Category Archives: Sunday

“Who are you, Lord?”

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

§§§

Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord,?” was the unexpected beginning of his identity with Christ.  We see the reality of the man God created Paul to be unfold in a large part of the New Testament.  Those words still inspire us today to discover the reality of our own identity with Christ.  

You know Paul’s story.  He walked down that Damascus road convinced he knew the unassailable truth about God.  Paul saw himself as obedient, full of moral virtue and willing to brutally ensure the future of what he believed.  God saw something more: a committed man who was not Godless, but not Godly either when He asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Paul’s identity with Christ began when he replied “Who are you, Lord?”  The answer would open his eyes and change his heart from the unassailable truth he knew ABOUT God to the unassailable truth OF God.  The Bible is filled with stories of flawed, but not Godless, people we can easily identify with who were changed into Godly people with a new identity.  Paul wrote about his own experience of God’s revealed truth.  That truth still has the power to change the identity of those who dare to ask “Who are you, Lord?”

Second [and last} Chance: Revelation 2

Revelation 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:  These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

§§§

I’ve looked for evidence in these second chapters of God’s continuing desire to replace and repair what is worn out, run-down, or broken.  That word “broken” has been a part of every post. God created life to be an unending circle for those first two people but they broke the circle because they violated the rule of one unique tree. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Why two unique trees?   I know what the results of that break are and I know Revelation 2 is the answer that repairs that broken circle.

Despite our best efforts here on earth perfection is still lost.  God has noticed our desire has changed from being content to know His perfection to the confusion of trying our best to sort out the knowledge of good and evil.  “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…you cannot tolerate wicked people.” I know “that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” I know “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary…Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. ” 

Here’s the Good News from Revelation 2 about that other unique tree.  “The tree of life” is still standing, untouched, and we still have it’s promise of that first love.  There is repair and renewal for that worn out, run-down, or broken circle.  “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Second Chance: 2 Peter 2

2 Peter 2
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
4 For if God did not spare angels
5 if he did not spare the ancient world
6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
7 and if he rescued Lot
9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 

§§§

This is a convicting chapter filled with evidence of the reality of humanity.  It’s undeniable evidence that makes it easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.  It’s not about “them vs us.  It’s about the undeniable separation between God and man.  Anything else is a wrong comparison.

I felt a little twinge of mean-spirited satisfaction that I’m not “them” as I read.  Having to admit to a mean-spirited attitude at all is bad enough but I read on to discover I have another issue; a kind of holier-than-thou satisfaction that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” and God “rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.”  That’s the “us” I identified with. I liked it but then I realized I missed the point entirely.  

The grim evidence of this chapter is only a reminder we aren’t rescued and renewed by the separation of “them vs us” but by this undeniable truth: God’s Divine justice is absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, unrestrained, unbounded, boundless, infinite, ultimate, total and unconditional.

Second Chance: James 2

James 2:5-7 & 12-14. [NIV]

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?…12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

It’s only a few days until the celebration of our nation’s freedom. We’re in another time of turmoil about freedom now, but this time it’s not our own.  This time we’re confronted by the object lesson of current events demanding we consider who deserves to be free, what freedom demands of them and how much we’re willing to invest of what God has given us so they can be free?  We are dependent on the mercy of God triumphing over the judgment of men as we struggle to find answers to those questions.  Many others fought in 1776 for the freedom we celebrate this week but here’s God’s challenge for us to consider now.

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Our challenge is to have mercy for the reality of physical need not judge the integrity of their desire to be free of tyranny and oppression.  Our nation was built by many other people who were judged ineligible and exiled from their home, but by the mercy of God’s grace they were given a second chance to invest their lives and resources “in order to form a more perfect Union.”  Were they perfect?  Of course not! 

This is the truth of freedom then…and it’s still the truth of freedom now. God will hold us accountable for our actions “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”  It makes no earthly sense that “mercy triumphs over judgment” but it makes no heavenly sense that we have exploited the poor and honored “the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong.”  

Lord help us!  Help us this July 4th of 2019 to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.”  Lord make us so “rich in faith” that we can honestly promise we’ll invest our blessings in others seeking freedom and in your truth that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Second Chance: Titus 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Titus 2 [NIV]
– 1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 

§§§

My words today are Paul’s words from Titus 2.  They are “quoted truth” and details that matter.  They emphasize renewal is a personal blessing but God has a Kingdom purpose for it.   Paul reminds people of any age or status in life that personal renewal is “so” much greater than personal benefit.

“These, then, are the things you should teach… while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 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.  For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
so that no one will malign the word of God.
so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

Second Chance: 1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 2 [NIV]
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

§§§

There’s only one highlight for me from this chapter: Paul’s instruction on the need for renewal with “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving…for all people” so they “may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” We are called to be holy, not innocent.  That’s what renewal is all about.  There’s a Biblical lesson for us today from that first Garden long ago.  Today our  “innocence” is really only ignorance of what God desires and whichever word you choose, it’s surely the same unplanted seed of holiness that’s been leftover for us to deal with. 

“The seed is the Word of God…”• Luke 11b  and ”…A man reaps what he sows.”
• Galatians 6:7b.  
The conscious and purposeful practice of sowing seeds we gather from the Word is how we move beyond the innocence of  ignorance.   We reap godliness and holiness in our relationship with the “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL people.” 

Second Chance: 1 Thessalonians 2

1 Thessalonians 2 [TLB]
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken 

8 “We loved you dearly—so dearly that we gave you not only God’s message, but our own lives too…11 We talked to you as a father to his own children—don’t you remember?—pleading with you, encouraging you and even demanding 12 that your daily lives should not embarrass God but bring joy to him who invited you into his Kingdom to share his glory.”

13 “And we never stop thanking God for this: that when we preached to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own, but you accepted what we said as the very Word of God—which, of course, it was—and it changed your lives when you believed it.”

§§§

Thank God for those who speak on God’s behalf.  Thank God for renewal.  Remember that first Word you heard that broke through to your heart?  I do.  It wasn’t a flowery testimony about the saving grace of God or the penetrating conviction of sin in my life.   I remember because it was embarrassment that God used to open the door to my renewal.  [read that story here]

Embarrassment is certainly less comfortable than the encouragement of grace and less obvious than the demand for repentance but I’m living proof renewal can begin in a most unexpected way.  There’s so much more to the purpose of renewal than knowing the right answer.  Have you ever considered “that your daily lives should not embarrass God but bring joy to him who invited you into his Kingdom to share his glory[?]”  If you haven’t thought about your invitation into His Kingdom for a while, it’s time to remember: God has a very personal stake in your renewal.  

There’s no greater gift for God than a heart that remembers the embarrassment of riches He’s pouring into your daily life.  Renewal is God’s personal, long-term investment plan for you…so you’ll be “equipped to share his glory.”