Category: Devotions

Would you Want This Verse on Your Coffee Cup?

coffee mug enemies - Copy

Does this verse sound unkind? Why is it even in the Bible? How does it square with the message of love, love, nothing but love that we hear in our contemporary worship songs? Or line up with this old hymn: “Gentle Jesus meek and mild.”

Two thoughts about this verse:

First, note that the writer of this Psalm is not taking matters into his own hands. We are not talking about a Charles Bronson Death Wish vigilante movie! No, the writer is asking God to take care of it.

As Paul said:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  (Romans 12:19).

Second, Jesus is more patient than the Psalmist. God’s wrath is real but Jesus has given it a delay. Jesus has mercifully postponed the sentiment expressed on the coffee cup, by allowing us to live in an age where God’s grace, love, patience and mercy are triumphing over his judgment.

Peter expresses it beautifully:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)

We want to respond to this news by steering people to the love of Christ and the offer of repentance, forgiveness and salvation that he makes. Yet, we also give a loving warning by letting people know that the patience of God really will end one day and then it will be too late. So we don’t stop pleading and persuading.

Today, you are in one of two camps: You are either very thankful for the redemption Jesus accomplished for you, or you are receiving a loving warning to respond to God’s offer before it is too late.

Who is God’s Candidate?

Knowing that most evangelicals are right-wing Republicans, I was curious about how the evangelical Christian left viewed current political issues. Did they have a convincing, biblical, well thought-out analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both the Democratic and Republican parties?

So, I looked at what Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine had to say. Their counsel:  Without question, Christians should adopt the Democrats’ platform, because the Bible teaches that an increase in the power of government will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. Ironically, though, I found them to be the exact mirror image of the right wing, who say that the Bible teaches that a smaller government and more individual initiative will bring more of God’s righteousness and justice to our land. So instead of being hardline Republicans the Christian left has become hardline Democrats!

Each side is skeptical about how anyone who calls themself a Christian could be a supporter of the other party. Even more, few Republicans or Democrats are willing to admit that the opposite party is more correct on any issue.

In my home state I was tempted to vote for someone from the other party for Senator. I had the impression that this guy stood for a higher value than mere party loyalty. I was extremely disappointed when, in a town hall meeting, they asked him to name one area in which he disagreed with his national party. “There are none” he said. This gentleman did not get my vote.

Both sides fall into a trap when they appeal to the Bible. They have decided which party they are loyal to first, and then they go back into the Bible to prove that the Bible shows their party is on God’s side.  It’s hard to take off the blinders and go to the Bible first.

Now I’ll give you a variation on the challenge that was given in the Senatorial town hall: considering who you usually vote for, see if you can find one issue where the other party is more biblical. As someone who votes Republican or Libertarian, I have tried to read what the biblical prophets say with an open mind. As I see their concern for the downtrodden and the ripped-off, then I must admit that the Democrats are stronger on some of the social justice issues. Even if I don’t vote for them this year, at least I’ll stop viewing them as enemies of America!

COVID Running

mind the gap

We sure get a lot of COVID warnings and decrees nowadays!

One decree shut down all our county and state parks. One county park, Tourne, is not too far from the pictured roadside path.  (Long ago, this path was a trolley car route).

The park shutdowns annoyed me.  After all, I have been running in our county for 25 years. And never before did I have someone telling me where I could not go for my run!

So, one weekday at the quiet end of the park, there was no one in sight.  So I snuck around a barricade and ran…. through the park.

But afterwards I did feel a little weird. What if I had fallen down and could not get up? No one would ever find me!

But more importantly I was also becoming a law unto myself, deciding on my own which laws were worth obeying. That’s not really consistent……….with what I profess to believe.

So, I did not run that route again. Thankfully, though, the issue became moot when the county and state parks got reopened.

I am thankful for my solo runs, but I sure do miss group runs. And runners standing shoulder to shoulder waiting for the start of a 5K. And then heading out for postrace beer and pub fare.

We all say the same thing the Psalmist did in Psalm 89 and Psalm 13:  How long, Lord?

Lord knows when. But this will pass.

In the meantime:  Happy running!

How Can I Be Both Perfect And a Screw-Up?

Matthew 5:48 says: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

But at the same time Romans 3:10-11 says:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
 there is no one who understands;
 there is no one who seeks God.

What? The Bible tells me to be perfect, but then it tells me I am a perfect screw-up? How can both things be true?

To answer, I must tell you how much I love the cation words. These are several rhyming words that describe what Jesus did, what Jesus is now doing, and what Jesus will do. Let me start by giving you “cation” word #1 for today: It’s justification. Justification says you do not bear the full penalty for your screwups or moral failure since Jesus took all your blame on the cross! Since Jesus now stands in your place, you can claim this stunning verse:

 I lead a blameless life;
deliver me and be merciful to me. (Psalms 26:11)

What? Blameless? Yes, I am:  Christ set me right with God. And his righteousness comes from outside of me, not based on anything I ever did. In Romans 3:22 it says:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

But despite this, I still screw up. What happens when I do sin? Do I just laugh and blow it off since I have already been declared righteous? I don’t think so.

Sam, a missionary pastor who gave a sermon at our church, is a mature Christian who’s served the Lord faithfully in his international organization for decades. Yet, he confessed that he really started to lose it in a discussion at a recent meeting that degenerated into a futile argument.

I admired Sam for being man enough to admit his foul-up in front of our whole congregation and for how quickly he got the meeting back on track by rapidly repenting and asking forgiveness.

Why was Sam able to react correctly?

His reaction leads to our other “cation” word today: sanctification. This means becoming more like Christ over time. Ephesians 4:24 talks about progressively growing in sanctification:   put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Because I’m striving to walk as a mature man of Christ, I am not planning to yell on the phone at anyone ever again. I am not planning to lust ever again.

But what if I do?

I trust that the Lord will lead me to repent and ask forgiveness more quickly than I ever have before. And that he’ll continue to replace an impatient urge to get my own way with more of the good attitudes that Jesus gives.

I am glad I am not alone in this process of achieving change. I’m in a good men’s fellowship group called Battleground at my home church that is a huge help in this.

Our motto in Battleground is that we seek an authentic experience of God’s word, meaning that we want to not merely put Bible verses into our heads, but to allow those words to change us to reflect the character of Jesus. We confess when we fall short of that and we rejoice when we see the Lord at work building that into each other.

This quote from John Piper gives a great description of what we strive for in Battleground. Each of us is:

a godly man,
who knows he is a sinner, pardoned for God’s name’s sake,
justified by grace, trusting God’s mercy,
depending on God’s Spirit, taking refuge in God’s protection,
delighting in God’s beauty, keeping God’s covenant,
and therefore walking in integrity and honesty and uprightness.1 

What John Piper described cannot be achieved in isolation. In strong fellowship God gives us a solid way to care for and encourage each other to grow to be more like Christ.

May you have fellowship in a group like that, too.
Amen.

1 https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/can-anyone-really-be-blameless