John 20:30-31 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
I am amazed at the wonder of possibilities. As I read of the miracles of Jesus, each were dutifully written down and stored for all eternity, they exceeded all the miracles of Elijah and Elisha in the Old Covenant. Time after time Jesus revealed himself to the world as a miracle worker. He was a man that cared, cried, healed, created, guided, taught, revealed, prayed, loved, challenged, sent, moved, witnessed, and comforted in the Gospels. Yet there were thousands of other miracles, acts of mercy, not included in the accounts. John did not include them, but they happened. They were daily occurrences that became the norm.
We seem to classify any happenstance that is out of the ordinary as miraculous and amazing. Yet, where Jesus is concerned, they are expected and normal. Today I will look for miracles in the normal. I will look for the simple kindnesses shown when they were not expected. I will look for a smile in the pain. I will look for a sense of purpose in turmoil. I will look for joy when things get rough. I will look for steadfastness in a world out of control. Small miracles will be the new norm.
2 Corinthians 2:5-8 “If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.”
There must be some point in a broken relationship where it is enough. A place and a time where healing is more important than grief. A place and time to make amends, a place where we can be set free from the tyranny of past mistakes. To perceive a time as an opportunity to learn. No one is immune to hurts inflicted. They are a part of you, but not meant to torment you. If I have hurt you, I need your forgiveness. You may judge and pass on continual condemnation and that is your problem. I will grow from my mistakes. Those bound by the lack of forgiveness for others are not healed but are eaten by their own attitudes. I will keep on keeping on. I will take the lessons of forgiveness to heart, not the hurt. Ten years from now it will hardly matter, and few will remember it anyway.
Romans 12:2 “Don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your very being, and that will prove the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.”
The church has been a large part of my life for over 50 years. The perfected sameness of three hymns, an offering, and forty minutes of Bible-centered preaching all concluding with an opportunity to find peace was the formula of the Church. But that idealistic church has changed.
The change in climate in the church has slowly and almost imperceptibly shifted itself into something different. Can you feel it? Much like a grand ship not going fast enough in a headwind, the church seems to be drifting. In response to the secular, the church is no longer a place of forgiveness for sinful people, but a place of feeling good about ourselves. Instead of being a place where grace and mercy were to be found, it has slowly, imperceptibly, and almost without notice, drifted by culture. It has changed from changing people to meet God’s expectations to “can’t we just get along.” The church I knew was a place of commitment, resilience, and sacrifice. It was a place of finding the will of God and following that will. It has become a place of social gathering in the hope some of the holy stuff may rub off on them. Social justice is not Biblical justice.
Then again it might be my age. Yet I find myself humming the song, “Give me that old-time religion.”
I John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
We live in a world of distractions. Thousands of voices call us to change our focus from what really matters. These voices use our feelings of inadequacy to charm, seduce and dominate our lives. We have an idea that our lives must be lived to the fullest. That every moment must be crammed full. Our attention span shrinks in the onslaught of these distractions. All these things that would grab us and enthrall our minds are just fleeting. Whatever achievement, thrill, or body enhancement we accept into our sphere of life will mean little 50 years from now. Our infatuation with the now is simply tragic. Look to the unseen, the invisible realities of hope and faith in Christ for true fulfillment. Do so and live not in the moment but forever
Thought for January 23– Day 23 of the new year
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Our times seem to be becoming ever more difficult. Cancel culture, perceived racism, homeless in the streets, and the destruction of past norms, all seem to point to a need for mercy and grace. We hear from all sides this is the “new normal.” Nevertheless, if this new way of seeing the world leaves out our dependence upon God, I want no part of it. Instead in our times of need, my reach must be much further than my grasp and my vision must be more than what I perceive. God is here and He is willing to hand out both lavishly and perfectly the love of mercy and grace. Today I am in need, so please forgive, and pour out your mercy and grace, as I do so for you. Renew in my heart the desire to seek God before any other solution.
Hillside Thoughts for Thursday – Day 279 of the year 2022 – October 6
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Imagine for a moment what our world would be like if just the Christians stopped fighting. Think for a moment where every Christian on your block would reveal themselves by caring for the less fortunate. What would be like if two billion redeemed by the blood Christians, conformed to God’s intent? Would it be a wonderful blessing to begin to do what Jesus asked us to do by showing unconditional love, unbounded kindness, and unlimited grace to all?
If we belong to God, the God of grace, there is a mandate for us to become a people of grace. That is how we can imitate God. It is being the extension of God to everyone you encounter today. Just do it and begin a wave of Jesus to all.
Hillside Thoughts for Wednesday – Day 278 of the year 2022 – October 5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Is Jesus suggesting that I must allow the evil in this world to triumph? Am I to assume the role of victim in any encounter with someone who would do me harm? Is all that I own subject to anyone who wants to borrow it? This teaching of Jesus is tough. I don’t want my cheek slapped. I don’t want to give my shirt away. I don’t want to go the extra mile. I don’t want to lend my favorite fishing pole to a clutz. There must be something more here than a radical reaction to an offense.
The culture in which we live remains resolute in its ability to accomplish much. There are many things the secular world can do better than the church. There is a place for government to do things the individual cannot. Industry can build a car without being Christian. But there is one thing the world around you cannot do. That thing is the offer of grace. Jesus was saying we are to be different from our culture or government or industry. We have the ability to look beyond the requirements and need to go a little further and be grace and mercy.
James 1:17-19 “Every good thing is given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will, He gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. You know this, my beloved brothers, and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
You are a special gift. A gift from God. Your unique identity or personhood as created by God is simply without equal. The message of practical James sees no jump in logic from your gifted unique identity to the accompanying responsibility to be just to those around you. James is calling for a process in justice, listening carefully, restrained in our response, and measurement of judgment. He calls for due process for all accused of not living up to the image of God.
In the world in which we live, we have a responsibility not to pass judgment without due process. The right to a timely trial, to an unbiased judge and a jury of our peers, a presumption of innocence, presentation of corroborating evidence, to know the charges or accusations, to confront witnesses, legal counsel, and the right to defend yourself are all part of this due process. Justice is allowing the process to work. I cannot and will not make any judgment based on emotion, prejudice, innuendo, gossip, or without evidence. That is justice. Justice is dictated by my faith and by God.
Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
My name is Larry, I am created in God’s own image. I came from Him and someday I will be going back to him. My worth is not dependent upon your opinion. My worth is not dictated by societal norms. My life is much more than what you may see of me or even your judgment of me. Who I am is much more than the cultural group to which you think I belong. Do not segregate me because of some outside, physical attribute. I refuse to be canceled. Just societies are built on the acknowledgment and acceptance of the truth of all human beings are bearers of God’s image. They all have equal dignity, incalculable worth with rights that cannot be taken at the whim of any other. It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal.” The essence of my dignity is not man-made. I am not an earthy person experiencing spiritual things, but a spiritual person experiencing earthly things.
Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
Webster was right when he said, “Justice, sir, is the great interest of people on earth.” Without justice, there is no hope or expectation of continuance for our culture. A just society must first acknowledge a moral law higher than itself: a supreme lawgiver to whom even the most powerful are held into account. America’s founders writing the Declaration of Independence, in the very first sentence acknowledged the existence and dependence upon something greater than themselves. Our nation is founded on a supreme, objective basis of justice and righteousness. Justice is not a whim of whoever is in political power at any given election cycle. Justice is based upon the supreme lawgiver. To substitute man-made morality or even personal political ethics as a new standard is just folly. God’s perfect justice is established by His unchangeable nature. To set any other ultimate measuring stick of justice is foolishness.