Day 31: Luke 22-24 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 22-24 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Peter knew better than Jesus… or at least he thought he did (22:31-34). Jesus told Peter what would happen, but Peter didn’t believe it. He thought he knew better than Jesus, but Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself and He knew that Peter would return.

What gives me hope, is that Jesus had already prayed for Peter (22:32).  He spoke plainly to Peter that even though he would deny Jesus three times (22:34), that Peter would indeed return to Jesus and be in a place to strengthen his brothers.

We will see in the days a head as we read through the book of Acts, that there were roughly 50 days between the Crucifixion and the day of Pentecost. Which means that there were roughly 50 days between Peter’s denial of Jesus and preaching the greatest sermon of his life.

Sometimes we feel like when someone has sinned in a grievous way that they should suffer for it for a long time before they are restored. While it is wise to seek and evaluate to see if genuine repentance has taken place, we see Jesus restoring Peter in a matter of days and empowering him to preach the gospel in less than two months. There is a scandal there if I ever saw one. Don’t be fooled though, the scandal isn’t with how quickly Jesus restored Peter, it’s how powerful the cross is! The biggest thing that took place between Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus and Peter’s restoration was the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus!

I think sometimes we can be guilty of preaching the power of the gospel without believing it! God’s grace is really that big! His love is really that wide! And His forgiveness is really that powerful.

FATHER, thank you for loving for me. Thank you for your grace! I stand in awe of the power of the gospel to transform lives. I thank you for Peter’s testimony and it’s implications. I pray that I would be quick to forgive people in my life. I pray for my friends today who feel like they have to suffer before they can enjoy restoration. I pray that they would find freedom in you today. I pray for those who are nursing grudges. I pray that they would find the grace and ability to forgive as you forgive. I pray for those who have fallen to be restored. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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How Should You Deal With Anger?

angry-womanAnger is one of those difficult emotions to talk about because many people don’t deal with their anger in a productive way. When we talk about anger it’s common for some people to feel shame either because of the way they have acted out when they were angry or because they feel they are responsible for someone’s actions when they were angry. My goal in bringing up anger isn’t to make you feel bad, but to actually help remove that shame.

The truth is, I’ve been an angry person and there are days that I still struggle with how to deal with my anger. Once when I was in college, I was on the phone with my girlfriend, I don’t remember the conversation, but I do I know that my anger caused me to I crossed a line. There was a split second where in my head I thought, “what she has just said makes me very angry” and I had a choice to make, a stupid choice, but a choice. I could end the conversation and hang up the phone or I could hang up the phone and go into an animal rage… for some reason the animal rage thing seemed like it would make me feel better and so I demolished a 55 gallon trash can. I took a rubber made trashcan and bent it inside out. If it were a person they would have gone to the hospital… My roommates had no idea about the phone conversation came out wide eyed and saw what I did to the trashcan and were like, “Wow, what happened?” And all I could mutter was, “Stupid Trashcan.”

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I felt so ashamed. I had crossed a line. In my rage I destroyed a trashcan. (Can I tell you that Rubber-made trashcans don’t always bounce back). That isn’t all that my anger destroyed. It destroyed my reputation with my roommates. Once everything calmed down it became a joke around our cottage. Don’t get Jonathan angry he will dent you like a Rubber-Made. Anger has the capacity to destroy.

But don’t think that anger is just a negative emotion, anger can also cause you to do great things. I think anger is a gift from your Creator. I know that Jesus was angry. Take a look at Mark 3:5, “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”
Do you know what made Jesus angry? The hardness of the people’s heart. They had made a rule, a false rule. They had taken God’s rule “to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” and added so many other rules around it that when Jesus, who had the power to heal, walked into town, they forbid him to heal people on the Sabbath! Imagine your sister lying sick on a bed dying of cancer and there is nothing that modern medicine can do for her other than make her a little sicker and hope to give her a few more months to live and Jesus comes to your town on a Sunday. He’s willing to heal, but these guys actually show up at the edge of town and say, “No healing on Sunday’s, we’re watching you mister!”

I’d be angry. Jesus was angry. He was right to be angry. Anger can move you to action faster than compassion. Most people who want to change the world do so not because they are compassionate people, but because they have been angry at injustice. They see the wrong in the world and they feel like they are on a mission to fix it.

The apostle Paul actually tells us to be angry. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV). But we have to be careful about how we are angry. Anger is like handling a loaded weapon. You don’t play games with a loaded gun.

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So anger isn’t wrong, but how we react can be wrong, because let’s face it, not many of us get mad about something and start a charity to provide clean drinking water in Sudan. Usually we get mad about something much more personal and centered on us so we yell, we argue, we punch, we shut down and don’t talk, we glare, we gossip, we tear down, we hurl insults, we cry, we do things we are not proud of and in just a moment we say or do something that we regret. The reason is because we are angry for the wrong reasons.

We feel right in the moment because we have endorphins running through our head. You can say the stupidest things when you are angry and  it will make perfect sense to you. You will feel so right and justified about what you said or did in your mind. You can’t reason with an angry person it’s like they are high on stupid. They just keep repeating the same old stuff like it makes sense… “San Antonio is in California!”

James reminds us though that just because we feel right in our anger doesn’t, it doesn’t make us right. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, ESV). Most of our anger is wrong, because we choose to be mad for the wrong reasons. You see it’s easy to see injustice when it is happening to someone else. It is difficult to see when it’s us. We like to take up to our defense too quickly. It’s like calling your own fouls in basketball. It’s way to easy to be they guy fouling the snot out of everyone else and then calling the slightest bump on you. You don’t have the right perspective because human nature has a tendency to cause us to be lenient on ourselves and harsh on others.

I got into a fight at school one time because a guy accidentally bumped into me. I though he did it on purpose. I got angry and took up for myself. I quickly judged his motives as being accusatory.  Had I been patient I would have realized it was an accident, as it was, I punched him in the face and then asked, “Why did you bump me in the hall way?” And as he nearly knocked me out with his return punch, he said, “it was an accident.” After that I learned that it’s always good to ask questions before you throw punches.

Glass of Milk
When it comes to anger you need to deal with it quickly. It’s like  milk. Milk is initially good and good for you, but if you leave it sitting out past it’s expiration date and you get something different. Your anger is the same way. Hold on to it for too long and it will turn into bitterness! Bitterness can sour everything in your life. Paul says, “be angry and do not sin.” Milk is good for you, it’s good for your skin, your bones, etc. but rotten milk… not so good, at least for your stomach. Deal with your anger quickly. (and by deal with it I don’t mean beat up a rubber made trash can).

Jesus had a great strategy for dealing with anger. It involved going to the one who made you angry and seeking reconciliation. See what he said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:21-24 ESV)

What is really cool about Jesus’ words here is that he lived them and went beyond them. We were separated from God, isolated by our rebellion, choosing our own way over the design of our creator. God had every right for his anger and wrath to burn against us (indeed it was stockpiling for the day that it would be unleashed), but he choose to send Jesus to endure the wrath we deserved so that we could have a relationship with God. He didn’t wait for us to apologize or to say we are sorry, the bible says that, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It’s important to know that even though God was the offended party, he initiated reconciliation. When we turn from our sins and trust Jesus our sins are forgiven because he has already paid the price.

If you are a believer, who are you to hold on to your anger? Don’t you know that Jesus paid for your sins? If he paid for your sins, could it be that he has also paid for the sins against you? On my best days when I am tempted to anger my heart cries out to God and I am reminded of his great love for me and that his wrath was satisfied in Jesus. So I ask Him that I would be satisfied in Jesus in those moments too. My anger becomes a vehicle to appreciate the love of God all over again. No more rubber-made trash cans and I’d like to think that one day my anger will be more like Jesus’ anger than the trash can destroying variety. Indeed I know it will because I’m promised to be conformed to his image (Romans 8:29).

The Color of Justice (REVIEW)

the color of justiceThe Color of Justice is an engaging courtroom drama centered on the issue of racial reconciliation. In 1964 a white girl is murdered and a young black man is fingered for the crime despite a lack of evidence. Cooper Lindsey an aspiring lawyer with roots in the small town of Justice, Mississippi steps in to make sure the defendant gets a fair shake. The book is reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird , even to the point that the author references Mobile and Montgomery with some frequency. The twist comes when another lawyer enters town in 2014 to answer the questions left by the case in 1964 and to defend a young white man accused of killing a young black man.

The Color of Justice speaks well to the theme of racial reconciliation, repentance and forgiveness. The author helps the reader seemingly explore the issues from both a black and white perspective. Early on the main character maintains that he is not racist, but when confronted with difficult circumstances he has to really examine his motives and thoughts. The author does a great job of illustrating the reality of racism in a 1964 Mississippi town without fully engaging in racist rhetoric. He lays down enough hints and interjections to get the message across without ever actually penning derogatory terms.

Over all I thought this was a great book. The author kept the lines of tension tight which always makes for a great read and the inability to put the book down. I know I lost an hour of sleep just so I could muddle through to the end of the book and not have to wait till later. I got my copy from amazon.com who has it on sale right now for $13.49 in paperback.

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7 Keys to A Better Sunday Morning Family Worship Experience

So, we’ve all been there. That long and awkward drive to church where you have been fighting with the kids all morning, feeling rushed. Because of the rushed feeling tensions are high between you and your spouse. Your kid asks a simple and innocent enough question and you lash out something like, “Just Be Quiet! We are on our way to church!

Perhaps you feel like a hypocrite as soon as you say it, or maybe you just chalk it up to Satan trying to foil your Sunday morning experience. Either way you feel guilty. But as soon as you pull in the parking lot you feel compelled to put on a smile and pretend everything is all right. Now you really do feel like a hypocrite. They are singing “Enter the Gates with Thanksgiving in your Heart” but right now you feel resentment toward your spouse, toward your kids, and perhaps you even project your own insecurities on some of the cheery looking people around you as you call them a hypocrite under your breath.

But let’s rewind the scenario and see what might have caused this terrible start to a Sunday Morning Worship experience. The night before you stayed up later than usual to catch up on SNL. You hit the snooze buttons a few times to catch up on sleep and before you know it you are running late. All of the sudden realize that you washed everything but what you were hoping to wear today (or it’s still at the cleaners), so you scramble to put some other outfit together. The kids are up and asking about something to eat, you are trying to iron a shirt that you think might be a tad too small and your spouse just hopped in the shower which means you will have to wait for them before you can hop in.

But is there a better way? I propose there is. What if we prepared for Sunday on Saturday?  Here are a few tips for preparing Saturday night for a good experience on Sunday.

  • Give the kids a bath the night before.
  • Go to bed early or at least on time.
  • Lay out your clothes for the next day (as well as for the kids).
  • Discuss a shower schedule with your spouse.
  • Have a brief time of prayer with your family asking God to make the next Sunday Special, Pray for your pastor, worship leader, life group leaders, etc.
  • Plan a light breakfast with protein in it.
  • Set your alarm and plan to wake up on time

Soon you will find that not everyone at church with a cheery face is faking it. A good Sunday morning experience begins with a little Saturday night preparation. What other tips can you offer to help make for a good Sunday morning experience?

The Heart Mender Book Give Away

I’m really excited about the latest book from Andy Andrews, The Heart Mender (Amazon affiliate link).   You can read my review here, complete with references for how you can find out more about the book. The publisher gave me an extra copy and I want to pass it on to one of you.  Since I can’t give one to all the readers I decided to hold a contest.  Here is how it works.

Post a Comment

Post a comment completing the following, “When I read a good book,  _________________.”   For example…  “When I read a good book, I like to warm up a cup of coffee or Tea, I clean off the patio out back and hangout reading in the mid-morning sunshine.”

The contest will run through until noon (Central Standard Time) Wednesday, May 12, 2010.  I’ll randomly draw a name and post the winner the next day.  If you win, I will also contact you via e-mail so we can make arrangements to ship the book to you.  Good luck and happy commenting!  I look forward to reading your comments.

“When I read a good book, ___________________________.”

Review: The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

I was blown away when I read The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances.  Author Andy Andrews claims this is his best book to date, I can say it is indeed one of the best books that I have ever read. When I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it from cover to cover in one sitting.

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances is a historical “fiction” book about war and forgiveness, love and espionage, the gulf coast and German U-Boats.  I’ve lived on the Gulf Coast for 13 years and was immediately drawn into the imagery and story painted by the author.  Even though this book is “fictional” in nature, Andy does a great job of drawing out several facets of forgiveness in this book.  The people who will benefit most from this book are those who are dealing with anger and struggling to forgive.

The story line is set on the gulf coast during world war II and involves lots of action, romance, and mystery.  I really don’t want to give away the plot, but I do want you to read the book so I included a video from the author below.  You can also go the the official website by clicking hereThere you can find all kinds of information about the book including a free PDF of the first few chapters!  (But I warn you once you start reading, you won’t want to stop.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Heart Mender, the retail price is $18.99 (Hardcover), and is worth every penny.  It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $12.91I gave it five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

50 Reasons: For the Forgiveness of Our Sins

The other day I mentioned that I would be reading Piper’s book “50 Reasons why Jesus Came to Die” between Easter and Pentecost. You can get the scoop here.

For the Forgiveness of Our Sins

I was blessed to read today’s chapter and was reminded of the cost of free.  Sometimes things are free to us because they are cheap.  Sometimes they are free because somebody wants something from you.  And in the case of forgiveness and salvation free because we could never afford it.  We could never merit God’s grace.  We could never earn salvation.  We could never purchase for ourselves what Christ purchased for us at Calvary.

50 Reasons: To Show His Own Love for Us

The other day I mentioned that I would be reading Piper’s book “50 Reasons why Jesus Came to Die” between Easter and Pentecost. You can get the scoop here.

To Show His Own Love for Us

Perhaps the hardest part of the gospel for me is the personal nature of what Jesus did.  It is true that He paid the price of the sins of all who believe and so in a very real sense he didn’t pay for my sins alone.  But my sins were included.  This became very familiar for me when I heard the song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” again this week.  The part that really grips me is the line, “Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon his shoulders, ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers.  it was my sin that held him there, until it was accomplished, His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.”

I have the Kendall Payne version on my iphone and listened to it about a dozen times today.

The Danger of Missing it by a Mile

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
(Proverbs 14:12, 16:25 ESV)

Wrong Way

So I found some of my old writings on a zip disk leftover from my college days.  I took time to read them and took a quick trip down memory lane to see how I might have changed.   As I was reading I couldn’t help but notice a subtle but profound difference that has taken place.  Somewhere in my writing I transitioned from knowing about God to being a quest to know God.  As the son of a pastor and a student minister studying religion I was living in a world where everyday I was brought face to face with the Word of God and gleaning doctrine divorced from personal relationship.  I was a faithful student of God’s stats, but not his friend.  I could have told you the important nuances of a Bible passage and had a great grasp on how to use all the study tools, but it didn’t do me any good.  I didn’t grow closer to God, I loved his word, but I didn’t love Him. I look back and I thank God for his kindness toward me in leading me to repentance and real faith in Him.

Just knowing about God caused me to act in such away as if winning a theological argument with another religion student or science major was what it was all about.  I studied God’s word to bring me more personal glory.  I would risk relationships to show others how superior in Bible trivia I was.  Yet when I came to know God, I left it all, and fully embraced the embarrassment of confessing that I had known God’s stats, but missed out on knowing him.

I have seen several pastors hit grand slam sermons out of the pulpit and strike out at home with their own children because their children understood their dad was a phony.  I have seen kids walk away from their parents religion because dad and mom were more concerned about what people would think rather than what God thinks.  Pride is a dangerous thing.  It can keep you in church and out of heaven.

God, I thank you for your grace in reminding me that I need to offer my pride to you again today.  It is a dangerous thing to learn about you and not know you.  Thank you for interrupting my life with your grace so I wouldn’t be content to study your word without the hope of knowing you.  Give me strength to cast down any idol that would stand in the way of knowing you.

7 Steps of a Unified Group

My aim in writing this post is to point you in the right direction on unity.  Most often the discussion on unity is centered on how a group of people are not unified and how they should be.  The problem with this kind of discussion is that it tends to lead the group to become even more fractured as those discussing the issue of unity become frustrated with the behaviors of others (all the while missing thier own missbehavior along the way).  Supporting the following seven steps is one underlying principle: We find unity in common purpose.  For the Christian and hence the church (youth group, etc.) unity is found in Glorifying God through Jesus Christ.

Puzzling

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!– assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Ephesians 4:15-32 ESV)

Step One: Speak the Truth (In Love)

In Ephesians 4:15 and again in verse 25 we are told to “Speak the Truth.”  Truth speaking should always come from a heart of  love and a desire to grow and see others grow in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  We are not to be deceptive.  We are not to lie, manipulate or pretend in front of others about what is going on in our lives.  Speaking the truth about our selves makes us vulnerable and accountable for the sake of the larger vision (seeing more of Jesus in our lives).  Speaking the truth to others shows genuine concern and accountability.

Step Two: Be Angry, but don’t sin

People are not perfect and the truth is that sometimes you will get angry with others.  Anger is a natural emotion.  However, many people use anger as an excuse to sin against others. They justify small and petty acts of retalliation like gossiping about someone, being mean or hostile to people, or defriending them.  However, these expressons of anger rarely solve the problem, they usually create more problems like bitterness, division, and hatred.  A better expression of anger is to address the issue that has stired the anger (in an non-sinful way).

We are  told to not to let anger go beyond a day (Ephesians 4:26).  Letting anger grow and fester becomes a foothold for the devil to create more issues in our life and keep us side tracked from the greater vision of Glorifying God.  If you find yourself handeling your anger in the wrong way you need to repent and ask God for healthier ways to evaluate and express your anger.  Don’t let anger cause you to lose focus.

Step Three: Be Generous…Work to Share with Others

Ephesians 4:28 reminds us that we are not to steal, but rather work hard so we will have something to share with everyone else.  Too often people come looking for what they can get, rather than what they can give.  In nature parasites are identified as creatures that take from thier host, but never offer anything in return.  If we all come to the group as parasites looking for what we can get, but never offering to others we have missed the point of growing in Christ likeness.  We are to work hard to so we have something to offer everyone else who is there.  You will find the more you serve and meet the needs of others, the more your needs are met.

Step Four: Watch what you Say

Paul says in Ephesians 4:29-30 that we should guard out mouths.  You do not glorify God by using your words to teardown, belittle, and destroy the efforts of others.  You grieve the Holy Spirit of God when your words are designed to tear down.  You may have a different preference than others on certain side issues, but you do not have  to verbally assault everyone who holds a different opinion than you.  When you talk about or too your group it should be to build it up, not to tear it down.  (By the way, this includes talking about all those people who are “in the way” of your group being unified).

Step Five: Put Away Bitterness

Bitterness is a disease that is rampant in our churches and congregations today.  Bitterness happens when you disagree with someone (rightly or wrongly) and you hold  a grudge.  The grudge grows and festers to effect the way you see that person.  What started out as a small dissagreement between two people is all the sudden blown up into a larger scale drama where the person you are holding a grudge against can’t do anything right (in your eyes).  Bitterness causes us to lose focus on Glorifying God and growing in Christlikeness and focus on small and petty disputes.

Step Six: Be Kind

The goal of a group is to work to gether to glorify God.  Kindness goes a long way in helping others to feel accepted, invited, and part of the project.  Kindness can disarm the wepons of the enemy.  Deal with others kindly (they way you would want to be treated).  When you deal withpeople who are not  on task with the goals or mission of the group treat them kindly.

Step Seven: Forgive

This is probably the hardest step to take.  If you have been wronged it can be difficult to forgive a person for what they have done.  I’ve written more on forgiveness here.