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.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Genesis Chapter 1

Over the next two weeks we are gonna be making scriptural fly by of the entire Bible by looking at 10 passages that really lay out a picture of the Bible as God's love letter to humanity. Hope you enjoy it!

1:1 - In the first line of the the first few words...we get a glimpse into the nature and character of God. He creates. He is the Creator. God is missional...He wants to give Himself away. He forms an entire entire ecosystem on entire animal kingdom...the human that He can share His that He can share His that He can invite us to join in creating and loving with Him. Do you embody these characteristics as someone created in His image?

1:26 - Very famous verse. God says, "Let US make man in OUR image." This language is clearly plural in the Hebrew scriptures and it is the first foundational scripture that leads Christians to believing in the triune (three-part) nature of God. There is a plurality to God that is not clearly explained here...but that is quite real in its existence. God exists in the community of Himself with Father, Son and Spirit...they can create together because they are three persons of one holy entity. This is important for us to understand as Christians, because Jesus was here. From the very beginning...he created the heavens and the earth as part of the God-hood and driven by love he left that glory behind to come  down to earth to save us!

The second important part of this passage is the fact that all men and women are created in the image of God. You and me...we are image bearers for the Gd of everything! Do you let that determine the value which you give yourself? Do you let that truth guide how you are going to interact and love other people? All people should be treated with dignity and respect as God's image not forget that.

1:27 - Another important note. You will notice that God talks freely about making both male and female in His image. There is no delineation here about whether one of the sexes is better than the fact they are both held up as "good" with regard to the way that they reflect the image of God in their maleness and femaleness. There are aspects of God's character that are reflected by men and aspects of God's character that are reflected by women, so both are equally vital in presenting the beauty of God to the world. It is a shame that women have so often been relegated to second class in the cultures of the world, when clearly God's original intention was for men and women to work together beautifully to reflect godliness. Though we live in a fallen world, Christians should always fight to live out the truth of the world as it should be.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Romans 4:16-25

It is all about faith. Belief. Trust. Knowing that God brings life to the dead. He brings into existence things that did not exist before. I've seen it - haven't you? I have seen God bring life to people' s lives that were utterly dead...people who were roaming to world as walking zombies...empty...confused. I have seen God bring love into a heart, where no love existed before that. I have experienced God bringing life and new creation to my own life. Do you believe that? Do you have faith?

Abraham placed his faith in God...Abraham believed that God would make him a father of many nations even though he was old and his wife was barren. He trusted God and he was counted as righteous. And Paul tells us that these words are not only reserved for Abraham. These words are also reserved for you and I! Do you ever think about that? Paul is saying that we are able to experience that same righteousness by faith that was experienced by Abraham the father of Judaism and Christianity. If you choose only to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was crucified for our sins and rose from the will be counted as righteous. You will be honored as the sons and daughters of God!

Rule following cannot save you. Church attendance cannot save you. Tithing 10% of your income cannot save you. Service projects cannot save you. If we were judged by our actions and our ability to follow God's Law, we would all be found to be unrighteous. But if we choose instead to focus on the amazing grace of God...if we choose instead to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins...if we choose to place our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ and the redemptive work he is doing in the world - we will be saved! And through that righteousness...through that salvation...our actions will become more God-honoring...we will seek godly community...we will become exceedingly generous and servant hearted. But faith comes first. You believe your way into good do not work your way in faith.