Friday, March 30, 2012

I Corinthians 2:6-16

What is the main point of this passage? In this passage, Paul is detailing for us the difference between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom that comes from God. He talks intriguingly of this secret truth that has been around since the beginning of time...a truth that is so life changing...that if the rulers of the world had understood it, they would not have crucified Jesus. Thy would not have crucified Jesus, they would have worshipped him...they would have fallen on their faces in sheer awe at the love of God poured out in the form of Jesus Christ. But they were living according to human wisdom. Human wisdom is based on the self...self-preservation...self-satisfaction...doing whatever you have to do to make life for yourself as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, the wisdom of the world is actually a is foolishness. And live by the wisdom of the world in an effort to make our lives better, we actually make them worse...that is the brutal truth of the matter. When men and women choose to listen only to the lies of their flawed human nature a.k.a. "natural wisdom," they are failing to see the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God has been made available to us! The very Spirit that searches the depths of God...that knows God...that is a part of God...that very Spirit is available to guide us and show us the truth about what God is doing in the world. Do you believe that? Do you live with an understanding that you have the eternal Spirit of God at work in you? The Spirit of the secret to true wisdom...the Spirit is our guide in finding true life!

What spoke most deeply to you about this passage? Well, the whole thing is blowing my mind...I am just mulling it over and over in my head. The actual Spirit of God...the part of God that delves deep into His innermost parts...that Spirit is at work in me! Wow! The very Spirit of God is giving us insight into the nature of God, the world of God, the workings of God in this world that we would never be able to see without Him. That Spirit is available to us every moment of every day, but Paul is also clear that there is still a battle raging within us. There are some who choose to ignore the infinitely amazing Spirit of God and instead listen to the natural corrupted "wisdom" within us (I know, because I too often listen to this tainted "wisdom."). How foolish can we be? We have the infinite secrets of all existence at our disposal and we want to wallow in the flawed and the finite...uhhhggg! The final line of the passage has burned itself into my mind and I ant to work very day to make this a reality in my life - "But we have the mind of Christ." That is what I want. Everything about Jesus draws me in...intrigues me...blows my mind...excites me...and I want to be as much like him as possible. I want to bring heaven crashing to earth through my words and actions like he did...I want to live as a sacrificial servant...I want to have the mind of Christ. And it is available to us...the Spirit of God is the mind of Christ...the Spirit that has been one with the Triune God since before there was time. To have the mind of Christ, or at least a mind that is becoming more and more like Christ's every day...I must ignore the selfish protestations of the spirit of man and wholly give myself over to the Spirit of God. God, please help me to do that today!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lamentations 3:22-27

What is the main point of this passage? The chapter starts out very darkly, with the author describing some difficulties he has experienced. He feels that he has experienced the full weight of the wrath of God because he has wandered from the Lord. Yet, even in this time when he feels separated from God...when he feels like he is utterly lost and broken...the only thing that keeps him going is to remember the truth about who God is. The section we read today is the hope that the man going through hard times clings to. He knows that the Lord is his only hope...he knows that God is eternally loving and faithful and that if he is willing to wait on the Lord, he will receive the salvation that only God can offer.

What part of this passage spoke most deeply to you? "The Lord is good to those who wait for him." - that is what really jumped out at me from this passage. This concept of waiting on the Lord is so hard for me...I want to act...I want answers...I want guidance - NOW! That is the way I operate and the way that I believe most of the people in our culture operate...with an expectation of instant gratification. It is very difficult to cry out to God and hear Him say back, "Wait." or "No." I am reminded of King Saul, who refused to wait for the priests of God to get to the front of the battle lines to make the appropriate sacrifices to God before a huge battle. Saul, instead of waiting, chose to improperly offer sacrifices himself...and it was the final straw that cost him his kingship. Saul refused to wait on God's timing and I think that is what I often do. Instead of waiting I act impulsively...I try to do everything myself...I make rash decisions. Waiting on the Lord may be difficult, but it is essential to the authentic Christian life. This passage tells us plainly that God is good to those who is good for human beings to understand that the world does not revolve around their every move. To wait on God is to trust that God is in control and to believe that God knows what He is doing...when we refuse to wait on God, it is really a sign of our lack of faith. And we must remember, waiting does not me just sitting around doing nothing...waiting is not a sign of laziness. Waiting on the Lord is about seeking God with your whole heart and is about crying out to God and listening for His voice in the innermost part of your is about opening your ears and your heart to where the Lord is calling you to go. It is not a passive show of laziness, it is an active demonstration of faithfulness.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Philippians 4:10-13

What is the main point of this passage? Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from prison in Rome. As he closes out his writing, he thanks them for their concerns for his well-being and then offers them some powerful encouragement. He is basically saying, "Hey guys, thank you for thinking of me and praying for me, but I want you to know that I am truly content." Wait...what? Paul you are in jail for teaching about Jesus Christ and you are content? Shouldn't he be bitter...should he be really upset that serving God got his butt thrown in jail? No he shouldn't, because Paul actually lives out his faith. In Paul's mind it is ridiculous to praise God and be joyful when things are going well, and then to refuse to praise Him when things are going badly. That is not really as Hebrews 11:1 tells us, is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." If we really have faith, then we are sure of the future hope we have in God...if we have faith, then we are certain that God is in control and that He is working out His plan in the world even when we don't understand it. That means that faithful people like Paul understand that contentment is centered on the nature of God and not how smoothly our lives are going. God, as we talked about yesterday, is unchangingly good and faithful and if we place our trust in Him we will be able to find joy in even the worst of circumstances.

What part of this passage spoke most deeply to you? It has to be way that Paul confidently states that he is content. He is in jail for crying out loud!!! I cannot even imagine how sulky and whiny I would be in I had been thrown into jail for being a Christian. I can really see myself playing the old "woe-is-me" card....saying, "God, I trusted you...I gave my life to ministry and this is how you repay me?" Yet, here we find Paul...encouraging the people who aren't in jail! Do you get that? He is worried about the Christians who are worried about him...he takes this opportunity to drive a powerful message home to the new Christians in Philippi that he is ministering to...he says, "I have found the secret to contentment, and it is centered wholly around God." Paul's message rings loud and clear in my ears, because I so often forget the secret he had discovered. I try to find contentment in success, in pleasure, in entertainment, in sports, in work, in others...and it always leaves me empty...I am always looking for more. I have been struggling with contentment for a few years now...I have been wrestling with a deep dissatisfaction and I can't quite put my finger on why I am experiencing these feelings. I think Paul has shed some light on the subject...I have been so busy thinking about the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect ministry position, that I have forgotten to fully drink in the perfection of God. That is where satisfaction is found...that is where contentment is the living water that Jesus offered the woman at the well. That is what I need...and that is where I am going to find the contentment that Paul so boldly claims.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Isaiah 40:27-31

What is the main point of this passage? As a comfort to the people of Israel, Isaiah speaks about the greatness of God. This comes right after an awkward passage in chapter 39 where King Hezekiah takes Babylonians representatives into his treasury to show them how wealthy his kingdom is...he allows his ego to drive him into making a huge mistake. Why would you show potential enemies everything about your kingdom? The wealth. The defenses. The Armory. His bragging made the Babylonians hungry for the wealth of Israel. Isaiah confronts the King about his idiotic move and tells him that the Babylonians will one day capture the city and plunder its wealth. When Hezekiah hears that the people who will pay the price for his sins are his descendants, he does not weep for what he has done...he is relieved that it is not going to affect his life. What a twisted and corrupt way to view consequences! (There are still a lot of people around who could care less about actions that are only going to cause future generations problems - and it's sad) So Isaiah answers his future prophecy of future tragedy with a reminder about the greatness of God. The point is, that even when it seems like everything around us in falling apart...God is in control...God is great...and we can take comfort in the fact that God is at the controls of the entire universe!

What part of the passage spoke most deeply to you? These truths about God are so hard for me to understand, because I am so much less than God (Which is a good don't want me running the universe, I promise!). Isaiah tells us that God is everlasting...I know this to be true, but it is so hard for me to fathom...I have only been around for 33 years. We are told that God never gets weary, that God never needs to rest...and as a human I know how painfully tired we can run stressed out. These things do not affect God...He does not change the way He is running the world because He is tired or because He has a headache. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is never less that God. He is always God...which means He just happens to be the most complete, most perfect, most incredible being in existence. The only reason that things like perfect, complete, and incredible are in our vocabulary is because of God. He is these things...that is where they came from. We get just small glimpses of God's greatness here on this earth and they blow our minds...the small collisions we have with the truly good things on earth change our lives and those good things only exist because of God. While I will never be God...and will never even be close to God...I think it would be good for me to be less chaotic in the way I live my life. I should do everything I to try to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow...I should be able to live my life in more stability because I am anchored to the unchanging rock of God's greatness. Somebody cut me off in traffic - who cares...God is good. My kids are driving me crazy - drink it in, they will only be this old once - they are gifts from my heavenly Father...God is good. I am utterly exhausted and empty - run to the Lord for rest and refreshment...God is good. The greatness of God is impossible for me to fully understand...but it is SOOOOO good for me to place my trust and hope in. And when I allow myself to bathe in the greatness of starts to rub off on me and I am able to live as the greatest Brandon possible. That's who I want to be...that's who my wife and my kids and my church need me to be...and that goes for all of us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Corinthians 3:16-23

What is the main point of this passage? Well, these verses follow a section where the Apostle Paul has been really working on the Corinthian church about the divisiveness and disunity that exists amongst them. So when he explains that the body is a temple and what real wisdom looks like, he is offering us two things. First, he is sharing some deep truth with us that we need to understand - we are living temples of the Spirit of you think of yourself that way? Do you think about the worth that you you think about the power at your disposal? This is something we need to understand as Christians if we are going to be the people that God has called us to be. We also need to get it through our thick skulls that no matter how smart we think we are...we really have no idea what is going on in the universal plan that God is working out in every moment. Instead of acting like we know everything and arrogantly judging God an others, we should probably walk in humility because that is where true wisdom is found. Secondly, Paul is telling us the secret formula for how we should be treating people (especially fellow Christians) through these deep truths. If we choose to see other people as infinitely valuable temples who house the Spirit of the Living God and choose to walk in humility rather than arrogance...I think we will be amazed at how much more Christ-like our faith communities would become. When people chose to see the value in others and treat them mercifully...good things happen!!! Real relationships happen!!!

What part of this passage spoke most deeply to you? The first two lines that I read, really hammered themselves into my brain. Paul starts out with a piercing question - "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" He asks it so boldly, implying that this is something that everyone who follows Christ should fully understand. And if I am totally honest, I don't live like I truly understand this concept a lot of the time. I have to fight to remind myself that I am a temple of the living God. It is almost effortless for me to forget that God is living inside of me. I ignore His urgings...waste whole days on the meaningless...allow my thoughts and eyes and ears to occasionally bring garbage into the throne room of God - my heart. Paul cut me with the words he wrote so many years ago, and God stepped in to drive home the point. He is here with me now...He always is. He is working in my life and the lives of all the people I come in contact with, and if I chose to exist in that knowledge everyday...everything would be different...everything would be better. The choices I make...the actions I take...the words I speak...the way I treat would all be better...all be more Christ-like, because I would be willingly and joyfully joining in with the work that God is doing in my life and in the world. That is what I want to do...that is who I want to be.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Revelation 3:14-22

What is the main point of this passage and what kind of challenge does it level at us? I think this passage speaks a really powerful message to Christians living in the United States of America especially...a challenging message about priorities. The Church in Laodicea is being confronted because they have gotten too comfortable. A few thousand years ago, Laodicea was a wealthy trading hub and many of the people were so comfortable with their lifestyles that they began to believe that they didn't really need God. They looked at themselves and saw blessing and wealth and vitality, but when God looked at the Christians in Laodicea He saw people who were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. The main point of this passage is that human comforts and material possession will never truly satisfy, and when people begin to worship the material - they are no longer worshipping the one true God. Jesus challenges the people to make up their mind...he doesn't want them to say they are Christians and then place all their trust in wealth. He wants them to either say they are Christians and live like it, or to be honest and say that they are truly non-Christian. It is easy to see how this applies to suburban Christianity in the Unites States. We allow ourselves to get so distracted by trying to be "successful" from the perspective of the world, that we are ignoring the fact that Jesus is calling us to something more. He is knocking, but we cannot hear the sound because of all the noise - schedules, entertainment, possessions, obsessions, etc. In my opinion, the vast majority of Christians in the U.S. are very comfortable with their look warm-faith and their burning desire to consume popular culture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John 1:1-18

What is the main point of this passage? The main point of this passage is so huge it is difficult to comprehend. The creator God of the universe...the living Word...the Word that spoke creation into existence...saw the darkness that had descended onto His creation through sin, and instead of destroying it all and starting over, decided to step into the situation Himself. He left behind that glory of heaven and the fullness of His person and crammed Himself into the flesh of a man. Jesus Christ was there from the beginning...Jesus Christ is one of the three persons of the uncreated God...and Jesus Christ is the God/man who came to shine light into the darkness and chaos that humanity had poured out on itself. The Word became flesh so that we might be able to see the glory of God in a way that our small minds could comprehend. The Word became flesh so that we might be able to see the glorious loving mercy of our Creator God. And this passage promises us that if we believe that Jesus is God in the flesh who came to shine His light and pay the price for our sins, we will become the Children of God! Heirs to His kingdom and participants in eternal community with God.

What part of this passage spoke most deeply to you? The whole part about becoming "the children of God" is what spoke most deeply to me. Think about the depth of that statement. I have an adopted daughter named Emerson...she is amazing and she fits perfectly into our family. We have taken her into our home and made her one of our children...that will never change...she is our daughter forever. But the thing is...she was this beautiful, innocent, precious little Chinese girl. There have been difficulties, but it was really easy to love her because she is so amazing. It was an easy decision to love her and to accept her. How easy would it be to choose to adopt someone who was your enemy...someone who had hurt those you loved...someone who had blatantly disregarded and disrespected you? That's a much different might even be impossible for us to imagine something like that. Yet, that is exactly what God did for us. Romans 5:8 tells us, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God did not adopt cute little beautiful children - he adopted arrogant, sinful, rebellious people like you and me. He came to earth to die for His enemies - people that had destroyed the perfect world He created...and He did that so that we could truly become His that He could bring us back into right relationship with Him. Let that sink in. That is how much you are loved. Do you let that truth shape who you are and the way you live your life?

What kind of questions does this passage bring to mind? In the final verse, 18, my ESV translation of the Bible says, "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known." When I look at this verse, I want to know what John is trying to communicate here. Weren't there passages in the OT where God revealed Himself to people? What does John mean when He says the only God who was at the Father's side? Are God and the Father different? Well, the first part is pretty easy to answer. Yes, there were portions of the OT in which God at least partially revealed Himself to human beings, like when He allows Moses to see the hem of His robe from behind. But John is trying to get us to understand that nobody has ever seen the fullness of God...nobody has ever seen God in all His glory. I just don't think that a human being could handle something like that. In the Moses story, he sees a teeny-tiny piece of God and his face is glowing for weeks. What do you think happens if he gets to see everything? He probably would have instantly imploded or something. What about the second part of the question? Well, I think that is answered by what is a little better translation of the original language in verse 18...another option for the translation of "who is at the Father's side" is, "who is in the bosom of the Father." I like this translation because it seems to echo the rest of the passage which clearly points to the fact that God and Jesus are one and the same. So then, John is telling us that Jesus is God...the one and only God...connected as one with the Father, and He came to earth to make known the glory of God. In Jesus, we are given a glimpse of the person of God that our human senses can actually withstand.

What does this passage challenge you to do? These verses really inspire me to work even harder to share the love of God with the people I come in contact with on a daily basis. Did you see that picture of God's love from John 1? He died for us while we were still His enemies! He adopted us as His children even though we were living in open opposition to His love! That is amazing, and that is something that people in this messed up world need to hear. I see so many broken, confused, lost, lonely people...I see so many people who are desperately trying to fill the emptiness inside of them with the things of this world, and they need to know about the love of their God. They need to know about the infinite worth they carry as the people created in the image of the Most High God. They need to allow the love of God to speak truth into their lives, and the only way that is going to happen is if Christians like you and me step up and invite them into that truth.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Titus 3:1-7

What is the main point of this passage? Paul gives us a great list of what Christian life should look like: submitting to authority, obedient, humble, kind, courteous, etc. Then he moves on to explain why we shouldn't be obsessed with ourselves and caught up with pride...we were once like that and it didn't turn out well! Arrogant sinfulness and self-obsession once controlled our lives and made them garbage, yet God stepped into the equation and redeemed us - not because of anything we had done - but because God is merciful and loving. We were washed clean by the blood of Christ and remade through the Holy Spirit of God, and because of that we should treat other people with the same kind of loving mercy that God gave us.

What part of the passage spoke most deeply to you? I really like the imagery that verse 5 brought to mind for the ESV is says, (we were saved)"by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit." We were in Memphis this week on a youth group mission trip and we had to do some wound cleaning from time to time. When a student gets a nasty cut, we first wash it out and then put anti-biotic so that it can heal without infection. In the same way, the sinfulness in our lives is like an infected wound...if left alone it will fester and get worse and destroy our life. Yet the sacrifice of Jesus provides the ultimate cleanser for the corruption that sin brought on...his blood was poured out so that we might experience new that the filth of sin would be washed away. And once the wound is clean, the Holy Spirit of God rushes in to begin the renewal process...the rebuilding...the reshaping of a life that was once wounded and is now healing.

What do these verses challenge you to do, and what steps are you going to take to meet that challenge? I always need to be reminded about the incredible graciousness of God. There are times when I have a hard time treating other people with the same kind of grace that God offers me. I feel really challenged to focus on controlling my thoughts when it comes to the way that I perceive other people. There are times when evil needs to be confronted and addressed head on, but the struggles I have with judging others do not usually take the form of verbal confrontation. I usually just internally cast judgment on other people and allow myself to get bitter, angry, cynical about the state of the world and the people in it. While there is plenty of screwed up stuff going on in the world...I have to remind myself that I am one of the people that causes some of those things...I am a sinful human being who has been forgiven and transformed ONLY through the gracious love of God. I am infinitely in His debt and it seems to me that refusing to offer others the same kind of mercy that God offers me, is a poor way to honor His love.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ephesians 2:1-10

What was the main point of this passage? The main point of this passage is the point of everything! Paul really lays it out there for us. We were dead in our sins...followers of evil...children of in disobedience...thinking only of ourselves and satisfying the desires of our sinful nature. But God stepped into the equation...even when we were still His enemies...when we were living in open rebellion to the way that He created us to live...He sacrificed Himself four our sins. His amazing grace has given us new freedom and life, and gives us a future, not of annihilation, but a future of immeasurable joy in His presence. Such an amazing passage!!! If you ever want to walk somebody through the Gospel...this would be a great place to turn.

What part o the passages spoke most powerfully to you? There are so many Christians (myself included sometimes, unfortunately) who love to cast judgment on "sinners" outside of the church...who don't make any efforts to reach out to people they consider "screwed up." Th words from Ephesians 2:5 just jumped off the page and burned themselves into my soul..."even when we were dead in our trespasses, made alive together with Christ." I was shown absolutely undeserved mercy by God...I was living in opposition to His way...I was warring against everything I was created to be...and God still chose to act on my behalf. He still chose to die for me. He chose to pay the penalty for my sins. Do you ever really think about that? Would you die for your enemies? So that they might experience freedom? That's what God did. How can we, who have been forgiven of countless sins, treat others unmercifully?

What questions does this passage bring to mind for you? I am always drawn to the interesting reference Paul makes to the "prince of the power of the air." What does that mean? Who is he talking about? I think we know who this is talking about, don't we? The Bible boldly explains to us that we are caught in the middle of a war between good and evil. There are evil forces that exist in the unseen spiritual world that are impacting the events that take place in the physical world. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we picture the devil as a slender guy in a red tuxedo, with horns, a tail, a pencil thin mustache, a pointy goatee and pitch fork. When we picture the personification of evil like this, it tends to make the devil into something almost funny or more a con artist than the embodiment of wrongness. The word translated as air here in this passage, is "pneuma" which is also know as "spirit." The devil is not dancing in your shoulder, whispering funny comments in your ear...the devil is best understood as an evil spiritual presence that is a driving force behind the wickedness that takes place every day in this world. Evil exists...we all know it does...we have seen it...maybe we have taken part in it. There is a spiritual war that is waging all around us all the time...and when we choose to listen to the lies of the spirit of evil...when we choose to give in to the twisted and selfish longings of our sinful nature - we become the children of disobedience. We trade in the family of God for a heritage of evil and destruction. This is no laughing matter and something we must be keenly aware of.

What does this passage challenge you to do? This was a great passage for me to read this morning, because I have already been struggling with my own human selfishness today. Things have been going very well spiritually for me lately...but I woke up this morning with a bent towards only thinking of myself. I could feel my thoughts start to turn towards complaining...I could feel a little selfish bitterness creep into my heart...the demons that I think we all struggle with sometimes that say, "What do you want? What do you deserve? What about you?" they began to sink their claws into me, and I could feel my attitude darken. Then came Ephesians 2:1-10, and it painted a picture for me of what was happening. I was listening to the lies of this world...the lies that the prince of evil has sown into every human culture...the lies that tell us that we should worship the "self." This passage reminded me about what truly reminded me about the freedom and love that are available to me as a gift from our Father reminded me about how much I have to be thankful for. I was challenged to reset my mind on the things above and work today to ignore the lies that are swirling all around me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Peter 3:18-22

What is the main point of the passage? The main point of this passage usually gets lost in the focus that so many people put on verse 19 (Which we will get to later), which is unfortunate because the message is powerful. Peter is addressing the suffering that Christians are experiencing through persecution (Which was pretty intense int he ancient world: shunned from families and community, loss of work/business, imprisonment, mocking, beating, and sometimes death), by pointing out to them the fact that Jesus also suffered. He suffered and his body was killed, but he was raised up in the Spirit. Jesus was victorious and He conquered sin and death. He took our shame and unrighteousness so that we could also experience this victory. So the point of this passage is that Jesus suffered for our sins...Jesus rose victorious...Jesus proclaimed his victory over sin and death...and if we put our faith in him, we will experience the righteousness, redemption and salvation he offers us.

What part of the passage spoke most powerfully to you? The underlying theme of the passage is what really stood out to me. Even when things are brutal in this life...even when it seems like life is harder because of faith...even when it seems like you are being excluded or persecuted because of your faith in Christ - there is reason to rejoice! I know that sounds strange, but when we experience the brutalities of this fallen world, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus experienced them as well. Even when they were draining the life from his human body on the cross...he remained faithful to his mission to offer his life in place of ours. And he showed us through his resurrection that he has conquered sin and death. We do not have to fear what comes after this life is over, because we will be vindicated if we trust in the Lord. Yes, things can be very hard but we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus is victorious and we will one day experience the perfect community and creation that we were made for.

What kind of questions did this passage bring to mind? Well, there is the one huge, looming question that comes from this portion of scripture. What the heck is Peter talking about when he says that Jesus descends to preach to the "spirits" in prison? This is pretty much the only thing that people focus on when they read this section and that is unfortunate, because they are missing out on all the stuff we just talked about. Here are the three most commonly held up suggestions about what Peter is trying to tell us in verse 19: (1) Some believe that this is a picture of Jesus descending into hell to give sinners who never got a chance to hear the Gospel and opportunity to hear it and repent; (2) Some believe that the Spirit of Jesus (who as God is eternal and has always been around) was preaching the Gospel through the "prophet" Noah to the corrupt humans around him who were imprisoned by their faithlessness; (3) Some believe that Jesus in the spiritual realm proclaimed his victory over sin and death to the fallen angels before ascending into heaven to retake his position among the triune community of God. Based on the scriptures that come before and after this passage, the most likely explanation is the third (Peter described the fallen angels in 2 Peter 2:4ff). There is not enough contextual information to make a definitive claim to knowing exactly what is going on here, but they all share a central theme. Regardless of how you interpret this passage...Jesus conquered sin and death...we can trust in this fact and know that we will be vindicated in the world to come for our faith in Christ now. That is what really matters. Forget about whether or not people get another chance at hearing the Gospel after death...that might only make an excuse for us to put less effort into sharing the Gospel with people. Life here an now is better with Jesus and we need to let people know after death comes only to those who put their faith in Jesus and we need to let people know that - that is what matters!

What have I been challenged to do through this passage and what are the next steps for me in making that happen? Am I doing everything I can to proclaim the victory of Jesus in my life? Jesus conquered death himself, but he also gave you and I the ability to conquer sin and death in our own lives. He offers us new life - free of the death that sin brings in our lives...that freedom is beautiful...that forgiveness is awesome...are you sharing it with other people. We are not just following a bunch of rules so that we can save ourselves from hell...we are placing our faith in Christ so that we can be free from crippling sin right now! Eternal life starts now!!! It starts with our life here on earth and there are so many people that need to hear many people that are enslaved to corrupt lifestyles that are toxic to their souls. Even when things seem to be falling apart around us, we can rejoice in the fact that perfection is waiting for us at the end of this life. That is the Good News!!! And I need to be doing everything I can every day, to rejoice in that truth and to share it with other people. If we really believe in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, how could we not tell people about it?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Isaiah 53:1-6

What is the main point of this passage? This is a powerful prophecy about Jesus Christ. Isaiah is shockingly clear about the way that God came to earth in the flesh. He set His infinite power and glory aside and became a man. Not a man who was beautiful, powerful, eloquent...but a man who understood what it meant to be rejected and judged harshly by peers. This is astounding! Not only does God become one of the of the people on the margins of society...He also accepts unjust punishment - our punishment - so that we would be able to be found righteous (Like the passage from Romans 3 we looked at yesterday describes).

What part of the passage spoke most deeply to you? The fact that God understands...He fully understands what it means to be hurt. He understands what it means to be rejected. He understands what it means to be be be an receive unfair experience the garbage that comes from other peoples' sinful decisions. Isn't that amazing to think about? He gets us...He knows what we are going through! Have you ever experienced any of those things? Have you ever shouted to God about the cruelty of life on earth? He understands...He knows...He hurts alongside us. I just don't think our relationship with God would be the same if He had come to earth as the most beautiful, powerful human to ever exist...if He had forced the world to bow at His feet through the sheer power of His presence. See, somebody had to pay the price for the sinfulness that had perverted the entire world...and no single human or even the entire human race could offered the kind of payment God demanded. So He stepped into our shoes...He became on of us...He hurt like one of us...He went through the brutality of this fallen world lie one of us, and He was true to His nature - He never sinned. So out of His moral perfection, He could offer Himself as the sacrifice that He demanded for the sins of this broken world. That is what love looks like...that is the depth of God's love for you.

What do these verses challenge you to do and what steps do you need to take to meet that challenge in your life right now? I am challenged by this passage to be a more empathetic person. One of the key ingredients to the love of God, is that He was willing to get dirty...He was willing to step into our shoes and experience the brokenness of this world first hand. He knows what we have gone through...He has walked the path of humanity with perfection and shown us what to do to bring redemption to our screwed up lives. This passage challenges me to do the same with the people I come in contact with on a daily basis - my family, my friends, my youth group kids, and the rest of the people I meet in this crazy world. Before I judge people...before I write them off as "idiots" or "sinners" or whatever...I have to make sure that I step into their shoes, listen to their story, and try to understand where they are coming from. Every one of us has sin issues in our lives that have a lot to do with the experiences we have had on earth, and if we are willing to walk alongside another person before we write them of as "hopeless"...I believe that we can treat people with mercy and hopefully guide them towards the foot of the cross (The place that every one of us needs to be).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Romans 3:21-26

It really doesn't get much better than that, does it? I love this passage...such a great way to start out the day!!!

What is the main point of the passage? The main point of this passage is everything!!! It is what our future hope depends on. The problem: ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...every one of us. It started with Adam and Eve - they chose to throw away the glory of God that had been created in to them...every one of us has followed suit since then. So God being infinitely patient and just, chose not to destroy every living human...instead He waited for the perfect time to personally step into human history. Jesus came and lived out the glory of God in the flesh...He made himself the atoning sacrifice for our sins, so now ALL who believe will be made righteous through his death. ALL...isn't that such a glorious word here!!! ALL sinned and now ALL who believe will be forgiven. Thank you God for this powerful reminder today.

What part of this passage speaks most deeply to you? Is it cheating to say the whole thing? I have pretty good company on this one...Martin Luther (yeah, that one) considered this to be the central passage of the entire Bible! I think if anything really jumped out at me the most, it would be verse 22, where Paul writes, "...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe for there is no distinction." No matter who you matter what you have done...if you are willing to admit that you cannot save yourself and believe in the sacrifice of Jesus will be made will be saved! Such a comforting and powerful verse!

What kind of questions do you have about this passage? I don't really have any, but there was one thing I needed clarification on when I first started reading this verse years ago. What does the word propitiation mean (As used by the ESV)? It is a word that was borrowed from Greek language and literally meant "to turn away the anger of the gods." Greeks would sacrifice various things to their pagan gods in an effort to turn away the anger of gods that didn't exist. It is tragic to think that they were sacrificing and crying out to unmoving statues and changing nothing in their lives. However, Paul grabs hold of this word and redeems its meaning through the death of Jesus on the cross. God being purely good cannot do anything but go to war against evil...His very existence is the destroyer of evil. So God being patient and loving removed Himself from our presence so that we might one day be given the opportunity to once again be connected to Him through the salvation He was working out. God came to earth in the flesh as Jesus Christ, lived the perfect life (showed us what life is really supposed to look like) and then offered himself as the propitiation for our sins. He sacrificed himself to end the conflict between God and man. With our sins removed and righteousness given to us, we once again are able to enter into the presence of God and actually house the Spirit of God. Is that amazing or what?

What do these verses challenge you to do, and what steps do you need to take to follow through on that challenge? I am really challenged by verse 22 that I mentioned earlier. If this righteousness is made available to everyone who believes...then I have some work to do! Do I live every day of my life understanding that the people around me are being invited into this incredible relationship of freedom by God? Do I keep my eyes open and look for opportunities to share the truth of this amazing love to the people around me who desperately need it? I passed up on an opportunity to have a discussion about faith with a waiter the other day, because I was unsure of what he would think about my question to him (He had actually opened the door by saying he was "irreligious" - I wanted to ask why and didn't). If I truly take the truth of this passage seriously, I will not let something like sudden social anxiety keep me from trying to open a door for someone. Faith is truly backed up by the way we live our lives and I need to live out my faith more evidently.