Faith Alignment

Anyone who owns a car knows that, occasionally, the tires can go out of alignment. Potholes are one of the biggest culprits in taking your tires out of alignment. After a snowy winter, roads may be full of potholes, and hitting these potholes can take tires that were once nicely aligned and throw tires that were once nicely aligned into misalignment. Misaligned tires can wear unevenly, causing you to need new tires, the car’s fuel efficiency can be diminished, increasing your gas costs, and the steering may pull in one direction, affecting the safe handling of the car. The solution to these problems is to have the tires realigned, restoring them back to the correct alignment.

In Luke 22:31, Jesus warned Simon Peter of this very thing. On the night before He died, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.” Jesus knew that when He was taken from them, Simon Peter and the other disciples would be scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Their alignment would be off, and their faith would be shaken. But Jesus also said that He had interceded in prayer for Simon Peter, praying that his faith would not fail so that when he had repented and turned back to Jesus, Simon Peter would be able to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32). When Simon Peter protested that he was ready to go to prison with Jesus and even die for Him, if necessary, Jesus predicted that Simon Peter would deny that he even knew Jesus three times that very night (Luke 22:33-34).

As Jesus predicted, Simon Peter did deny Jesus. Seeing Jesus arrested and brought to trial before the Sanhedrin shook Peter’s faith to the core. Satan threw a pothole at Peter that threw his faith out of alignment. As followers of Christ, we need to keep our hearts and our lives aligned with Him. But we have an enemy who, like a pothole, will try to throw our faith out of alignment. Our enemy will try to place doubts in our minds, shaking our faith when trials and tribulations come our way. And when our faith is shaken to its core we may deny Jesus, just as Simon Peter did. But the good news is that, when our faith is taken out of alignment, there is a way to have it realigned. That way was given by Jesus in Luke 22:32. We must repent and turn back to Jesus. When we do, not only will our faith be realigned, but we will also be able to strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters who may be struggling.

The Message of the Cross

Statues_on_Stone_Bridge_in_Písek_(5)

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

In Aberdeen, Scotland there stands a statue of a Scottish knight, a great warrior who was a central figure in the battle for Scottish independence from England. His name was William Wallace. Wallace was born around 1720 in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland, to a wealthy landowner. At the age of 27, he began his efforts to KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAhelp his country break free of British rule. After years of leading troops in battle, Wallace was captured on August 5, 1305 and executed. Wallace was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Despite his capture and death, and despite the fact that Scotland did not win its independence until 1320, Wallace is recognized as a martyr and a national hero in Scotland. His heroism was glorified in the 1995 movie, Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.

Just as Scotland needed to be set free from English rule, we needed to be set free from the chains of sin that held us captive. But this was not a battle we could win on our own. We needed a leader, a warrior King, who would lead us to freedom from our sin. That leader, that warrior King, would be God’s promised Messiah. And that promised Messiah was God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who was born not to a rich landowner, but to a poor, virgin girl named Mary. Jesus began His ministry, His mission to secure our freedom from sin, at the age of about 30. He did not lead troops into battle but after three years of teaching His people, healing the sick, and giving sight to the blind, Jesus, like Wallace, was captured and executed. He was beaten, tortured, and nailed to a cross.

Crucifixion was a humiliating, shameful form of death and not the way that the world would expect a leader, a warrior King, to die. In fact, in the eyes of the world, the message of the cross is foolishness. The idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews, who expected a Messiah who would lead them into battle against their enemies and free them from their oppressors. And, the message of the cross was foolishness to the Gentiles, who could see no wisdom in it (1 Corinthians 1:23). But to those of us who are being saved, who are receiving salvation and freedom from the chains of sin, the message of the cross is not foolish. It is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The message of the cross is the message of salvation. Through His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. For those who are being saved, who have chosen to believe in and follow Christ, this humiliating, shameful form of death has broken the chains of sin that held us captive. Just as it was by people in the first century, the cross may still be viewed by the world as foolishness, as a sign of weakness. For those who have received the salvation it brings, it is anything but. Rather, it is an instrument of the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:25 explains this beautifully, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Our Debt is to Love One Another

Romans 13.8

Part of our responsibility as citizens of the United States is to pay income taxes. Tomorrow is Tax Day in our country, the day on which all taxpayers must file their tax returns. If there is any tax money that is due, that amount must be paid or an extension of time must be requested. This is a requirement of the laws of our country, but it is a principle that was first mentioned in Scripture. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote that, if we owe taxes, we must pay taxes. We must give everyone what we owe them. We must pay revenue to whom it is due, respect and honor to whom it is due (Romans 13:7).

After pointing out that, as believers, we must fulfill our obligations to others, Paul says we should owe no one anything. And then he describes the one debt that must be paid on a daily basis because it is due on a daily basis. That debt is love (Romans 13:8). Origen, a third-century Bible scholar, and early church father, once said, “The debt of love remains with us permanently and never leaves us. This is a debt which we pay every day and forever owe.” At the end of Romans 13:8, Paul gives us a good reason for wanting to continually pay this debt. When we truly love one another, we keep all of God’s commandments.

Paul tells us that the commandments that say we must not commit adultery, must not murder, steal, or covet, are all summed up in what Jesus told us is the second greatest commandment after loving God: we must love our neighbor as ourselves (Romans 13:9; Matthew 22:39). Paul goes on to say that love does no wrong to a neighbor, so love is the fulfillment of God’s law (Romans 13:10). If we truly love one another, we show respect and restraint. We do not seek to destroy but to build up, and we will take more pleasure in giving than receiving.

Jesus commanded that we love one another just as He loves us. We have a debt to love one another, not just friends, family, and fellow believers, but even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We may not be happy to pay taxes but, when we consider the love that God showed us by giving His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins (John 3:16), we should not just be happy, but overjoyed to pay the debt of love to others.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Listening & Doing

town-crier-digital-painting

“Hear ye! Hear ye!”

A town crier, or as he was sometimes called, a bellman, was an officer of the court whose responsibility was to make public announcements of such things as proclamations, bylaws, and even advertisements. The town crier would ring a bell and then cry out, “Oyez! Oyez!” which means “Hear ye! Hear ye!” This cry was a call for those in hearing distance to be silent and listen, because what the town crier was about to say was important.

In the first chapter of the letter of James, the writer, believed to be the brother of Jesus, begins verse 19 by telling his brothers and sisters in Christ to “take note of this.” The Greek word used here is iste, which means know. In some translations, it appears as “know this” or “understand this.” Like a town crier, James wanted the readers of his letter to know that what they were about to read next was important. It was something that they should pay attention to and take to heart. What could be so important? What did James want believers to take note of? After getting our attention, James continues by telling us that all of us need to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

Listening is important for a follower of Christ. In a conversation, it is more important to listen than to speak. This is why James says we should be quick to listen but slow to speak. We need to hear what the other person has to say so that we will know how to respond. When we spend our time thinking about what we are going to say without listening, when we are quick to speak and slow to hear, misunderstandings can occur. And with misunderstandings come disagreements and disagreements often lead to anger. A person who is quick to listen and slow to speak is much more likely to be slow to anger. This is important, as the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

Listening is also important when it comes to God’s Word. As we spend time reading His Word, we must also be listening. We must be listening to what the words say and also for what God is trying to say to us through those words. God speaks to us through His Word and, if we listen, we will hear His still, small voice as He speaks to our hearts. But, we must not just listen to His Word, we must also do what it says. We need to be both listeners and doers. When we listen only but do not do what the Word says, it will not stay with us but will be forgotten (James 1:22-24). When we listen to His Word and then act on it, we will be blessed (James 1:25) and will have a firm foundation on which to build our lives on (Matthew 7:24).

Don’t Repay Evil for Evil

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.1 Thessalonians 5_15 (ESV)

Retaliation is the act of repaying in kind or returning like for like when someone has been wronged. It’s getting revenge or evening the score. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Seems reasonable, right? After all, if someone does something to harm you, why should they be allowed to get away with it? It’s only fair, isn’t it? By the world’s standards, retaliation seems to make perfect sense. But what does the Word of God say about it?

In Romans 12:9, the apostle Paul said that we should abhor evil, we should hate what is wrong. So does that mean we should seek revenge against those who do wrong to us? Should we retaliate against those who seek to do evil, to harm or to persecute us? In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Paul wrote, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil.” In Romans 12:17, he said the same thing, “Repay no one evil for evil.” The apostle Peter gave the same instruction in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.” In one translation, 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says “resist revenge.” Retaliation is not an option for those who choose to follow Christ.

So, how do we answer evil or wrongs done to us? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:38-39).” The way in which we respond to the wrongs done to us should set us apart from the world. The world says, “seek revenge” or “even the score.” But God’s Word says we should turn the other cheek, do what is honorable in the sight of all (Romans 12:17). Rather than retaliate when we are hurt or wronged by someone, we should do good to them. And this is true not just for another believer who hurt us, but for everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

The apostle Peter wrote that, rather than repaying evil for evil, we should bless those who do evil to us. He goes on to say that when we bless rather than retaliate, we also will be blessed. And the best part is that when we do good to those do wrong to us, bless those who hurt us, and do what is honorable in the sight of all, we are reflecting the character of Jesus to the world.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God is with Us in the Valleys

Kidron Valley

Before the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, God described the land that He was giving them. It was a land that flowed with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 11:9). As He told them about the land, He pointed out that it was not like the land of Egypt, a land that required them to irrigate the ground in which they sowed their seeds (Deuteronomy 11:10). Then God told them something that I believe applies to our lives as well. God said, “But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:11–12, ESV)

Just like the land that God gave to the Israelites, as followers of Christ, our lives will be like a “land of hills and valleys.” There will be mountaintop experiences, times when we feel the presence of God and the joy that comes from Him in ways that are beyond description, much like what the disciples, Peter, James, and John experienced when they saw Jesus transfigured in all His glory on the mountaintop. There will be other times that may not be mountaintop experiences but will be times when life is good and we feel content. But there will also be valleys, those times when things are low, times when trials and tribulations surround us and we see no end in sight. We may even wonder where God is and feel as if He is far from us.

When God told the Israelites about the land He was giving them, the land of hills and valleys, He also said it was a land that He cares for. In Deuteronomy 11:12, God gave this promise concerning the land, that His eyes are always upon it. And not just some of the time, but all of the time, from the “beginning of the year to the end of the year.” Whether we are on a hill or in a valley in our lives, God promises to be there with us. His eyes are always upon our lives. And when we are in the valleys, we can take comfort in knowing God is with us. David understood this. In the beautiful Psalm 23, he wrote that the Lord, his Shepherd, was with him even when he walked through the “valley of the shadow of death.” At those low points, David knew that God was with him to lead him, guide him, and give him comfort (Psalm 23:4).

This wonderful promise of God, the promise to be with us in the hills and valleys of life, was also understood by Jesus. On the night when He would be betrayed by one of His own disciples and arrested, the night before He would suffer and die, Jesus told His disciples that, although they would all be scattered, leaving Him alone, He would not be truly alone because God, the Father, is always with Him. Jesus knew that God was with Him, even in the valley He would walk through beginning that very night (John 16:32).

Are you in a valley in your life right now? If so, take joy and comfort in knowing that God is with us, even in the valleys of life.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Who Do You Say I Am?

“But what about you_” he asked. “Who do you say I am_”

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27, ESV).

On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He was. Their response was, “Some say You are John the Baptist but others say, Elijah. Some others believe You are one of the prophets.” It was clear from these responses that, at least from the perspective of the disciples, the people had many different opinions about who Jesus was, but they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. They did not recognize Him as who He truly was.

If we were to poll people in the street today, asking them who Jesus is, the answers would be very similar. Some would say, “Oh, Jesus? He’s a great teacher.” Others would say, “Jesus is a great man who did a lot to help people.” Some might even say that Jesus is a prophet, just as the people in the first century did. And there are likely some who would say that Jesus is just a fictional person who was created by the men who wrote the Bible. Just as there were many who did not recognize Jesus for who He was in the first century, there are many who still do not recognize who He is today.

Mark 3:29 tells us that, after the disciples had answered Jesus’ question, Jesus responded by asking them another question. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter, always one who was quick to answer, responded to this question by saying, “You are the Christ.” Peter had walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, watched Jesus heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, and even calm a storm. And now Peter was declaring what He believed in his heart was true, that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah of God. When Peter said this, Jesus told him that he was blessed because this revelation did not come to him on his own. It was revealed to Peter by God (Matthew 16:17).

Jesus was the fulfillment of Scripture, the promised Messiah. He came to earth to redeem us all from our sin, to pay the price we could not pay. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our Deliverer. Peter said that Jesus is the Christ. But what about you? Who do you say He is?

 

Scripture quotations marked “ESV “are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked “NIV” taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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