Do You Know What Your Mission Is?

How closely do you do the things God tells you to do?

Do You Know What Your Mission Is?Paul travels to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus. As a Jew it seems logical that he would go to his own people first to share this good news. He does. He goes to the local synagogue, where he spends three months boldly telling them about Jesus.

However, some of the Jews don’t like what they hear, so Paul leaves the synagogue, but he doesn’t leave Ephesus. Instead he goes to the local lecture hall, presumably a Greek hangout. There he speaks daily about Jesus. It apparently goes well, because he sticks around for two years. In the end, everyone in the area—both Jews and Greeks—hear about Jesus (Acts 19:8-10).

I’m glad Paul goes to his own people first. And I’m glad he has a backup plan when his first one doesn’t work out. He seems to do this often when he enters a new city. He starts in the Synagogue, with his own people, and then expands his target audience when some of them oppose him. In each city Paul goes to the Jews first, to give them a chance. Click To Tweet

Yet, why does he do this?

Paul’s assignment is the Gentiles, not the Jews. Ananias knows this at Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion (Acts 9:15), and Paul confirms this when he shares his conversion experience while on trial (Acts 22:21).

Yet to the Romans, Paul shares his deep love for his people. He writes that he is willing to be damned forever if his people could be saved (Romans 9:3-4).

Does this mean that Paul puts his own personal agenda before God’s command? While it might seem so, consider Peter when he quotes Psalm 118:22 to say that (most of) the Jews reject Jesus and then he becomes the cornerstone, presumably for everyone (Acts 4:11).

Perhaps Paul goes to the Jews first in each city to give them a chance. And when they reject his teaching about Jesus, he can freely go to the Gentiles, with scripture to back him up.

What may at first seem like disobedience may actually be a sound strategy.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 19, and today’s post is on Acts 19:8-10.]

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Where Should We Go For Jesus?

Sometimes we may need to go far away for Jesus and other times we may simply need to go home

Where Should We Go For Jesus?Before Jesus returns to heaven, he tells his followers to go throughout the world and let others know about him (Matthew 28:19). Does that mean we’re all supposed to travel to a distant country for Jesus? It could be, but it might not.

Consider a different account, one where Jesus gives an alternate instruction.

Luke tells us the story of Jesus exorcising a legion of demons from a man. Jesus permits the displaced demons to enter into a herd of pigs. They do. The pigs go berserk, jump into the water, and drown. (We know the pigs die, but I wonder if the demons die along with them. It’s an interesting thought, but that question has deep theological ramifications to consider at a different time.)

The demonic influence is now gone from the man. In his right mind, and likely full of gratitude, the man asks if he can hang out with Jesus. Jesus says sure, why not . . . No, that’s not what Jesus says at all.

Jesus tells the man no way. Instead Jesus instructs the restored man to simply go home and let his family and friends know about what God did for him by restoring him to full health. The man obeys and tells the whole town about Jesus (Luke 8:38-39). Our mission field may be in a foreign country, but it might be in our own home or next door. Click To Tweet

In both accounts Jesus tells his followers to go. One time it is to go to all nations and the other time it is to go home. While our mission field may be in a foreign country, it might also be in our own home or right next door.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 8, and today’s post is on Luke 8:26-39.]

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All Progress Faces Opposition

Our response to resistance determines the outcomes we realize

All Progress Faces OppositionIn the beginning of the book of Ezra we have the story of Zerubbabel, who under direction of King Cyrus, begins to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. His job is a noble one and backed by the full support of the Persian Empire and all that it entails.

Yet things do not go smoothly for Zerubbabel. He faces opposition from his detractors who do not want to see him succeed. They don’t care what the king says, even though he could crush them.

The resistance to Zerubbabel’s temple restoration project starts by stirring up discouragement and trying to make the people afraid. Next they offer bribes to appointed officials in order to thwart the plans and frustrate the work.

To his credit Zerubbabel doesn’t back down. While the easy response would be to cease work, he doesn’t give up. He persists. He leads his people to complete their work, despite much resistance from those around him and corruption from the government officials over him.Any time we pursue something good, we will face opposition and encounter resistance. Click To Tweet

Any time we pursue something good, no matter how much backing we have, we will face opposition and encounter resistance. Sometimes the source of this opposition will surprise us, but it shouldn’t. We need to accept that this will occur. In fact, we should prepare for it and be ready to rely on God to protect us and help us see our project through to completion.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezra 4-5, and today’s post is on Ezra 4:4-5.]

What’s Your Life and Legacy?

Amon did evil in the eyes of God and did not humble himself

What’s Your Life and Legacy?A reoccurring phrase in the books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles is about people who “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” In these four books it appears thirty-two times, including eight times in 2 Chronicles. Most of these occurrences reference kings, evil kings who rebelled against God and led their people to follow their wrong path away from him and his expectations for right living.

The phrase applies to Amon in today’s text, as well as to his father Manasseh. Talk about teaching the wrong things to your kids. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

But there was one thing Amon didn’t learn from his dad that he should have. Though King Manasseh spent his life doing the wrong things, once he was confronted about them he made a U-turn. He humbled himself. Today we might say he repented.

Years later King Amon ends up in the same situation. He is an evil king just like his dad, but instead of turning things around, he persists in the wrong path he has chosen for his life. His pride keeps him from a humble response. In doing so, the Bible says he “increased his guilt.” May we live our life in such a way as to not need a second chance. Click To Tweet

God may not give everyone a second chance, but if he does we had better take it. However, an even better approach is to live our life in such a way as to not need a second chance.

May we live a life and leave a legacy where we “did right in the eyes of the Lord.”

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 31-33, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 33:22-23.]

Choose With Care Whose Advice You Heed

King Rehoboam made the costly mistake of listening to his friend’s advice

Choose With Care Whose Advice You HeedRehoboam succeeds his father, Solomon, as king. He inherits a sweet situation of a nation experiencing peace, enjoying power, and basking in wealth. It is his merely to maintain.

His detractor, Jeroboam, goes before him and asks for a reprieve for the people from the past burden of work and taxes. Rehoboam wisely says, check back with me in three days. Then he asks his advisors, the same elders who served his father, what to do. They tell him to back off a bit, be nice, and earn the people’s loyalty.

But Rehoboam didn’t like that recommendation, so he goes to his friends instead. They give him the opposite advice. He follows it, and most of the nation rebels against him to follow Jeroboam.

Rehoboam ends up with only one tribe willing to follow him, Judah. He listens to the wrong advice and loses big time.

This reminds me of kids. It’s common for small children to ask one parent a question, but not liking the answer, they check with the other parent for a more favorable response. When they’re caught the results are never good. We do this as adults, too. Have you ever read a verse in the Bible that makes you cringe? I have. But instead of looking for ways to follow it, I look for a different verse that will let me draw a more favorable conclusion. I hold onto the second one and dismiss the first. I shouldn’t need to wonder what God thinks about that, because as a parent I already know.God gives us the Bible for a reason. We need to follow it. All of it. Click To Tweet

God gives us the Bible for a reason. We need to follow it. All of it.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 10-12, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 10:3-15.]

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Do We Ever Place Our Traditions Over God’s Commands?

Jesus condemns those who supersede the Word of God with their religious practices

Do We Ever Place Our Traditions Over God’s Commands?Jesus asks the people, “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your traditions?” (Matthew 15:3). He goes on to give an example that is culturally relevant to his audience, but which doesn’t connect so much with us today.

Of course we would never do such a thing, would we? Sadly, we too place traditions over God’s commands. Consider these examples:

Vain Repetition: Jesus tells the people to not pray using vain repetition (Matthew 6:7), yet in church growing up we did this every Sunday, repeating a prayer from rote memory, as well as the Ten Commandments and often a creed. Yet he commands us to avoid vain repetition. Other translations say “meaningless repetition” and “babbling many words.” The Bible says to not do that, but we do.

Do Not Call Anyone Father: Jesus specifically teaches us not to call anyone Father (Rabbi or Teacher) because only God is our Father. The principle seems to be against elevating our spiritual leaders with titles, perhaps suggesting we should avoid “Pastor,” “Reverend,” and “Doctor,” as well as “Father” and “Rabbi.” Yet we do this (sometimes at the insistence of our spiritual leaders), and some traditions specifically use Father, but Jesus says not to (Matthew 23:8-10).Jesus tells us to give anonymously, to not call attention to our charitable giving. Click To Tweet

Give in Secret: Jesus tells us to give anonymously (Matthew 6:3-4), to not call attention to our charitable giving. Yet our Sunday offerings are a public event and certainly not done secretly. Yet our tradition trumps God’s command.

Seek Man’s Approval: Though it’s not a direct command, Paul condemns those who try to win the approval of people. Instead we should follow his example of trying to please God (Galatians 1:10). Yet how often do ministers water down sermons in order to avoid human offense, which might cause parishioners to get mad, cause a stink, or withhold their donations?

These are a few ways we put our own preferences above what the Bible says. I’m sure there are many more. Be on the lookout for them, and then seek to do things God’s way, regardless of tradition.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 14-16, and today’s post is on Matthew 15:3-7.]

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Submit to God; Resist the Devil

James offers a solution to those who face disappointment with their life

Submit to God; Resist the DevilI like the words of James in the Bible. His concise writing packs a lot of practical teaching into five succinct chapters. In chapter four he opens with a string of negative outcomes that often plague people. He lists fights, quarrels, envy, covetousness, and the kicker of all disappointments: unanswered prayers. Ouch.

Why do we suffer from such things? The cause is spiritual adultery, of being so friendly with worldly pursuits that we become estranged from God. Double ouch. God wants our full attention, undivided.

What’s the solution? James’s two-part answer, both direct and succinct, says to submit to God and resist the devil. But are these dual initiatives for us to pursue or opposite sides of the same coin? By submitting to God do we automatically become empowered to resist evil? Perhaps by turning our back to sin, we effectively submit to God. Yet it matters not if we resist first, submit first, or do both. The main thrust of James’s instruction is to effectively focus our actions on God and turn from worldly pursuits.

Submission is not a popular concept in today’s society. Neither is resisting temptation. With our self-sufficient, do-it-myself mindset, no one wants to acquiesce to another, to defer our desires to another person’s wellbeing. Yet the Bible teaches us to do just that. James says to submit to God. So does Job (Job 22:21), as well as the wisdom literature (Psalms 81:11 and Proverbs 3:6). Plus Peter tells us to submit to the elders (1 Peter 5:5), and Paul teaches us to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and to authorities (Romans 13:5). And there is more.The Bible teaches us to submit to God and others. Click To Tweet

How do we do this submitting to God and resisting the devil? James says we need to be close to God, wash our hands (figuratively speaking), purify our hearts, repent (grieve, mourn, and wail), and humbly approach God. Then he will lift us up.

Implicitly our disagreements will cease, our materialism will end, and we will enjoy answered prayer. It starts when we submit to God and resist temptation.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 4-5, and today’s post is on James 4:1-10.]

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Leadership Lessons from the Book of Judges

The people did as they saw fit in the book of Judges; things aren’t much different today

Leadership Lessons from the Book of JudgesThe book of Judges is a curious one, containing some really questionable content, especially toward the end of the book. The judges it highlights are a colorful bunch, some exhibiting quite dubious behavior. They are a motley collection, and I cringe over some of their attitudes and actions. Yet despite the shortcomings of many, they do lead people to freedom and to a refocus of their attention on God. This cycle of disobedience (rejecting God), oppression (punishment), liberation (rescue), and returning to God (obedience) is a reoccurring theme in the book of Judges.

Another reoccurring theme is the phrase, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit,” (Judges 21:25). In fact, this is the concluding sentence of the book of Judges, a fitting end to a collection of stories, some of which I find quite disconcerting.

Without the godly leadership of a king, the people flounder. (Of course, we will later learn they don’t fair too well under the rule of kings either, most of who will rebel against God and lead their people to follow their errors.)The in vogue “religion” today is to make up our own religion. Click To Tweet

Today we also lack godly leadership. And without good leaders people pretty much do as they see fit. So, true to our nature, most everyone is doing whatever he or she wants. We see this with the in vogue religion of today, where people make up their own religious beliefs, their own set of rules – or lack thereof. We are so in need of good leaders to guide us.

Yet we are all leaders, be it in society, the political arena, education, at work, in our home, and even of ourselves – we are especially leaders of ourselves. Doing as we see fit can lead us down a wrong path. Instead, we need to let God lead us and then do what he wants.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 19-21, and today’s post is on Judges 21:25.]

The Near Death Experience of Jonah

Live a life of obedience and without regret in order to finish strong

The Near Death Experience of JonahMost people know the story of Jonah: God sends Jonah to help Nineveh. But Jonah gets in a boat headed in the opposite direction. God sends a storm to get Jonah’s attention. Jonah implores the crew to throw him overboard in order to calm the storm. After some prodding they toss him into the water. A fish swallows Jonah. God gives Jonah a three-day timeout. The fish spits out Jonah on dry land. Jonah obeys God.

But what happens between the crew throwing Jonah into the sea and the fish swallowing him? Jonah nearly drowns. It isn’t as if the fish is hanging out by the boat waiting to rescue Jonah.

No, Jonah goes in the water and fights to survive. He flails as long as he can. Out of strength he can fight no longer. He sinks. Water fills his lungs. He can’t breathe. Jonah is dying. His life flashes before his eyes. Then the fish comes and saves him. He doesn’t die after all.

How do I know this? I don’t. But Jonah’s prayer to God suggests his watery rescue comes at the last possible moment. He says, “When my life was ebbing away…,” (Jonah 2:7). In other words, he is about to die. His final thoughts are of God and God’s holy temple. Jonah prays. He affirms God and promises to make good. Jonah acknowledges that salvation comes from God – in this case, his salvation is both literal and figurative.Will our final thoughts be filled with regret over unfinished business and disobedience? Click To Tweet

When we get to the end of our life, what will we think about? Will our final thoughts be filled with regret over unfinished business and disobedience? Will we recall good times with family and friends? Perhaps we will anticipate eternity with God. Or maybe we will pray. Will our final prayer be one of desperation or of peace?

Living in obedience to God and without regret is the surest way to make sure we finish this life strong. Then God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). May it be so.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jonah 1-4, and today’s post is on Jonah 2:7-9.]

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What is the Cost of Obeying God?

Jeremiah said what God told him to say and suffered for it

What is the Cost of Obeying God?Jeremiah’s time as a spokesman for God is filled with frustration. Not only do the people ignore what he tells them, they sometimes do exactly the opposite. Though Jeremiah speaks God’s truth to his people, they criticize him for his negativity – even though he is merely relaying God’s own words to them. At various times they detain him, leave him to die, and try starving him.

In today’s passage their anger towards Jeremiah, as God’s messenger, erupts into a beating and then imprisonment in a jail made just for him. Jeremiah likely wonders why God isn’t doing more to protect his faithful servant and keep him from harm. Jeremiah may wish he had ignored God’s call for him to become a prophet or at least watered down God’s message in order to not inflame the people.Jeremiah suffered for his obedience to God. Might we suffer the same fate? Click To Tweet

Though we don’t know what Jeremiah was thinking, we do know he obeyed God – and suffered for his obedience. As God’s children, we want to believe he will always protect us when we serve him, but the Bible doesn’t show that to be the case.

Obedience doesn’t always equate to protection. Sometimes it results in persecution.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 35-37, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 37:15.]

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