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

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