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Congregational Bible Reading

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Don't Confuse Me With the Facts

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1.28)

A struggling company hired an analyst to get them back on track. He spent months evaluating their data and considering their pain points. He carefully observed and charted the business’s performance using the information they had given him. Finally, he presented his findings.

“I’ve identified several areas you’re well below the industry average,” he said, as he pointed to the raw data. “If you don’t improve here, your business will not make it.”

The CEO considered the information for a moment and responded, “I feel like we are doing just fine in these areas. This can’t be the problem. What else did you find?”

“There is nothing else,” the analyst exclaimed. “And this is the problem! Based on the information you provided me, these are the facts.”

“Don’t confuse me with the facts!” the CEO exclaimed, and stormed out of the room.

It seems ridiculous someone would cling to a belief in the face of incontrovertible evidence. And yet, we see this play out on every day in our world. Many people rely so heavily on their feelings and opinions they are convinced facts are nothing more than an alternative opinion.

The people Paul describes in Romans 1 had rejected a fundamental fact of life: God is the Creator. It is plain and evident and leaves them without an excuse (Romans 1.19-10). And yet these people overruled this fact in favor of their feelings. In turn, they had elevated their thinking over what God had revealed.

This is a dangerous habit to form. Not simply because it dishonors God, but because God will let us do it (Romans 1.24, 26, 28). As we share the gospel, we must remember that sometimes people will not listen, even to the best arguments. But we also need to remember that even we can "turn away [our] ears from the truth" (2 Timothy 4.4) and become just as stubborn and prejudiced as those in the world (See, 1 Timothy 4.1-3; 2 Timothy 4.1-4; Titus 1.13-16). If there is anything worse than a person of the world with their fingers in their ears, it’s a professed Christian with their fingers in their ears.

The proper attitude for the Christian is to "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good," (1 Thessalonians 5.21), studying to show ourselves approved, (2 Timothy 2.15), and "examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things [are] so" (Acts 17.11). It is an attitude that "thinks no evil; doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13.5-7). The Christian with the proper attitude towards others and the truth has his fingers turning the pages of his Bible instead of stuck in his ears!

"He will render to each on according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth... there will be wrath and fury." (Romans 2.6-8)

Truth and Love

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

“And now I ask you dear lady… that we love one another.” (2 John 1.5)

This seems to be an odd request. The basis for John’s relationship with this woman was their common knowledge and acceptance of the truth. It seems logical that love would exist in their relationship. As John would say, the command to love was not a new commandment (1.5; cf. John 13.34)

However, given this request, it appears a natural tension may have existed between John and this woman. Perhaps she was a Gentile and they had wrestled with harmonizing their relationship together in Christ (consider Ephesians 2.11-22). Whatever the case, it appears they had worked hard to establish this loving relationship (2 John 1.8).

Both were committed to not just know Jesus, but to let his words direct their behaviors. They would not get swept up in doctrinal error or compromise on the teaching of Jesus (2 John 1.7, 10). But they also could not let their natural leanings affect how they behaved towards one another.

For this to happen, John emphasized the need for both truth and love. It wasn’t as though one were more significant, but rather they worked together. Truth guided the exercise of love (2 John 1.6). Love was proven by the test of truth (2 John 1.1).

We don’t always balance these two well. In fact, we sometimes emphasize one, at the expense of the other. Some have emphasized truth and stood for doctrinal matters in a way that is cold and judgmental, sometimes even to the point of cruelty. On the other hand, some have made the mistake of emphasizing love at the expense of truth. They behave as though we should accept everyone and everything, being tolerant in all directions. While both extremes begin with an approriate premise, neither rightly assumes the nature of Jesus.

He came to seek and save the lost. He came to reconcile people to God, together in his body. The gospel affects not just what we believe but how we treat others. We must learn to conform to both truth and love without compromise, recognizing their purpose. The truth grounds our thinking and love reminds us that faith is more theory. It is a practical book that reforms how we treat people.

John is known as the apostle of love, but he makes sure we know that love is work. It requires that we are informed, determined and Christ-centered. But most importantly that we practically apply that knowledge in service towards others.

“Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” (2 John 1.8)

Do Not Love the World

Tuesday, June 01, 2021


“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2.15-17)

We easily get caught up in loving this world. We love our hobbies and our vacations. We love our houses, cars, and other possessions. We love the patterns and habits we establish, the places we go, the things we do that make us feel competent. These things offer us a sense of purpose and satisfaction as we invest in them, but only temporarily (Ecclesiastes 2.24; 8.17). This is an admonition we need to hear regularly.

Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing sinful with enjoying the good things in life (Ecclesiastes 8.15), but that must not be our pursuit. Not only will it leave us unfulfilled, but it will keep us from truly knowing God. That is why John offers such a strong admonition: love of the world steals our love for God (1 John 2.15b). It sets our focus on things that are temporary and don’t fulfil the needs of our soul. This is no small matter. If our treasures are on earth and in this life, we will receive nothing from God in eternity (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 12.16-21).

John wants to expose our way of life (1 John 1.7-10). He wants us to be honest about what we truly love and what we gain from those pursuits. Many of God’s people throughout history have claimed to love and know him but actually have divided interests (Hosea 8.2; 9.17; Matthew 7.21-23).

Jesus’ parable in Luke 12 should be a sobering reminder of how easily we get caught up in worldly things. The rich man tore down his barns to build bigger barns as he prepared for his future. He was prudent and considerate, but he gave no thought to God as he made plans. My friends, it is foolish to invest in anything without consideration of God’s thoughtful blessings towards us. This is easy to impose on others, but it must expose us as well. Have I considered the purpose of God’s blessings toward me? The best things we have are given so we can know God's love and see his grace. 

Too often we identify ourselves by what we do, where we go, what we have. These things are passing away. If all of your worldly possessions were gone, who would you be? Are you defined by your things or by your relationship to God?

Have you considered what you truly love? Is God the center of your affection? Are your daily activities storing up treasures in heaven? Do not love the world. This world is passing away. Let’s get our focus upward and be sure we love the One who supplies our every need. 

“Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3.2)

Remember What He Said

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


“…I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” (John 16.4)

My oldest daughter asks me the same question every night: “what are we going to do tomorrow?” She doesn’t like to be taken off guard, and I’ve found that when she knows what to expect, she handles those situations much better. That may be a basic human quality. When we have the facts, we are more prepared to handle whatever comes next.

Jesus plainly told his followers what to expect. “They will put you out of the synagogues… whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God (John 16.2) — The world will hate you (John 15.18-25). The words of Jesus prepared them for what they would experience. Not so they would fixate on the struggle but have hope to endure it. “I have said these things to keep you from falling away” (John 16.1).

He knew the coming days would be difficult. They would have to carry on his mission without him physically present. There would be a lot of confusion. But two things would power them through: the example and words of Jesus. This had a significant impact as Peter and John both emphasized these things as they shared the gospel mission with others (1 Peter 2.21-23; 1 John 2.5-6).

Jesus’ knowledge of the path ahead not only prepared the apostles for what was coming but solidified their trust in Jesus. The same is true for us today. Even though we are generations removed from the incarnate life of Jesus, he knew with clarity the challenges that come with being a disciple. So, he warned us, “to count the cost” (Luke 14.25-33). It is a life filled with difficulty and hardship; but it is a life worth living for the end result (John 14.6).

Not only does Jesus know the struggles we face, but he has also been through it, and shown us how to endure. “being found in human form, he humbled himself… to the point of death.. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name…” (Philippians 2.8-ff). We may not like what he tells us at times, but his words give truth and life. Ultimately, when we adhere to the words of Jesus, and model his example in suffering, we find hope.

Much like the apostles we may not understand what Jesus is saying until after the fact, but we must not live aloof to what he has said. We need to hide his word in our hearts (Psalm 119.11). It is the substance of our faith that reveals God’s insight into our lives, as well as the world around us. We may not like it, but God’s word always proves true (Proverbs 30.5), and it has been preserved so that in our time of tempting, we may remember what he has said.

At Cross Purposes With God

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1.1-3a)

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. They brutalized Israel (see Nahum 3.1-4), and he believed Nineveh deserved everything that was coming (Jonah 4.1-2). So, when God called, Jonah went the complete opposite direction. God also saw the evil in Jonah’s world, but had a different response: “Go,” he told Jonah. Instead of crushing Nineveh in immediate judgment, God sent Jonah to warn them.

God and Jonah, looking at the same people with the same information, have two completely different responses. In fact, they find themselves at cross purposes. Why? When Jonah looked at Nineveh, he saw a bunch of people who deserved to die. But God looked at Nineveh and saw people in desperate need of mercy.

A few things we learn:

  1. God sees the evil in this world. When evil persists in our world, it causes some to not only question if God cares, but even if he exists. This reminds us that God is actively working to address the evil in the world. The challenge we experience is the timeline on which God operates. Much like Jonah we would like to see God work swiftly against the unrighteous. But often God’s timeline does not align with ours.
  2. God is slow to anger as he offers mercy for everyone. He wanted Nineveh to repent and be right with him. Jonah’s personal vendetta against Assyria blinded him to his own need for mercy. God’s patience with Jonah is especially telling. He doesn’t just want Jonah to do what he told him to do; he wants him to understand what mercy looks like.
  3. God always works in the best interest of humanity. God wanted Nineveh to be right with him. God also knew Jonah had an attitude problem that needed to be addressed. The events in Jonah uncover the purpose of God’s mercy. Like Jonah, even when we are at odds with him (Romans 5.6), “[God] wishes that none should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9). The book of Jonah will demonstrate that not only Nineveh, but also Jonah needed mercy, and God is more than willing to offer it (Jonah 4.11).

For this reason, we need to be careful how we judge others. Maybe we don’t share the gospel with others because we don’t think they will change. Maybe, like Jonah, we don’t want them to change. We need to remind ourselves of God’s mercy towards us (Ephesians 2.4-8). When we were enemies to him, God allowed us to be reconciled to him (Romans 5.6). Like Jonah, God has commissioned us to share a message that will bring people back to him. Are obeying the voice of God or are we running away?

“…God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11.32)

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