Lost Tribes of Israel?

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

Have you ever heard anyone talk about the “lost tribes of Israel”? The idea is that the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by Assyria and then essentially just vanished. Judah was taken captive by Babylon and then was released by Cyrus, but the ten northern tribes are never heard from again. Some religions even make a big deal out of so-called lost tribes traveling to the Americas. However, none of this is true. When Babylon conquered Judah, they also conquered Assyria. The Assyrian captivity of Israel essentially blends into the Babylonian captivity. When Cyrus let’s the Jews go, that would include not just the two tribes (three when you count Levi) of the southern kingdom, but also those of the north. No doubt, because of greater time, those ten tribes were greatly diminished. However, did you notice what tribe Anna the daughter of Phanuel was from? She is from Asher, one of the northern tribes. Asher wasn’t lost. In a subtle way, this is just another reminder that God knows who are His. He doesn’t lose His people. Hang on to God; He won’t lose you either.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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“Jesus is Lord!”

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12.

Okay, wait a minute. Paul says, “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus is accursed!'” And yet, Paul, speaking in the Spirit of God, just said those very words. What’s up with that? His point is not that someone in God’s Spirit can’t even utter those words in any context. His point is people who abide in God and His Spirit know Jesus is Lord. Anyone who truly denies Jesus’s lordship is separate from God. No matter how spiritual they seem, no matter how nice they are, no matter what good works they do, they are not in God and God’s Spirit is not within them. In like manner, his point about those who say, “Jesus is Lord” is not that people separate from God are physically unable to say those words in any situational context or that they are unable to fake it. Neither is he saying that anyone who makes this claim is automatically right with God just by saying these words. His point is everyone who sincerely and truly confesses and surrenders to the lordship of Jesus has the same Holy Spirit we do. They may not have the same gifts, abilities, opportunities, and resources as we do. They may be at a different level of spiritual maturity. They may have a completely different ethnic background, skin color, gender, national history, language, socio-economic class, but they are filled by the same Spirit. Since we have the same Spirit, let us work together in the same Body, remembering we are not only members of that same Body but members of one another.

Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13.

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Agree in the Lord

Today’s reading is Philippians 4.

We finally find out why Paul has written more than just a thank you note to the Philippians. There are sisters in the congregation at odds. He doesn’t explain what the conflict is. He doesn’t address who was right and who was wrong. He simply instructs them to agree in the Lord and calls on his “true companion” to help them do so. His reminder that they had once labored side by side with him in the gospel ties back to his initial exhortation in Philippians 1:27, that they all strive side by side for the faith of the gospel. Let’s face it. When people get together as we do in congregations, feelings eventually get hurt. Toes get stepped on. Conflicts arise. This entire letter has been written to explain how to deal with that. Paul’s answer? Everyone be of one mind. Everyone develop the mind of Jesus Christ who left the glories of heaven and endured the shame of the cross for us. That is what Euodia and Syntyche needed to do. That is what everyone who was siding up behind one or the other of them needed to do. It is what we need to do. Praise God for Jesus and His holy mind.

Tomorrow’s reading is Colossians 1.

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Trash

Today’s reading is Philippians 3.

Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. That is, though He had equal status with God, He did not demand His rights as God. He did not clutch, grip, grasp, or cling to His status. He tossed it all away in order to save you and me by the blood of His cross. What good then is it for us to hang on to the symbols of our status? Paul recognized this and gave up as loss, counting it like trash (actually, the term is even more vulgar and base than that). He wanted to know Jesus so badly, he was willing to give up every ounce of status and symbol of authority and power and station he had. He wanted to become like Jesus in His death. And while Paul did literally die a martyr’s death for Jesus, that is not what he means here. Rather, Jesus’s death was the ultimate and extreme example of counting everything as loss for the sake of someone else. Paul wants that mind in himself. He wanted to be extreme in following Jesus’s example, even if that meant death. Wow! I have a long way to grow. Let’s get growing together.

Tomorrow’s reading is Philippians 4.

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The One Mind

Today’s reading is Philippians 2.

As a congregation, we are a unit. Like a phalanx of soldiers in battle, we must act as one; governed by one mind, led by one spirit. And now Paul reveals the one mind with which we must act. We must act with the mind of Christ. The mind that did not think equality with God was a think to be clutched and gripped tightly. The mind that emptied itself of self. The mind that took the form of a servant. The mind that obeyed to the point of death. The mind that went even to the extreme shame of death on a cross in order to serve us. That is the one mind. Do not misunderstand. Unity of belief and doctrine is important, but the one mind that will win this fight is the mind of Christ that surrenders not only to God but in service and sacrifice to each other.

Tomorrow’s reading is Philippians 3. Continue reading “The One Mind”

One Mind, One Spirit

Today’s reading is Philippians 1.

As did the Philippians, we have opponents. Really we have one true opponent and those who surrender to him whether knowingly or unknowingly. But what an opponent. Remember what we learned about our enemy and his minions from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians? They are beyond our ability to fight. And yet we must fight. Paul explains to the Philippians one key to the fight. While a congregation is made up of many individuals, it must fight the enemy as a unit. It must fight as one body. But that is demonstrated by having one mind and one spirit. Like a single body led by one spirit and governed by one mind, a congregation of God’s people must strive side by side for the faith of the gospel as one. The fight against the enemy is hard, let’s not make it worse by getting at odds with one another. One mind. One spirit. United. Let that be our goal.

Tomorrow’s reading is Philippians 2.

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