Category Archives: Wednesday

The Firsts: I Thessalonians 1 – Following the Footnotes

Grace to you and peace.
V3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and [perseverance]steadfastness of hope [of]in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 
V5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we [became]proved to be among you for your sake. 
V9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a [entrance]reception we had [to]with you, and how you turned to God from [the]idols to serve [the]a living and true God, 
V10 and to wait for His Son from [the heavens]heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

Footnotes are used to by translators to give more definition to a translated word or phrase.  There are eight footnotes listed in this short chapter of 10 verses. That was an emphasis that interested me so I read them substituting the dictionary definitions of the translators [footnotes].  They did just what the translators had hoped.

MY THOUGHTS: 
V3 Look at how our persistence to find hope is changed by that small change of the preposition from in to [of].  It’s Jesus’ own hope for us and his presence with God that makes our persistence and hope real and of value.
V5 ends with the footnote explanation of the reality that even the great Apostle Paul was a work in process.  Everywhere he went was still another beginning to be the person God had created him to be among the people God has placed him with.  Isn’t that the reality of what God expects of us: to “become” together? 
V9 We might believe circumstance is just a random force that life throws at us but in reality circumstance is the new access God provides to reveal to us the reality of the difference between the true God and the idols that constantly distract us.
V10 God knows about access!  He speaks with a power only he possesses from his own center of sovereignty to resurrect us from an ordinary life to new access..

There’s a theme here you may have picked up on; the movement of life and circumstance.  It could go either way.  It can be the very opportunity of new growth or it can be the dismal sense that change is just all about loss.  I’m late in posting this Wednesday because we’ve just moved.  You talk about a change in circumstance.  Everything about moving is like putting your faith in what you can’t possibly know but you’re filled with hope.  That’s followed by arriving at the new plaoce and discovering chaos has followed you and all your efforts at control and organization are overcome by the reality of all that “new.”  New chaos is just as exhausting as old chaos but now you’re in a place where you are reminded that God really has resurrected you from what you thought was a normal life to the access of new…again.

The Firsts: Philippians 1 – Practice

[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life.  I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai.  It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me.  God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world.  He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”  Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…” 

Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect.  God has given us this world to practice being citizens.  We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

The Firsts: Galatians 1 – The In-Between Years

Galatians 1: 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being…21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. [NIV]

My first thought was the wisdom of Paul essentially tying his relationship to God way back to the womb, the safe place where growth first begins.  We know a lot about Paul’s gift of evangelism.  We know Paul by his fruit that expanded God’s church enough to include the likes of us.  We also know Paul’s history of his dark in-between years and that’s what caught my attention.  Paul’s story is really a story of God’s provision to redeem the flaws of “in-between” years.

The church is our second womb. It’s a God created place full of flawed people with their own in-between years. People that need a safe place to grow. I’ve begun to understand why God would choose to fill his house with those flawed people and still give them Spiritual gifts.  We admire those gifts when we see them work. They’re not just gifts given because they build his church. They’re the same gifts God uses to rebuild the flawed people who find a home there.  

There’s a blessing in knowing I’m a part of the place of rebuilding where what I lack is not the downfall of the church I love.  God has made the church his provision for each of us where your Spiritual gift can become part of my growth as we learn how to expand his Kingdom together.  

Paul writes of that marvelous work of God and his own in-between years that were designed to destroy.  His words are reminders that God uses gifted, flawed people to reveal himself in each of us, in his church and the world. It wasn’t boasting that gave the Apostle Paul the courage to say “…they praised God because of me.”  It was knowing God had taken the dark flaws of his in-between years and made them the reality of his redemption when “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  

The Firsts: I Corinthians 1 – Polar Opposites

I Corinthians 1:18 I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God.  19 For God says, “I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.”  20 So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. 21 For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved* all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. [TLB]

The Jewish mindset was confidence in the law.  Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because his death on a cross marked him as a law-breaker cursed by God [see Deuteronomy 21:23].  The cross was “useless nonsense” to them.

The Greek’s idea of God was a just and impartial ruler that remained detached from the emotions and influence of his creation.  Therefore the idea that “God the Son” would suffer on a cross to save so many seemed “foolish and silly” to them.  

Isn’t it interesting that the cross was the stumbling block to salvation for each of those polar opposite ideas?  “God in his wisdom saw to it that” the cross could become a bridge. “When they hear that Jesus died to save them” they each have the same opportunity to “recognize this message as the very power of God.”  Even polar opposites can be united through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ because God *loves them all enough to save them.

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.

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!