Morning Brew: Thursday, Nov 5

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 45-46, 1 Corinthians 3-4

Have you ever been disciplined by God’s tough love? It’s never fun. It’s you suffering the full consequences of your own selfish choices. It usually goes something like this: you make a series of bad mistakes, you pray to God that you don’t have to suffer the consequences of your own bad decisions. God, in his discipline, allows you to suffer the result of your choices.

Many times we can become angry at the cruelty of God. Isn’t he the God of mercy? Isn’t he loving? Yes and yes. But sometimes his love comes in the form of discipline. Judah in Jeremiah 46 is beginning to feel the full weight of their selfish choices. They have rejected God, and so God scattered them to the surrounding nations in exile. And now God is beginning to judge and destroy the nations where Judah has scattered. It seems as if God is unrelenting in his punishment of Judah’s sinfulness. This is the discipline, the tough love, of God.

28 Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant,
    for I am with you,” declares the Lord.
“Though I completely destroy all the nations
    among which I scatter you,
    I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only in due measure;
    I will not let you go entirely unpunished.” Jeremiah 46:28

Maybe your spouse went through their threats and filed divorce papers. Maybe your boss found out and you lost your job. Maybe the economy went south and your big gamble blew up in your face.

We can get angry at God for not bailing us out of the consequences of our own choices, but that anger would be better directed at ourselves. Judah faced the tough love, the discipline of God for her rebellious ways. Have you ever been there? Have you ever experienced the tough love of God? How did you respond to his discipline? How are you responding?

PRAYER: God, even though I don’t like it, I thank you that you love me enough to discipline me, for my good and for your glory.

An Ancient Method to Restore Modern Day Race Relations

Race relations in my city are at a low ebb. Two weeks ago a black man was shot and killed by a white police officer. Investigations are pending. Resignations and firings have happened. Protests and marches have taken place. More than just the tragedy of the shooting itself, this has drudged up old fault lines that reveal just how far we have to go on race relations, even in the “Christian” South.

I believe the answer to this centuries old issue is to go back even further still to the early church in the 1st century. Racial fault lines were open chasms in the Roman Empire. Racism was enshrined by law, women were regarded as little more than property, equality was a wisp of a dream. Into this socially and racially divided society, the gospel of Jesus broke forth like a lightning bolt and changed everything.

Here’s the pronouncement made by Paul to the early church:

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11

After the pronouncement, Paul continues. Once the ideal had been set, Paul gives the church the blueprint to fight for that ideal. It’s the same blueprint we can and should use today to restore race relations.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

  • Clothe yourself with compassion and kindness  Look at racial issues not just from your view, but from the other side as well. If you’re white, try and put yourself in the shoes of a person who feels that they’re harassed by the authorities based on the color of their skin and nothing more.
  • Embrace humility and gentleness. Recognize and realize that you don’t know it all. There have been hurts given and received by both sides. Both sides can claim the victim, and both sides have been the aggressors. Rather than point out the other side’s faults, embrace your own.
  • Practice patience. Something torn apart for centuries cannot be repaired in a day. Race relations are repaired one relationship at a time, one generation at a time. Patience includes bearing with each other even when our differences divide us.
  • Forgive, forgive, forgive. Forgiveness releases the toxins of bitterness, allowing old wounds to heal and creating a safe place for new bonds to begin. Restoration cannot happen without the level of forgiveness that can only come through God.
  • Love loud. Love covers over a multitude of wrongs. Love to the level that Jesus loved you. Show love, preach love, share love, live love. Love loud and let love win the day.

QUESTIONS: What else can Christians do to repair modern race relations?

Morning Brew: Wednesday, Nov 4

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 43-44, 1 Corinthians 1-2

Are you healing divisions within your church or creating them? Let’s be honest with each other. It’s just you and me. No one else is reading this with you. Are you healing divisions within your church or are you helping to create them?

Do you bring people together or drive them apart? Do you spread rumors? Do you gossip? Is there a pastor or church member that you secretly wish would leave your church? Is there a program or event that you wish your church would take away or keep forever? Is there a style of music happening that you don’t like? Do your actions outside of the church building match the words you say/sing inside of the church building? Is there a group/type/race of people you wish would stop coming to church or you wish the church would stop reaching out to?

Churches will always have some level of conflict. Church is nothing more than a bunch of sinners saved by grace but still wrestling with the remnants of their sin nature. Conflict at some level is unavoidable. But our job as Christians, your job as a disciple of Jesus is to heal divisions rather than create them, to bring people together rather than drive them apart, preserve the unity of the church rather than your personal agenda and preferences.

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10

The church at Corinth was a church divided. Paul brings that up as the first and primary issue in his letter to them. Read the rest of the letter and you can see the subsequent issues that resulted from a divided church. Do you want a church that can reach the world? Be a church that unites, not divides. And it starts with you, reader.

PRAYER: God, may I seek and protect the unity of my church. My I build up and not tear down, may I bring together and not divide. May we stand united as a church. Amen.

Morning Brew: Tuesday, Nov 3

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 41-42, Romans 15-16

Have you praised those special to you lately? We take them for granted don’t we? Our parents will always take care of us, our wives will always be there for us, our husbands will always provide for us. At the end of the book of Romans, which is an intensely theological letter, Paul finishes by sending personal greetings and praising those he knows in the church at Rome. It doesn’t make sense from one perspective. This gets as much biblical space as the incredible verses in Romans 8 or Romans 12. Yet Paul knew something, not just as an author but a pastor: always take an opportunity to thank those around you for their work for the Lord.

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Romans 16:1-10

Paul goes on for another six verses, but you get the point. Who can you intentionally thank today for their work for the Lord?

PRAYER: Thank you Lord, for those who have poured into me and have helped me become the disciple that I am. May you honor them for their service to You. Amen.

What if This Was Your Last Holiday Season?

What would you do? How would you live? With whom would you reconcile? How much extra time would you spend with your family? Would you prioritize making memories over giving gifts?

It’s always a bit morbid to consider your own mortality, but it should always be in the background of our mind. Here’s what the Bible says,

14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

As depressing as it is to write this, for someone reading this post, this might be your last holiday season. The zinger is, we just don’t know who. So if we all treated this as our last holiday season, what would you do differently?

  • I bet you would work to bury the hatchet with a family member and make things right.
  • I guarantee you would savor every moment with your family.
  • I know that you wouldn’t get as consumed with the distractions of football games, holiday sales and television specials. Instead, you would soak up every moment with the ones you love.
  • I bet that you would be bolder to say things like “I love you” to those who need to hear it.

If this holiday season was your last, my guess is that your life would move off of you to those around you. You would focus less on distractions and more on what’s significant. You would take less opportunities to be lazy and turn them into opportunities to leave a legacy.

Hopefully you know where I’m going with this. Why don’t we all do that this holiday season? Let’s find ways to live beyond ourselves, to bless others, to pour into our families and live for something more than football games, holiday sales and television sales. Who knows, this may be your last chance.

Morning Brew: Monday, Nov 2

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 39-40, Romans 13-14

Do you submit to the authorities in your life? This is not a fun question to ask or answer, but God has placed authorities in your life. They take the form of parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, governors, presidents and Supreme Courts.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1

These words are so hard to actually live out because we all have a ‘legitimate’ reason for not obeying the authorities in our life. Those reasons might look something like:

  • My parents are hypocrites! Why do I need to do what they say when they don’t even do it?
  • My boss is an idiot? He doesn’t value me or anyone else? Why should I respect him?
  • The government will simply waste my money on useless programs. Why should I pay my taxes? They’re all just a bunch of crooks!

As good as those reasons might sound, they crumble against the immovable rock of Scripture.

Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:3-7

Are you submitting to the authorities in your life? If you rebel against the authorities God has placed over you, you’re rebelling against God himself. (That’s not going to work out for you in the long run).

Prayer: God, I recognize that all the authorities in my life are placed there by you. Give me the humility to submit to them. Amen.

Morning Brew: Sunday, Nov 1

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 37-38, Romans 11-12

How are you using your gifts to serve the body? In yesterday’s Morning Brew, we recognized the complete sovereignty of God over everything. In God’s infinite wisdom, he custom-designed you with special gifts, talents and abilities to be leveraged and used to serve his kingdom. The question is: have you discovered your gifts, and are you using them to serve the body?

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:4-8

What are your gifts? Paul mentions several examples here: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading, and showing mercy. All unique gifts, all absolutely necessary for the building up and strengthening of the body. What are your gifts? If you haven’t taken one lately, a great online spiritual gifts test is:

Once you know your gifts, how are you leveraging them for the Kingdom? Are you serving in a local church? Are you leveraging your gifts in your family and in your neighborhood? Is there a ministry opportunity in town or a personal opportunity God has put in front of you?

Your greatest satisfaction and your greatest contribution to the Kingdom comes when you leverage and employ your spiritual gifts for the good of the church. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Get in there and serve! How are you using your gifts to serve the body?

Prayer: God, help me to discover my spiritual gifts, and open up opportunities for me to leverage my gifts for the good of the Kingdom. Amen.

Morning Brew: Saturday, Oct 31

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 35-36, Romans 9-10

Have you stopped and acknowledged God’s complete sovereignty over everything? Control is such an illusory thing. Control is like a mirage out in the desert. We trick ourselves into thinking we have complete control over our lives, and then the doctor comes back with the report, or the police station calls your house, or you get that dreaded letter in the mail. As much as we try and delude ourselves into thinking that we are the masters of our universe, we’re not, and we know it.

God is in control. And not just partial or most of the way. God is in complete control, all the time. Romans 9 reminds us of this in the most blunt and direct way possible.

18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:18-21

God is in complete control of everything. And if at some point we take issue with that, Paul’s words are sound, “And who are you to talk back to God?” When viewed openly and fully, the sovereignty of God (his complete control over everything) should absolutely silence us. God has always been, is today, and will always be sovereign over the universe. He is God, we are not. He is in control, we are not. Every once in awhile, we simply need to be reminded of that, to be knocked off our perch, and give honor and glory where it is due. Have you stopped and acknowledged God’s complete sovereignty over everything?

Prayer: God, you are Sovereign over everything. I don’t question it, I acknowledge it in humility and submission. You are Lord of all.

Morning Brew: Friday, Oct 30

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33-34, Romans 7-8

How often do you call out to God? How’s your prayer life? Really? I know it’s probably not where you want it to be. Somewhere deep down you probably know you ought to be spending more time with God in prayer. (Believe me, writing this Morning Brew I’m convicted of the very same thing).

Rather than load you down with more guilt, I want to simply invite (and hopefully inspire) you to call out to God.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:2-3

The invitation made to Jeremiah is still valid for us today. The Lord, the God who created this universe with a spoken word, the Lord is his name. He created things in an instant that has taken humanity thousands of years to unpack and discover (and we’re not even close to done yet). This Sovereign Lord, who holds the fate of nations in the palm of his hands, invites you to call out to him.

He wants to answer you and tell you great an unsearchable things you do not know. He wants to reveal himself. God is not a reclusive God, anti-social and only reluctantly revealing himself when he’s forced to. God wants us to know him, to behold him, to worship him. Have you called out to him?

God wants to reveal great and unsearchable things about this world to you. He wants to give you insight into others, his creation, things to come that can make this world a better place. Have you called out to him?

God wants to reveal great and unsearchable things about you to you. He wants you to see the depths of your own soul, the untapped potential that’s waiting to be unleashed, the inner beauty of a human he hand-formed in his image. Have you called out to him?

How often do you call out to God? Call often, call sincerely, call humbly, and then get ready for God to show up in your midst.

Prayer: God, I call out to you in sincerity and humility. Please reveal to me great and unsearchable things I do not know.