, so I read this chapter and made my notes with that in mind.  I think God purposely included the baptism of his perfect, sinless Son in his plan of confession so we might better understand what the Baptist meant when he said “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  Our confession is more than a one-time event.

That makes Jesus’s confessions that day important to think about because he was perfect.  These are only my imagined confessions Jesus might have made based on Marks words but maybe they’re still examples to follow that can make our confession an ongoing connection to that perfect Spirit.

• The Confession of Baptism
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

• The Confession of Spirit
10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 

• The Confession of Belief
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

• The Confession of Followers
17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.

• The Confession of Authority
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”

• The Confession of Sacrifice
44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.

The Firsts – Matthew

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah…Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Most of us just skim-read Matthew’s  genealogy list.  Abraham’s there √ and Jesus who is called the Messiah is there √.  There are other recognizable names in between but  I was surprised to discover why that genealogy is important.  Maybe you will be too.  We live in an age when we can know about anything and everything, even ancestry through Google and DNA results that connect us with the past and long-lost family connections.

Matthew’s genealogy list was the early cliff notes version of that.   Those lives and names validated their pedigree and became a memory device to help them remember the details of their history. They  were time-stamped code words for them.  God had chosen those ancestors to be part of the creation of a new nation,  Somehow their descendants preserved the nation  through disaster and they’d endured the shame of their exile into slavery.   Finally that remnant of people saw the restoration of their freedom through the birth of Messiah  and that would turn tragedy into triumph.  

It’s mind boggling to imagine the volumes of information represented by the simple connecting thread of those names.   I wonder if the purpose of that geneology is to remind us of a timeless truth: the sovereign God works His Story THROUGH people…not because of them.

That truth of God is still part of our DNA.  Maybe that helps explain the current explosion of curiosity about ancestry and finding the surprises it may hold.  I know that’s happened to me and my list of “begats” has grown in ways I never expected.  My pedigree is not a list of purity of line but proof that by God’s design the barrier between saint and sinner is down.  My list of ancestors persevered in their lives and became my opportunity to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God who could turn an ordinary life of daily events, good and bad, into triumph.  

That’s the pedigree I want to be part of the ancestry of my own descendants.