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!

March 31 – Scripture of the Day

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In today’s reading the passage that stood out to me was Judges 2:18-19 which says. “18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

This is not only a pretty good summary of the general pattern we read throughout the Old Testament, but also the greater story of God and us.

We follow and obey, and great blessings follow. Then, we fall into disobedience and sin, and hardships follow. Then God reaches out to us through his mercy and grace (again and again and again and again) and we do better for a while. Then we screw up again. Rinse; wash; repeat.

Why can’t we just learn? The darn sin thing…

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Today’s reading: Judges 1:1-3:30
Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 3:31-6:40

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

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 1 – Scripture of the Day

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I am really excited to begin my daily bible reading and commentary today. I am doing this to reach two goals for 2015:

  1. To immerse myself in God’s Word, so that I may be fed and enlightened spiritually.
  2. To live more deliberately and purposefully by having 15-30 minutes of quiet reflection time every day.

I am using the NLT One Year Chronological Bible; thus I will read the entire Bible in 2015.  I will post the next day’s verses in each post so you can read along as well, regardless of what Bible you have.

I invite you to join me on this journey!

Today’s reading was:  Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Tomorrow’s reading is:  Genesis 4:1-26

Today, two passages stand out to me. First is Genesis 1:1 which says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is a familiar verse, the very first in the entirety of the Bible.

But to me, its meaning and impact is profound.

For if by faith we accept this statement, that God created everything, than that dramatically alters our perspective on life. Life is no longer about US. It’s about HIM.

Think about what he created:

  • The Earth is 92,960,000 miles away from the sun.
  • The Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 100,000 light years across. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year: almost 6 TRILLION miles (9.4607 × 1015 meters). So just our galaxy is 6 trillion X 100,000 miles across. Try and understand that.
  • But that’s just OUR galaxy. Scientists and astronomers estimate there are probably more than 100 billion (1011) galaxies in the observable Universe.

Click here if you want to read more on the size of the galaxy and universe. 

If God created everything, including us, then we are his. Everything is his. And if that is true, than we would be wise to understand how he wants us to live our lives and do our best to follow him.

Beyond that, we should love him. Obey him. And worship him. Because if for no other reason, he loved us first simply by creating us.

The second passage of scripture relates to the first. It is Genesis 3:22, which reads, “Then the Lord God said, “The people have become as we are, knowing everything, both good and evil. What if they eat the fruit of the tree of life? Then they will live forever!”

We know the story; God creates Adam, and from Adam he creates Eve, his companion and helpmate. The serpent tricks Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, and Adam eats as well.

In this very act, sin entered the world. We can see its affects immediately, as Adam and Eve feel shame realizing they are naked. Then, almost comically, when God asks them why they disobeyed, Adam chucks Eve (and God) under the proverbial bus; and Eve blames the lowly serpent.

As a result, God kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden. We often look at this as punishment, and it may have been.

But, more importantly, it was an amazing act of grace by God.

Why?

Because if Adam and Eve would have been allowed to remain in the Garden, the scripture tells us they would have lived forever. And they would have lived forever in a world with sin; with pain and fear and anger.

That wasn’t what God intended.

So he makes Adam and Eve leave the garden. By doing so, without access to the tree of life, they will eventually die.

Dying is bad, right?

No. Dying is what allows us to be reunited with God, in a place with no more pain, no more tears, not more sadness.

Just as God intended it to be.

So banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden was an act of loving grace.

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Photo credit:  PastorJamie.com

Whose Birthday is December 25?

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So, I learned something new this week.

Sir Issac Newton, the English physicist and mathematician, was born on December 25th.  I did not know that.

I learned this because Neil deGrasse Tyson, the well known American astrophysicist and author, tweeted about it on Christmas Day.

In fact, he tweeted out several things, about Christmas, Newton and Santa.  You can see screen captures of his tweets below.

His tweets caused quite a bit of outrage among many people; but mostly, I suspect, Christians.  There is a link below to one of the news stories about it; just google it and you’ll find plenty more if you desire.

I suppose some of the folks were upset because they took his comments to be disrespectful, antagonizing or both.

I’ve looked at his tweets several times, and while to me they seem mostly benign, I suppose this is a case where different people can read them differently.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume the tweets were meant to be snarky, offensive, derisive and mean-spiritied.

My response is the same:  who cares?  And why would we expect any different?

We live in a society that is hypocritical, judgmental, rude, uncaring, selfish and self-absorbed.

And that’s just those of us claiming to be Christians.

There are plenty of folks in our pluralistic society, both famous and not, that speak and act derisively about and towards Christians.

But so what?  It was largely the same in Jesus’ time as well.

I just think that for those of us who proclaim to be followers of Jesus, the right reaction to such comments, even assuming they are intended to be offensive, etc, is grace.

Grace.

Perhaps we need to reacquaint ourselves with Jesus’ command that we turn the other cheek? Love our enemies?  Do good to those who hate us?

Yup, Jesus commands us to do all that in Luke 6:27-36.  Remember?

So why aren’t we doing that?

Why do we allow ourselves to get upset when folks say such things about Jesus or his followers today?  We shouldn’t.

What we should do is remember that Jesus loved all people.  So much so, that we believe he sacrificed his life for all of us.

Isn’t that the example we should be striving for?

We shouldn’t get mad or upset; or reply with nasty tweets of our own; or self-righteously holding ourselves up as better than the assumed offender.

Grace.  Simple grace.

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Article Link:  Neil deGrasse Tyson sparks Internet fight with Christmas tweets
Scripture link:   Luke 6:27-36
Photo credit:  Pixabay.com

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