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In today’s Bible reading, we see the religious leaders’ influence over their people. People who had cheered Jesus’ arrival just a few days earlier are now calling for His head today. How does this happen?

One cannot overstate the influence of peers and leaders over the decisions we make. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders were jealous of Jesus’ popularity. He didn’t do things as they did. He even questioned their ways of doing things as they questioned His ways of doing things. And because they felt threatened, the religious leaders colluded with government officials to have Jesus executed for baseless accusations. (Mark 15:11, 13, 14)

As I type this (admittedly a few days late, but back-dating it for consistency with the Reading Plan), the US Senate is beginning the Impeachment hearing for the President. This is the third Presidential Impeachment I have known in my lifetime. And this is unlike the others in so many ways.

I will not make this a political post. But I will say that the influence of some popular political leaders with an agreeable “mainstream” media and other “elite” individuals in Hollywood have made this sham what it is.

For the first time in our Nation’s history, a US President has been impeached by the US House with charges that in no way approach the seriousness imagined by the Framers of the US Constitution. The Framers set the bar very high for a reason. Impeachment is a big deal. And now, for the first time, a duly-elected US President could be thrown out of office simply for having policy differences with a (slight) majority political party (and a handful of unelected State Department bureaucrats) and asking the Judicial Branch to rule on unconstitutional subpoenas.

Now, I will not draw messianic implications to Donald Trump. He is not the messiah. but it’s important to see similarities for the falsely-accused.

Application

The main application point is that the crowds were given “fake news” and they acted on it, even when it contradicted what they knew to be true.

As you live your life and see things portrayed in the news media, commercials, and talk with friends and family, it’s crucial to ask if what you’re hearing is the truth. It may be fake news. Yes, major TV network “journalists” and hollywood stars don’t always tell the truth. Church leaders don’t always tell the truth either.

So before sharing things on social media, spend a few seconds considering is this really true? Who will be helped or hurt by what you post? And most importantly, will God be glorified by sharing this information you have received.

Let’s aim for truth. Let’s aim for glorifying God.

And let’s pray for our country! May God reveal the truth, regardless of the political party. And let’s prosecute the liars and deceivers. Regardless of the political party.

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Several years ago, one of my favorite videos that made the rounds on Facebook was the one of the little girl who told her daddy to worry about himself. As she struggled to free herself from her carseat, her daddy offered to help her, but she kept saying, “Worry about yourself!” It seemed that she would never be able to press the button and gain her freedom. But she was not going to let her daddy help. She was at the precious stage of life where she thought she could do everything herself without help from anyone else. Some of us never grow out of that stage.

Today’s Bible reading includes a little story of a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter asks what would become of John the Beloved Disciple. Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:22) In other words, Jesus tells Peter, “Worry about yourself. Don’t concern yourself with the fate of others. Make sure that you follow me.”

Why is it that we are always concerned about other people when Jesus starts “getting up in our business”? Just when He begins to answer our prayer to, “Search me, O God” (Psalm 139:23), we shift the attention off ourselves and onto someone else. Why do we do that?

I think it has to do with the fact that we know deep down that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24) As much as we want to claim that we love God with all that we are, deep inside, I think we’re afraid of God. Some of that fear can be good. We must always be on guard, lest we become too familiar with God and forget that He is to be respected. He is to be feared. He is awe-inspiring. I recently began reading a book, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. It’s important to remember that although God is kind, He is not tame.[1]

Application

How comfortable are you with God? It’s important to see Him as a Friend. But He is so much more than a friend. And we must always remember that God is not like us, though we are like Him. We can never be buddy-buddy with God because He is so beyond us and so beyond our comprehension.

Spend some time today praising God for His greatness and awesomeness. Read through Bible passages like Psalm 8, reflecting on how the infinite God has revealed Himself to finite humanity.

If you’d like to read more about having a healthy respect, a healthy awe for God, take a look at the book I mentioned above. Admittedly, that book is a very deep read. A couple of books that are a little more approachable are Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck and Awe: Why it Matters in All We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp.

[1] Hat tip to CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus, the Fawn tells Lucy that Aslan is a very good lion, but he is not tame.

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The intersection of Truth and Love

John is often called “John the Beloved”; he refers to himself as “The disciple Jesus loved”. (John 20:2)

In today’s Bible reading, John emphasizes the two-pronged approach to pleasing God: Love and Truth. (2 John 1:4-6, 9) If you’re going to walk with Jesus, you can’t have one without the other.

Each day, as I read my Facebook Newsfeed, I see a lot of posts about the importance of Truth. I also see a lot of posts about the importance of Love. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of posts that intersect Truth and Love.

Sometimes it’s very discouraging to see truth spoken so harshly by Believers. I often scratch my head asking how these people can be so harsh when they claim to preach grace. It’s also discouraging to see posts by Believers who have little-to-no regard for the Truth as revealed in Scripture, and only promote Love.

But John says we need both Truth and Love.

Application

If you look at the street signs above, you’ll see that we’re standing at the intersection of Truth and Love. Truth and Love aren’t the opposite ends of one street. They actually are two separate streets. Truth Street has Truth at one end and Error at the other end. Love Street has Love at one end and either Hate or Apathy at the other end.

Perhaps I need to be more judicious with the Facebook Groups I read. How about you? Do you tend to lean more toward Truth-Centered or Love-Centered?

As I typed this devotional, I had to go back and correct an easy, but completely wrong conclusion. I originally suggested that we think about how we can be more balanced between Truth and Love.

And then I realized that you don’t have to choose one over the other! Instead, we should look for the intersection of Truth and Love.

Paul tells us we need both Truth and Love to be mature Believers.

But speaking the truth in love,
let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.

(Ephesians 4:15 CSB)

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Image source: Wikimedia

In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells his spiritual son Timothy that Believers should pray for those in authority over them. He uses several Greek words for prayer, each covering a different kind of prayer. And he tells Timothy to pray “for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 CSB) The emphasis isn’t so much on the kinds of prayers, but whom the prayers are to be for. He begins with “everyone” and immediately names the title of civil authorities. Yes, we need to pray for our church leaders, but that’s not Paul’s focus. Paul’s focus is on the civil authorities. Why?

In order to better appreciate Paul’s instructions to pray for those in authority, we must look at the historical context of Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul wrote the letter around AD 63-66 after his release from house arrest in Rome. He is quite aware of the growing climate of Roman religious persecution. Nero is the Roman Emporer and he isn’t known for being friendly to Christians. Actually, Nero is known to have used Christians as street lights in Rome as their bodies were impaled and set afire at night.

It’s in this historical context that Paul tells Timothy to pray for civil authorities … including Nero. WHAT???

You may have seen social media posts decrying Christian persecution because a retail store employee was forbidden from telling customers, “Merry Christmas” or an HOA prohibited a Christian from displaying a manger on her front lawn. Now let me ask, in comparison to the religious persecution experienced by First Century Christians under Nero, how can we dare call these examples “Christian persecution”? We can’t because it isn’t.

Application

It seems that our political climate is as divided as I’ve ever heard of. When it comes to those in places of civil authority in our country, I confess, I complain a lot more than I pray.

You may really like the current President of the United States of America. Or you may think the President is unpresidential. You may think the President is a reprobate. You may feel the President is personally repulsive. You may feel the President is guilty of committing crimes.

I’m sure lots of people have voiced these opinions of most of our Presidents!

It really doesn’t matter who our civil authorities are, if you call yourself a Christian, you are obligated to pray for them. The same goes for those in civil authority on the State and community level. Paul says to pray for all of them. And so we must.

So what do we pray for those in civil authority?

For starters, pray for their salvation. Pray for their walk with God. Pray they live in integrity. Pray for wisdom. And pray for impartiality in enforcing, legislating, and interpreting our laws.

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Be kind

In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights the fact that his ministry isn’t about him. He constantly points out that he is reaching out to others. His focus is never about him.

He emphasizes here (and elsewhere) that one of his purposes — and one of our purposes — is to build up other people. Look at Social Media. Look at TV shows. Look at movies. Look at the headlines. Putting people down is everywhere. It seems that every month (every week?) another teen has made a really bad choice because he/she was bullied on Social Media. “Be Kind” seems to be the motto of the day.

Application

We shouldn’t have to be reminded to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32) We shouldn’t have to be reminded that it’s not about us. but Paul reminds us anyway.

Who can you build up today? Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s a complete stranger. Building up someone is never a bad thing to do.

And be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving one another,
just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Ephesians 4:32 (CSB)

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