Thursday, April 26, 2012

Philippians 2:1-11

One of my favorite passages in the Bible!

Think about Paul's challenge in verse 1...IF you have found encouragement in Christ...IF you have found comfort in his love...IF you have experience connection to the Spirit...affection...sympathy....IF you have experienced any of these things it should change the way you live you life. And Paul is a great communicator...he knows that you have experienced these things...he knows that you have been touched by the infinite wonders of a relationship with Jesus Christ. And so he challenges each of us...if this faith you claim means anything to you - SEEK UNITY! Christian should be driven by the love that has been poured out on them from the forgiveness that has been offered to the purpose that has been given to them, to love one another. To do everything they can to have pure authentic community with fellow Christians and to do everything they can to bring people outside of the faith into that community!

But what about the things they said to me? But what about the ways that they hurt me? She gossiped about me! He lied to me! I can't stand them! I hate to break it to you...but it's not really about you. As much as we want it to be...the universe does not revolve around us...certainly the Kingdom of God does not revolve around us. And if we want to be a part of the incredible things that God is doing...if we want to continue to walk side by side with our incredible savior...then we are commanded to seek unity at all cost. We have all been hurt...we have all been rejected...we have all been sinned against - what does holding a grudge do to make that go away? Nothing! When we refuse to forgive, the only person we are hurting is ourselves. All we are doing is allowing the person who has hurt us to continue to have control over our lives. Paul is telling us, "If following Jesus means anything to you - then do everything you can to build unity in the Body of Christ." God knows everything about being hurt, rejected, and sinned against...He has experience all of those things by my hands...and yours. We have done all of those things to God, yet He responded to us with forgiveness and salvation. God so desperately wanted to redeem His community with us that He was willing to die for our sins!!! Maybe we can consider treating people the same way that He has treated offering radical, undeserved forgiveness for the sake of community and love.

And Paul drives his point home by explaining the depth of the love of Jesus Christ...though he was in the form of God...though he was a part of the Trinity...though he was the creator and sustainer of the universe...he made himself nothing. Jesus left the glory of heaven behind and crammed himself into a man suit. He experienced weakness, suffering, hurt...he washed the feet of people he created...he was mocked and crucified by the same. God made Himself NOTHING! Read that again. Let that sink in. That is how much you are loved. If that love means anything to you...if that sacrifice means anything to you...if that forgiveness means anything to will live to honor it. Are you willing to make yourself nothing for the sake of community and the sake of the Kingdom?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

John 13:31-35

I am going to guess that the disciples were just as confused at this point as many people today who read this passage are. Jesus has just bent down and washed his disciples feet (something that was relegated to servants)...He has told them that there is a traitor among them...and is yet again in the process of telling them that he will die. His death will be slow, tortuous and brutal. He will be mocked, beaten, whipped, kicked, punched, clubbed,  nailed to a cross and stabbed. He knows the way that he is going to die...yet look at how he describes it in verses 31-35. He says that he is about to be glorified! He said now is the time that I head to my glorification...a place where you cannot follow me...death. And he continues on by saying that God will be glorified through that horrific death as well. How is that possible? How is a torturous death the pinnacle of glory in the life of Jesus? How is being crucified by the people you created a crowning achievement for the ruler of everything? Because it is in this moment that God shows us the infinite power of love. He steeped into the broken mess of this world and said, "Even though you deserve to be punished for the destruction you have brought to your lives and to this creation...I love you so much, I am going to die for you." There has never been anything more glorious...there has never been any love more deep...this is the moment in which God shows what a person of love can truly do with their actions. God is love. Love sacrificed itself on the cross for our sake. That is what Jesus means when he walks of his glorification on the cross. In that moment he showed us how different he is than demand for justice...he simply showed us that love wins.

We get so caught up in getting respect and being treated right and receive what we deserve...we get so angry when things don't go our way...we treat other people with such judgment, while demanding mercy for ourselves. That is not love. That is self-centeredness...that is self-worship. Jesus tells us exactly what it looks like to truly be one of his disciples. He says that we are to love other people like he loved us. And what does that look like? Read the opening paragraph again...that's what it looks like. The love that Jesus has for us was displayed on the cross for all to see...does your life reflect that sacrificial, merciful, glorious, powerful love? It should...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Acts 1:1-11

In the beginning of the book of Acts, we get some insight into the time that Jesus spent on earth after he rose from the grave and we witness the birth of the church. We know from this text that Jesus spent forty days with the disciples teaching them about the Kingdom of God. He was giving them the foundation they would need, to continue to be the pioneers of this new Kingdom...a kingdom that was not focused on military or economic power, but a kingdom fueled by devotion to God and humble service. Before Jesus ascends into heaven, he instructs his followers to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Which is described in chapter 2).

1:6 - I love the disciples because they remind me so much of myself...of us...they are so human! Jesus spent forty days teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven and at the end of it...they just want to know when he is going to make Israel a world power again! They have set their sites so low...they have totally missed the point. Jesus is calling them to something so much much more magnificent. They wanted the restoration of Israel. While God was working on the redemption of the world! Do you see a little discrepancy there. That is like having a cold, dirt covered hot dog you found on the ground, instead of a perfectly seasoned Filet Mignon cooked medium rare right off the grill (Mmmmmm!). I think we do this too...we often pray timid prayers and set the bar too low on what God has called us to do with our lives. We set our sites on being "good," when we should be setting our sites on joining God in the incredible, miraculous, mind-blowing, mercy-filled, powerful work that He is doing in the world. Don't sell yourself are a totally unique person who God has created to do a ministry that really only you can do! And don't sell God short...He infinitely more than able to provide you with the strength and wisdom you need to live boldly in your faith.

1:8 - Where is my focus? How about you - where is your focus? Are we caught up in the minutia of our daily existences? Are we focused almost totally on our own comfort...our own success...our own happiness? Are we focused only on our congregation...on our church...on how it makes us feel...on experiencing warm fuzzy feeling from being there? I read this verse and I hear the command of Jesus. He does not say, "Hey guys, will you be my witnesses all over the world...I could really use the help?" No, he says, "You WILL be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth." He called them to minister to their communities, to their countries, to their enemies and to the whole world. Basically he is saying that they are the plan...we are the plan. Yes, God is at work powerfully all over the world...yes, the Holy Spirit of God is shaping the hearts and minds of people everywhere...yes, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was for the sins of the whole world...but you and I, we are called to be the witnesses! We are called to be the ones who live our the resurrection...who live out the redemptive work of God for all to see. Are we listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He calls us to go into all the world?

1:11 - Then Jesus is gone. He ascends into heaven. He died. He rose from the grave. He taught them as much as he could in forty days...and then he left. The disciples were totally awestruck - wouldn't you be? Have you ever seen anyone fly off into the heavens? I haven't. They are just standing there, staring into the sky...silent...shocked...confused...scared...amazed. We don't know exactly what is going through their minds, because the text doesn't tell us, but they may have wanted to stay. They may have wanted to hang out wait for Jesus to return. They may have wanted to build a special monument there to celebrate the ascension of delight in the mystery and the power of this inexplicable moment. Well, whatever is going through their minds at that moment...the bubble is burst. Two angels appear before them and ask, "What are you goobers doing staring at the sky? Have you never seen clouds before? Come one, let's get a move have work to do?" And they went. Don't let yourself get so caught up in the big moments of your faith journey - the events, the worship services, the special mission trips - that you forget about the mission that you are called to live out on a daily basis. Don't spend your life staring back at huge events, wishing that you could go back there...the journey with Christ has only just begun...GO! DO! ACT! BE!

Friday, April 20, 2012

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Great passage for me to read today...great reminder! Generosity is not just about giving money to somebody. Generosity is a way of life. Generosity is an outlook. Generosity is a worldview. Read verse 8 again. That describes the heart of the matter...if you find true contentment in God...if you believe and live out the fact that God is sufficient enough to meet all your needs (And so much more!!!) frees you t live generously. When you know in your heart that God is enough, then you don't develop that sinful obsession with material wealth that so many of us have. When you trust that God will provide everything you need, then you don't hold to the things of this world that so many have convinced themselves are "essential." Understanding that God is enough, frees us to frees us to follow the greatest commandment by loving God and others more than frees us to focus on pouring out good works in this broken world because we are no longer deceived into believing that the things of this world can meet our needs (They can't if you haven't figured that out yet!).

If it is not enough to know that we can be generous because of God's sufficiency to meet our needs, verse 9 drives home another reason that we should live generously...the nature of God. Look at that beautiful verse! God distributes freely (no strings attached)...God gives to the poor...God exudes righteousness. Paul gives us a window into the heart of God...Paul shows us part of what drives God and what is a major part of His nature - generosity and care for others. It seems clear to me that anyone who considers themselves a follower of God should strive to embody this character as well. If God gives generously to those in need without any expectations of reciprocation...shouldn't we? If God is righteous in everything He does...shouldn't we work towards a lifestyle of righteousness (And by "righteousness" I do not mean self-righteousness, or acting like your better than everyone else, I mean right relationships with God and others)?

Finally, the last portion of the verse from verse 10 really jumped out at me today. It says, "And increase the harvest of you righteousness." There are many church leaders out there in the world who like to make promises to people...promises that say, "If you give money t the will we be rewarded with greater financial gain." That is not what I read when I look at scriptures that deal with generosity and giving in the Bible. Will you be richly blessed through generosity? Yes. Does it mean that you will be richer in terms of worldly wealth? Absolutely not. Mandy and I give a significant portion of our money to the church and humanitarian organizations each year, and guess what? We don't miraculously have more money than we started with at the end of the year! Part of faithful giving is making a sacrifice. Part of a lifestyle of generosity is living within the financial means of that generosity. We do not give because we expect God to give us more money back in return. We give because we know that God is good...we know that God will provide...we know that God's nature is generous...and because it helps to keep our focus on what really matters - God and others. Paul makes no bones about the reality of giving...he does not say that God will pay you back ten times in financial gains...Paul says that God will increase the harvest of righteousness in your life. And I don't want to sound insincere here, but that is the gift that really matters! We are promised deep spiritual gains...we are promised deeper levels of righteousness as we join God in generously pouring out love into the world...we are taking steps towards becoming more like our Father in heaven. And those things are more valuable than all the money in the world!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Proverbs 3:5-12

Wow! Good stuff from Proverbs...

v.5 - What does it look like to trust in the Lord with all of your heart? It is followed up by "lean not on your understanding," so I am guessing that trusting the Lord is about having a healthy distrust of your sinful human nature. There is a part of every one of us that is utterly focused on selfishness...a part of us that is whispering lies in our heart that lead us away from God. To trust God with my whole heart, I need to let go of those dark corners of idolatry in my heart that distrust God because they want to be worshipped. See, there is a part of me that wants to be worshipped...that wants to sit on the throne...that wants to be constantly served...that part of me does not like submission to God. That part does not like trusting God, because it knows that God's plans are not always centered around what is easiest for Brandon. Today God, please help me to offer every part of myself to You...please help me to remove myself from the throne that belongs to You. You ways are higher and better and perfect, and I want to have the freedom to trust you completely...please help me get there.

v. 9 - So often we focus on using whatever wealth we have to honor ourselves, don't we? I mean, do you really think of it like this? Do you really think to yourself on a regular can I use the money I am making to honor God in the most significant way? When promotions and money making opportunities come up, are we saying,."Wow, this will enable me to serve God and help others even more effectively."? Let's be honest - that's not what we are thinking...we are thinking, "Now I can get that bigger I can get that newer car...SHOPPING SPREE!" How much would ours pending habits change if we chose to view our wealth as seed money that God had given us to impact His kingdom? For Christians that really is what it is, isn't it? We get so possessive of our money and possessions...but in reality, they are not really ours and they are not eternal - why are we so obsessed with them? We need to be asking ourselves every time we pay bills...every time we budget...every time we are about to spend money - how can I honor God with what I have been given?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Christians are all ministers...everyone of us. We have this ministry because of the mercy of God. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us...and when he did that, he made those who place their faith in him righteous. Because we have been given such incredible forgiveness and hope by God through Jesus is only natural that we should want to offer that amazing hope to others. We are emboldened by the love of God to show that same kind of love to others. Our very lives - the way we live, act, talk, interact with others should be preaching the Gospel message every day. That is what the ministry of Christ followers should look like.

Christians do not need to lie...they do not need to coerce...they do not need to manipulate to share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - the Gospel speaks for itself. Instead of trying to argue people into the kingdom of God, we should refuse to be like the rest of the world (that will do anything to "win," no matter how underhanded) and we should live out the truth of salvation in every aspect of our lives. By boldly and confidently holding to the peace and hope that comes through the truth of what Jesus has done for us...we are living as ministers...we are preaching the Gospel. If the sacrifice of Jesus truly matters to your life, you will take every opportunity you get to speak truthfully about the difference that God has made in your life.

There will be some people who refuse to listen to what you have to say...there will be some people who think that your belief in Jesus is a weakness and that you believe in a fairytale. But they have been blinded by the lies of the ruler of this fallen world. The evil one is doing everything he can to keep people away from the truth. He wants people enslaved...he wants people separated from the love of God. Those who buy into the lies of the accuser will not be able to see the beautiful truth of the Gospel. They will choose instead to wallow in hopelessness without any solid answers...they will run from the light and try to find fulfillment in the darkness of this world...they will worship the self and find that there is no more pitiful god. This is the heartbreaking truth of the world that we live in...and this is why that we as Christians must do everything we can to bring light into this darkness. We must do everything we can to honor the sacrifice of Jesus. We must do everything we can to live out the peace, hope, love, and mercy that we have found at the foot of the cross.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mark 10:35-45

James and John come up to Jesus like little kids wanting to pull some kind of scam on their parents. Any of you parents out there...have you ever had this happen? You child comes up to you and wants you to agree to something before they have even told you what it is? "Hey Dad, can you promise me you'll say yes to what I'm about to say?" No parent in their right mind would ever say yes in that situation, because they know that their kid is probably asking for something that they know is a little sketchy. When James and John walk up to Jesus, they know that they are crossing the line of appropriateness. There are twelve disciples and these two want to get a better spot in leadership when Jesus "takes over the world," so they ask him - "Rabbi, will you do whatever we ask you to do right now?" This move highlights the immaturity of James and John, and their misunderstanding about what it really meant to follow Jesus. It had to be a pretty frustrating conversation for Jesus, because they weren't getting the picture...they were motivated by selfishness...they wanted to know what they would eventually get out of their relationship with Jesus. I wonder...are we much different? Am I following Jesus because of what I get out of the arraignment? Am I a Christian so that I can sacrifice my money to serve the Kingdom of God...or is it just about feeling good and staying out of hell?

Jesus, obviously, does not agree to do whatever they want him to do without finding out what it is first (Though I'm sure he knew...but he knew a teachable moment when he saw one!). He says, "So what is it you want?" And they answer back, "We want to sit and your left and right hand in your kingdom!" Basically what they are saying is that they want to be intimately involved in the new world order...they want to be the co-vice-presidents of Jesus' Empire. And I'm guessing Jesus hurts for them a little here...they just don't get it...they are entrenched in the power systems of the world and do not understand that his kingdom is so radically different. They actually expect Jesus to lead a revolution against the Romans and to basically take over the entire world and they want to be a huge part of the leadership structure. Jesus quietly says to them, "You don't know what you are asking. Do you really think you can drink the cup that I drink and be baptized as I am going to be baptized?" They excitedly say that they can...but they are still mired in confusion. This is no King's cup overflowing with the finest wines...the cup of Jesus is the cup of sacrifice. It is the cup of is the cup of violence...the cup of torture...the cup of shame...everything that will be poured out on him on the cross. His baptism is not a kingly is the baptism of death...he will go into the ground for three days - DEAD...he will be baptized in the wrath of God as he takes on the sins of the world. James and John don't understand any of this, but they will. Jesus says to them, "You are right, you will drink my cup and experience my baptism, but you don't understand God's leadership structure." He knows that his disciples will eventually understand what it means to follow Jesus...they will eventually be killed for their faith in him...the will be baptized with fire and drink the cup of persecution.

And as all the other disciples join in the conversation arguing about who should be the highest authority amongst them in the coming kingdom...Jesus turns the tables on them and describes for them what leadership looks like in the Kingdom of God. You see, God's view of power and strength is completely opposite of the world's understanding of power and strength. These men believed wholly in the power of...might, power, authority, privilege, intelligence, wealth, etc. Jesus shattered their perceptions of strength by telling them that the greatest men and women in the Kingdom of God will be those who were the least. Those who will be seen as leaders in the eyes of God, are the people who considered themselves slaves...the people who relentlessly laid their own desires down to serve those who were around them. The most important members of Jesus' kingdom are those who never consider themselves important...those who focus only on serving God and others with the days that they have...those who are driven by their utter and complete commitment to THE WAY. I'm guessing the arguments of the disciples died away pretty quickly at that point. I'm guessing there was an awkward silence as their worldviews were completely shattered again by the radical Rabbi they had come to follow. How about you and I? Are we clear in our understanding of what authentic Christ-like leadership looks like? Do we boldly ask God to give us strength and wisdom to find achieve...or do we have the guts to ask God to make us less that He might be made even more glorious in our lives?

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Corinthians 15:50-58

"Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" - What does that mean? We are all flesh and blood...does that mean we cannot be a part of God's kingdom? No, that's not what that means. Scripture tells is that as followers of Christ, we are the sons and daughters of God...through the sacrifice of Jesus we qualify to inherit the kingdom of our Father. Paul is giving us some deep insight into the reality of existence which we often ignore. We are living in the flesh...we are living in the finite...we are living in the perishable world. Yet there is a deeper, richer reality that exists...there is true reality that exists in the presence of God. A reality that is spiritual...a reality that is infinite...a reality that is imperishable. Because we cannot fully see and experience this reality now, we usually choose not to think about it (It isn't much fun to ponder our extreme frailty!). But the fact is - we should be living for the eternal now. We should be practicing for forever...we should spend our time, creativity, strength, intelligence working side by side with God to cultivate the eternal in life...not the perishing. If you and I want to truly be a part of the Kingdom of God, we cannot serve the flesh. We cannot live for things that are passing away. We cannot waste the God given time we have on earth chasing the lies of this world and material things that we cannot take with us into true reality.

"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" - What does that mean? Paul is looking forward to a future when the end has come...the final trumpets blare (This could be metaphorical, but if there really are trumpets I imagine them sounding like the horn at Helm's Deep in Two Towers the movie - imagine that sound blaring throughout the earth...that would be really cool!)...Jesus returns and there will be some people who are still living on the earth that have no experienced death - they have never gone to "sleep." Regardless of whether you are dead or living when the end comes, the children of God who have chosen to serve the Kingdom of God instead of the kingdoms of this world will put on immortality. We will finally understand what life is really supposed to be life...we will be fully connected to our Creator God and we will out on the imperishable perfected flesh we were designed to wear before we brought corruption into ourselves. Needless to say - it will be very very good!!!

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" - Again, what does that mean? It sounds really cool, but it also sounds strange. Isn't the sting of death, the fact that you are DEAD!? Why is the sting of death...sin? Isn't the law something beneficial that God gave us? Why is the law the power of sin? Think of this verse in the terms of an actual scorpion sting. When a scorpion stings a person, what are they doing to it? They are injecting it with poison. If enough poison is injected into a person, the result is death. Like a scorpion sting, spiritual death is caused by rebelling against the Law if God. See the power of sin is the law...when we break the law we have sinned. When we sin, we bring poison and corruption into our beings, which leads to spiritual death. So while death and separation from God is the end result...the sting is actually the sin that poisons our lives and brings about that death. But that is not the end of the story...PRAISE GOD!!! Jesus came to earth and found every human being writhing in spiritual agony...full of poison and the throes of death that sin had put them in...and then on the cross he drew the poison from their bodies (from our bodies) into himself...he suffered the agony of separation from God...suffered the anguish of our sin and the shame that came with it...he died so that we could experience real life. Thank you Jesus! Don't make a mockery of his sacrifice by living for the for eternity now!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Romans 12:1-2

Verse 1: Paul is painting a picture for us about what being a Christian looks like. He appeals to us, his audience, begging us to listen to the truth that he is trying to convey. Because of the infinite mercies of God, we can present ourselves as living sacrifices to Him. He has shown us mercy...forgiven us...taken our shame, humiliation, punishment - out of love...and that loving mercy should transform our lives. Now we are able to live as sacrifices that are acceptable to God...Jesus has sanctified us so that we can boldly say, "God, here is my is yours...I sacrifice my will for yours." That is faithful, bold Christian living right there! So many of us think Christianity is about going to church on Sunday, occasionally reading our bibles, doing the odd service project...but those things in themselves do not constitute an authentic Christian life. Do you understand that? Paul tells us exactly what is acceptable in the eyes of God...everything. He wants it all...everyday...every moment...every word....every action...every interaction with others...God wants our lives to be lived in a state of worship. From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep (Heck, even in our dreams), Christianity is about sacrificing the self for the is about crucifying the sinful death within us and living our the resurrection of is about refusing to bring more hell to this already twisted world and instead working with God to bring redemption. I believe that is what Paul is talking about in this passage and I absolutely believe that is what you and I should be working towards. Does that sound crazy to you? Some people would look at what I write and think it sounds can God expect everything? All the time? Why is He so selfish? Well, first off, He created everything...He holds everything together on a moment to moment basis - so He is entitled to have some pretty stinkin' high expectation wouldn't you agree? But the standards of God are not about selfishness - they are not about ego...God is perfection personified...He is the Word...He is the source of all knowledge...He knows that He is awesome, and he doesn't NEED you to tell Him that by offering your life as a living sacrifice. What He also knows is that you were created for community with Him...He knows that you were created to operate at your highest and best when you are living in worship...God calls you to this living sacrifice standard because He knows it is what you were made for. It is better for you! You are a living sacrifice, but you aren't really sacrificing anything that was good for you anyway. You are cutting the destructive, compulsive, toxic, selfish garbage out of your life and choosing to live the life that you were created to live. That is the beauty of the call of a living is the only way to experience life!

Verse 2: I know so many people - adults and students alike - who are in an utter state of confusion about what they are supposed to be doing with their lives. There are so many people in this this world...who want to know who they are...who want to know what they are supposed to be doing...who want to know what God's will for their life is. Paul gives us a clear pathway to finding the answers that our souls are craving. It starts out with an in your face command that usually ends most peoples' attempts to seek out the will of God...Paul says, "Do not be conformed to this world!" There it is...step one in determining who you are and what you are supposed to be doing. Don't be conformed to this world! It is that simple, though unfortunately we all know that it isn't that simple. We have been shaped and twisted by the lies of this world. We have bought in - hook, line and sinker - to the ways of the world. We are addicted to them...we are consumed with them...we cannot break away from them. We endlessly chase after the things that this world tells us are important: beauty, wealth, achievement, sex, pleasure, drunkenness, material goods, success, intelligence, accolades, puppy love, security...and yet in the end, when we get these things...they are never enough. They do not satisfy. They leave us with an emptiness inside that is longing for more...but all we do is continuing the never ending chase for fulfillment from the things of this world because that is all we know. Because we have been conformed to the pattern of this world, and we wonder why we are so lost and confused. We wonder why it is so hard for us to hear God's voice and understand what He wants for our lives. Paul promises us that if you have the audacity to refuse to buy in to the lies of this world...if you refuse to become another brainwashed zombie shambling from one worldly fix to the next...if you refuse to conform to the will know what the will of God is. You will know what is good and acceptable and perfect. Isn't that what you want? So start to transform your mind through the Word of God. Replace the destructive voices of this world with the world-shatteringly powerful truth of God. You will find what you are looking for.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I John 2:15-17

What is the main point of this passage? Don't love the world! It is pretty clear and concise isn't it? Don't love the world. But what does that really mean? Does it mean that you are supposed to be hate everything about life...the people around you...the fallen creation that we live in? No, that's not what it means. Does it mean that you are supposed to live a joyless, cynical life here while you stoically wait for the eternal life that is to come? No, it doesn't mean that either. Did it seem like Jesus hated to world when he was bringing healing and hope to messed up sinful people any time he got the chance? Did he seem like he was just waiting around to die while he was modeling true life and bringing revolutionary change everywhere he went? So what does it mean to NOT love the world? I think to get there we need to define two important terms in this passage - "love" and "world." I know that many people associate love with warm fuzzy feelings, but I have always defined love as a commitment (By "always" I am referring to my adult I was not setting up meaningful definitions of love at three years old). Love says that even when there are times my wife and I do not like each other (I can be rather annoying at times) - we are absolutely committed to one another. Attraction and momentary feelings do not impact the covenant relationship of love that we have. When John writes the word "world," he is not talking about creation. He is not talking about humanity. When he uses the term "world" he is referring to rebellious human nature and the lies that have come about because of that nature. Throughout scripture godliness and worldliness are held up as two warring worldviews. The world that John refers to is about pride, idolatry, instant gratification, self worship and it is openly rebellious against the way of God. When John says that we are not supposed to love the world, he is giving us a very important challenge. He is saying do not commit yourself to the ways of this world. Do not sell out and give your self over to idolizing other people or things...this kind of love for twisted lies will only lead to ruin in our lives ad in our souls. So the point of this passage is that we should not anchor ourselves to finite things that are truly meaningless in the big picture of eternity. Instead we should love God and commit ourselves to living for the eternal right now.

What part of this passage spoke most deeply to you? I have read this verse many, many times...I have heard it preached on...seen it quoted in books. But for some reason, I just can't get it completely through my thick skull!!! After all these years of ministry...of Christianity...of pouring over scripture...I still find myself drawn in to the lies of this world. I still find myself listening to the whispers that tell me that what I possess in material goods really matters. I still find myself giving the desires of the flesh more importance than they really deserve. Is sex great is a committed marital relationship? Heck yes! Should I allow my desire for it to totally dominate my thoughts and control my level of contentment? No! I know the ideals of the world are toxic...I have experienced the corrupted life that committed to these ideals brings about...but I still struggle with keeping my focus on the eternal versus the temporary physical world I live in daily. And when I say eternal...I don't mean that I am just waiting around for Jesus to come back so I can be done with this world...I don't mean that I am just waiting to die so I can finally get to heaven. Living for eternity right now for me, is about living with is about living to create disciples of is about practicing the worship of God in everything I is about joining God in the redemptive work that He is doing in the world. These things are so good, and when I am living for the eternal my life is so much better and so much more fulfilling, but I still struggle to maintain my focus. I think it has a lot to do with what I am allowing to pour into my life on a daily basis. I make it a point to regularly read scripture, but for the most part there are a lot more messages from the "world" pouring into my brain from TV, the Internet, radio, movies, etc. than there are from God's Word. Of course it is going to be a struggle to remember to live for the eternal when I am allowing myself to be constantly bombarded with the meaningless. I have got to start cutting out the influx of lies and focusing more fully on dwelling in the TRUTH.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Matthew 6:25-33

What is the main point of this passage? Well, it's pretty obvious isn't it? Jesus says it about a hundred times in the passage (slight exaggeration)...DON'T WORRY! That is the point isn't it. It is so simple and straightforward, but it is something that is so difficult for us to make into a reality. The depth of this point is beyond just "good advice" from Jesus. Is it better to live your life as worry free as possible? Yes. Is it better for your health...better for your sanity? Yes. All of that is true and simply telling us not to worry for the sake of our quality of life would have been enough, but Jesus point goes much deeper than your happiness. Worry is a faith issue, not just a quality of life issue. Jesus makes it quite clear by pointing to nature - he says, "Look at the flowers and the birds, do they worry? No of course not. God has created them and holds them together and provides nutrients for them so that they can live and grow." Flowers and birds, whether they know it or not cognitively, understand somewhere in there make-up that they exist because God allows it...they exist because God is sustaining them...they are a part of the creation that God cares for on a daily basis. When human beings like you and I decide to worry...decide to allow things that are out of our control to control us...we are acting out of unfaithfulness. We are saying that we do not trust God to take care of things. We are saying that we have a better plan...that we have a better timetable...that things should have gone another way, and these are things that are born out of distrusting God. That is the main point of this passage really. If you and I claim to be followers of Jesus Christ (Which I hope you do), then that means that we must trust that God knows what He is doing in the world. We have so many more important things to be doing than wasting our time, emotions, energy and soul on worry!!! We should be actively working on a daily basis to discern God's will and the redemptive work that He is doing in the world and joining Him in that!

What part of this passage spoke most deeply to you? I have been taking care of a small flower garden in my back yard for a few weeks now. If this shatters the ultra-manly picture of me you have in your head...I am sorry, but it is quite enjoyable. Every day as I go out and water the garden and pull out weeds, I see the flowers and it is easy for me to become numb to their beauty. I see them over and over, and they look pretty much the same as they did the day before and I begin to lose the awe I should have for these beautiful flowers. If I get down close and really look at them...they are amazing. Have you ever taken the time to stare at the petal of a flower? Really looked at it? They are so soft and intricately can see how the colors fade from one unnamed shade to the can see the delicate and minuscule veins that keep nutrients flowing into the petal to prolong its is almost unbelievable that such a thing of beauty exists (It is unbelievable that it came about accidentally through a chaotic explosion an almost infinite number of years ago). And think about this...that is just a flower. A flower. Billions of flowers bloom and die probably every day around the world. Think about the care and the creativity God put into making you. Every human being who has ever lived is completely and utterly unique. There has never been anyone exactly like you - ever! There has never been anyone exactly like me - ever! Do you think about that truth? God made us into the people we are today for a purpose...yeah we have been through some rough things...yeah we have experienced the brokenness of this world from time to time, but even those terrible things we have been through have been used by God to shape us into the who we are right now. Don't let yourself become numb to the creativity and beauty that exists within you because you see yourself every day...because you have lived so many days that they all start running together. Remember to see the uniqueness that exists in you and ask God to show you what you are supposed to be doing for His kingdom. Why would you and I waste our time on worry, when we have a chance to join God in living out the adventure we were created for?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hebrews 2:14-18

What is the main point of this passage? This passage is full of some rich theological imagery, that is important for us to understand in the big scheme of God's love and dealings with human kind. Because humanity is made of flesh and blood, Jesus had to become fully human - fully flesh and blood to become the necessary sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Animals did not work, because though they are flesh and blood, they are not human. Humans destroyed the world through sinful rebellion, and the only just payment for their folly can be paid through human sacrifice (Ex. It is not justice for another person to die in the place of a mass murderer - the offender has to pay the price to bring about justice). So God, in His infinite love left the glory of heaven behind and became a man...a fully flesh and blood...Jesus Christ. He became flesh so that he could die on the cross to free us of the slavery of the free us from the grip of sin and death. And though he was wholly human (And still God at the same time - don't ask me how...that is a God question!)...and though he faced every temptation that you and I have faced in our lives...he remained pure and never sinned. So you and I can know fully that we have a God who loves us that deeply...we have a God who knows what we are going through...we have a God who intimately understands how brutal this can be...we have a God who showed us how to live in the midst of a fallen world...and we have a God who died to pay the price for our sins. If that doesn't give you hope for the future and an understanding of how valuable you are to God...I can't help you!

What spoke to you most deeply about this passage? Verse 18 just jumps off the pages of my bible and burns itself into my soul. He himself has suffered...God, the perfect creator of the world...left perfection to get Himself dirty in the muck and mire of the world His people perverted...and allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured, and crucified by people who exist only through His power. He was tempted...we think that we are going through things that nobody else understands...we think that the struggles we have are more difficult than others...we think that people cannot understand what we are going through...but God knows exactly what we are feeling. He experienced it...He was tempted in every way that we are...He was infinitely powerful and refused to use that power to save Himself from humiliation at the hands of created beings because of His great love for us. He understands. We you are hurting, when you are lost, when you are tempted, when you are confused...He understands! Have you ever been loved like that by another person...let me answer that for you have not! Let the love of God fill you. Let God's love be the driving force behind the life you live. Do everything you can on a daily basis to enter into the presence of the one and only God who wanted so badly to be in a relationship with you that He suffered and died to pay your debt.