Passing the Buck … one week ’till Christmas

Do you remember the “Flip Wilson Show?”

From 1970 to 1974 Wilson was the host for a weekly television spot where he introduced the viewers to a recurring character named Geraldine Jones.  By putting on a dress, along with some carefully crafted padding, then altering his voice to a higher pitch, Wilson also introduced the character’s favorite phrase, “The Devil made me do it!”

The skit was hysterically funny, winning great fan approval.  I mean really, it’s not my fault right?  I had to do it… the devil made me do it!

Not such an original thought, funny though it may be.  This phrase leaps off the pages of an ancient text in a way that draws us all to Christmas. Yes, to Christmas!

If we go all the way back to the Beginning (Genesis) we’ll see the story where God asked Adam why he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  Adam’s response?  That woman you gave me, she…

So God asks Eve, and she responds… Hey it wasn’t my fault, it was that snake who said we wouldn’t really die!

Why didn’t God just give up on the human creatures right then and there, and start again somewhere else in the universe?

They were naked and knew it, trying on their own to cover their nakedness and their disobedient unbelief in God’s word, blaming each other and other creatures for their own miserable choices.

In that moment they were lost, and far removed from the relationship with God they once knew.

But God…

Don’t you just love those words?

But God didn’t want to kill them; instead, he had a plan to use this first couple to bless the whole world.  So God killed one of His other creatures to make garments for the first couple. [Genesis 3:21]

This event is directly tied to Matthew 1:18-25.  God told Joseph about the plan to bring a child into the world through Mary.  Specifically God told Joseph to name this child “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  But why?

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Here’s the thing.

Adam and Eve knew they were lost, and suffered the consequences of their choices, after making all their excuses to God.

The birth of Jesus now provides for all mankind an opportunity to come back to God.

  • Regardless of how far we’ve strayed.
  • No matter the things we’ve done, or failed to do.
  • In spite of who we blame for our choices, including the devil himself.

We all now have an invitation to come back to God, through Jesus, the Savior of the world …  Immanuel, God with us.

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Acts 4:12
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

The truth is the devil can’t make you do anything… including reject God’s love through Jesus.  It is your choice alone.

The truth is God won’t MAKE YOU BELIEVE in His Son Jesus… He invites but you must choose to say yes to Him.

Don’t pass the buck anymore… say “yes” to Jesus and His grace and forgiveness today.

God’s Attributes

Our foundational theme is: God is in control, God has absolute authority, and He has promised His Presence with us forever [see: A Simple View of God].  These three tenets form our belief that God is LORD of all, including us.  In order to know Him better, God acts through miracles, providence, creation, and His authoritative decrees.  This may all be a little abstract for you, but hang in there with me.  Because God doesn’t want us to just study theology, He actually wants us to KNOW Him personally.  He has also revealed His attributes through this whole process.  Each of these attributes correspond to the three tenets discussed already.  The ATTRIBUTES which demonstrate control, authority, and presence are:  LOVE, KNOWLEDGE, and POWER.

Today we’ll focus on LOVE.

John the apostle wants there to be no mistake…

1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

John is emphatic:  God is LOVE!!! [He wrote it twice in 8 verses]

The Old Testament uses many different terms to describe God’s ethical characteristics including: goodness, grace, covenant faithfulness (Hebrew: hesed), righteousness, justice, and finally, yes, LOVE!  All these terms have nuance within the passages where we find them.

When we find God’s love, we see: allegiance, affection, and ACTION!  Isn’t it fun that these reflect our basic tenets about God as LORD [control, authority, presence].  Allegiance demonstrates God’s loyalty to HIS OWN WORDS of promise.  Affection is simply God’s emotional fondness for His creation [think John 3:16].  And action is God demonstrating His own love towards in that while we were still sinners Jesus died for us on the cross.  [Romans 5:8]

Here’s the thing…

God loves all His creation, and His creatures, even those who hate Him (His enemies).  Have you ever noticed the point of these verses:

  • Matthew 5:43-48
  • Genesis 18:25
  • John 3:16
  • 1 John 4:8-10

What each of these verses make very clear is that while we deserve death, that is not what God offers us.  In His death, Jesus got what we deserve, and when we trust Him as Savior and LORD, we get what we DO NOT deserve… HIS forgiveness, and life everlasting!  This is God’s love, goodness, grace, and righteousness in ACTION bringing us to salvation and redemption.

That said, it is also clear in the Bible that God is a wrathful God… a God of judgment.  You may not believe this but it actually says that God hates some people (the wicked: Leviticus 20:23; Deuteronomy 25:16].  In fact until we trusted in Jesus, this would describe us as well [the wicked].  Paul says, [Ephesians 2:3]

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

About now you might be thinking… “How can God hate people if He is love? That makes no sense!”  Look at it through the lens of what we’ve already believed as basic tenets of faith.

Because God is LORD of ALL, He has the RIGHT to expect us to be faithful to Him, to do as He instructs, to keep His commands, and to receive His grace in Christ.  When we do not do this, we invoke God’s wrath.  And while God IS LOVE, don’t mistake that to mean that He is obligated in some way to distribute this love equally to all.

While God gives everyone sunshine and rain [Matthew 5:43-48], God has the authority to reserve His best blessings (forgiveness and grace) only for those who believe in His Son, sent to save mankind from their sin.  It is only when we receive Jesus that He calls us His own family, His children, with the rights and privileges of grace and redemption.

John 1:12
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–

God is love.  This love commands, and demands, that we believe in His name… the person, Jesus!


Next time, the attributes of Knowledge.


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Not Just a Card Game

Daily Post: Solitary


Solitary is understood to mean: by oneself, on one’s own.  Hence the genre name of any of a number of card games which are played by yourself.  The game is: you verses a deck of cards.  You sort the cards as they come, by color and/or suit, until you can’t play any more, in which case the deck of cards wins.  Some variants include: Klondike, FreeCell, and Spider.  At least these are the ones I’m familiar with.  While playing your favorite card game on your computer or mobile device certainly passes the time, did you know in 2004 Microsoft’s Chris Sells described “Solitaire” as the most-used Windows application in the world?  If you think about the millions of people around the world who were using Outlook, Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer every single day at work, or at home, that’s an alarming comment.  If you think it is questionable, think about what this truth has accomplished in influencing our culture today.  Can you go anywhere today without seeing someone’s nose stuck in a downward position, as their eyes are glued to their mobile device playing some game, texting, or reading in a solitary existence among the masses of humanity?

For years I served as Pastor to churches where I was the only staff person.  I worked in an office where no one else was around, either at the church, or in my home.  It was by every standard and definition a solitary existence.  My interpersonal communications only took place as I made the intentional effort to get out of my office chair, go out to my car, and drive to where the people were.  Most of the time I might go hours at a time without the phone ringing to break the silence.  I think I have a pretty good idea of what some prisoners experience in solitary confinement.  The feelings of isolation, loneliness, and being cut off from the rest of the world are overwhelming at times.

I would often wonder if this is how the human Jesus of Nazareth felt too.  From Scripture we have the image of Jesus being a loner, often going off for hours at a time to pray.  But that is only one side of the picture.  In fact, Jesus grew up in a Jewish community where the whole village would see Him as “their” kid.  The sense of connectedness that He must have had, not just to this little village, but to the whole construct of “the people of God” eludes us.  Not only that, but our view of Jesus being a loner is incorrect.  He surrounded Himself with 12 men who were constantly at His side.  He was a socially adept individual inevitably inviting Himself over to people’s homes for lunch and dinner.  He was a sensitive human being to those around Him who were hurting, physically, mentally or emotionally, and His ministry was very personal.  Yet, Jesus was isolated, lonely, and cut off in another sense.  He wasn’t at home, in heaven, with the Father and the Spirit.

Paul says it this way…

Philippians 2:5-7
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

He was equal with God.  But He didn’t hold on to that equality selfishly.  He emptied Himself, and became “one of us.” The amazing grandeur of this act alone eludes me still.  I cannot fathom it.  My petty memories of being alone in my office are so inconsequential when compared to what Jesus left behind to come and offer me grace.

Consider how alone Jesus must have felt on the cross.

Consider how alone Jesus must have been in the tomb.

Considering all the loneliness, all the sacrifice, all the devotion of His actions, and considering it all, remember… it was all for you.

Now consider these promises he made to those who believe these truths.

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

Hebrews 13:5
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

You don’t have to be alone!  You weren’t designed to be alone.

He is ready to walk with you today, are you ready to walk with Him?

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Dad in a Bottle

Daily Post: Bottle

Father's Day

I’ve read that in the 1920’s -30’s there was a movement, a protest of sorts, to scrap Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for a single holiday called Parent’s Day.  Apparently, every year pro-Parent’s Day activists would gather in Central Park and proclaim that “both parents should be loved and respected together.”  However, Richard Nixon, in 1972, signed a Presidential proclamation which made Father’s Day a national holiday.  I’m wearing a new golf shirt I received in observation of this special day.  I love it.  If you got a bottle of cologne, I’m sorry…

There are as many different kinds of fathers, as there are men who have fathered children.  They come in all flavors, good, bad, and ugly.  Some are gentle and kind, while others may have been harsh and uncompromising.  I don’t know about your experience, and can’t speak for everyone in the world, but I went through the whole gambit with my own father.  In every stage of my childhood, teen-age years, young adulthood, until now, I’ve had an on again – off again relationship with my dad.  Now, I have three adult children of my own, and I’m pretty sure they would say something similar about their relationship with me right about now.  It’s a good picture of life actually.  Life in general has an ebb and flow, up and down, and we work through each circumstance or trial as it comes.  Some things in life are just hard to get over. Change happens. Yet, other experiences pass, and to move forward in a positive way, we choose to eliminate the negatives by forgiving and forgetting the bad things, and focus on the good memories instead.

Today also happens to be Sunday.  On these days of worship, I find myself focusing on the Father.  I am a son, not the Son.   I’m not a son because I deserve it, or earned it, or bought it.  I am a son, and blessed to be so, only because The Father declares it so through John the Apostle, if we believe in The Son.

John 1:12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name… 

Regardless of how you may have been raised by an earthly father, whether he was present or absent, good, bad, or just indifferent; God the Father, the Creator/Sustainer, has declared that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5b

Today, on Father’s Day, find a way to honor you earthly father according to the word of God, and honor the God and Father of all creation, through His Son Jesus, and give Him glory!

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