Archive for February, 2014

School Bus 6There are two boys on my bus route that enjoy playing games with one another.  They are the last two to get off the bus.  Usually, after the girls have been dropped off, they find some game to play or topic to discuss.  It is a rare day when they simply choose to sit and say nothing to one another.  A game that they have played only once caught my attention.  They were sitting across the aisle from each other.  Each of them had their hands behind their head, cupped as if holding a ball in the throwing position.  Almost simultaneously they both threw the imaginary ball at one another and said, “Fire ball!”  After the initial exchange, they took turns telling each other that they were throwing even bigger fireballs and “getting” each other.

Both boys did not want to back down.  It made me think about the times I would play with my childhood friend David.  We used to play as Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers.  Each one of us would want to win.  We would argue about who had the better move or the better hit.  We would never want to give up.  Because giving up meant losing.  And losing was never a good thing.

Thinking back on these things I began to wonder about what the Bible said about relenting.  And for some reason that word stuck with me.  Not abandon, not surrender, but relent.  So as all good theologians do I went to Bible Gateway and typed in “relent” to do a word search.  The results were quite interesting. (These results were found here using the ESV Bible)  All results actually were found in the Old Testament, but as we look, they have a very New Testament feel about them.

The number of times man relented from evil or from their evil ways was once.  That’s right, only one time did it reference man relenting.  Jeremiah 31:19 “For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”  As a result of this relenting, God showed mercy to the house of Ephraim.

The number of times it referenced man not relenting was also once.  Jeremiah 8:6 “I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.”  Here God is searching for someone who has relented but finds none.  God is getting frustrated with man and their inability to relent.

Now let us change the main subject and look at God.  God shows himself to be a just God.  He does not relent from his will and wrath being carried out 5 different times in the Bible, coming from 4 different books.

In these verses God shows himself to have a limit.  A limit to his goodness?  No, because his wrath can and does produce goodness and can be a result of his goodness not allowing evil to be among his people.  His limit, his place where wrath must come and judgment must happen is when there is no other means.  See, each of these books is known as a book of the Prophets.  Each book contains a man that God sent to his people to tell them and urge them to turn away.  To relent from their ways.  Some do.  Some listen to the messenger and turn, but others choose to ignore the warnings and are subject to the wrath and judgment of God.

Now for the most interesting part.  The number of times God does relent from his wrath.  Any guesses?  The total number of references and uses of the word “relent,” when referencing God relenting from his judgment, is 12 times!  (it could be 13 but the 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles verses discuss the same event.)

 

12 different times, as opposed to 5 when God does not relent, God shows himself to be merciful.  Based on this word study I can conclude that although God is just and a price must be paid for wrong, he longs to be merciful and gracious.

It is the story of Jesus.

God must be just, there must be a sacrifice, a payment for sin.  Yet in his justice there is grace and mercy.  This grace and mercy have a singular name.  The Name above every name.

Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I hope that you will relent from sin.  But I hope more that you will see God wants to relent from his judgment.  And he has given us a way to receive the mercy and grace through a man named Jesus.

In Christ’s Love,
Josh

School Bus 6

 

I think I have a unique bus route.  Mostly due to the fact that I have to take students to 3 separate towns on most days.  This is because of the rural setting that I am in.  The overall  mileage of the trip is usually around 45 miles and takes a little over an hour.  It is often the same route.  Even if a student is not present that day, we travel down the same roads.

Last week, as we were leaving the dirt road that the school is on and turning onto the paved highway, one of the students looked out the window and said, “That roof looks terrible!”  This is in reference to a run-down building located on the highway.  The face of the once brick building is mostly gone.  The roof, which seems to have been made of 2x4s is busted through so light shines brightly through the top.  Old pieces of wood hang from the structure and the floor of the building is covered with debris and dirt.  I should make something clear however; this building did not recently become like this.  In fact, in my 5 years of living in this area, I cannot recall a time when it was not already abandoned, saggy, and only the shell of a building.  But for this one student, it was as if it happened yesterday.  a discovery had been made.  The wheels of imagination were turning to think of how a building could turn out like this.

I began to laugh as I knew this was not a new occurrence but I also began to think of what I have missed.  What have I driven by every day or come across in my daily routine that I have seemingly ignored?

Have you ever had one of these moments with the Bible?

Have you ever read a verse and thought to yourself, “Has that always been in there?”

This happened to me this past weekend.  My wife and I were privileged to attend the Passion conference in Houston.  We heard some great speakers from Louie Giglio to Beth Moore and Francis Chan.  During one of the sessions, Francis Chan’s teaching session, he read from 2 Peter.

As he started reading the first few verses of chapter 1 it did not take long for me to say, “Has that always been in there?”  In fact it is 2 Peter 1:1 that I would like to share with you today.

2 Peter 1:1 “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”

The part that struck a chord with me, which Francis Chan elaborated on surely better than I am about to, was “to those who have a faith of equal standing with ours…”

Do you catch what Peter is saying?  Peter, the lead disciple of Christ, the only non-perfect guy to have ever walked on water, the vigorous defender of his Teacher, the man that was crucified upside down because he deemed himself unworthy of dying as Christ did, this guy says that we have a faith that is equal with his.

I am sure many of you, I know I have, think about the people in the Bible being in a different league of faith.  Maybe even seemingly a different dimension of reality.  But Peter tells us that those we read about and those we experience life together with, those in the faith, have “equal standing” before God.

How can this be?  I mean, can I be of the same faith as Elijah?  As Moses?  As David?  As Peter?  As Paul?  Yes!  Because it is all one faith.

Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

We all have the same faith.  Whether we act on that faith, or grow that faith is a different matter all together.  But it all boils down to this guy Jesus (as it always seems to).

When God looks at his faith children, who does he see?  Does he see us in our righteousness?  No, because he have no righteousness.  God sees his Son Jesus who is the epitome of righteousness.  Who, through him, we can be righteous.

Thankfully when God looks at us, who have the faith, he does not see us in our righteousness for there would be nothing to see, but instead as he gazes our way, his true and perfect Son is standing before him.

This is how we have a faith of equal standing” with Peter, Paul, the disciples, the prophets, and the patriarchs.

I hope I continue to discover new things in the Bible.  I hope you also search the Bible and read passages and verses and read them as if reading them for the first time.

In Christ’s Love,
Josh

 

School Bus 6

 

This past week, one of the Pre-K students I drive home on the noon route told me something that made me say, “What?”  He said, “Mr. Josh, I have on my fast shoes today!”  My reply was simple, “Your fast shoes?”

 

“Yeah, they are really fast, faster than the other kids at school.”

 

Of course, his shoes do not make him faster, or do they?  Having been privileged to grow up in the 90s, I am fully aware of and have most lines memorized of the movie Sandlot.  As some of you may recall, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez called upon his fast shoes to retrieve the lost “Baby Ruth” signed baseball.  His P.F. Flyers, “shoes guaranteed to make a kid run faster and jump higher.”  And as we all know, he got the ball back.

 

But taking into consideration the over-exaggeration that Hollywood likes to add into kids’ movies, we can likely agree that fast shoes are really shoes that make you believe you can run faster.  It is all a mindset.  Much like “Michael’s Secret Stuff” given to the Looney Tunes in Space Jam, another great 90s classic.  It is about confidence.

 

It is important to have confidence in ourselves at times; however, we can be too confident.  In fact, that confidence can turn into pride.  We may believe that we have all the answers, we are the best, or we know God the most intimately.  And this can lead to a destructive path.

 

When I think about fast shoes, I think about Elijah.  I know it seems like a leap, but bear with me.  1 Kings 18:46 “And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”  Here we get a slight glimpse of all the Spirit of God really can do.  Unlike shoes, he can actually make us run faster.  In fact, Elijah raced Ahab to Jezreel and Ahab was in chariots!  It would have been an easy thing for Elijah to say, “Take that Ahab!  Eat my dust.  I am quicker than you and all your chariots.”  But he did not.  He did not have the habit of boasting about himself, but rather gave credit where credit was due.  Later in Elijah’s story he did lose focus.  He began to believe that he was alone in his journey with God.  That there were none other than him still faithful to God.  He even wanted God to take his life.  But God met him under a tree and told him that there were still 7,000 that believed.  Elijah was not alone.  Read about it here.

 

Many times God shows up in our lives and we give him the credit.  We know that only God could make things work out the way they did.  Only God is that faithful and controlling.  The problem comes when God shows himself so much that he begins to lose the credit because we think we are deserving or are somehow worthy of God working in our lives.

 

We begin to think that God does things in our lives because of us.  When in fact, God does things in our lives because God’s will must be carried out.  While we may think it’s because of our shoes, or our prayers, or our giving, or our church attendance that God shows himself faithful, it is really all about God.  God is faithful because God is faithful.  His characteristics do not rely on man.  He is not loving only if we pray.  He does not show grace just because we attend church.  He loves because he is love.  He is gracious because that is his character.

 

Jeremiah 9:24 “but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

 

Read more about our boasting in these verses:

 

2 Corinthians 12:6
2 Corinthians 12:9
Galatians 6:14
Ephesians 2:8-10
James 1:9
James 4:16

 

So my challenge for myself and for you is to always remember that it’s all about God.  It’s not about our abilities, or training, or our routines; it’s about the character of God.

 

As the song O Great Love goes by Robbie Seay Band:  “I cannot boast in anything, but Jesus Christ my God and King.”

 

In Christ’s Love,
Josh