1 Corinthians 15: 50-58

Have you ever been in a class and not quite understood what the teacher or professor was talking about? Just a blank stare. Maybe a few blinks.

This is the kind of crowd Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians. But who could blame them? Paul was talking about the impossible–resurrection, transformation, and living forever in God’s Kingdom. 

Logically this didn’t make sense to a people who valued logic.

Everything has to die. Things that die don’t come back to life, nor do they live forever. 

But creation screams resurrection and transformation. The leaves fall, but return. The grass dies, but returns. The seed dies, but the crop returns. It’s as if God has been telling us this all along–we will die, but we will return.

And we know this for certain because Jesus came, died, and came back to life. Those that follow him will as well. 

But our earthly bodies cannot enter into his Kingdom. They, like the seed or the tree, or the grass, must fade away. However, they will undergo transformation making them suitable for Kingdom life. 

And therefore, while death is very much a part of this life, it does not have victory. Death has lost its sting. While we may grieve those we love who have passed on, it is not the end. 

We are a people who go from life to life. 

Great, life-giving news such as this spurs us on to continue our faith journey, knowing our work is not in vain.

Blessings!

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus will return. And this time, he returns as King of the world–a King who carries out the final judgment on humanity.

All nations will be gathered before Him (vs 32) and he will separate the sheep or followers from the goats or unbelievers. Those who were followers inherit the kingdom, or Heaven, and those who do not are sent into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (vs 41).

There’s a distinction between Sheep and Goats. Sheep will follow the voice of their shepherd. Goats will wander and go their own way. Are we the sheep or the goat? Do we follow the voice of our shepherd, or do we follow our own path?

Jesus isn’t telling a story or one of his famous parables, he’s speaking in terms of what will happen. This is a prophecy and a promise. 

The Jesus Administration is different from the governments and administrations in our world today. He’s not focused on the powerful, the influential or the wealthy. Jesus’ concern is for “the least of these.” And he makes a clear distinction between his followers and those who are not. 

His heart is for people–it’s always been for people. And Jesus followers will serve and care for the least of these. Not because their works get them into heaven, but because their works will naturally flow from their faith (James 2:14-26).

We want to be the sheep, those who care for others, for the least these. We want to have a heart for the people like Jesus does.

Blessings!

Matthew 20:1-16

That’s Not Fair!”

Any parent with a child old enough to talk will at some point hear those words. Honestly, adults say it too. 

We want what we believe we deserve or are owed. We want life to be fair and even, but who gets to define the word ‘fair’? Us? That’s not fair! God is the creator of this universe and what he says is fair is the standard. 

Jesus tells a story about our idea of fair versus his idea. The workers in Matthew 20:1-16 have worked hard all day long and are upset when the owner pays the new hire as much as them. They are resentful of the good thing the owner has done for the new guy. In this story, the vineyard represents God’s Kingdom and God is the landowner.

Are we ever resentful of the good things God has done in other believers’ lives? Might we say things like “I’ve been a believer longer, where’s my reward?” It’s the same as saying, “That’s not fair!”

Often what we believe we’ve earned or deserved stems from an inflated view of ourselves. It’s pride. The reality is, we’re dust and God is good enough to let us be workers in his Kingdom or his vineyard.

Whether we’ve worked in the Kingdom since we were 8 or 78, we will all receive the same payment–Heaven. Thank God that’s not ‘fair’! 

We serve a generous God who owes us nothing yet gives us everything. He hires us in his Kingdom, makes room for all workers who are ready to be hired and doesn’t do so for his sake, but for ours. His generosity flows to the newest and oldest believers.

In our pursuit of what’s fair, we somehow find something better–a God who pours out grace and mercy in copious amounts.

Matthew 14:22-36

It’s been a long day at work for Jesus near the Sea of Galilee. He’s been preaching, teaching, healing, redeeming, and restoring. Crowds have pressed in on him and we can almost hear their whispers, “Is this Messiah?”

Perhaps his disciples wondered the same. 

After sending the disciples across the sea ahead of him and dismissing the crowds, Jesus goes to pray by himself. Jesus made time to pray. In fact, Jesus is still praying–and he’s praying for us (Romans 8:26, 34). 

Another storm pops up on the sea of Galilee. Not uncommon. This sea is well known for sudden storms, but it’s so violent, the Disciples fear for their life.  

And then it happens. Jesus walks on water. 

As if the wind and waves weren’t terrifying enough, a ghostly figure is seen on the water–walking toward them. Jesus meets them where they’re at in that moment. He comes to help and comfort. He’s still doing that. 

“Take heart; It is I. Do not be afraid,” Jesus said. He’s still saying this to us. 

There are two good reasons for us to put fear away. One, sometimes the problem may not be as bad as we believe. It’s often amplified by our surroundings or the danger we perceive. Two, the problem may be real, but there is a solution and help right in front of us–Jesus. 

Peter, a fisherman who knew and respected the dangers of waters, is the first to make the bold request of Jesus. The Disciples had seen Jesus do miracles, but to walk on water? For them to walk on water too? This was new territory or uncharted waters. 

He steps over the edge of the boat and walks toward Jesus displaying a big faith. Soon, the wind and waves soon catch his attention. He takes his eyes off of Jesus and Peter begins to sink. 

“Lord save me!” Peter says. And immediately Jesus reached down and pulled him up. He does the same for us. 

What are the wind and waves in our life causing us to fear and worry? Anxiety? Depression? Financial difficulties? Family struggles? Perhaps we’re simply too busy, and it’s the hustle of life pulling our eyes away from Jesus. 

Then Jesus says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Peter’s big act of faith was followed with little faith. When our big faith turns into a little faith–Jesus is still there, and he can do a lot with a little faith. 

This Jesus, our Savior, the Messiah, walks on water. He calls us to a big faith, loves us when it’s a little faith, and comes to our side to help and comfort. What a good, good father he is.

Matthew 10: 16-31

So many times in our lives we look to God’s word to hear “what we want to hear”. Matthew 10 verse 16 isn’t a scripture in the Bible we talk about often because it’s uncomfortable for us. 

Jesus starts off by telling us that He is sending us out “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Not comfortable. He then warns us in verse 17 to “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues.” Definitely not comfortable.

In verse 18 He says “you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” We’re now hitting an extreme level of uncomfortable. 

Jesus assures us persecution will come. He makes it very clear that His followers will have or experience persecution. His description of this persecution is enough to make anyone gulp and break out in a cold sweat. It also might be the worst marketing strategy ever. 

No company would ever say “Following us will get you beaten or killed. Join us. It will be fun!” However, this is what Jesus says, and we follow. Why? 

Because it’s all worth it, and it’s not all bad news. 

He doesn’t just leave us with a warning of persecution, but he offers instruction and even comfort in His words. Verses 19-20 say “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” 

Jesus not only tells us not to be anxious, but to have no fear. He mentions this several times throughout verses 26-31. And then, He tells us how valuable we are to Him. 

We can trust Him when He says we are worth more to Him than many sparrows. We can trust him even when faced with persecution because there are worse things than death. Because He is the only way for us to get to heaven, and the world desperately needs to hear the message of Jesus. 

Because Heaven awaits.

Matthew 5:38-48

Matthew chapter five opens with a collection of Jesus’ teachings spanning three chapters known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

In chapter five, Jesus touches on a myriad of topics that we have come to call “The Beatitudes” or “Blessed or happy are those who…” It’s interesting however, that Jesus claims people are blessed or happy when they do basically the opposite of what one might consider could make them blessed or happy. His teachings were and are radical. They leave us scratching our heads. 

Jesus flips the script on what seems natural to us, but somehow, it works. His way works.

For example, in verse 38, Jesus teaches on love and forgiveness–but with a twist. 

Verse 38 says this, “You have heard that it was said, eye for and eye and tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 

As we continue reading, Jesus tells us to go an extra mile if we’re forced to walk one mile, to give, and to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Our inner monologue screams, “But that’s not fair!” 

Fair for whom? Us? Thank God we don’t get what’s fair, because God says we have all sinned and the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus. 

Our God is a God of great unceasing mercy, forgiveness and love, not only for us, but for others. Even our enemies. Even those that might hurt us or those we love.

What God is calling us to do is not easy. He even ends in verse 48 with a verse for us to be perfect as He is perfect. We can’t be perfect, and how in the world are we going to love those who hurt us or who are our enemies?

God knows we can’t, but through Jesus, we can. This task He’s called us to is only possible through Jesus. Daily dying to ourselves, and asking God to help us be more like Him. 

Pray that today. Lean in that direction. Ask God to help you be all that He’s called you to be. 

Revelation 21 & 22

A New Heaven and a New Earth…

It’s hard to imagine something we’ve never seen, especially for John who’s trying to describe for us the unfathomable. John is writing the book of Revelation while imprisoned on the island of Patmos. We get a sense of his awe as we read the descriptions of this New Heaven & New Earth. 

He paints word pictures for us, but it can’t fully explain the grandeur of heaven and new earth. Gold as clear as glass. What? Jasper as clear as crystal? Huh? Huge jeweled walls and gates. Wow. 

I liken his attempt to explain what he’s seeing to Dorothy’s expression when she unexpectedly lands in Oz. We see the wonder and astonishment and we get to experience that with her. This is a new place, indescribable–like heaven in a sense. 

Reading through Revelation 21 and 22, here’s what we know–the story ends well for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. 

What John describes is in all reality the reunification of heaven and earth. God is redeeming what was broken in the garden of Eden. We get to be with God, face to face, forever, in a perfect place. No sin. No death. No struggle. And it’s all because of Jesus. 

This promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth not only offered John a hope for his future, but it offers us a hope. It’s a promise that being a follower of Jesus is worth it, and worth giving up everything for. And this promise is also an invitation to those who are not yet followers. Jesus waits for the unbelievers and wants them desperately to follow him and join him in the New Heaven and New Earth. 

Our God of creation is the God of redemption, and all of history, which he controls, is racing toward this very moment–the end of the world and the beginning of forever.

And this is how the greatest story ever told ends…but really, it’s how it begins.

James 5

James chapter five offers solid counsel for the faith life. Maybe not easy advice to put into practice, but worth the effort. He tackles topics still relevant today: fiances, suffering, and health. 

Take time to reflect on your prayer requests. Odds are many surround those very topics either for yourself or for those you know. 

He issues a strong warning to the rich in verses 5-6, not condemning those who have money, but what they have decided to do with their money. James is talking about people who’ve swindled their workers, given them unfair wages, they’re greedy, and lived in luxury while not giving thoughts to those around them. 

I openly admit reading this and thinking, “Yeah, rich people who don’t share what they have totally deserve punishment.” But, then I’m reminded that even America’s poorest 20% are wealthier than a large portion of other countries around the world. 

We’re not here to debate why, the social and political issues surrounding that fact, but I do want to point out how we handle our money matters. We are accountable, and James reminds us of that. All we have belongs to God, and we should give back as we are able. 

After tackling finances, James moves on to suffering. His words are inspiring and motivating. “Be patient,” he says in verse seven. We see words like “steadfast” and “established” giving this image of holding on because what’s coming–the Lord–is better. He’s worth any suffering we may endure. 

It’s worth noting that James moves into health after talking about patience in suffering. Many health problems we face require patience. Whether it’s dealing with a series of doctor appointments, the red tape of insurance companies, chronic pain or cancer treatments, health problems often lead to suffering, which requires patience, and prayer. James knows this and says to pray when someone is sick. He points out the power of prayer and even links confession to healing. In a world where pills are prescribed, James says to pray. 

 From finances, to suffering, to health, James covers it all–all the things that still matter to us today. Though there may be no easy answers, James reminds us of the One who holds all the answers and encourages us to prayer. 

Give God your finances, your suffering, and your health.

Nehemiah 8

Before diving into Nehemiah 8 it’s interesting to note that we see Ezra. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther actually have overlapping timelines when they were written. Ezra and Nehemiah are doing ministry together just like we do ministry with each other. 

In Nehemiah 8 we go from rubble to revival and it’s God’s Word that brings it about. Nehemiah leaves his job of comfort as the King of Persia’s cup bearer to go and repair the wall around Jerusalem. He wasn’t a priest or prophet. He was Jewish man working in a palace who had a burden for his people. God made a way for Nehemiah to go and rebuild the way and through great trial they did so. 

It was Israel’s sin that brought the destruction of their city and led to their captivity. Nehemiah was a product of that captivity–born away from his homeland and serving another king. But it was God’s grace that allows the city walls–it’s source of strength and protection to be rebuilt. When Ezra brings the Word forth and reads it, Nehemiah reminds them in verse ten that “the joy of the Lord in your strength.” It’s not the walls, it’s the Lord. Following the Lord and keeping his commands would be their source of joy and strength.

In our own lives we may find rubble, broken pieces, shattered places, perhaps by our own sin or the effects of someone else’s sin. While these metaphorical walls can be rebuilt, God redeems, restores, and rebuilds, it’s not the walls that are our strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength. We must continually go to the source for this joy and that is the Word of God–the Bible. Like living water, we must drink God’s Word and drink it daily. 

2 Kings 25

What we see happening to Judah in 2 Kings 25 is God’s judgement for the evil they continued to do. God used the Babylonians to carry out his punishment and it’s hard. Honestly, it’s hard to read. You can almost hear the anguished cries of the people as their homes, lives, freedom, and all they once held dear are stripped away.

Even after repeated warnings from the Prophet Jeremiah, the people of Judah chose to rebel against God and this was the consequence. There are always consequences when we choose our own way instead of God’s way. Sometimes there are natural consequences to our choices and other times we see God’s hand of discipline in our lives. 

The people of Judah were receiving the full wages of their sin. Keep in mind that God disciplines those he loves, and sin cannot go unpunished. 

Note the severe consequences of sin in verse 7. King Zedekiah was forced to watch his sons die. His eyes were then gouged out, and he lived as a slave until his death in Babylon. Zedekiah’s rebellion took him further than he could have imagined. That’s what sin does–it leads to a host of unintended consequences. 

While 2 Kings 25 stands as a warning to those at odds with God, it also stands a testament to God’s great mercy. 

Look at verses 27-30. King Jehoiachin was King of Judah before Zedekiah, and he was rebellious too. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon had Jehoiachin imprisoned, and there Jehoiachin sat for thirty-seven years. 

His sin put him there. It was his own fault. His wife, kids, servants, all taken away and he would die in prison. But one day, a new King of Babylon ascended to the throne, showed kindness to Jehoiachin and released him from prison. He was given new clothes and allowed to dine with the new king for the rest of his life. 

There was nothing Jehoiachin did to earn this kindness, it was simply given. God showed grace, mercy & His heart for restoration. 

This is what God does for us through Jesus. We are sinners deserving the full wages of our sin like the people of Judah, but instead, we are offered freedom from our prison of sin and a seat at the King’s table through Jesus. 

This is the best news ever. It’s good news–the Gospel