Candles lit, hands washed, and shofar blown, I sit down to a Sabbath meal with my family. It all goes perfectly. Not exactly. It’s always fun trying to explain to my 6 and 4 year old daughters the idea of rest and peace that the Sabbath brings, especially when my one year old son is tossing food from his high chair. Or trying to have a good chat with them about who Jesus is while they are making a mess with their soy sauce and their cherries. Or reading a few verses from the Bible while my son is seemingly trying to outmatch my voice. But it’s all worth while when we bow our heads and my girls pray their beautiful childlike prayers thanking Jesus for being their hero, teacher, and savior. Brings a tear to a dad’s eyes. Bring on the wild sabbath dinners any time. Thank you Jesus for your rest, even in the wildness of life.
I am a teacher by profession. I am also a parent, a friend, a husband, a coworker, and a member of a community. my greatest lessons are not the ones I do in front of a classroom or behind a pulpit. My classroom is everywhere… Your classroom is everywhere. Whether you get paid to teach or not you are teaching others, every day. People are always watching, observing, and possibly seeking to emulate our words and actions. If we want to help people grow and mature and become the people that God made them to be, then we need to be the people that God made us to be. Words are empty if they are not backed up by our actions. Others are more likely to behave like you rather than to do the things that you say. Let’s teach the World love by being loving. Let’s teach the World generosity by being generous. Let’s show the world who their Savior is by acting like Him.
“whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6 ESV
“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
Perhaps the most well known Bible verse of all time. Athletes proclaim it. Many have it memorized, even if they aren’t sure they believe it or not. It is the quintessential message of God’s pursuit of a fallen humanity. But it doesn’t end with our salvation, it begins a new creation. God’s mission is not to simply save our souls but to remake what mankind has destroyed. Part of that mission is fulfilled through those who put their faith in Him. Later in the Bible there is another book that John wrote. Interestingly, chapter three and verse 16 of that book parallels our opening verse.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18 ESV
It’s almost like these passages should’ve been right next to each other. God’s great display of love creates a people who live by the same mission and the same standard. Generosity and sacrifice become the banner of a new people who’s hearts have been remade by their creator.
For those of us who proclaim allegiance to Christ, our hands should open to the world around us. Our lives should be spent on a higher calling. God’s love moves us to love. Not because we’re supposed to but because we want to.
Recently I gave a message at the church I attend and I wanted to share it with you all. I hope it is an encouragement to you all. Blessings!
In 2019 a movie came out that would go on to be the highest grossing movie of all time. Any guesses? Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 22 Marvel Universe films over an 11 year period. All of those films built up to one peak moment. The villain, Thanos, was attempting to reset the universe by eliminating a third of all living creatures. His methods weren’t based on merit or the salvation of the righteous but solely on mass destruction to preserve those left behind.
Besides what some of us may think, we don’t live in a superhero universe. But we do have an endgame that all of life is building up to. So what’s the endgame? As believers in Jesus, what is all of this leading up to?Is it heaven? Is it something else? For all of my childhood and much of my adult life, I was under the impression that heaven was the goal. After all, we’re told that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) and that Jesus went away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). But none of those things speak of our final destination. You see, heaven is just another temporary stop on our way home. To understand the end, we have to go back to the beginning.
“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:7-15 ESV
The garden was created as a place for Man and God to coexist. It was a place where heaven and earth overlapped. God and His creation could experience and intimacy unhindered by brokenness and death. It was a place filled with beauty and purpose. The entire salvation narrative is imaged in these few verses. God forms us, He gives us life, and then he takes us to a home prepared for us. But it wasn’t to last for Adam and Eve. After an unknown number of years, they messed up and the result was exile. Refer to Genesis 3:23-24. Ever since we’ve been living in exile with a longing to get back to the garden. Throughout the remainder of the Bible our attention is constantly drawn to the Garden.
The tabernacle and the temple both contained illusions to the garden. The Gold and onyx, the lampstand, the flowers And vines, the olive oil used, etc. It was a place where God’s holiness resided. A place where a certain few could come and meet with Him. The promised land is also a picture of God bringing us back to Eden (Num 13 the fruit that the spies brought back). It was a land flowing with milk and honey. A place between the Great rivers.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5 ESV
Tell me that doesn’t sound like a garden. Earth will be renewed. We are coming back with our Savior King. The Holy City will descend and Heaven and Earth will be one. Intimacy with God will be final and glorious.
Understanding our origins and our destiny helps us to know our purpose here and now.
Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19 and 2 Cor 6:16). So what does that mean? We have the garden living inside of us. Our hearts desire new things, eternal things. God resides within us. If the tabernacle and the temple were meant to be sanctuaries of God’s peace and love and truth, then that’s what we’re supposed to be. Christ’s sacrifice opened up a whole new intimate relationship with our God that hadn’t been enjoyed since the Garden. Even the tabernacle and the temple had a veil, but Jesus tore that down. So what does that mean for our purpose?
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John 7:38 ESV
Our role is to water the soil of our surroundings and work to bring the kingdom of heaven to our place on earth. We are springs of living water and we are called to help perpetuate new life. Not that we can give life ourselves but that we show people the source of living water within us. The believer is a Gardner. Our homes should be a garden. Our area of the workplace should be a garden. Our relationships should be a gardens. Think of all the words Jesus spoke comparing us to the branches and Him the vine and how we need to remain connected to Him to bear fruit. Or later when Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit that all believers should be hearing. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness should all be growing within us and spring forth into our homes and relationships.
Our words, prayers, and actions can bring about healing, encouragement, and hope. Our life should point others to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. The only way that’s going to happen is if our spring isn’t stopped up. My hope for you and me is that the springs of living water would break free within us.
We can stand against injustice and stand with our brothers and sisters in blue who put their lives on the line every day to do the same. Cops aren’t the enemy, hatred is. Hatred only produces more hatred. Solidarity means moving forward together. Love is the weapon. Jesus is our hope. The way forward is by seeing the intrinsic value of every person who is created in God’s image and loving them as such. That goes for all those wearing a badge and all of us who don’t. The call to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God is the same for every human who has ever walked this earth. Peace in Christ to you all.
Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for living and dying for a greater cause. Thank you for the freedom you have won and upheld for me. Today I honor you.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 ESV
For me, and my family, Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring great sacrifice. It is a sacred day. For soldiers all over the world who have paid the ultimate price, we are more than grateful.
Today we also pay homage to all our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and who still lay their lives down for the great faith in Christ Jesus.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
Most of all, we reflect on the greatest sacrifice that won us the greatest freedom. We honor our Savior who’s love lead Him to a cross. May His sacrifice change us. May we learn what it means to love others more than ourselves. After all, the value of our lives is determine by the means in which we spend it, Lord help us to not waste our lives on selfish ambition but give it away out of love for our neighbors.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 ESV
Seasons change and we’re not always ready for it. But the fact that they change is inevitable. Daughters become little girls overnight. The journey from the hospital room to your little boy’s one year birthday party seems like a flash. People come and go in our lives. Loss happens in an instant. Relationships change and evolve. Pandemics can sweep the world. It’s best to not fight change but to expect it. The only constant in life is the One Who originated life. He is who we cling to in the hard seasons of change. He is who we cling to in the celebrations of life.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 ESV
Let Jesus be your constant in the ever changing seasons of life. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11-12 ESV
Being around other believers is irreplaceable. We need each other to get through tragedies, bear the weights of life, and move towards Jesus and a more consistent manner. And it’s good to stop and reflect on our own personal impact on others in the faith. I we someone who refreshes and encourages? Our effect on others is not a sub issue of faith, it’s paramount. Our faith is never meant to be kept to ourselves. As part of God’s family, we are a transport of spiritual nutrition to those around us. Jesus compared us to a well overflowing with living water. Never should we be guilty of draining life from one’s heart because we are connected to the author of life Himself. To be refreshing to others, we too must be refreshed in Jesus and through His people.
It’s easy to look to the things we see or the people we know to be our source of assurance. People are created to have hope. We cling to whatever we can in desperate moments. We seek all our lives to find the things that bring us comfort and confidence in our present circumstances. Be it a person, a place, a thing, a status, a relationship, or even an accomplishment, everyone hopes in something or someone.
There’s always needs arising for people to find hope. At any given moment in history there have been wars, famines, pandemics, economic turmoil, slavery, and the threat of evil ideologies and the effects they have on human life. They may not always look exactly the same but our world is always in need of hope.
God’s people are supposed to be known for finding their hope in one source alone-God. The Bible is full of stories where that did not happen. Look at any believers life and you will see moments when that did not happen. None of us are immune from the plagues of self-reliance and materialism. In my reading this morning I came across one such story. It’s in the book of Ezekiel where the prophet is rebuking the nation for trusting in Egypt rather than God for their security. In chapter 29, God promises to bring down Israel’s neighboring powerhouse so that they will no longer have them as a weak crutch to lean on.
“Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’ ”” Ezekiel 29:16 NIV
God takes seriously His people’s tendency to misplace their trust and hope. Jesus rebuked those who trusted in anything other than God…like those who trust in money (Matthew 6:19-21), in religious heritage (Matthew 3:9), or in their religious ‘goodness’ (Mark 13:1-2). Confidence in anyone or anything other than God’s goodness and faithfulness is an issue of misplaced loyalties. Like the Israelites of old, we have to safeguard our hearts from wandering the path of false security.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalms 46:1 NIV
Have you ever pondered the question of whether or not God was for you? What does that exactly mean? Are we asking if God is in support of what we want or how we would like our lives to turn out? How about during strife with someone else? Do we wonder if God would take our side in the ordeal? Maybe He’s for our career pursuits? In times of war, is He for our nation’s cause or the other?
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV
I think its very important to understand the context of this passage in Romans. I hear or read people quote it often and quite a lot it seems to be thrown around pretty loosely to apply to almost anything. Yes, God is for us. But what does that mean? If you read the entirety of chapter 8 (in light of all of the Book of Romans) we are being told that God is for our spiritual transformation and our eternal destination. Those are the two things God wants more than anything for every person in His creation. No matter how much we run away, God wants us back. No matter how much we bring shame to His name or ridicule His holiness with our lives, He wants us back. God is for us in the best possible way. God is always faithful and God is always true. Instead of wondering if God is for us, we should focus on whether or not we are for Him.