Saturday, July 21, 2018

sin uses God's good things

Today in the One Year Bible, we read something interesting in Romans 7:1-13. And in this passage, Paul tells us that sin uses God's commands for its own evil purposes. That sounds odd, doesn't it? That sin uses what God has given us for evil? But it makes sense when you step back and think about it. Because everything was created by God. All THINGS were made by Him. And no THING is evil. Everything is good in itself. Only when things are used for evil does evil become involved.

And that's what Paul tells us that sin does. It takes what God has made for good, and uses it for evil instead. It turns things into double agents, working for our detriment instead of our benefit.

But the good news in all of this is that God does something similar, but in reverse. He takes those double agents, those THINGS that sin has repurposed for evil reasons, and He works them for our good. The things that sin tries to turn against us, God works for good. We know this because later in Romans (the next chapter, in fact), Paul tells us that God works EVERYTHING for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose.

So when you see things being used against you in your life, just ask Him to help turn them around. To turn the double agents into triple agents, and use them for what they were originally created to do - to bless you.

God, thank You for being bigger than all of the evil plans in the world. Help us trust You.

Friday, July 20, 2018

no longer slaves

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from Romans 6:1-23. And in that passage, we read the great news that we're no longer slaves to sin. We've been set free from our sins, to live in freedom. How many of us are living in that freedom? If you are, I'm really happy for you. That's awesome. Keep it up! If you're like me, though, you struggle with sin. You don't always find yourself blessing those who cut you off in traffic. You don't always have the nicest thought toward people who say mean things to you at work. You don't always give like you should to the poor, or to your church. You don't always take care of those widows and orphans, as the Bible tells us constitutes "true religion."

But the passage has some good advice for us. "So don't let sin control the way you live." God has called us to live amazing lives, full of goodness and truth and love. When we sin, we rob ourselves of that joy. We steal that goodness and truth and love from ourselves. So let's ask God, who alone is able to free us from the yoke of sin, to lead us into a life of holiness. Let's humbly place our sins before Him, and ask His help in taking them away. And leading us down the path of righteousness, where we'll find the deepest of joys.

God, thank You for freeing us from sin... again and again.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

come here come here go away go away

Today we read Romans 5:6-21 in the One Year Bible. And it reminds us that Jesus came and died for our sins while we were still sinning. That's pretty amazing love.

And it reminds me of something that I learned recently about how we treat God. See, when I was in college, I noticed that my girlfriend would do this thing. She and I joked about it. It was the "come here come here come here go away go away go away" treatment. One day she wanted me to be right with her in everything she was doing, and the next moment she wanted room to breathe and some distance, then the next moment she wanted me all close to her again.

It occurred to me recently that that is exactly how we treat God. One minute we're praying, "God, I want to know you better, I want to do Your will, please help me to avoid sin and to do nothing but Your will for the rest of my life." And the next minute, we're gossiping about our neighbor, treating our family badly, neglecting our work, slacking on our prayer and Bible time, and maybe even falling into some kind of sexual sin. Which, as we know, "pushes God away" with our sin. Then we repent, and we're praying, "God, please come back and fill me and make me pure again..." And so the cycle goes.

Thankfully, we know that God does not tire of forgiving us. After all, He commands US to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. And for those of you who struggle with math, that doesn't mean forgive 490 times and then stop. It just means keep forgiving. If God is going to ask US fallen humans to do that, don't you think He'll forgive us that much more?

So as many times as we're like, "Go away, go away," we can always pray, "Come here, come here, come here." Thanks be to God.

Thank You, God, for forgiving us, and coming back when we've foolishly gone away.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

so much love

Today we read an amazing description of the love of God in the One Year Bible, where we read from Romans 4:13-5:5. We read that God loves us so much, He put His love into us.

That's pretty mind blowing. If you've ever loved someone at that deep level, loving them so much that you would die for them, that you would do ANYTHING for them... you start to understand the love of God for us. If you've loved your children, but they grew cold and distant... how much you would love to put your love INTO their hearts, and help them to love again, and to love YOU again.

If you've ever been in love with someone who didn't love you back... how much you would have wanted to put your love into them, so they would return that love.

That's how God feels about us. He loves us more than we can fathom. He tells us over and over throughout the Bible how much He loves us. He demonstrated that love by becoming one of us and dying on the cross for us. And then He even commands us to love Him back! That's how much He loves us and wants us to love Him... it's the greatest commandment. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And then He does what we wish we could do... He puts His love into our hearts, so that we can love Him with the pure, holy love with which He loves us.

That's a lot of love.

God, thank You for loving us so much.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

the intersection

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from Romans 4:1-12. And here, Paul talks about the faith that saves us. In James chapter 2, we read that we are not saved by faith alone, but by works. So which is it? Catholics teach that we have faith, and that prompts us to do works which participate in the salvation that God is working in our lives. Many protestant groups teach that works are entirely unnecessary for salvation. That we are saved by faith alone, sola fides, and that works are what we do in gratitude for the salvation God has given us.

I'm not going to try to fix 500 years of disagreement in one blog. Suffice it to say, for our benefit going forward, that faith is absolutely necessary for salvation (Hebrews 11 says that without faith it's impossible to please God). Paul makes that clear. And we can all agree that when we have faith in Jesus, we do what He says. We perform "works", and do good things for God and for His children. Those actions flow naturally out of the relationship that we have with Him. Those actions make it possible for others to come to know Him, and to have the faith that is necessary for their salvation.

So let's, as brothers and sisters in Christ, spur each other on to more good works. Let's literally share our faith - tell the stories of faith that will help bolster the faith that each of us has. Let's love one another, and demonstrate our love for God by taking care of His children.

God, thank You for faith and works... and helping us see how they intersect.

Monday, July 16, 2018

a promise and a warning

Today we read something both reassuring and sobering in the One Year Bible from Psalm 12:1-8. The Psalmist, probably David, tells us that God has heard the cries and groaning of the poor, and now He will rise up to rescue them, "as they have longed for Me to do."

That's a reassuring promise to you if you're struggling. If you're poor, and need His help. If you're in a tough place and have lost some or all of your hope. He hears your cry, and He will rise up and rescue you. Continue to call Him, and trust that He will rescue you. That's His promise.

It's also sobering, because most of us reading this are pretty well off. Most of us have it pretty good, in a wealthy country with all the food and nice homes and cars that we need. And there isn't anything wrong with having the blessings that God has provided. But we have to remember the poor. Because if our way of life is causing others to be mistreated, in whatever way, then when He rises up to rescue them, we might find ourselves on the wrong side of that rescue.

What does all of that mean? Just that our neighbor is our responsibility. Jesus turned everything upside down when He uttered that one sentence: what you do to the least of these, you do to Me. Changes the way we see the poor, doesn't it? Changes how we act toward them. Makes us care a little more, love them a little bit more honestly. If not, then let's ask Him to soften our hearts, and learn to take care of the least of these. Because He is going to, and it's best that we cooperate with Him, right?

God, thank You for caring about the poor. Please help us to be your arms in reaching out to love them.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

that raging temper

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from Proverbs 19:10-12. The writer tells us, "Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs." And that's great advice.

It's hard for some people to control their temper. Some people are more even keel, phlegmatic in nature, and don't anger easily. It's much simpler for those people to reel in their anger and not let their temper rage out of control. But others are built differently, and find it very difficult to control their temper.

Some tips for controlling your temper include: 1. Take a moment before you speak. Some people find it useful to count to ten. Just pause for a moment and recollect yourself before responding. 2. Express your anger in calm words. Don't bottle it up and ignore it. But don't explode, either. Tell the other person how you're feeling, but do it calmly. 3. Get some exercise. This helps you "blow off steam" and it keeps you from feeling that anxiety that comes from lack of activity. 4. Don't hold a grudge. Let it go. Talk about what bothers you, and then get past it. Don't hold on to past arguments or mistakes. Let bygones be bygones. You hurt yourself most by holding a grudge, and you also hurt the person you're holding it against. 5. Use humor to diffuse the situation. This works really well online, where you can take a break from an unpleasant comment and then reply with something clever or witty to take the sting out of the conversation.

But the Proverb has more wisdom for us. It says we "earn respect" by overlooking wrongs. That's huge. First, we see that respect is something to be earned, not something that people owe us automatically. Second, we see that letting little mistakes or grievances go, and focusing on the important, larger issues, is a great way to earn that respect. Blowing up over every little thing loses the respect of those who know how to prioritize.

God, thank You for teaching us about our temper, and about respect. Please help us to become wise by controlling one to earn the other.