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Humility

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Image source GNPI

I’m sure they meant well, but Jesus has some choice words for His Disciples in today’s Bible reading. Parents bring their children to Jesus and the Disciples try to turn them away. Jesus responds in a way we wouldn’t expect — at least those who see Jesus as only a mild-mannered only-loving Savior.

Mark says that Jesus was indignant, a “strong word of deep emotion”. (Mark 10:14) AT Robertson adds, “Surely it ought to be a joy to parents to bring their children to Jesus, certainly to allow them to come, but to hinder their coming is a crime. There are parents who will have to give answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.”[1]

In fact, Jesus said that if someone does not receive the Kingdom of God as a child, they will not enter it. The word Mark uses for child means a child under school-age. There is an innocence in that age group. An innocence that is so trusting, so vulnerable and there’s no pretention.

Children are a big deal to God. In the Bible, children are seen as blessings from God. (Psalm 127:3) The concept of Gentiles as being adopted children of God is central to the Gospel Message. (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) Yes, as Robertson points out, parents will give an answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.

In contrast, in Western Civilization in the Twenty-First Century, children are merely commodities. Look at the way children are abused and trafficked. Look no further than Hollywood’s Michelle Williams. Last week as she clutched her “Best Actress” Golden Globe trophy, she said “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. … I know my choices might look different but thank God or whomever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”

Application

Yes, children are a big deal to God. We will give an answer to God for keeping children from coming to Jesus. We will give an answer to God for putting up obstacles in our own lives that would prevent our own children from coming to Him. And we will give an answer to God for the way we have treated children as pawns in our lives.

Everyone who comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ has to do so by laying aside agendas. Laying aside pretentions. Laying aside themselves. Coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ requires that we come on His terms, not ours. (Mark 8:34-36)

Yes, the Gospel Message is about forgiveness. The Gospel Message is about grace. The Gospel Message is about mercy. But forgiveness, grace, and mercy are only available as we come to terms with our guilt as sinners. As sinners, we deserve punishment. We deserve death. We owe a debt we cannot pay. But Jesus has paid a debt He didn’t owe.

Have you laid aside your pretentions? Have you come to God, simply trusting Him at His Word?

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.

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In today’s Bible reading, Jesus says, “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 (ESV)

Does that mean that Jesus only came for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other First Century Religious leaders? After all, they were the most righeous. Right? Uh, no.

Ask anyone who has ever been through a recovery program what is the first step. They will tell you that the first step to recovery — the first step to wellness — is to admit you have a problem. The first step to being healed spiritually is admitting you have a problem. We all have a problem. It’s the same problem. It’s the sin problem.

Adam and Eve’s decision to choose their independence from God in Genesis 3 affected all of us to the very core of who we are. It twisted their DNA and altered every human being who would ever come after them. And like an alcoholic, each of us chooses to participate in sin. When we do, we become addicted to it.

Application

The only way we will gain victory over sin and live a life that pleases God — and gives us ultimate satisfaction — is to admit we have a problem. Admitting that we have a problem begins a life of repentance, turning from our life of self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency (and self-deceit!) and turning to Jesus, accepting His death as our atoning sacrifice for our sin. The result is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A relationship that will grow in time as we continue to walk out our life in constant repentance and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit to live a godly life.

If you have never turned from sin and to Jesus, please do it today. If you’d like help with that, give me a shout!

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diamond earrings

In today’s Bible reading, we see two things that are called, “awe-inspiring”: an awe-inspiring sign in heaven (v. 1) and the awe-inspiring works of God (v. 3).

Awe is a word that is foreign to many Believers. We just don’t see things as being “awe-inspiring”.

The things of God tend to be, quite frankly, normal. Boring. Ho-hum. Have we become calloused? Have science and Hollywood so desensitized us to magnificence and a sense of wonder? If so, is there a way to get that sense of wonder back? I think there is. And I think this chapter gives us a clue how.

John tells us that overcoming Believers sang the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. In other words, they sang what’s revealed in Scripture: Moses from the Old Testament and the Lamb in the New Testament.

Reading, meditating, and worshiping based on God’s Revelation can give us a fresh glimpse of what is truly awe-inspiring. God’s Word can give us the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to dwell on. (Philippians 4:8) As we meditate on these things, we see new facets of the things of God as a jeweler sees new facets of a diamond as she peers through a magnifying loop.

Application

When’s the last time you spent time worshiping God in song? I’m not talking about singing about God. I’m talking about singing to God. There’s a world of difference between the two. One references God in the third-person. The other references God in the second-person.

“Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3-4 CSB)

Note how their song addresses your works, your ways, your name. You alone are holy. all the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts. The overcomers aren’t singing about God. They are singing to God.

The next time you’re in church, note the songs you sing. If your church uses hymnals (or if you have your own), note whether the songs are about God or to God.

A few years ago, as I prepared a sermon on this very issue, I thumbed through the hymnal we used in church. I was shocked to see how few hymns actually addressed God in the second-person. Almost all of the hymns referenced God in the third-person. Now, there’s nothing wrong with singing about God. But singing about God isn’t worship.

Spend some time today singing songs to God. Use your Bible to express your adoration to the lover of your soul. Here are a few places to start. These Scriptures are examples of worshiping God in the second-person.

Psalm 23:4-5
Revelation 4:11
Revelation 5:9–10
Revelation 11:17–18
Revelation 15:3–4

The Psalms are full of praises about God. As you read, ask God to overwhelm you with a fresh glimpse of Himself and His ways. Personalize the Psalms and other passages into second-person references to God.

Finally, spend a few minutes listening to my sermon, Worship in the First and Second Person Singular Present Tense.

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honey

In today’s Bible reading, John is commanded to eat the scroll held by the angel straddling the earth and sea. The angel warns John that the little scroll will taste sweet, but will upset his stomach.

God’s Word is difficult to digest but is sweet to Believers. The Psalmist says, “How sweet your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103 CSB) and “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are reliable and altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold— than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:9–10 CSB)

Ezekiel, too, was told to eat a scroll. (Ezekiel 3:1-3) His scroll was also sweet when he ate it. In both cases, having eaten the scroll, the men are commanded to prophesy (to speak God’s Word)

Application

All too often, preachers prepare their sermons by studying the Bible without personally applying it to their lives. Oftentimes we will let our sermon prep be the only time we read and study the Word. It’s very easy to fall into this habit. And that is very sad.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t preachers. But how do you approach your Bible reading? How often does God’s Word come across as bitter to you? Perhaps it doesn’t sit well with how you have understood it in the past. Or perhaps it highlights something in your life that doesn’t line up with God’s character or His ways as revealed in His Word.

I would venture to say that if you aren’t confronted and convicted by God’s Word, you aren’t reading/studying it well. How does that taste? Bitter?

God has inspired His Word to teach you, but also to confront your sin and to prepare you for doing His work, regardless of whether or not you are a preacher or Bible Study teacher.

Spend some time asking God to show you something new in His Word as you read and study it. Ask Him to sanctify you with His Word, because His Word is truth. (John 17:17)

Expect to be confronted. Expected to be convicted.

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humble repentance

In today’s Bible reading, we see more trumpets blown and more calamities sent to earth. Each is worse than the previous one. One-third of the people died. (Revelation 9:18)

And yet, those remaining two-thirds of the people do not repent.

If you’ve ever read 2 Chronicles 7:14, you’ll remember that God promises to hear from heaven, forgive sin, and heal the land if His people will simply humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their evil ways.

That’s a tremendous promise! But the promise comes in the context of a response to God bringing calamity on His people because of their wickedness. Before this verse, God promises to bless His people. But if they turn away from Him, He will bring hardship. If they respond with humble repentance, God promises to act.

In our reading, God brings calamity, but no one repents. (Revelation 9:20-21)

How incredibly sad.

Application

Indeed, God’s promise to answer the prayers of His people, forgive their sin and bring restoration to their land is a tremendous promise.

As I type this on Tuesday Night, the US House of Representatives has handed down two Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States. I’m not going to go into my feelings about this other than to say that the Articles — even if glaringly true — do not qualify as treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors, the only provisions in the US Constitution for impeaching the President.

The United States is in a crisis. It’s (past) time for God’s people to cry out to Him in humble repentance, to pray, to seek God’s face, and to turn from our wickedness.

Nothing short of this will restore civility to our beloved nation.

This is not a Left vs. Right political problem. This is a spiritual problem. And spiritual problems can only be remedied with spiritual solutions.

Spend a few minutes right now, asking God to bring conviction of your sin. As He reveals areas where you have sinned, confess those sins (“God, I am a sinner. I was wrong. I did ___.”) and repent (something like, “God, forgive me. Give me a renewed heart and fill me with your Holy Spirit that I might follow you.”) If God leads you to periods of extended prayer and/or fasting, don’t delay. Obey Him immediately!

Ask God to unite His people and draw us to Him. Ask God to raise up a mighty army of men and women who are committed to following God’s prescription in 2 Chronicles 7. Ask God to bring another Spiritual Awakening and revival to our country.

The big application here is to repent whenever God brings correction.

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