Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Exodus 2, Luke 5, Job 19 and I Corinthians 6

Luke 5:4-11 - I love this version of the Peter's call into discipleship. Jesus sees them cleaning up after a night of failed fishing and he tells them to go back out and toss their nets again. A little background: Peter is a professional fisherman...he has been fishing his entire life...he knows what he is doing. Jesus is a carpenter turned rabbi, who doesn't know much about fishing (I am giving Peter's perspective at this and I know that he created fish and water and everything involved in this story!). There is no reason that Peter should be listening to this Jesus-guy when it comes to fishing...yet in spite of his doubts, he does what the rabbi says and they have the biggest catch of their lives. Immediately afterwards, Peter is ashamed of his doubts and feels unworthy to even be in the presence of Jesus. Yet, Jesus responds by calling Peter to follow him. Why did Jesus choose Peter even though he doubted his advice? Because even though he had doubts he was still able to act...he was still able to follow Jesus in spite of not understanding. How about you? There are gonna be times where you don't understand what God is doing in your life...there are gonna be times when you don't understand why things are happening to you...when you don't understand why you feel like you are being called to do something different. The question is, are you willing to follow Jesus even in the midst of doubt? Are you willing to act...the whatever, when he calls?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Exodus 1, Luke 4, Job 18 and I Corinthians 5

Luke 4:13 - I have read the story of Jesus temptation in the desert many times before...I love how he destroys every attempt from Satan to get him to turn from God with scripture. It is a great reminder that all of us should have God's Word written on our hearts...keep verses we can go to when we are dealing with temptation. Yet this time as I read the passage, something different jumped out at me. In Luke 4:13 it says that after the Devil had tried every form of temptation on Jesus, he left (With the plan to attack Jesus when the circumstances were more in his when Jesus is on the cross). For 40 days Jesus was in the desert...for 40 days Satan threw everything he had at Jesus...every temptation...every trick...all of it. We know that Jesus was tempted with food, with power and popularity, but what we don't think about very often is all the other stuff he was tempted with. The reading today reminded me of Hebrews 5:15, which tells us that we have a High Priest (Jesus) who was tempted in every way that we are. He knows what you are going through...he knows what you are facing. Did Satan flash images of nude women before Jesus and tell him that he could have sex with any woman he wanted if he bowed? Did he promise endless amounts of money? Did offer mood altering drugs and drink? Did he offer an incredible marriage with tons of cute kids that might distract Jesus from his mission? The text says that he tempted Jesus in every way...and that is exactly what I needed to know. I think we all can sit back and say, "Oh, I would refuse bread and power too...those seem to be mild temptations...but Jesus just doesn't understand this struggle of is so is so's different." No it isn't. He was tempted in every way that you and I are...and he faced down every one of those temptations. He was able to deny those temptations because of his great love for us. Yes, he was God in the flesh...yes, God is perfect...but Jesus was still in the flesh...he was still born of a woman...born in the sinful tradition of humankind...born with the possibility of turning against his nature. Yet, he stood strong...he denied those temptations because there was so much at stake...the salvation of the world...probably the very foundations of the world, if God turned against His own nature. Can we be inspired to do the same? We are able to connect with the Holy Spirit of God...we can ask the Spirit of God (The same Spirit that allowed Jesus to reject temptation) to give us the strength to turn away from sin...we can choose to love as Jesus loved - to show that we love God and our families and our friends so much that we do not want to bring the chaos that sin brings into their lives! Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and fight the good fight! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Genesis 50, Luke 3, I Corinthians 4, Job 16 and 17

"For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." - I Corinthians 4:11

Think about what that verse is quite powerful. Paul has made it clear in his writings that we are crucified with believers we become one with his death on the cross. We are being given over to death for Jesus' sake...death to selfishness...death to pride...death to idolatry...death to rebellion against God. The work of the cross made it so that these sins...this flesh nature...that dwells within us like a cancer can be destroyed. The cross destroyed the power of our sinfulness...the cross destroyed the power of when we die to self, we do not have to fear because we experience true life! Not only that, but look at what I Corinthians 4:11 says again...the life of Jesus bursts forth from our flesh! How cool is that? The corruption and sin within us is destroyed, and the life of Jesus emanates from our person.

When God came down to earth as Jesus Christ and crammed Himself into the flesh of a man...He contained Himself for a short time...He was a man...He was a Jewish carpenter/rabbi living in the 1st century Romans empire. How could one man convert could one man disciple could one man interact with every person that ever lived? He couldn't...not as a man...but that was all part of God's plan. Through the death of Jesus on the cross - the perfect sacrifice that was made for every human sin past or future - we gained the ability to become became possible that ever believer is the manifestation of Jesus. So in me - Jesus is manifested as a 34-year old youth minister in Spring, TX. Shining out of my wife's life, he is a much ER nurse in The Woodlands and mother of four. Does that make sense? God is doing His ministry through us? Every man, woman and child...takes all of their unique experiences...their unique situations in life and they bring them to the table for Jesus sake when they become Christians. We've got work to do! There has only been one of you all the history of the universe and are the only you. And if you choose to place your faith in can reflect Jesus into this world in a way that no one else ever has! God's plan is incredible...God's plan has a role for the world what Jesus looks like bursting forth from your life!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Genesis 49, Luke 2, Job 15, and I Corinthians 3

"For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" - I Corinthians 3:3

Read that verse and look inside yourself for a while...look at the interactions you have with people - people you live with, people you work with, people you associate with...are jealousy and strife driving forces behind your interactions with the people around you. I am going to be honest here...they are for me. As much as I try to hide it on the outside, my mind is constantly working through a series of progressions...Where do I stand with them? Have I gotten the upper hand? Am I better? Look better? Speak better? Funnier? More athletic? Do they owe me? Do I owe them? Am I getting what I deserve out of this relationship? These toxic and selfish thoughts often worm their way into my mind, impacting the way I interact with the people around me. I may have flesh on my bones and I may be a human being, but I am certain that when Paul says, "Are you not flesh and behaving only in a human way" he is not giving us excuses to live such self-serving lives. He is saying that those of us who allow jealousy and strife to drive us are living "less than" lives...we are living lives that are less than they could be...we are living damaged and twisted lives compared to the freedom that we could have if we chose to live in the Spirit and behave in a godly way. That is what I want to do...that is who I want to be! I don't want to rank everyone around me on an importance scale to figure out where I fit in an insane effort to bolster my own self-worth. I want to know who I am according to God and I want to be comfortable in my own skin with my own giftedness...I want to be holy as God is holy...I want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. God please help me do this!

He has given us the help we need..."Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" - I Corinthians 3:16...I do know me to trust in that knowledge and live boldly through your Spirit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Genesis 48, Luke 1:39-80. Job 14 and I Corinthians 2

In Genesis chapter 48, Jacob does something interesting while giving blessings to Joseph's son Ephraim and Manasseh (The fact that he is blessing them as sons is also different, because he is basically giving Joseph a double blessings - Joseph gets a son's blessing and Joseph's sons get blessed as brothers of Joseph)...he gives the more important blessing to Ephraim, the younger son. Even Joseph doesn't like that Jacob does that (Even though he grew up knowing the story about how his dad stole the birthright from his older brother) breaks tradition...the firstborn is always supposed to get the greater blessing. I find it interesting that Jacob does this, because God is showing us once again that He likes to work through the unexpected...He likes to bring honor to the lesser...He likes to show His strength through our weaknesses. This is great news for you and I, because there are times when we are some pretty weak people aren't we? I can't tell you how often I feel like I am not cut out for the work that God is calling mew to do...father, husband, minister, disciple...I am not good enough to do these things well without God's help. Luckily, He likes to work through the weak...and He provides the strength I need to compensate for my weaknesses. Trust that God knows what He is doing through you. You are never gonna be are never gonna be are never gonna be smart enough or brave enough or rich enough or whatever is holding you back from living powerfully for God enough. But God is all of those things and so much more...God will do His good works in your life if you offer yourself up to Him.

Paul echoes these thoughts in I Corinthians 2, when he talks about the wisdom of God versus the wisdom of man. God is revealing the truth of Himself and the truth of what matters to us...these deep, hidden truths...through His Spirit. Yet His truth...His wisdom...they seem like foolishness to the human mind. Our flesh nature wars against the wisdom of God. Our flesh nature says, "Serve yourself. Live for pleasure. Look out only for you. Run from discomfort. Ignore your faults." The sinful human side of our selves wants to sit down in our weakness and revel in it...but God offers us His Spirit so that we might be transformed. Paul tells us that the Spirit of God knows God...searches the mind and heart of a part of God...and we have access to that Spirit. We can connect to that Spirit and let it transform us...let it fill us...let it teach us how to overcome our weaknesses and live as God intended us to live all along. God has not left us hanging...God has not abandoned us to wallow in our weaknesses...He is willing to enter into our mess...enter into our weakness and provide strength. Reach out to Him.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Genesis 47, Job 13, Luke 1:1-38 and I Corinthians 1

I Corinthians 1:17 really stuck in my head this morning. It says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." It is not our job to try to make the Gospel of Jesus sound is not our job to make the Gospel sound more make it make it into a self-help message. The Gospel is far too dangerous...far too dynamic...far too audacious...far too revolutionary to be watered down. The call of Jesus is to come and die. The call of Jesus is to be crucified on the cross with allow him to put to death the selfish and sinful flesh nature that is within us. It is a call to sacrifice. It is a call to slavery. When we speak of the Gospel as if it is easy...and when we live out the Gospel as if it is all about us...we make a mockery of the strength and power of the cross.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Genesis 46, Job 12, Mark and Romans 16

Romans Chapter 16 - I have been tempted in my Bible reading over the years to quickly skip through the end of the letters written in the New Testament. They are often lists of names and personal greeting given to people we do not know, and it can sometimes seem irrelevant to our lives. But I think we can learn a lot and be greatly challenged by the personal interactions between the earliest Christians that we can read as these letters close out. Romans, especially, has some interesting information for us to digest. The first person Paul mentions in his closing is a woman, which is VERY strange in the first century. The first person thanked is given a position of honor that was generally only reserved for men in their ancient society. She is also called a servant, which is "diakonos" in the original Greek...a word from which we get our church leadership title - deacon. Phoebe is clearly a leader in the church and holds a position of influence and respect that would have been shocking in the male dominated first-century. A little further down in the letter Paul mentions Junia as as a kinsmen and fellow prisoner for the Gospel of Jesus. In all of ancient Greek literature, Junia is only ever used as a feminine name. Junia is a woman. The word the ESV translates as "kinsmen" is actually "apostolos" from the Greek which is usually translated as apostle. Paul is saying that this woman Junia is a fellow apostle and prisoner for the Lord...her imprisonment is most certainly based on teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others (which is what keeps getting Paul thrown in prison). Apparently, Junia is a preacher of the Gospel, whom Paul considers to be a peer. These revelations are culture shattering for the ancient world. So often Christians are labeled as chauvinists and out of touch and irrelevant by the secular culture around us, but what we need to understand is that Christianity was at the forefront of breaking down the barriers for women in this world. The revolutionary way that Jesus treated women gave them a foundation for the meaningful place they have taken in church and world history. We need to make sure we are not getting hung up on the gender of the Christians around us, but that we are providing opportunities for men and women to serve in a manner that makes best use of the giftedness that God has given them. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Genesis 45, Job 11, Mark and Romans 15

Genesis chapter 45 and Mark 15 have a common theme that speaks very powerfully to me - undeserved forgiveness. Joseph sees the brothers who tried to kill him - they threw him in a well...they sold him into slavery - and he shows them grace. They fear him because of his power in Egypt...they fear that he will exact revenge on them (I mean, that's how people operate right? Eye for eye and so on...) and they slink back from him. Yet he tells them right out, in such a show of strength and faithfulness, that what they had meant for evil was used by God to bring good. In fact, Joseph could see that God had brought him into that position in Egypt so that he would be able to guide Pharaoh, to store food for the drought, so that that Joseph could feed the Hebrew people and keep God's covenant with Abraham alive! How is that for forward thinking? Joseph has seen the way that God works through even people's evil choices and he forgives them.

In Mark 15 we see the ultimate example of undeserved forgiveness. Jesus is slaughtered on the cross. We know that Jesus tearfully asked God for another path in the garden of Gethsemane, but God the Father said, "No," Jesus would have to be crucified...crushed under our sinfulness...and separated from God - cut of from the community of Himself that he had known eternally. Yet he went through this terrible ordeal...he offered himself up as the sacrificial lamb because he loves us. Romans 5:8 tells us that, "God shows his great love for us, in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us," We were not good people that needed a little help. We were not faithful friends that anyone would die for. We were the enemies of God when Christ offered himself in our place. Jesus accepted death on the cross because he knew that God was going to use this horrific incident to bring greater good than had ever been known.

Jesus offered himself to bring us salvation. Joseph offered forgiveness because he could see God at work in the terrible things that had been done to him. What about you? Is there some kind of hatred  you are harboring...some kind of anger at someone else that is eating you up inside...some kind of desire for vengeance? I know there are some horrible things that happen to people in this world...God knows that too - He has experienced them...but can you open your eyes enough to see how God is working through even the evil choices of other people. Can you place your trust in God and offer forgiveness where you never thought it was possible...where it is undeserved?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Genesis 44, Job 10, Mark and Acts 14

Mark 14:9 - I have read this story a hundred times...but today I focused in on the ending. This verse says that woman's anointing of Jesus will be shared wherever the Gospel is told for all time. Pretty impressive! But I got to thinking...this story is not told very often when it comes to sharing the Gospel message. We usually boil the Gospel down to...we are sinful...we can't save ourselves...Jesus came to die for our sins...not we can connect with our Creator and become temples of the Holy Spirit of God (Or something similar). Sure, people read about this woman's sacrifice when they read their Bibles, but how often have you heard this woman's gift presented as a meaningful part of the Gospel story. Probably never! So how would you slip this woman's incredible love for Jesus into a sharing of the Gospel? I'm interested to know. I think you could point to her sacrifice...her willingness to give everything...her disregard for what other people thought...all of these things are a picture of her devotion to Jesus Christ. She was willing to lay everything aside to honor him with her whole life. Isn't that what accepting the Gospel of Jesus looks like? Doesn't that just paint the perfect picture of how we are supposed to respond to God's amazing and undeserved grace? So after you realize you are sinful, you need a savior, that savior is Jesus, and you finally understand how much God loves you...this is how you respond. You give it all. You offer Him everything. You don't care about what other people don't care about what it costs...all you want to do is worship and serve such a great God and Savior.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Genesis 43, Job 9, Mark and Romans 13

Romans 13 offers those of us who live in the Unite States some very timely commentary about governing authorities. Paul tells us to live in submission to the authorities that have been out over show respect to the officials who are in charge. We just had a presidential election and it seems that a good many Christians have not spent much time pondering Paul's words here. There is all kinds of talk of secession...there is tons of complaining...anger...fear...none of which seems to reflect Paul's instructions in Romans chapter 13. Paul was writing to a people who had very little say in how their empire was run...the everyday people of Roman were expected to accept the decisions of their Emperors and Senators with no real hope of ever having their voices heard. The leaders of Rome were pagan idol worshippers or politically-spiritual atheists, yet Paul demanded that the Roman Christians honor those leaders because they were being used in God's plan. While it may be difficult to understand how God works out His will through power-hungry men and women who do not humble themselves before Him...our faith in God as the ruler and sustainer of all demands that we accept the leaders that have been put in authority over us. Here in the U.S. we actually get a say...we have it so much better than the Romans Christians did. We should be joyfully celebrating the freedoms we have and the opportunity we have to let our voices be heard...but when the election results are in...regardless of who has won...we must continue to joyfully honor God by submitting ourselves to the authorities that end up in power. And this isn't just an angry, complaining type of submission...a submission that mutters antagonistic words...this is a submission of respect and dignity. That's what Christians in the U.S. need to be modeling for the rest of this country and for the rest of this world. Submission. Humility. Honor. Respect. Love of neighbor. These are the things that should mark us as Christians. When we mutter and whine and live in fear, we do nothing by show what we are lacking in faith.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Genesis 42, Job 8, Mark and Romans 12

I think Mark 12 and Romans 12 compliment one another very well. Throughout Mark 12 Jesus is bantering back and forth with Pharisees and Sadducees (Remember, they are "Sad you see" because they don't believe in the resurrection)...they try to trap him to get the people to turn against him, and he skillfully disarms every one of their arguments by pointing them towards spiritual realities that escape them. One of the Jewish mean that hears Jesus great wisdom asks him, "What is the greatest commandment?" Jesus answers by quoting the Shema, "Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." He also follows up with the natural next step for godly relational living, "And love your neighbor as yourself." If you do everything you can to live for those two things, you are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. In two shorts sentences, Jesus shows us what it is all about. People like to say that Christianity has all these rules...that God is trying to weigh us down with regulation after regulation...with a huge heavenly "don't do" list...but in reality, there are only two rules. God has called humanity to do two things - love God and love people. You do those things and everything else falls into place.

In fact, those two things are the secret to becoming the living sacrifices that Paul tells us to be in Romans chapter 12. If we put God and others before ourselves, we will be living sacrificially...we will be living in the way of in the way of God. When you put God and others before you, the things that blind and distract us...the jealousy, the fear, the boredom, the selfishness...these things disappear and we are able to see what truly matters in life. We are able to, as Paul promises, discern the will of God - understanding what is good and acceptable. Living for God and others allows us to see the great value of our brothers and sisters in allows us to joyfully function as one small part of the body of Christ...doing what we can with the gifts we have been given to expand God's Kingdom, while celebrating the contributions that others make. Paul even finishes out chapter 12 of Romans by giving us a list of what life looks like when we choose to live first for God and then for others. His finally paragraph is a rapid-fire list of what a God and neighbor loving human being looks like. Review the list...ask yourself, "Is this a picture of my life?" If not, what needs to change? What needs to shift in your life so that you can love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Genesis 41, Job 7, Mark and Romans 11

Job chapter 7 paints a beautifully realistic picture of a prayer life during a time of suffering. Job is hurt...Job is angry...Job is confused...and he also knows that God can handle anything he can dish out. He goes to God in his anger and he questions what God is doing, but he never rejects God. Even as he struggles with why such terrible things have happened in his life, he maintains his faith in God's sovereignty. This is something that we need to remember. Job cannot see the big picture of what God is doing, so he angrily questions God. Suffering, we find out in the book of Job, is not as simple as, "I sinned, so I will suffer." If that were the case, we would all be in brutal agony all the time, right? We find out through Job that God may be doing more through our momentary times of suffering than we could ever understand. We need to trust God and pour our hearts out to Him. Don't be afraid to give God a piece of your mind (Job did!)...just remember that your whole mind doesn't come close to matching the tiniest sliver of God's mind...get whatever you need to get off your chest out, but be ready for the revelation that will come to you when God shows you that He knew what He was doing all along.

This ties in with Romans 11:33 - "how unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable are His ways!" To try to figure God try to construct completely error free human theological doctrines is nearly impossible...God is God and we are not. All of creation is working out in an infinitely complex tapestry of decisions, actions, reactions, and so forth...and God is weaving them all towards an end that only He knows. Romans 11 shows us a little glimpse of that complexity. The Jews were called, but when they failed to hold true to their covenant with God (Except for a remnant), He allowed salvation to come to the Gentiles...hoping that the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ for the non-chosen peoples of the world would bring the wayward Israelites back into commitment. Human interactions with God is a never ending dance of rebellion, discipline, forgiveness, idolatry, grace, judgment, mercy, etc. God is calling all people to Him...God has labeled all disobedient (v.32)...paid the price for that disobedience (Jesus)...and is using everything at His disposal (Which is quite a lot) to bring as many of His children (humanity) back into relationship as possible. Trust that He knows what He is doing, and live to honor His relentless love.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Genesis 40, Job 6, Mark and Romans 10

Romans chapter 10 offers us a huge challenge when it comes to evangelism. Romans 10:9 is very clear...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead - you will be saved! That is a truth that is available to everyone. Th is the beautiful Good News...the Gospel of Jesus Christ...we cannot save ourselves, but if we believe in the saving work that Jesus did on the cross we will receive salvation. That is reality...that is the truth that every person needs to hear and understand. But how are they gonna hear about it if Christians aren't sharing that truth? And I'm not talking about sharing tracts on the side of the street...I'm not talking about yelling at people through a bullhorn about how they are going to hell...I am talking about living out the Gospel for them...entering into relationships with non-believers and journeying with them towards Christ. That is what we need to be doing. Evangelism...sharing the Good News is the job of every believer. It doesn't matter if you aren't good with doesn't matter if you aren't is our job. Every person is unique and gifted differently and every person needs to find out how best to share the Gospel through their own giftedness. "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News!" Isn't that what you want God saying about you? Go out there and spread the Good News!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Genesis 35, Job 5, Mark and Romans 9

In Mark chapter 9, Jesus in teaching about what it looks like to be a part of his Kingdom holds up a little child as an example. What are the characteristics of children that reflect the Kingdom of God? What about innocence? There is a beautiful innocence in the lives of young children. They don't know what they are supposed to not like...who they are supposed to not like...what is cool or uncool...they do not allow themselves to be ruled by fear because they don't know enough to be afraid. Their innocence allows them to enjoy drink it love is so godly! How about their faith? They simply believe. They believe their parents will protect them - they jump off couches knowing we will catch them, even if we aren't looking! They do not worry about meals, clothes, shelter, etc...because they know they will be provided for. They accept fully that God is there with them...that God is healing their wounds (scrapes, cuts and what-not)...they pray for any and everything, because they believe that God can handle it all (They are not as concerned as adults about "bothering" God). Their faith is beautifully simple. If adults acted a lot more like children with regard to innocence and faith...the world would be forever changed for the better.

There are times when my youngest son Aidan can get a little whiny. He is 7 years old and still throws the odd emotional tantrum from time to time. It can get really frustrating! Sometimes when he does this I say to him, "Aidan you are in first are seven years is not okay to act like a need to act like a big boy!" The last couple of times this has happened, Aidan has responded back to me, "But I'm just a little boy, Daddy!" There is no excuse in my book for throwing a fit because you socks are off center - no matter what your age - but Aidan's words have really stuck with me. He is just a little boy, and there are so many things about that little boy that I love. We as parents need to be careful not to push our kids to grow up too fast. In fact, Jesus told us that we should take time to watch out kids be kids, so that we might learn something about being Christians. The more I push my kids to "grow up" that more and more they become like me, which in some ways is very scary. We need to fight for the innocence of our kids. We need to encourage them to hold on to their childlike faith. And the best way we can do this is by doing everything we can to walk in innocence and faith in our own lives. We need to do our best job of being childlike in these areas to show our kids what it is like to be Christlike.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Genesis 38, Job 4, Mark and Romans 8

Job 4 - Strangely, much of what Eliphaz says to Job is echoed in the New Testament by Paul. He talks about how no man is righteous before God...Paul says much the same in the book of Romans. I say "strangely" because Eliphaz is wrong to lecture Job as he does! We see in the Book of Job that all the suffering Job has gone through is a test of his righteousness more than a punishment for his sin. Eliphaz believes that Job has sinned and that is why he is suffering (Always a great bit of wisdom to hear from friends "comforting" you!). Job knows he has done nothing wrong and has faithfully loved God and does not understand why these terrible events are happening to him. The challenge for us to take to heart in this reading is to understand that terrible things happen even to those who love God. Paul and Eliphaz are both right...there is no one who has ever lived that was righteous in comparison to God. There is no one truly GOOD. But the Book of Job also shows us that God holds Job up before the accuser as a righteous man (By human standards). Even though Job loves God and serves Him, he ends up suffering in life. Those of us who love and serve God do not get a free pass from the chaos of this world. But fortunately for us, we know a little more of the story than Job did. We know (like our reading in Romans 8:18 today) that the sufferings of this world are completely insignificant in comparison to the glory of the life that we will live eternally with God. Regardless of what happens in this life, keep your focus on the life to come.

Mark 8 - Two chapters after the feeding of the 5,000 (maybe a few weeks or months after in terms of Jesus ministry), the disciples don't understand how Jesus could possibly feed 4,000 people. Seriously! Come on guys! It is easy to judge the disciples and wonder how they could have forgotten the miracle of Jesus first feeding, but I think we have similar issues with selective memory as well. How many times have you seen God move in your life? How many times has Jesus met you in your time of greatest need? How many times have you been given strength from outside of yourself to get through difficult times? Yet time and time again, when we are faced with difficulties we turn to worry instead of turning to God. Remember the redemption and life that Jesus has brought to your existence before you freak out the next times things start to fall apart...he will not leave you or forsake you!  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Genesis 37, Job 3, Mark and Romans 7

We see pretty quickly in Joseph's story that he might be a kind of annoying guy to have around. He is a tattle-tale. He is arrogant. He is Daddy's favorite. He says the wrong things at the wrong times. I believe that Joseph needed to go through the harsh treatment he received, as a process of shaping and maturation. The next time we see him in the story - after being sold as a slave and living the life of a servant - he is completely changed. Sometimes God allows us to go through difficult things in order to shape us for the future. Do you look at trials through that view? Do you ask God what He is going to do in you through the hard times, or do you just get angry and sulk?

Why does Jesus speak so rudely to the foreign woman who comes to him for help? His response about not giving food for the "children" (The Israelites) to the "dogs" (everyone else), seems pretty offensive to the current-day mind. But I want you to notice the reaction of the woman...did she seem offended? No. She takes his words and puts them right back to him..."Well sir, even dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that fall off the table." Jesus has a very specific mission, with a very specific timetable. He has come to the people of Israel (A people group God has been working on for thousands of years...for this very moment!) to put into place the events that will lead to salvation for every person who has ever existed (If they choose to accept it). That is kind of a big deal and Jesus is not going to be distracted...he tells the woman so, very bluntly. Everywhere Jesus goes, people are trying to get him to come with them to heal a relative, a child, a spouse, a friend...and he cannot say yes to them all...he has to stay focused. But this non-Israelite woman shows an amazing depth of faith that impresses Jesus. She does not need him to come with her. She does not need a big show...she just wants some scraps from the table...she knows that he has authority over the forces of evil...she fully believes that he can save her daughter...and she acts on that belief. She does not give up...she puts her trust in Jesus...and her daughter is healed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gensis 35/36, Job 2, Mark and Romans 6

Mark 6:51-52 - These are a couple of interesting verses. Jesus walks out on the water and calms the storm and they are utterly dumbfounded...they are shocked. Marks throws in an extra tid-bit about them not really understanding what had happened in the feeding of the 5,000 because their heart were hardened. Jesus fed 5,000 men (not to mention countless other women and children) with 5 loaves and 2 fish (Everybody ate their fill) and the disciples still didn't really understand the power he had. They fear the storm, think Jesus is a ghost, and are shocked by the fact that he can walk on water because they aren't really operating from a place of faith yet. They are operating from a place of cynicism and doubt. The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds and hundreds of years...prophets have come and gone...false messiahs have been raised up an removed...they don't fully understand who Jesus is yet. Do you ever allow your heart to get hardened? Do you ever miss out on the great works that God is doing around you because you have become the Christian cynic? Remember the things that God has done in your life and faithfully expect Him to move...because He will.

Romans 6 - I read the first eleven verses of this chapter at every baptism I go to. It is such a concise and powerful description of what it means to experience the life that comes through Jesus Christ. When we believe...when we choose to give our lives to crucify the old self and experience the resurrection that comes through Jesus - we are new! We are living in the resurrection...we do not live like we once did...we are new...we are different...we are dead to sin and alive through Jesus Christ. Christians, that should be the driving force of our lives. Living the resurrection. Living for Christ. Bringing redemption to the world...let's get to work!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Genesis 34, Job 1, Mark and Romans 5

I have always been astonished by Job's response to losing everything. He was very wealthy, in terms of livestock, and he lost it all. He had 10 children, who he loved deeply (He made sacrifices for them regularly, just in case they had sinned), who were killed in one catastrophic event. He loses everything...yet his first response is to worship God! That is amazing. It is easy to see why Job is held up, even by God, as a great example of faith and righteous living. How many of us worship God only when things are going well, and then turn angrily away from him when things start falling apart? Job shows us the response of a true believer. There is no hope outside of God...where else are we gonna turn when our world is collapsing? Bitterness? Anger? Fear? Disbelief? These all lead us down a path of deeper pain and suffering...only God can lead us towards healing and hope.

Paul offers a great follow-up to Job in Romans chapter 5. He says that we can rejoice in our sufferings (like Job did), because suffering produces endurance...endurance produces character...character produces hope...and hope does not bring us shame...hope does not let us down. Do you understand what he is talking about? We have been given access to God...access to a righteousness that we could never have obtained on our own, through the death of Jesus Christ. That is the reality that faithful believers live in every day - EVERY MOMENT! So when terrible things happen to us on this earth, we can know that even in the midst of that pain and hurt, we are experiencing the grace that Jesus offered on the cross. We know how this story ends! We know who wins! We know that true life awaits us after death, so we can handle anything the screwed up world has to throw at us! Doesn't that make sense? Anywhere else you turn - away from God - leads only to hopelessness. Do you really think that walking away from God because you lost a loved one is gonna help you...gonna make life better? How could it? The only thing that is gonna offer healing in our times of brokenness is the hope that comes only through Jesus.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Genesis 33, Esther 9/10, Mark and Romans 4

Gen. 33:10 - "For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God." This is what Jacob says to Esau when they meet for the first time since Jacob has run away after stealing Esau's blessing from Isaac. He was expecting anger and violence from Esau and instead received forgiveness and love. Esau truly is reflecting the character of God as he chooses forgiveness instead of vengeance. When we choose to offer forgiveness where it is not deserved, we show the world the face of God.

In Jesus parable of the sower, he lays out for us the strategy of the evil one, when it comes to leading people away from God. The seed is out there...the truth of the Gospel...the working of the Holy Spirit, but there are forces at work trying to keep people away from that life-giving truth. First, Jesus says that Satan steals the truth from some. What does that mean? I think it means that Satan replaces the truth with are not good enough...God doesn't really love could you ever be forgiven...there is no could a loving God let things like this exist...these lies are believed and the truth is stolen away. Secondly, Jesus says that some believe the truth but lose it when they go through difficult times. Sometimes people with immature faith choose to blame God when things in their life become hard...they run away from God, which is heartbreaking because only hopelessness exists outside of God - especially when you are going through difficult experiences. When someone you love dies, why would you want to run away from God? There is no hope. There is no life after death. It is all just tragic happenstance, if you don't believe in God. Third, Jesus tells of faith that is destroyed by obsession with the world and the material possessions of the world. This seems to be the ultimate American destroyer of faith...we become so obsessed with "stuff" and comfort, that we forget about how desperately we need Jesus. Finally, there are those that hear the word, believe it and live by that truth. Jesus says that their lives bear fruit - their lives have meaning and purpose and hope and joy...needless to say, this is where you want to be. We need to understand the battle that is raging around us if we are going to be able to cling to the truth and to help others grab hold of that truth as well!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Mark and Romans 3

Whoa there!!! What is all this talk of an "unforgivable sin"? Don't Christians always say that God can forgive anything...that Jesus blood can cover any sin? The sin that Jesus is talking about in Mark 3 is no accidental is not something that you are going to do without thinking about it...the sin that Jesus refers to is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He even goes on to explain exactly what it is (Because I am guessing that he knew we would be confused about this)...this unforgivable sin takes place when people who supposedly follow God attribute the works of the Spirit of God in the world to Satan. That is some messed up stuff. Think about the Pharisees in chapter 3 who see Jesus miraculously heal a man (They see it with their own eyes!) but because they love only themselves and their own power they sneak off to figure out a way to kill him! They have seen the God/man Jesus at work bringing healing and redemption to the world and they want to kill him for it. Later on in the chapter, other Jewish people see his miracles and think his power must come from Satan. That is ridiculous! Satan brings chaos and pain...Jesus is restoring order and healing. Jesus is very obviously doing God's work (A good fit, since he is God!) and these self-centered, blind, arrogant, idiots think it is the work of the evil one! God has the power and the love to forgive anything, but I believe these people are so far gone into their corruption that they will not return to God. If they can see the works of God and think they are evil...I'm guessing they are never going to be throwing themselves on the mercy of Christ. Without turning to Jesus there is no forgiveness...thus they have put themselves in an "unforgivable" position.

Romans 3 is incredible...Martin Luther considered this passage to be the central passage of all scripture. If you want to know how to break down for someone our great need for salvation through Christ...Romans 3 tells the story in a nutshell. There is no one good...we all fall short of the glory of God (the glory we were created to reflect)...we cannot save ourselves through "good behavior"...but God made a way for us to become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ...that was always His plan...that is the ultimate testament to His faithful love...this is the picture of hope...this is our story.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Genesis 31, Esther 7, Mark and Romans 2

Jesus deals with the hypocritical Pharisees in Mark chapter 2...and Paul is dealing with hypocritical Christians in Romans 2. The Pharisees look down on Jesus for his interaction with sinners...what they don't understand is that by the very law they never they are shown to be corrupted sinners themselves. It is the sick that need a is the sinner who needs the salvation that can only come through Jesus. The sinners around Matthew's table are actually in the better position because they understand their brokenness...the Pharisees don't know how sick (sinful) they are, so they refuse to go see the doctor (approach Christ for salvation). Paul is still dealing with the same issues years later with Christians. New converts who were once Jews are still trying to cast judgment on the people around them, while not realizing the depth of their own corruption. In Romans 2:23 it all comes to a head when Paul explains just how dangerous this kind of judgmental hypocrisy really is...when Christians act as if they are perfect while they wallow in the obvious imperfection of all mankind - they run the name of Jesus Christ into the ground. People turn away from the saving grace of Jesus because of our hypocrisy...because of our judgment...and that cannot stand!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Genesis 30, Esther 6. Mark and Romans 1

Whoa! Jumping into Romans after reading mostly narratives so far is crazy!!! There is no way I can do justice to a chapter of Romans in a short paragraph or two, so I will just write about something that really jumps out at me each day. If you want a more detailed handling of Romans chapter by chapter, you can look at my older blogs...I went through it two or three years ago.

I have Romans 1:14 underlined and asterisked in my Bible and I understand why after reading through it again today. In the midst of so much meaty theological writing by Paul, this jumps out at me because it levels a pretty intense challenge my way. In the verses that come before, Paul is telling the Roman church that he cannot come and see them...he really wants to spend time with them...encourage them...disciple them...but he cannot because of what he writes in verse 14 - he is obligated to continue the ministry that he is doing to those on the margins of the faith. The Greeks and the barbarians...the wise and the foolish. This obligation he has comes from none other than God. Paul's unshakable belief in Jesus Christ...his utter dependence on the Gospel message...demand that he share that truth with people who can be quite difficult. This is a powerful message for me to hear. It is so much easier to do ministry to people that want to be in church...people that come to your church...students who are genuinely great kids who come from Christian homes...that kind of ministry is easy. That kind of ministry is not often soul-crushing...heartbreaking...ulcer inducing...but much as I love hanging out with good kids who want to know Jesus more, I am obligated by the life-changing/mind-blowing/peace-giving/sin-removing Gospel of Jesus Christ to share that message with those who are on the margins of faith and society. The modern day barbarians...those who think they are too smart of be believers...those who seem to be too dumb to understand that they need help...those who are (whether they know it or not) desperately crying out for the truth that I just happen to know (Thanks be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!). Paul understood his obligations...the obligations of a Christ-following Christian. Do I? Do you?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Genesis 29, Esther 5, Matthew and Acts 28

We closed out the books of Matthew and Acts, and I feel like it is truly fitting to close these books out together. Throughout Matthew we have read along as Jesus bring the kingdom of Heaven crashing to he shows what true humanity looks he calls people to follow in his footsteps. In the book of Acts, we see the first Christians living out the call of Jesus Christ. Regardless of how the culture around them perceives their allegiance, nothing changes about their dedication. Much of the book centers around Paul who is a living breathing example of the Great Commission throughout the book of Acts. He is constantly going...he is ever in search of new disciples...he is unafraid to teach people about the truth of Jesus Christ...he is a great example of what the discipleship Jesus has called us to looks like lived out. What needs to change in our lives so that we can better reflect true Christian discipleship?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Genesis 28, Esther 4, Matthew and Acts 27

"Bethel" - the house of God. Jacob falls asleep on the way to Laban's land and God reconfirms the ancient Abraham covenant with him. He wakes and calls the place "the house of God" because he knows that God has met him there. Jesus, in Matthew 27, is put through a mock trial, tortured, ridiculed and slaughtered on the cross. This has been the plan since sin first entered into the world. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were told that the nations would be blessed through them...and there on the cross, the ultimate blessing takes place. Jesus makes the sacrifice that was required to offer salvation to the sinful masses of the world. Because of that sacrifice, we can become the "Bethel"...the house of God. Through the righteousness of Jesus, the chasm that sin caused between God and man is removed and God meets us where we are. We become the temple of the living God! Praise Jesus! Do you think about this amazing truth on a daily basis? Do you realize the guidance and strength that you have within you as followers of Christ? Do you live as men and women housing the Spirit of God?

"For such a time as this" - I love that phrase! Why was devout Jewish woman chosen to be the wife of a powerful pagan king (Other than the fact that she was smokin'...)...for such a time as this. Once again the children of Israel re threatened, and once again God has put events into motion that will bring about their deliverance. Esther knows that her life is on the line, but she is willing to step out in faith because she knows that God is faithful. Paul is trapped on a the middle of a storm...with no food...and everyone has given up hope. Yet, he knows that he has been placed there "for such a time as this." Surrounded by hardened criminals and seasoned warriors, Paul alone has the strength to stand up and lead because his strength does not come by human will. He holds a communion service and promises everyone that they will be delivered by the one and only God. Paul was ready to act because he lived every moment with the understanding that God had brought him to that place "for such a time as this." Do you live with the same confidence? Why had God brought you through the experiences of your life...why has He placed you where you are right now? For such a time as this!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Genesis 27, Esther 2, Matthew and Acts 26

The two meals that are depicted in these passages speak a powerful message of God's sovereignty. Esau is the firstborn child of Isaac, but through deception he loses the blessing of his father (Which is fitting since he stupidly lost his birthright over a bowl of soup before that). Jacob uses a shared me to lie to his father and cheat his brother out of a blessing...yet he is the one who becomes the Father of Israel (He actually becomes Israel himself - his name gets changed!) and ancient ancestor of Jesus. Skip forward 2,000 years and Jesus is sitting down at a meal with his disciples...a meal he shares with someone he knows is going to betray him. He breaks bread with the disciples who will abandon him and the traitor who will turn him in to the Jewish authorities. God eventually uses their cowardice to cement their commitment to the way of Jesus when he is resurrected and he gives them a second chance - almost every one of them is violently killed because of their unshakable faith in Jesus. God uses Judas' betrayal as the catalyst that will end with Jesus' death on the cross...a sacrifice that was willingly made to offer salvation to all who believe. We see over and over that God uses the imperfect...the rejects...the cowards...the betrayers to bring about His will. In our weakness, God is strong.

Fast forward another 2,000 years to now. You may have failed in some may have betrayed Jesus...turned your back on may be scared of truly following Jesus because of the cost. Remember that you are in good company! You are a faith descendant of Jacob the trickster and Peter the coward. Use these passages as a reminder that it is true - you aren't good enough to change the aren't smart enough to know what to aren't ready to fight for the faith - but God is. We are made righteous through his sacrifice. We are made wise through His Spirit. We are given the strength to do things we never thought we could. Let God's strength show clearly in light of your your life to Him and see what happens!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Genesis 25/26, Esther 1/2, Matthew and Acts 24/25

Why eight chapters today? I'm trying to catch up for missing yesterday, and had a nice quiet morning at the house to here we are! I would love to hear your thoughts on the texts or help you with any questions you might have...feel free to comment.

I have never read through the Bible like this - going back and forth, throughout scripture - and I really like the perspective it gives. Jesus teachings in Matthew today are focused in on improperly using the gifts God has given. We are called to honor God with every aspect of our lives. We are not supposed to wait around for a miraculous sign about how to expand His kingdom...we are supposed to be living to honor Him every moment. Our words...our thoughts...our actions...the little things...the big things...all of these things have been entrusted to us so that we can make a positive impact on this world and make God's name great. In the readings today we see the fallout from those who refuse to take up God's cause in the world and we see the world-changing influence of the "good and faithful servants."

Ishmael, though blessed by God by becoming a father of his own nation, can never move beyond the hurt that Abraham/Sarah caused him and leaves behind a legacy of chaos in his dealing with Isaac's descendants. The fallout from his choice to maintain bitterness instead of fighting for peace is sill felt around the world to this day (i.e. the craziness in the Middle East).

Esther uses her forced marriage as a launching pad for saving both the King's like (Though Mordecai's waning) and the Jewish nation as a whole (later).

Paul is bounced around from prison to prison...from trial to trial...from false accusation to false accusation...and never strays from his commitment to The Way. In fact, it is through these terrible circumstances that Paul is able to make a case for the Gospel in front of the most powerful people in the world.

I want to be that "good and faithful servant." I want to take advantage of every opportunity that is put before me by God...I want to be ready to impact His kingdom...make His name great...introduce people to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faithful followers do that every the interactions with their their conversations at the way they view the the good times and especially in the hard times (where it seems that God often works the most powerfully!). May you see every day as a new opportunity to expand the kingdom of our awesome Lord (Because that is exactly what it is).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Genesis 24, Nehemiah 13, Matthew and Acts 23

There is one word that comes into my mind after reading through these passages today - legacy. This reading has got me thinking about the legacy that we all leave behind. Abraham was nearing the end of his life and he wanted the legacy of his faithfulness to continue on through the generations...he wanted to make sure his son had a God-fearing wife and made his servant promise to bring such a woman to Isaac. Jesus confronts the Pharisees about the negative legacy that they are leaving behind them. They burden people with rules they cannot even follow themselves...they live in hypocrisy...they care more about how other people view their actions, then they do about honoring God with their lives. Throughout the final chapter of Nehemiah, the author wants to make sure that the good he did and the way he honored God with his life are know to all by repeating the phrase, "Remember me, O my God, for good." It is vital to him that he is remembered by his life of faithfulness. Finally, we see Paul once again defending his commitment to upholding the Jewish faith while standing firm in his knowledge that Jesus is the promised Messiah. No amount of torture, jail time, arguing, and harassment can shift Paul away from what he knows is true. That is a legacy!

Think about your own life...what kind of legacy are you leaving behind? What would your spouse say? Your kids? Your friends? Your co-workers? What is your legacy?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Genesis 23, Nehemiah 12, Matthew and Acts 22

After reading about Sarah's tomb in Genesis 23, I decided to do a little research (meaning I looked it up on Wikipedia). Here is the link to the site is an interesting read. The heartbreaking thing about this tomb is that it has become a place of violence and murder as the Jews and Muslims have fought over the site for centuries. They are completely missing the point!!! What should be a celebrated site - where people rejoice in the faithfulness of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel, and people praise God for His faithfulness to bless through world through His chosen people - has become a place of petty human struggle, selfishness, pride and violence. It is a sad situation.

Jesus himself also teaches on our human ability to entirely miss the point of what God is doing in the world in the book of Matthew. In his parable about the wedding feast for the son, the master of the house has prepared an incredible party...amazing food...he is wanting to celebrate and connect with the people he has invited; yet, they are just too busy to care....they have other things to do...some of them even react violently against the host and his servants. It seems that we spend a great deal of time missing the point don't we? We spend our lives ignoring the invitations God has given us to connect with celebrate with honor His son by accepting the invitation to join in with the party...and we are missing the point. We were made to be with God. We were made to walk in step with be connected to Him...and the only way that is ever going to happen is if we have accepted the invitation to put on the wedding clothes and attend the party (i.e. to put on the righteousness that can only come through Jesus Christ and live for him/with him). We don't have anything better to do! There is nothing more important! Don't miss the point.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew and Acts 21

Unshakable faithfulness stands out to me today. Abraham is told by God to sacrifice his one and only son...the son who is the heir to the huge nation that God has promised will come from Abraham's line...and what does Abe do? Does he scream and argue and beg God to do something else? Does he weep and stall hoping God will change His mind? No. He gets up the next day and he leaves so that he can sacrifice his son. He acts when called on by God. He moves. He trusts that God knows what He is doing. Whether Abraham believes that God will provide another sacrifice, or that God will resurrect his sacrificed son...he believes. He allows his life and actions to be completely shaped by his faith in God!

In the book of Acts we see the same from Paul. Everywhere he goes, prophets and wise church leaders are telling him not to go to Jerusalem. They know that the Jews there have been stirred up against Paul. They know that the Romans are becoming less and less inclined to allow these "trouble making" Christians to cause problems in their empire. They beg Paul to go somewhere else...apparently they start weeping in front of Paul because they feel so strongly that he will be imprisoned or killed. And how does Paul respond? He says, "I will face any imprisonment, pain, suffering and even death for the sake of the Gospel." That is faith!!! That is the answer of a man who trusts God...a man who absolutely believes that God's Will will be done and that there is true life after our deaths in this half-life world. Nothing can stop Paul from living for Christ and preaching to good news, because he knows int he very core of his being that it is all true.

Do you?

Does your life look like the life lived by a person who utterly trusts God?

Are you driven by unshakable faithfulness?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Genesis 21, Nehemiah 10, Matthew and Acts 20

I was really intrigued by the community covenant that the Israelites make in Nehemiah as they work at getting back on track with their relationship with God. They very clearly set out for themselves exactly who they are going to be. They talk about what they will and will not do to honor God with their lives. They talk about the expectations that they have as a community for generosity towards God and others. They lay out a specific plan for what it looks like to be a member of the nation of Israel...what it looks like to live as God's chosen people.

I find this interesting, because I wonder if this is something that members of current day churches in the US are often missing. Sure, there are plenty of lists in the New and Old Testaments that lay out for us what the lives of followers of God should look like, but it seems like we don't ever really hold ourselves to those expectations. We don't really expect much of each other. I work on a church staff...I know what goes on behind the scenes...I am a part of the seems like we spend more and more time each year trying to figure out how to make church attending as easy as possible for people. Finding the perfect service times. Attractive programming. Great childcare. Convenient parking. It all fits perfectly in with a consumer culture, but it doesn't fit so well with real discipleship. It seems like we are making Christianity so easy. Pray this prayer. Go to this class. Attend church. Throw a couple of bucks in the offering plate. And you're a Christian - YAY! That was easy.

Yet every time somebody talks to Jesus about following him, he hits them right between the eyes. Remember Matthew chapter 20? The sons of Zebedee want to be big shots in Jesus' kingdom. What does he say to them, "I really think you can drink from this cup?" He is telling them...this is hard...this requires have to be serious about this...following me is not convenient. I wonder if we need to stop making Christianity so easy for everyone and work on making it a little tougher. I'm not saying we should not be welcoming...that we should not let sinners in the door (Nobody could come in then, right?)...I am saying that we should expect more of ourselves and those we are in community with when it comes to following Jesus. I'm saying that we should start entering into covenant relationships with one another like the Israelites did...hold each other accountable...push each other...EXPECT MORE.

What would a covenant for Christians today look like? What would it require? Thoughts? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Genesis 20, Nehemiah 9, Matthew and Acts 19

Sorry I have been slacking!!!

Genesis 20 - Do we trust God regardless of the situations that we find ourselves in? (Abraham decided that since he was surrounded by godless heathens, he could lie and hide who he was - do you do that?)

Matthew 19 - Is everything on the table for us? Am I willing to offer anything...leave everything for the sake of God's Kingdom? Are you? (Jesus says, it is worth the sacrifice - do you believe that?)

Nehemiah 9 - Nehemiah sums up the OT very well in this chapter. Major point? God is righteous and deals faithfully with His people, even when His people have rejected Him...even when they have done wicked things. The same God is still God of I believe in that truth? Do I live like it?

Acts 19 - Even the demons in the chapter recognize Paul and understand the power he has received because of his faith in God. Interesting question - are we known to demons...are we feared by the forces of evil because of our utter reliance on God and committment to the Way of Jesus? Or are we left alone because of hypocrisy and spiritual apathy?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Genesis 19, Nehemiah 8, Matthew and Acts 18

There are so many intriguing portions of these texts, that it was really hard to focus in on one thing that really jumped out at me. Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot's wife. His daughters desperate actions - EWWW! Jesus' teaching on temptation and forgiveness. Nehemiah's creative teaching style. So much good stuff!!!

Yet the passage that really stood out in my mind had to do with Jesus' teaching on the humility and innocence of children. His teaching is just as crucial today as it was 2,000 years ago. Human beings, myself included, constantly fight and scratch to prove their worth...better their opponents...achieve their goals regardless of the cost...most of us are on an unending quest to be The Greatest. Yet, Jesus teaching here flies in the face of everything this world teaches us about greatness and power. Jesus says, "You wanna no what true greatness looks like - look at a little child." Innocent. Trusting. Faithful. Pure. Filled with a sense of wonder and imagination. Believing nothing is impossible. These are the incredible traits of children. I see them all the time in my own kids, and it breaks my heart when I see them start to fade away as my kids get older. Dane has transitioned from saying that God has healed his boo-boos, to understanding the regenerative properties of the human body through kid's anatomy books (don't ask). He is starting to transition from playing for fun to competing to win. The innocence is fading...the human pride is growing...and this happens because he has seen it modeled in me. I want that child-like faith. I want to look around each day in wonder at the miracle of creation. I want to think the best of people. I want to unconditionally trust God. Time to get to work at being my Father's child.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Genesis 18, Nehemiah 7, Matthew and Acts 17

A couple interesting things pop out of these texts...

Does Abraham have a better plan than God with regard to Sodom? It seems that God acquiesce to Abraham's merciful wishes - what does this mean - does God change His mind? I believe that God is simply treating Abraham with mercy. Abraham does not yet understand that there is hope for the righteous after death. God understands that if Sodom is leveled...the righteous will experience perfected life after death...Abraham cannot grasp this concept. So God offers to spare the city if there are even 10 righteous people inside because of his love for Abraham, not because Abraham saw something that God overlooked.

I love the story of Paul in the Areopagus!!! He is relentless in his declaration of God's truth. Whether it is in Jewish synagogues or pagan gatherings...Paul fearlessly proclaims the truth of God. This is a great model for all Christ-followers to emulate...a great challenge for me...where is my Areopagus? This story is so fitting because it is directly applicable to every era of human history. These pagan men and women were caught up in idolatry and desperately seeking fulfillment through false gods. Paul steps into their lives...meets them where they are...uses their language...and shows them that what they have always been seeking in the one and only God that he follows. Nothing about this truth has changed, and there are countless people around us who need to hear about this reality...they need to be met where they are and hear the Gospel presented in their own "language" (meaning - not in Christianese).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Genesis 17, Nehemiah 6, Matthew and Acts 16

I found it interesting that circumcision came up in two of the passages today. The first came from Genesis where God made the practice of circumcision part of the covenant with Abraham. The second came when Paul took Timothy, whop had a Greek father, to be circumcised as part of the process of becoming an evangelist with Paul. I know circumcision is a pretty uncomfortable topic (Especially for men - OUCH!!!), but I think these experiences offer us a great challenge. Abraham is a 100 years old when God makes this covenant with him - 100!!! And what does he do when God tells him that part of the covenant is that he must cut off a piece of his skin that has been attached in a very sensitive area for 100 years? He goes out the same day and gets fact he had every single man and boy in his household circumcised. He has been called by God to do something, and so he is another great example of faith from Abraham. He could have made excuses...he could have tried to wait until God made Sarah pregnant (just to be sure)...but instead he stepped out in faith and did what he knew God was telling him to do. In the same way, Timothy agrees to get circumcised as a young man...circumcised in a time where God was revealing to the followers of Jesus that they didn't really have to be circumcised. Timothy gets circumcised anyway...the question is why? Because he thought he could do more effective ministry to his Jewish brothers. The ministry that God called him to was more important than his comfort. He was willing to make sacrifices to honor God with his life. Jesus talks about counting the cost of discipleship in Matthew chapter 16...both of these men counted the cost of following God and they decided it was worth anything to honor their Master. How about you? I have seen people who have been convicted by God to change things in their lives...who end up making excuses...end up dragging out taking any decisive action...and then they never end up truly following God. They get back into the swing of things in life and ignore the call of God. There is a reason we are still reading about Abraham and Timothy...and a reason that we know nothing about the people that refused to offer themselves to men and women of action, and when God is calling you to whatever it takes to honor Him with your life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, Matthew and Acts 15

In Acts 15, we see something that at first seems pretty heartbreaking. After a very successful time of doing ministry together, Paul and Barnabus get into an argument and go their separate ways. It would be easy to think about the destructiveness of fighting among fellow Christians...I could easily write about instances I have seen in the church where petty arguments have led to fractured relationships and church splits...but I want to focus on the positive nature of the argument Paul and Barnabus have. Apparently they strongly disagree with one another about whether John Mark should join them on their next missionary venture...they argue an decide to go their separate ways. Yet in doing so, they each take on the role of mentor for a younger believer and they go to different places doubling the impact of their ministry. Yes, they get in an argument...but they move on...they don't try to stir other people up against their opponent...they get back to God's work. This is what arguments in the church should look like! I work on a church staff, and though we are all close...we do not always see eye to fact we are rarely all in 100% agreement (Sometimes people have trouble understanding that my way is the best - LOL)...yet, we move forward to do the ministry that God has called us to. Even when there are hard words spoken...even if feelings are hurt...there has to be a moment of clarity in Christian minds when we come back to understanding that there is a greater task to be worked out than trying to get our own way. Human beings argue...people don't always see eye to eye...but if these people are brothers and sisters in Christ, they should be able to walk away from an disagreement without bitterness and with an understanding that there is work to be done in God's Kingdom!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, Matthew and Acts 11

A thought...

Though it is easy to get caught up in Abram's lies to the Pharaoh in this passage (not smart!)...I am drawn more to the way he travels. He picks up everything...leaves everything he knows to follow God, and throughout the journey he stops to build altars and praise God. He is continually reminding himself of why he is traveling...who he is following. This is a great example. A great many people get fired up about following God for a short time, but they fall away when it gets hard or when they don't feel the same passion as they did before...Abram gives us a practical way to combat that falling away - make it a point to stop and praise God...make it a point to remember who you are following and why you are living sacrificially.

Fell free to share any of your thoughts on the passages, in the comments section.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Genesis 11, Matthew, Ezra and Acts 10

It is hard for me to focus any comments on anything other than Matthew because that passage is so full of powerful teachings from Jesus. I really appreciate that Jesus sends his followers out with a clear understanding of what they are getting into. They will have power...they will do incredible things...but it is going to be very difficult. They will be persecuted...they will be hated...they will be rejected by family and friends. When Christians choose to boldly follow Christ wit their lives, there will be negative response from the evil forces of the world. The cost of discipleship is high...but the gain is absolutely priceless. Look at what Jesus says in 10:32ff...when we acknowledge Christ before the people of this world, we can be certain that Jesus will acknowledge and defend us before God the Father!!! That is incredible! It does not matter if our lives are does not matter if we experience physical and emotional suffering...we know how this story ends!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Genesis 9 and 10. Matthew, Ezra and Acts 9.

A question came to mind as I was reading today's passages. Why does Jesus jump all over the Pharisees for hating sinners, while the Israelites in the Old Testament are forbidden to have anything to do with people that were different than them? Doesn't that seem like a contradiction? Aren't the Pharisees basically living out a worldview that was given to them by God in the OT? What do you think about it? I think the big issue is not being around "sinners," the big issue is the purpose and outcome of the interactions. Jesus is meeting with sinners and tax collectors because he wants to bring life change to them...he wants to bring them into his kingdom...he wants to share a message of hope with them. They need to hear that - everybody needs to hear that! In the Ezra passage we see that the issue is not just hanging out with non-Jews...the issue is that Jews have been marrying pagans, who remain pagan after the marriage. The Jewish people have allowed their families and communities to be infiltrated and corrupted by pagan worship practices, which is what got them into the whole exile predicament in the first place...and that is just crazy!!! Jesus encourages his followers to bring everyone from the darkness into the light, and to do have to sometimes go out into the darkest corners of the earth. The corrupted Jews were just interested in finding the hottest most exotic looking women around to marry, not caring if they ever became God-followers. That's the difference. What about you? It is fine to hang out with non-Christians as long as you know you are on a mission to influence them towards Christ. If you feel yourself being dragged away from God and towards corruption, then you need to find more positive community to grow as a disciple of Christ.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts 8

There are four really great examples of the faithfulness of God followers in these passages. In Genesis, we see Noah immediately worship God after being brought through the is the first thing he does! In Matthew, the pagan Roman commander shows his faithfulness by understanding that Jesus had the power to heal with a word...he didn't try to make a production out of Jesus coming to his house - he simply had faith. In Ezra, the leaders of the returning exiles begin their journey back to Jerusalem with a time of fasting and prayer...they fully understand that their endeavor will be meaningless without God's blessing. And finally, in Acts Philip listens to the voice of God and gets the chance to share the Good News with the Ethiopian eunuch...then the eunuch takes the first step in faith and immediately asks to be baptized. Great examples to have on the mind today! Does faithfulness permeate every area of your life? Are you more focused on what you can do for yourself...or what you deserve...or the comfort of your life...or are you focused on faithfully following God regardless of what you are experiencing?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts Chapter 5

Again, it seems that parallels between these passages seem to just jump off the pages (They also happen to really be greats texts by themselves as well!). For me these 4 chapters are really summed up by the words of the disciples in chapter 5 of Acts. They say in verse 29, "We must obey God and not men!" In Genesis we are introduced to Noah, who will be a man who chooses to listen to God even though everyone else thinks he is crazy. In Matthew, Jesus destroys cultural boundaries and false beliefs by showing what a God-following life actually looks like lived out. The whole Sermon on the Mount is basically saying, "Man has corrupted what God intended through the Law!" In Ezra, the returning Jews refuse to stop building the temple because they know that God wants them to continue construction. And finally in Acts, the apostles refuse to stop talking about Jesus because they know it is the truth. Very challenging passages for us...are you willing to follow God and live faithfully regardless of what people around you think? Regardless of persecution? Regardless of consequences?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts 4

I find it interesting that each of these stories highlights conflict for those who are trying to follow God. Abel is killed because Cain is jealous of the offering that Abel makes. Cain resents the close connection Abel has to God because it magnifies his own separation from God. In Matthew, we see Jesus confronted face to face by Satan. Satan quotes scriptures, uses brides and temptation, and does everything he can to convince Jesus to act selfishly. In Ezra the Jews who have returned to the horrible living conditions of destroyed Jerusalem meet hostility and deception while trying to rebuild God's temple. Finally, the leaders of the growing church are brought before the Jewish council and told to stop teaching about Jesus Christ.

There is something that we must all remember as God followers - we are at war! Since the Fall there have been forces of evil working in opposition to the work of God in the world. When we choose to faithfully follow God, we do not get a free pass from trouble. In fact, these verses seem to show us that people who are doing God's work will often face the greatest trials, temptations and opposition! I might even be bold enough to say that you should probably be a little worried about the level of your commitment to Christ if you never face any persecution or trials. Those who sit back and do nothing for the kingdom of God are often left alone.

I love the prayer that the disciples pray after being accosted by the leaders of the Jewish council. Look again at Acts 4:29, it says, "And now Lord, look upon the threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness." That is their the face of persecution and rejection from their own people, they want only to have the strength to keep on speaking boldly about their belief in Jesus. Is that what you pray on a daily basis? God no matter what happens today, let me be used to positively impact this kingdom...let me be used to tell people about your truth. Pray that prayer everyday and you will really start making a difference (And probably start experiencing some persecution).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ezra 2, Acts, 2, Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3 and Acts 3

I was on retreat and missed a few days of the M'Cheyne, so I did a couple extra chapters to catch up a little. It is a lot of reading, but also a great overall picture as you see God's story unfold before your eyes. The Fall in the Garden. The beginning of Jesus ministry with his baptism. The desire for the Jews to rebuild their temple and offer pure sacrifices once again. The beauty of Spirit filled followers of Christ living out their faith. These are all threads of the same story....we lost that beautiful intimate relationship with God in the Garden but were reunited with it once again through the sacrifice of Jesus. Like the beggar who is healed in Acts 3, we should live out each day in a celebration of the healing and righteousness that we have been given through Christ. Does your life reflect the newness you have in Christ every day?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

M'Cheyne (Pronounced M-Shay-Knee)

Starting a M'Cheyne reading plan today, where over the course of the year I will read the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice. It has passages from both the Old and New Testaments each will be really great. Join me in the reading if you would like to and feel free to comment on what God is teaching you through your readings.

Today we start out with Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Ezra 1 and Acts 1. This was a great reading because each of these passages is all about beginnings...the creation of earth, the beginning of Jesus life, the beginning of construction on the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and the beginning of the church.

I was drawn to the reminder given to us through Matthew 1:17. There were 14 generations from Abraham (The Father of Israel) to King David. 14 generations from David to the Babylonian exile of the Jewish nation. And 14 generations from the exile to the birth of Jesus. 14 is an important number because it is two times the number 7. 7 is the biblical number of completeness or perfection, so fourteen signifies a double measure of perfection. 14 is also used to represent salvation, which Jesus brings all humanity on the cross. The 14th day of the first month is when the original Passover took place (When the firstborn of Israel were spared from death by the blood of lambs wiped on their doorposts). Jesus himself because the ultimate sacrifice when he dies on the cross on the 14th day of the first month - Passover. 7 represents completion and 14 is very important here because it represents a double completion on the cross - the completion of Jesus' earthly ministry and the completion of the sacrifice he came to make. Pretty cool stuff!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pslam 116

This psalm starts out with with five simple words - "I love the Lord because..." Do you spend time reflecting on the goodness of God? Do you spend significant time pondering all the reasons why you love God? I think sometimes we can get distracted...we can get caught up in the few bad things that are going on around us and forget about the overwhelming goodness of God. This psalmist takes the time to write out some of the reasons he loves God. You and I should do the same...

I love the Lord because...

He listens. (116:1)
He is gracious. (116:5)
He is righteous. (116:5)
He is my salvation. (116:6)
He is my deliverer. (116:8)
He is my guide. (116:8)

What does it mean?

Listens - He hears me when I cry out to Him. He knows the pleas of my heart before I can even utter them. He listens not only to my voice, but to my soul.
Gracious - He counters my rebellious sinfulness with undeserved forgiveness and love.
Righteous - He is right. He is perfection. He is the ideal that we must strive after though we will never attain it. His decisions are always correct. His judgment is flawless.
Salvation/Deliverer - There is no hope outside of God. Through his gracious love, He offers us salvation, so that we too may be righteous...not by our own power, but by through the sacrificial love of Christ.
Guide - His Word is the light we should live out lives by. His Spirit is the guiding force that enables us to experience true life. He is the solid foundation that we must anchor our lives to.

The psalmist closes out this psalm with a very important question. What should we do for the Lord after considering all that He has done for us? Do you ever ask yourself this question? Everything you are...everything you have..,everything that exists...exists only because the Lord God has created it and is holding it all together. How do we respond? (v.14) The only legitimate response is to make His name great wherever we go. We must be unashamed to proclaim His greatness before anyone at any time. That is what the Lord deserves from His children.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Psalm 32

"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." The forgiveness of the Lord is truly a blessing. Do you ponder it on a daily basis? Do you allow it to continually shape who you are? Think about the facts: You and I are a corrupt and sinful bunch...all of humanity is. We continually choose to worship ourselves before God. We continually allow pride and selfishness to guide our actions. We love to complain about the evil that exists in the world, but we are the sources of that evil. We have brought the corruption upon ourselves. Yet, the God of love chose to offer His forgiveness to us. He chose to step into the muck and mire of our sinfulness and take the necessary steps to offer us forgiveness. We have curse God since our inception, yet He offers us the blessings of forgiveness! That is an amazing and priceless gift. Let that forgiveness wash over you and transform your life. By the power of God's forgiveness we should be: more gracious, more loving, more service minded, more comfortable in our own skin, more appreciative, and more willing to share that forgiveness with others.

"I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity...and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." King David write this Psalm, and he describes going through something that every one of us has experienced - the crushing weight of guilt. In verses three and four he talks of keeping his sin to himself...he says that it felt like his bones were rotting away, and that he could feel the heavy hand of the Lord upon him. You have been there, right? You have been crushed under the weight of your own sins and immobilized by the burden of guilt those sins heap on you...we all have. Then with nowhere else to turn...with no other options available before him...David throws himself on the mercy of God. He pours out his heart...he holds nothing back...he confesses his sins before the Lord and the relief is instantaneous. God forgives him and the crushing weight is lifted off his soul. This is the power of confession...from shackles to freedom in a moment. Holding your sin inside and trying to keep it secret will eat away at you from the inside. God already knows what we have done and we are only hurting ourselves by pretending that we can keep anything hidden from Him. The only way that we will find forgiveness and begin healing is through confession. Pour out your heart to God...lay you sins at His feet...confess your sins to the people you have wronged...because God is faithful to forgive.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Proverbs 26:4-11

Wow! Solomon has some pretty strong thoughts on "fools."

He spends so much of this passage referring to fools, I think we need to first define what the word fool means. When the Bible refers to foolishness, it is not generally focused on intelligence. Just because someone is slow-witted does not mean that they fit the criteria for being called a fool. When you consider the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said anyone who calls another man a fool is in danger of the fires of hell,,,you know the word has to carry more weight than simply being a synonym with "idiot." Most often in the Bible the fool is the person who is spiritually blind. It has nothing to do with raw intellect and is centered around a person's response to God with their lives. Jesus himself called the religious leaders in his community "fools" in Matthew 23:17 because they could not see through their own pride to what was important. They were blinded by ambition and selfishness, and could not see that the God they claimed to serve was walking around in the flesh amongst them (Jesus) - they were fools. So a truly foolish person is someone who is blind to the work of God in the world...does not acknowledge the existence of the Creator...does not humble themselves before too prideful to understand their need for salvation. That is the kind of person that Solomon is referring to, and it really fits with his words of wisdom.

Verse 4 - Solomon instructs us to stay away from useless conversations with the spiritually blind. Don't get drawn into arguments that are going to descend into bitterness and hate...if you allow yourself to do that, you are acting foolishly. Honor God with your words...stand up for your faith...but when a person who is spiritually blind seeks to draw you in to verbal confrontation - walk away. Nothing positive comes from arguments with fools. Remain consistent in your love and remain consistent in your words/deeds...let that be your argument.

Verse 11 - One of the most famous and graphic descriptions of spiritual blindness in scripture. "Like a dog returns to his vomit, is a fool who repeats his folly." Dogs are such simple creatures...they are driven by appetite...and they can't help themselves. Even when staring a pool of their own vomit...they see "tempting" morsels within and cannot help but eat the food they just threw up. I know that is a disturbing image, but Solomon equates it to the life of a fool...and I think it is very accurate. A person who live in rebellion against God...a person who refuses to see the work of God in the world...they will continually go back to the foolish choices that have always plagued them. Without an anchor of unshakable truth provided by God, there is nothing to keep people from making the same mistakes over and over again. No matter how many times material possessions/other human beings/achievement/etc have let people down...they will continue to return to those things for fulfillment when they live in foolishness. It is heartbreaking. Do you see areas in your life where foolishness has crept in? Where you continue to seek out the stupid things that have brought pain and destruction into your life before? What do you need to do about that? What needs to change so that you do not continue to go back to the same pile of vomit believing that this time it will taste better?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ephesians 6:10-18

I think in the church sometimes, we get so used to famous verses from the Bible (like this one) that we not longer give them the appropriate attention they need. How many times have we heard bible studies, youth lessons, children's teachings and sermons on The Armor of God? If you grew up in church has got to be dozens of times. But as you read through it today, I want you to forget that you have read this a hundred times and I want you to really try to grasp why Paul felt it was so important for Christians to see these attributes of faith as pieces of armor used in preparation for war.

The first line highlights the ultimate human problem - pride. We try to take care of everything on our own. We think we are strong enough...good enough to handle anything on our own...and I just want to ask - how has that worked out for you so far? Not well, if you are like me. We cannot find purpose on our own. We cannot find fulfillment. We cannot save ourselves. We are not strong enough. We will always let ourselves and others around us down! That is why we cannot be anchored in ourselves...we must find our strength in the might of God.

In verse eleven and twelve Paul lays out for us the gravity of the situation. We need to prepare ourselves for war, because that is exactly what we are caught in the middle of. In our current-day culture we think very little about the realities of spiritual warfare that are constantly going on around us. It just doesn't fit into a nice little scientific bubble...and it is just plain freaky to think about. But Jesus, Paul and all the other Old and New Testament writers understood that there is a battle being waged that we cannot always see. There are temptations and whispers and obstacles that are being thrown at you from behind the veil of the physical world and you need to be prepared to face these need to understand that these things are a reality so that you can call upon the spiritual light of God to help you combat these unseen foes.

Why do we put on the armor of God? So that we can stand firm in the faith and stand toe to toe with evil in this world. Isn't that what you want to do? Isn't that what you want your kids to do? One of my goals in training up teenage disciples of Christ is to shape them so that they can stand confidently in their faith after they leave the youth ministry. Paul is giving us the inside track on what needs to be in place to have that kind of confidence.

The belt of truth. Why is truth important? Why is it crucial for you to understand the reality of what is going on around you in the understand God's narrative that has been playing out since the beginning of time? Because it is the lies that lead us away from God...that lead us away from truth. The lie that everything revolves around you. The lie that someone else can fulfill your every need. The lie that you will be happy if you can just get more stuff! You must have God's truth holding everything together in order to see the lies for what they are.

Breastplate of righteousness. What is righteousness? When you are basically means that you are in a right relationship with God and because of that right relationship with God you can have right relationships with others. Righteousness comes from God because God, even while we were still His enemies, gave His life so to pay the price for our sins and to make things right between us. Do you allow that truth to shape who you deeply you love you treat others?

Shoes of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? It is the Good News that God loved you so much that He came down to earth in the form of Jesus Christ. It is the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to save us knowing that we could not save ourselves. It is the Good News of the freedom, forgiveness and righteousness that come through that gift. Why shoes? Because shoes take you where you want to go...and if you understand the truth of who God is and how much He loves you...if you understand the righteousness that came to you through Jesus Christ...then you want to go and tell others about the Good News!

Shield of Faith. What is faith? To quote the Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." Faith is crucial to our lives and crucial in the unseen battle raging around us. Even when you don't have all the answers...even when you don't understand why things are is trusting in God regardless. Faith is clinging to the hope that had been given to you by is believing that God is who He said He was, even when you cannot see Him with your is vital in the midst of this faithless world.

Helmet of Salvation. What is salvation? It is the great rescue. It is the moment that you exited the grip of death and found true life. It is the weight of sin being lifted from your soul - taken by Jesus Christ. It is freedom. And when you don the helmet of are etching into your mind the way that Jesus brought you back from are writing on your soul how you were once lost and are now found. It is with you every day and it reminds you that you need to live like the saved, not the condemned. It shapes the way you talk to shapes the way you act...because you have been given a new lease on life and you should use it to honor God and change the world.

Sword of The Word of God. Why a sword? I thought Jesus said that if we live by the sword we will die by the sword. Why does Paul close out his description of the armor of God with a weapon? Because we are not called to be the doormats of the world. We are not called to just sit back and taking anything the the evil forces of this world have to throw at us. We are not called to sit in little holy huddles with other Christians while the world goes to hell in a hand-basket. God's Word gives us ammunition. God's Word cuts through the lies of the world that are constantly flying at us. God's Word shows us what we are supposed to care about. God's Word shows us what we are supposed to stand up for. With God's Word written on our hearts and minds and lives we can show the world the absurdity of evil...we can show a better way...we can strike blow after blow to the evil schemes of the accuser.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Isaiah 40:27-31

Another famous section of scripture...this has been turned into quite a few songs, but I think the songs often miss out on the point of why these amazing statements were said about God...

You'll notice in verse 27 that the people have been complaining about God. They says, "God, can you see what is going on down here!?" When life is going perfectly, they want to blame God. "This is not the way I want the world to work God. You are not working on my timetable God. Why are you doing this God? When are you gonna consider what I want God?" We have all been here haven't we? We have all had the arrogant audacity to question the Creator of the universe, as if He doesn't know what He is doing.

Well, the famous verses in this passage are God's answer back to the complaints of the people of the world (Through Isaiah of course). This reminds me a lot of God's response to the complaints of Job. God questioned Job - "Where you there when I laid the foundation of the earth? Were you there when I created the great sea creature?" God was basically saying to Job, "What right do you have to question me...I am the maker of everything...I am holding it all together?"Here Isaiah reminds us that God is everlasting...He is infinitely wise...He never takes a break...He doesn't miss anything that happens on the earth...and when you add all of that together with the rest of God's awesomeness, you get a being that knows a lot more about how things should operate on earth than you or me. Right?

Instead of questioning God, we should place our hope and trust in the fact that He knows what He is doing. When life is hard...when things are going terribly...we should rest in the truth that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose. As we wait on the we make the choice to trust in Him...we will be given the strength we need to handle anything this world has to throw at us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Corinthians 13:4-13

Here is a verse that you have probably heard at every wedding you have ever attended. Please don't let that fact keep you from seeing the amazing power of these verses. I want you to do what I did this morning...walk yourself through this description of love and ask, "Is this what I embody every day?" It was a fairly brutal exercise for me this morning...

Love is patient and kind - am I?

Love does not envy or boast - do I?

Love is not does not envy or boast - am I?

Love rejoices in truth, not in the failure of others - do I?

Love believes...hopes...and endures anything - do I?

I look at those descriptors and find myself very lacking in the love department. So often, I am too busy looking out for myself...too busy worrying about how other people view me or whether or not I am happy to really put authentic love on display for the world...for my family...and that is a travesty.

Paul tells us that love does not end. It is eternal. I think about all the time and effort I spend on things that are temporary...things that are passing away...things that are truly meaningless in the big picture of eternity, and my heart is broken. If I want to leave something behind me that last...I need to love. You and I...if we want to have an impact on eternity...if we want to leave behind a legacy that matters...if we want to create something that will last throughout eternity...then we need to LOVE! We need to put on display for this world a reflection of God's incredible love. We need to be so patient that people cannot even fathom how we do it...they need to know it is something that human beings cannot do without God. We need to be so humble that it is shocking to shocking that they are drawn into the presence of God as they search for the source of our humility. We need to be able to love those that hate us...those that persecute us...those that go to war against us, because vengeance does not last...hatred does not last...retaliation does not last...only love lasts.

Isn't it funny how Paul talks about being a child and acting childish versus being a man and acting as a man should in relation to love? Look around the world...most of the "manliest" men you know act like total babies! They act like little spoiled brat kids. They don't get their way...they get angry. They don't get what they want...they pout. Somebody says something mean to them...they wanna fight. How is that any different from a two year old. It is time for Christian men and women to stand up and show the world the strength of show the world what godly maturity looks like. Men who could care less what other human beings say about them, because they know who they are in Christ. Women who forgive and refuse to hold grudges. People who care infinitely more about God and others than they do about getting their way. That is love on display.

Finally, in churches we talk all the time about faith. The necessity of faith...the primacy of faith...the importance of faith...and don't get me wrong - faith is huge! Without faith we are lost...we are wallowing in our own sinfulness with no hope of redemption. But look at how Paul closes out this passage - without love...there is no faith. Faith, hope and love are eternal...but love is the ultimate goal. Love is the greatest. Love should be our focus...our passion...our desire. God is love, and as people who place their faith in God...we should be love as well.