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Luke 3-4: Don’t Let Satan Give You an Identity Crisis

Encouragement, grace, Jesus, Luke, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, relying on God

Today’s reading is Luke 3:1-4:44.

Back in Luke 1:35, Gabriel told Mary her son would be called the Son of God. In today’s reading, Luke 3:22 shows the Spirit of God descending on her son as He was baptized and proclaims the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Then Luke caps off the genealogy of Jesus saying, “Jesus…the son of God.”

However, out of the starting gate, Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted by the devil. In two of the temptations, Satan said, “If you are the Son of God” (Luke 4:3, 9). The question was, “Do you really believe what God said to you at your baptism? Prove it.” No doubt, Satan was tempting Jesus to test God and worship him, but another subtle temptation is going on behind this. Satan wanted Jesus to question God’s word and promise to Him. Satan wanted to produce an identity crisis in Jesus. “If you were really God’s Son, then…”

Satan does that to me to. “If you were really a child of God, then you would do such and such, you would be better at this and that, you would never have done thus and so.” I can get really messed up spiritually about that because, unlike Jesus, I really have messed some things up. I really do have some things about which I can think, “Man, maybe I’m not really God’s child.”

The point I need to remember is that being God’s child is about being in Christ, it is not about relying on my own righteousness. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m in Christ if I’m going off and doing my own thing. However, what it means is my mess ups as I’m growing in Christ are not reason for me to question my adoption by God. The reason He sent Jesus is because I’m a sinner. The reason He adopted me was not because I am perfect but to perfect me in His time. Philippians 2:12-13 says God is working on me. Romans 8:28-30 says that I will be conformed to Christ’s image because God has predestined that those who love Him will be conformed to His image. 

Satan wants me to question my adoption as God’s child. I must not let him cause an identity crisis. I am God’s child. God loves me and sent my older brother Jesus to die for me. If God loved me so much to reconcile me by Jesus’ death, He will save me by Jesus’ life (Romans 5:10). I can have confidence in my identity as God’s child and I don’t have to prove it to me, to Satan or to anyone else. I can simply rest in that today.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Revelation 9-10: God is Giving Us Opportunity to Repent

Glorifying God, Obedience, repentance, Revelation

Today’s reading is Revelation 9:1-10:11.

Revelation 9:5 jumped out at me today.

“They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them…”

That reminded me of God’s instruction to Satan about Job in Job 2:6, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

The difference between Job and the folks in Revelation is that Job hadn’t been living in sin before this, but by the time he was done with this temptation he repented of the sins he had committed (Job 42:6). The folks in Revelation didn’t repent no matter what discipline they saw, even after another trumpet was blown and plagues killed mankind.

“The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21).

I can’t help but think of some of the devastating things that happen in our world. I’m not saying that tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes are the direct judgment of God (though they might be). However, there is no doubt that God allowed them to happen. These great displays ought to cause those who remain behind to repent and turn to God, seeking the life and salvation He offers. Sadly, it seems that most often these cause folks to become more entrenched in sin believing God must not be out there. That is really not logical. It is as if folks believe because God allowed something they don’t like, He must not exist. That is no evidence either way. The thing we need to see is that life is a vapor. Death is coming. It may come from cancer. It may come from a car wreck. It may come from a hurricane. It may simply come from old age. But it is coming. Repent now. Glorify God now. Turn from idolatry now. Do these things while there is still time for you to glorify God and draw close to Him. Remember what we learned yesterday. He is the one who holds salvation.

***Question: What forms of idolatry still plague the world today?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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I John 4-5: He Loved Us First

I John, Love, loving God

Today’s reading is 1 John 4:1-5:20.

I’ve heard and repeated 1 John 4:19 a bajillion times. “We love because he first loved us.” However, I guess I’m just a bit slow. This verse hit me just the other day as I was thinking about something and I couldn’t wait to get to today to share, though I’m sure you figured this out a long time ago.

I had seen what this verse said over and over again. But I had missed what it did not say. It did not say, “He loved because we first loved Him.” 

Do you see what that means? I don’t have to try to earn God’s love today. I don’t have to try to garner God’s love today. I don’t have to try to be really good so that God will love me today. 

In our human experiences, we’ve often learned that we have to do something to get others to love us. We have to pay something, go somewhere be something. We have to be rich. We have to be pretty. We have to be smart. We have to get the right job. We have to believe the right things. We have to score the winning touchdown, make the three point shot, hammer the grand slam. When we do these things people love us. Sadly, this often sends us down the wrong path. We think for people to love us, we have to be cool. We think to be cool, we have to do wrong things. 

If we could just get that we don’t have to win God’s love. God loves us. Don’t try to win God’s love today. Just rest in . Let it wash over you. Accept it. I know I’ve gotten it backwards. I felt like if I could just try harder, I might get God to love me. The problem was, I always failed and so I didn’t see God’s love for me. And then, I thought I might as well quit trying. However, when I understand that God saw every single failure I’d ever have and sent Jesus anyway because He loved me so much. I quit trying to win His love. I just accepted it. The more I know that He loves me, the more I love Him. 

I know that to some of us Christians this is going to seem counter-intuitive. We just can’t believe this. But, I’m telling you it is true. Biblical love for God is not offered up in hope that He’ll love us back. True biblical love for God is the result of coming to grips with the fact that God loves me already.

By the way, as a side note. One reason it is often so hard for folks to realize God loves them is because we can’t actually see God. We can’t feel Him holding us. God has placed other Christians down here to demonstrate that love. The sad problem is we Christians often make people try to earn our love. If we could learn to just love people no matter what, then perhaps they would see God’s love through us. When they see that, they might just start loving as well.

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John 15-16: The Father is with Me

Christian Living, Jesus, John, relying on God

Today’s reading is John 15:1-16:33.

I can hardly imagine what it must have been like for Jesus as He faced the cross. He knew his friends would all abandon Him. None would stand with Him as He endured the trials and beatings. Judas would betray Him. Peter would deny Him. The rest would scatter like the wind.

However, John 16:32 tells us Jesus’ anchor: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” 

Of course, this demonstrates why the separation of Father and Son on the cross was so brutal for Jesus. But the point I want us to see is that Jesus’ did not base His esteem, His sense of well-being, His sense of purpose on the people around Him. I have no doubt that Jesus had deep relationships with these men. I have no doubt it cut deeply to know they would abandon Him when He most needed support. Yet, He didn’t get His sense of purpose from them. He was anchored in His relationship with the Father. If all others abandoned Him, He could take comfort in God. 

We can do the same. People are fickle. They let us down sometimes. The answer is not to cut people off. Relationships are good. The answer is to make the underlying foundation of everything in our lives our relationship with God and not the people around us. If and when people let us down, when friends abandon us, when co-workers betray us, when brethren let us down, we’ll mourn. But we won’t be overcome. We know that God is still with us and He is solid, unchanging, ever-blessing. 

No matter how you feel in your relationships with others, remind yourself today, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”

***Question: How do you remind yourself that God is with you?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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John 3-4: What Are You Worth to God?

grace, Jesus, Love, Matthew, Sacrifice, salvation, Victory in Jesus

 

Today’s reading is John 3:1-4:54.

Before getting to today’s thoughts, let me say thanks with your patience as I had to take a sabbatical from this blog during most of November. I hope to stay with you all the way through December and get started again in January. I hope this daily look at God’s word is helping you as much as it is me.

Now, on to today’s thoughts.

What are you worth?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils our bodies are made up of the following chemicals and minerals:

 

  • 65% Oxygen
  • 18% Carbon
  • 10% Hydrogen
  • 3% Nitrogen
  • 1.5% Calcium
  • 1% Phosphorous
  • 0.35% Potassium
  • 0.25% Sulfur
  • 0.15% Sodium
  • 0.15% Chlorine
  • 0.05% Magnesium
  • 0.0004% Iron
  •  0.00004% Iodine

 

Additionally, our bodies contain trace quantities of fluorine, silicon, manganese, zinc, copper, aluminum, and arsenic. When we add to that a study done by the Imperial State Institute for Nutrition in Tokyo, Japan about the value of your skin, we learn that to a metallurgist, interested only in the mineral make-up of your body, you are worth about $4.50 (http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia/explain/docs/worth.asp).

However, to a black market body parts seller, you are worth a great deal more. Your heart would be worth $57,000, a kidney is worth $91,400, a lung would be worth $116,400. That however is nothing compared to your antibodies worth $7.3 million, your DNA worth $9.7 million and your bone marrow worth $23 million. All in all, in the human body chop shop you are worth about $45 million (http://soundmedicine.iu.edu/archive/2003/quiz/humanWorth.html). Of course, that is completely illegal and doesn’t do you much good because you have to die to get all that value out of your body.

We have heard all our lives what we are worth to people around us. Some of us heard, “You are worth a million bucks” from our parents and peers. Some of us heard, “You ain’t worth a plug nickel” from them. Sadly, this value was often presented to us based on how well we measured up to some standard they had developed for us. So, whether the message was positive or negative, many of us have a mistaken sense of our value. If you are like me, you know your performance doesn’t really measure up to how others view you; therefore many of us believe we simply aren’t worth much.

Today’s reading should obliterate that thought. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.” I know it is easy to read that most popular of verses and gloss right over it. It is easy to think of ourselves as separate from that world that God loves. He loves the world, that is, He loves all those people out there. How could He love me? We need to reread this verse. God loved the world so much with us in it, that He gave His Son for us.

Understand this: God looked down at you and said, “You’re worth a Son to Me.” I don’t care what anyone else has ever said about your worth. God has said, “You’re worth a Son.” Rest in that today.

***Question: What do you do to find your sense of worth and value in God and not in the world around you?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. I admit, I cheated a bit. Today’s reading reminded me of a sermon I preached some time ago entitled “Worth a Son.” If you’d like to read or hear the whole sermon. Click here.

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II Timothy 4-Titus 1: The Lord Will Rescue, That Doesn’t Mean He Will Keep Me Alive

Death, II Timothy

Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 4:1-22; Titus 1:1-16.

II Timothy 4:18 says, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” 

Paul was in prison. On the one hand, he claimed he was about to be poured out as a drink offering (II Timothy 4:6). Yet, here he says he’ll be delivered. Now which is it?

The reason folks struggle with trying to figure out if Paul would be delivered or if he would die, is because his perspective was different from ours. Paul viewed death as deliverance. If he died, he would go be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23). People can’t hold much over your head when letting you go is deliverance and killing you is also deliverance. 

If I could just grasp that for the Christian, death is not such a bad thing, living for Christ would become a much easier thing.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What did you get out of today’s reading?

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Matthew 7-8: We Need to Ask God

Blessing, Matthew, Prayer

Today’s reading is Matthew 7:1-8:34.

I am struck by Matthew 7:11. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”

It doesn’t say, “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who want them?”

It doesn’t say, “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who need them?”

It says, “How much more will you Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”

How many of God’s blessings do we miss out on because we simply did not ask? Don’t worry, I understand God may say no to our requests. Asking God is not a blank check. However, I also understand God wants to bless us. He wants to give us good gifts. How many of them do we miss simply because we did not ask?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What did you get out of today’s reading?

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1 Corinthians 10-11: Take the Way of Escape Early

I Corinthians, overcoming sin, temptation

Today’s reading is I Corinthians 10:1-11:34.

I’ve read I Corinthians 10:13 hundreds of times. It is an anchor passage for me to remember that God cares for me and won’t let me endure more than I can, through His grace, handle. While I’ve often read on to I Corinthians 10:14, today, the “therefore” struck me. Paul says, because God doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but always provides a way of escape, therefore, we must flee idolatry.

I can’t help but notice, Paul’s conclusion was not to rub up as close to idolatry as possible and then take God’s last minute escape route. Rather, since God provides a way of escape we should flee idolatry. God’s escape route is not a last minute escape hatch that falls open beside us at the very moment we are about to pursue sin. Rather, the escape route is often laid out very early. We take God’s escape route by fleeing away from things that will tempt us. Flee idolatry, flee sexual immorality, flee grumbling against God, flee sin. 

We must not get close and then hope we’ll have the strength to take God’s escape route at the last minute. Rather, we must take that escape route early and thank God for giving it to us.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What did you get out of today’s reading?

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Ephesians 1-2: How God Sees Sin

Ephesians, forgiveness, God, Love, sin

I always have a little trouble when I get to Ephesians 2:1-3.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lied in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (ESV)

It reminds me of the trouble I also have when I get to Romans 3:10-18.

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes
 (ESV).

 The problem I have is, I hear these descriptions and think, “I just wasn’t that bad.” I mean, I have done some really bad things. But I am not a bad person. I’m actually a pretty good person over all. I have great intentions. I really do fear the Lord. I don’t want to deceive. I have dallied in the passions of the flesh on occasion, but I don’t think I was really following the prince of the power of the air or was by nature a child of wrath. 

What’s amazing about that is that I have even done some exercises where I have tried to honestly lay out my sins and how far they went and I realize I really have done some really, really bad things. But to say I was like these verses describes always makes me come up short.

Perhaps it is some kind of subconscious trick so I won’t see how much I really need to surrender to God. I don’t know. Anyway, I was reading this passage and it hit me. These passages are not saying I am a sinner because I am this bad. They are saying, I am this bad because I sin. No matter how bad my sins are on some kind of scale; no matter how I compare with other sinners (there will always be someone worse in my book); no matter what I have or haven’t done, this is how I look to God when I commit any sin. This is why I need a Savior. Even when I have committed what seems to be the most harmless of minor infractions, I have turned from God to submit to Satan and followed the course of my flesh just like everybody else has done. In that moment, I have not just become a person who made a social faux pas, I have become a rebel. 

What amazes me even more are the verses that follow in Ephesians 2:4-7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (ESV).

Despite how I looked to God because of my sin, He still sent Jesus to die for me so my sin could be removed and I could look holy, spotless, blameless and clean to God.

Thank you, God, for your love and mercy.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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Romans 5-6: It’s Not Enough to Obey, Jesus Had to Die for Us

Crucified with Christ, Daily Bible Reading, forgiveness, Love, Romans

I’m sure you already knew when you read today’s chapters that I would be drawn to Romans 5:6-8.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(ESV).

Jesus died for the ungodly. That is, we were not pious and reverent. Jesus didn’t die because we were spiritual enough. Jesus died while we were weak. He didn’t die because we were strong enough. Jesus died while we were still sinners. He didn’t die because we measured up enough. He didn’t look down and say, “For all of you who make the grade, pass the final cut, stand out and measure up, I’m sending my Son.” Jesus died for you, He died for me by virtue of nothing about us, but about God’s love for us. God loves you. You are worth a Son to God.

Most of the time, I think I’m not worth much. I need to read this passage everyday to remind me that to God, I was worth so much, He sacrificed His Son to buy me back from the devil when I so willingly sold myself into his bondage.

Thank you God for loving me. Help me love You.

Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

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