Independence Day 2016

Freedom-Not-Free--independence-day-825621_960_720pixabayFreedom isn’t free.  It’s a phrase we often hear, so much that it’s become cliche.  But it’s true.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

In the United States, we are blessed to live in a place and at a time where we are free to worship God, and to tell others about Jesus.  Many, many places in the world do not have that same freedom.

But as important as that political and social freedom is, it pales in comparison to the freedom we have that was secured to us by Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we are able to receive forgiveness from God.  This is true, unending freedom.  Forgiveness now and forever.

Freedom to follow Jesus, live like Jesus (as best as we can, anyway), and ultimately spend eternity with Jesus once we experience our Earthly death.

That is true freedom!

Restoration Projects

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Last Fall I had a delightful autumn run down the Mall in Washington, DC.

I ran 2.5 miles, starting near the US Capitol Building, running past the Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and back down the Mall to the Capitol.

I wrote that while I was running, I was thinking about the great freedoms we have in the United States, and the ultimate freedom we find though faith in Jesus Christ.

Well, I was back in Washington recently, and lucked out with a day where temperatures were near 50 degrees; so off for another run I went.

I ran the same general route, and as I headed back East to the Capitol, I noticed that it is undergoing a restoration project. After my run I stopped and took a selfie with the dome in the background. And I started thinking that I, too, was undergoing a restoration.

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When I was there in the Fall, I only ran about 2.5 miles. This run was 4 miles. I’ve changed my eating habits, been walking, hiking and running more. Not only have I lost weight, but I feel better, and am running longer and with more strength. I feel better. I’m focusing on things that are truly important.

But the restoration of the Capitol dome, as impressive as it is, and my restoration as a result of taking better care of myself, pales in comparison to the restoration that we find in Jesus Christ.

Jesus restores us fully into relationship with God. We need this restoration because we are separated by our sins. No matter how hard we try, sin is simply a part of us. Some choices we make knowing they are wrong, others we struggle and fight against; sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

Unfortunately, there is no room for error when we are talking about a relationship with a Holy God. To be in God’s presence, we must be perfect, just as God is.

And that’s why our restoration is so important. God desperately wants this relationship with us. That’s why he created us!

So, though his ultimate love, grace and mercy, he restores us through the sacrifice of Jesus.

We are his ultimate restoration project!

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Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol, photo in the public domain and PastorJamie.com

February 17 – Scripture of the Day

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In today’s reading there were more instructions from the Lord to Moses about offerings. Specifically:

  • Procedures for the Sin Offering
  • Sins Requiring a Sin Offering
  • Procedures for the Guilt Offering
  • Sins Requiring a Guilt Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Burnt Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Grain Offering
  • Procedures for the Ordination Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Sin Offering

The verse that stood out to me today was Leviticus 5:17 which says, “Suppose you sin by violating one of the Lord’s commands. Even if you are unaware of what you have done, you are guilty and will be punished for your sin.”

This can be seen as a very difficult. I mean, even if we don’t know what we have done, we are still guilty?? And will be punished??

Oooof.

Not good.

And so that is why so much of this part of scripture describes the different offerings to God, including the sin offering. We must be held accountable for our actions (even when we don’t realize it) and thus an innocent animal was sacrificed to atone for our sin.

Thankfully we no longer must do this because Jesus paid the price for all the sins of humankind for all time.

Past, present and future.

Thanks be to God for His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness!

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Today’s reading: Leviticus 4:1-6:30
Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 7:1-8:36

January 28 – Scripture of the Day

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So, yesterday the scripture that jumped out at me had to do with lust. The scripture said Lust is a… fire that burns all the way to hell.

Ouch. Not good.

The scripture today reminded me that even when I think I am hiding my sin from those around me, I cannot hide it from God.

Job 34:21-22 says, “For God watches how people live; he sees everything they do. No darkness is thick enough to hide the wicked from his eyes.”

God knows how we live our lives. He knows our hearts. He knows we are sinners.

And that is why, because of his great love for us, he sent his son Jesus to bare all the punishment for our sin, leaving us blameless and free.

Hallelujah!

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Today’s reading: Job 32:1-34:37
Tomorrow’s reading: Job 35:1-37:24

January 21 – Scripture of the Day

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What the crap hits the fan, who do you call? I mean when you’re really, really deep in it…who do you call? Your spouse? Likely. A friend? Possibly.

Someone who will fight for you? Definitely.

When we are in a fight, we need someone that will fight for us. To defend us. We need someone on our side, to plead our case.

At this point in Job, he is talking back and forth with his friends, who are basically telling him he must have sinned greatly against God, and that is why he is being judged and punished with the calamities in his life. (The loss of much of his property and servants, physical sickness, and the death of all 10 of his children).

Job is protesting, saying that’s not true.

And then in Job 9:32-33 he says, “God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial. If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together.”

The great news is that we have that exact person in Jesus Christ.

Christian theology teaches us that we are separated from God by our sin. And it is impossible for us to earn our way back into his good graces.

But we don’t have to.

That is exactly what Jesus did for us.

Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, offering the opportunity to be back in perfect relationship with God.

All we have to do is believe in Jesus, accept him as our savior, our advocate, and the relationship is restored, forever and always. (1 Timothy 2:5)

There is no better news than that.

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Today’s reading: Job 8:1-11:20
Tomorrow’s reading: Job 12:1-14:22

 

January 16 – Scripture of the Day

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There are many themes found throughout scripture, and throughout Genesis. God’s great love for us, of course.

Stories of faith, honor and redemption.

And stories of forgiveness.

Just a couple days ago, I read the story of Jacob and Esau; a story of many things, including forgiveness.

Today’s scripture is Genesis 45:5-7 and 14-15 which reads:  5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.
14 Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. 15 Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.

In this reading we find the climax of the story about Joseph and his brothers, who sold him into slavery.

Now Joseph’s dreams have come true, and his brothers are bowing to him.

But it is also a story of forgiveness.

And we need to continue reading these stories, so we may be reminded.

Forgiveness.

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Today’s reading: Genesis 42:1-45:15
Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 45:16-47:27

January 13 – Scripture of the Day

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Honestly, not much jumped out at me today in the reading. I chose Genesis 36:1 which says: This is the account of the descendants of Esau (also known as Edom).

I chose it because its representative of most of the reading today. Pretty much all the reading was an account, or record of, family history. It was genealogy. Not the most exciting reading.

But what it did bring do, was give me an excellent reminder about family.

After our relationship with God, there is nothing in this world more important than the relationships we have with family.

No, those relationships aren’t always easy.

Sometimes they cause frustration, anger, hurt, grief and anxiety, among other emotions.

But they also should be the most important and fulfilling relationships we have on Earth.

In our family relationships we have the greatest opportunity to learn, love, forgive and sacrifice.

To model Jesus’ love to the world.

And that is a good reminder, even if the reading was a bit boring.

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Today’s reading: Genesis 36:1-43; 1 Chronicles 1:35-2:2
Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 37:1-36; 38:1-30; 1 Chronicles 2:3-8; Genesis 39:1-23

January 12 – Scripture of the Day

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The scripture that grabbed me today was Genesis 33:4, which says, “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.”

In chapter 27 of Genesis, Issac’s son Jacob tricked him, with his mother Rebekah’s help, and stole the blessing that rightfully belonged to his brother Esau.

Esau threatened to kill Jacob, so Jacob fled their home and went to live with his Uncle Laban in a different place.

Many years later, God told Jacob to return home. But he was fearful that his brother Esau would still be angry and wish to harm him.

Instead, Esau “ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.”

There are few things more powerful than forgiveness.

It literally sets us free from the dark power of anger and hatred, which will eat us alive if we let them.

One of the wisest sayings I’ve heard said is, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.”

Let God free you from the shackles of unforgiveness, and unburden your heart.

Forgive.

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Today’s reading: Genesis 32:1-35:27
Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 36:1-43; 1 Chronicles 1:35-2:2