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Monday, February 26, 2007

A Week With No Posts

To the faithful few who read my ponderings I am giving you a week of vacation (at least from reading my thoughts). After a time of prayer and worship this morning I decided that I needed a week free from extra distractions (I still have my responsibilities that I need to attend to) so I can focus on my life and devote myself to really pursuing the life God created me to live. It is so easy to allow ourselves to become distracted and in the process allow the opportunities God has placed in our lives to slip away. Giving up blogging is a huge thing for me, I love doing it, but it has also become one of my biggest distraction. So goodbye for now and I hope that you will stop by next week to see what God has being doing in my life.

Choosing God's Path

“There are no shortcuts to obedience of faith with God! Either your turn to Him for counsel and obey what He says, or you make your choice in what seems right to you!” ~ Henry Blackaby; Created to be God’s Friend

We have a very limited perspective of the world. If we are honest we would admit that we are far more ignorant about what is happening around us. This is not an ignorance of choice or laziness, but of reality. The body in which we live is confined to one place in time, we simply cannot know all of what is happening around us, and what we do know is colored by other people’s perception.

This reality makes it impossible for us to fully understand what is best for our lives and the lives of others. Something that might seem right at the moment may, in fact, have lasting effects in the future.

Take for example Joseph. We read about this man of faith in the Old Testament. We know that while he was the favorite son of Jacob, tragedy was part of Joseph’s life. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit, and finally years later Joseph’s faithfulness pays off when he is made second-in-command in Egypt.

During his time as a slave, Joseph was a young man at the time, he was approached by his master’s wife in attempt to get him to sleep with her. Joseph was alone in Egypt, no family or accountability partners. There is no guarantee that he will be able to marry, and this type of relationship was expected for slaves, as long as it was kept secret. There was sufficient reason why beginning a sexual affair with Potiphar’s wife would seem to be in Joseph’s best interest.

What stood in Joseph’s way was his commitment to God. While it might have been in Joseph the slave’s best interest to sleep with the wife of Potiphar, it was not in Joseph the Chosen One’s best interest. Now this is pure speculation since this is not what happened, but I believe that if Joseph would have given into the temptation that he would have remained a slave, and while he may have remained a favorite slave, that would have been his lot in life.

While the immediate consequence of Joseph’s decision to reject the advances of Potiphar’s wife seemed to cause his life to be more difficult: from being the head slave in Potiphar’s house to prison, it was the route that led him to accomplish the task that God had for him. Joseph had no idea of what God had in store for him, but Joseph committed his life to God and God’s law and this allowed Joseph to discover the purpose God had for his life.

We will never discover what God wants us to do if we never commit ourselves to following God: obeying His commands. Only when we begin to live a life of faith, trusting and obeying what God has told us, will we find the meaning for our lives. We cannot see all ends for our vision is limited by time and space. God knows exactly what is going to happen and He provides us with choices to guide us down the road He wants us to travel. God’s Way is the best way, even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Our way will not only keep us from experiencing what God has planned for us, but it will also lead to death. Only God’s way will lead to significance and a life that is beyond our dreams.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Thoughts on Life

It is one of those nights when I just can't fall asleep. I have been tossing and turning in bed for an hour, but I just can't fall asleep, even though I am dog tired. Why can't I fall asleep? Because I keep thinking about life.

I think about how life hasn't turned out the way I wanted it to. I am so far away from the life I wanted it isn't even funny. In some aspects this is a good thing. There are times when I love the fact that I am a bachelor, I am not intimately responsible for anyone else's life but my own. I enjoy the quietness of anonymity. There was a time when I thought it would be cool to be famous, to be a celebrity, but those days are past. I like being able to blend into the background.

As much as I like the single life there are times when it gets down right lonely. It takes a special individual to forsake the call for an intimate relationship with the opposite sex, and I am not sure that I am quite special enough. I cannot ignore the intense desire of my heart to have female companionship, to be married.

I love to preach, but to be in a small church struggling to survive was not my idea of an ideal ministry. This is hard work and it sure isn't very glamorous. I am not getting any calls to preach at the North American Christian Convention or any other conference. I guess not very many people are interested in what a guy at a church of 40 has to say.

You know what? Even though my life hasn't turned out the way I dreamed it would (I am still waiting for Rebecca St. James to come knocking on my door), even though I have struggles in my life, I wouldn't trade lives with anybody else. My life is good. So often we miss out on how good our lives are because we focus on the disappointments in our lives or the things we are missing in life and we don't take full advantage of the blessings we do have.

One of the blessings that I have neglected is the time being single has afforded me. I have a great opportunity to study and to write right now that I might not have if I had a ministry plus a family.

My life is good because I have a ministry which allows me to do what I love and that is to preach God's Word. My life is good because I have a terrific family and nieces and nephews whom I love with all my heart. My life is good because I have a roof over my head, food in the cupboards, and money in the bank. My life is good because I am able to give to people in need.

Today I was feeling sorry for myself and blaming God because things haven't turned out like I wanted them to. Slowly but surely through the course of the day He reminded me that my life was good. There are people out there that would love to be in my shoes. God has blessed me in countless different ways.

I encourage you to take some time today and reflect about the blessings God has given to you. It is so easy to focus on the things we think are missing from our lives, and the result is that we miss the wonderful life that God has already given us. May He continually remind us of the good life He has given.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Discovering Joy

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. ~ Galatians 5:22, 23; NLT

The Apostle Paul tells us that joy is one of the characteristics which make up the Christian’s life. The assumption we can make is that joy is something that God intends for us to experience in life. God does not desire that we go through life frustrated and grumpy. Joy should be one of the primary descriptions of our lives.

The pressures of this life often make joy one of the most elusive characteristics to have. We experience times of happiness and pleasure, but true joy eludes us. Part of the reason for that is because joy is not so much a feeling as it is a quality of life, and we have learned to settle for these momentary feelings rather than taking time to discover the joy God wants us to experience.

Joy, I believe, is discovered in our contentment of what we have in life. It flows from the knowledge that we are in exactly the right place. We can’t have joy when we allow ourselves to believe that the good life is just around the corner. When we are discontent with our lives we will not experience the joy we were designed to have. It is so easy to convince ourselves that the missing piece for joy in our lives will be found in the next relationship, with a new job, or having a nicer house. Rather than enjoying the blessings we have right now we focus on what seems to be missing from our lives which allows joy to elude us.

Joy is found in our contentment with life. It is the product of taking delight in our family and friends, as well as, any other blessings we have received. When we realize that the best of life is found in the love relationships we have, rather than in all the things we don’t have, joy will appear in our lives.

Not only does joy appear through our contentment, it is also found in our desire. Yes that does sound contradictory, but it is not. Contentment is not the absence of desire, rather it is finding fulfillment in the way things are. Desire comes from the knowledge that things don’t stay the same. To stop desiring means a loss of joy in our lives.

Joy is found in the desire for things to come. It is the desire of the young lady content with her fiancé but who also longs for the wedding day. It is the desire of parents content with their baby but who also long to see her grow into a mature young woman. It is the desire of the Iowa Hawkeye fan content with the current state of the football program but who also longs for a National Championship. Hidden amongst our greatest desires is joy.

We were created to experience joy. It is one of the qualities God desires to see in our lives. As we learn to be content with our lives and to desire the right things joy will begin to show up and surprise us along this journey of life. There is joy in life and I hope you find it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Making The Good Choice

“I thought I didn’t have a choice about being the Batman. That Gotham City chose me to protect her. That is wrong. Ever since the night my parents were taken from me, I made the choice. It means that some of my hearts desires may go unfulfilled…But many more are satisfied…It is a good choice.” ~ Bruce Wayne; Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #1: Choices (Jeph Loeb writer; Tim Sale artist)

Choices. Life is filled with decisions and the choices we make determine the direction our lives take. For Bruce Wayne the choices he made led him to become Batman. While our choices might not lead to such a melodramatic lifestyle they still determine what we do with our lives.

The choice to become a Christian is a choice that will affect every area in our lives, just as Bruce Wayne’s decision to become Batman ended up affect every other area of his life. The two are inseparable. To be a Christian means to surrender our entire life to God’s will. Everything that we do and say is measured against the fact that we belong to God.

This also means that we will not always be able to indulge every desire of our heart. Sometimes what we desire will lead to sin and away from God’s will. Other times choosing to follow God’s will will take us away from good things we desire. Missionaries who give up friends, families, and a culture which is familiar to them so they can take God’s love to the world are examples of this truth. To choose one path often means the desires which are found down a different path will go unfilled.

The good life is not found in all of our desires being met. The good life is found in giving our lives away to something which is bigger than ourselves. Doing something that is of significant and which impacts the lives of others. That is the main reason why Jesus tells us that the life found in Him is the full life (John 10:10). It is not full because Jesus gives us every desire of our hearts, but it is full because that way of life leads to purpose and meaning. We may miss out on some desires, but the longer we are Christians we realize that many more desires are fulfilled. Most of these are desires we didn’t even know we had until God revealed them as we followed Jesus.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return. ~ 2 Timothy 4:6-8; NLT

The Apostle Paul, near the end of his life, looks back over that life and tells Timothy; “I have no regrets.” For Paul the life he had chosen by following Jesus, with all of its hardships and disappointments, was exactly the right choice. He had no regrets about giving up his life as a Pharisee, which promised him an easier path, to accept the life Jesus offered him. Though Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, jailed, and experienced other hardships he was pleased with the life he had lived. It had been good because it brought Him closer to God, and that made the passage of death not a horrible ending, but the next necessary step in his relationship with God.

Being Batman is not easy for Bruce Wayne, but it is the path that led to his greatest desire. Being a Christian is not easy, but it is the path that leads to our greatest desire. It is a good choice.

Hmm Interesting...

You scored as Divine Command. Your life is directed by Divine Command: Your god and religion give you meaning and direction.



“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.”

--King James Version of the Bible



“Even as a tree has a single trunk but many branches and leaves, there is one religion--human religion--but any number of faiths.”

--Mahatma Gandhi



More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...

Divine Command

80%

Existentialism

60%

Utilitarianism

60%

Kantianism

45%

Hedonism

45%

Justice (Fairness)

30%

Nihilism

15%

Apathy

10%

Strong Egoism

5%

What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Deception of Global Warming

The interest I have in science wouldn't fill a thimble. I am not a scientist and I have not looked at the relevant data concerning the climate change of the planet. Even if I did I wouldn't be in a position to accurately evaluate the data. Lets face it the majority of the people in this country aren't either. It is no wonder the Main Stream Media can produce such terror in ordinary citizens.

I have always been skeptical of Global Warming, at least that notion the humans are the cause of it. Why? I remembered learning at some point in my education that the earth has continually gone through these cycles of change. And if we are to believe that we are the cause of this mess, then nothing short of getting rid of all our fossil fuel burning energy ways would help the problem. Once Al Gore starts traveling in a horse and buggy then maybe I will listen.

Today I came across an article, actually an opinion piece, that confirms some of my thoughts. Here is a guy that not only has looked at the relevant data, but also has the credentials to evaluate it. Here is a little bit of what Dr. Tim Ball wrote in Global Warming: The Cold Hard Facts?

Believe it or not, Global Warming is not due to human contribution of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This in fact is the greatest deception in the history of science. We are wasting time, energy and trillions of dollars while creating unnecessary fear and consternation over an issue with no scientific justification. For example, Environment Canada brags about spending $3.7 billion in the last five years dealing with climate change almost all on propaganda trying to defend an indefensible scientific position while at the same time closing weather stations and failing to meet legislated pollution targets.
It is easy to have consensus when there are millions of dollars being poured into propaganda. Consensus doesn't produce facts. Perhaps it is time we take a step back, away from the fear mongering, and take a more rational look at the topic at hand.

Let's Talk About Sex

“Sex is sacred, but not essential, and our lives say the opposite.” ~ Mark Moore

One of my heroes is Mark Moore. I have never met him and I have only heard him in person a handful of times, but he has made an impact on my life none the less. When I heard him say the above quote I was amazed at the genius of it. In a simple sentence he managed to state the reason why we struggle with sex.

I want to take a few moments and just look at the three sections which make up this sentence; because I think when we begin to grasp the meaning of it the place of sex in our lives will become much clearer.

“Sex is sacred…” Sex is to have a place of honor in our lives. The author of Hebrews wrote; Give honor to marriage and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery (Hebrews 13:4; NLT). God designed sex to bring a man and a woman into an intimate communion that cannot be expressed in any other way. It is not dirty or shameful nor is it common and ordinary. It has a very special place in binding a husband and wife together, and when we are unwilling to hold sex as something that is sacred then it loses all of its significance. It will become a “fun” activity for consenting adults to participate in, but its ultimate purpose will be lost. The way people get the most out of their sexual lives is to hold sex as sacred and leave it where it belongs.

We talk too much about sex. C. S. Lewis wrote;
“The reason why I must is that you and I…have been fed all day long on solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not” (Mere Christianity; pg. 91-92).

Our focus on sex, both in the world and in the church, has led us to make sex common, and thus not sacred. I am not advocating ignoring sex, as if it doesn’t exist, but rather keep holding sex in high regard so it is not the foundation of our stories, jokes, and our lives.

That brings us to the second part: “but not essential…” Here comes a shocking statement: Sex is not necessary for a good life! That is so contrary to what we have been told and to what we believe. Sex is not essential to our happiness! You can have a joyful life, a fulfilled life, and still be a virgin. Jesus was at least 33 years old when He was crucified and He never had sex. For Jesus to command you to keep sex within the bounds of marriage means that He is not asking you to do anything that He has not already done. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1 writes; Now about the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life (NLT). Sex is not essential in our quest to live the Christian life, which in the end is the type of life which brings the most fulfillment.

There is no sexual act that will give us the type of life that we long to have. The joyful life is not having a life of sexual freedom, but living a life that finds pleasure in the little things: the love of a child, the knowledge of a job well done, time with friends and family, and worship to the Creator. Sex is a life-enhancer, making the good life just a little bit better.

The final part: “and our lives say the opposite…” I don’t need to remind us how sex has gone wrong in the world. It is all around us, and we are faced with it each and everyday. Is it a surprise that we find the world living contrary to God’s standard when it comes to sex? No, because the world has twisted everything God has given to fit its plan. When Mark Moore says “our lives,” he is not making a judgment on people already living contrary to God’s will, but he is pointing out how Christians are not much different. Sexual purity just isn't very fashionable. I am continually amazed by the number of "Christian" people I know who are living with someone or just have "weekend" flings.

The movies and television shows so many "Christians" watch carry a message contrary to God's message on sex, and yet we don't give them a second thought. Treating sex as sacred is more than just keeping sex between married people. Sex will not remain sacred if it is a common element in our entertainment.

This also includes jokes. Most of the “dirty” jokes I have heard in the last few years, have not come from people of the world, but from ministers and elders. There are jokes preachers tell to each other that they would never tell to people in their congregation. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God (Ephesians 5:3-4; NLT). Whether or not we hold sex to be sacred is not only seen in our actions, but also in our speech. Too often we are trying to tell the world to honor sex while we are treating it with disrespect with our jokes.

As I wrap this up let me leave you with another C. S. Lewis quote:
“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong” (Mere Christianity; pg. 90).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Don't Focus on the Wrong Thing

Lately I have been thinking about John 9. In this chapter Jesus heals a man who has been born blind and because the Pharisees can't accept the miracle throws the man out of the synagogue. The event that sets off this chain reaction is a question the disciples of Jesus ask.

Jesus and his followers approach the Temple. This man who has been born blind is begging at one of the entrances to the Temple. The disciples use this as an opportunity to engage Jesus in a theological discussion. Discussing theology seems to a favorite past time for rabbis and their disciples. The question they ask seems to be a question that was much debated among the different rabbis of the time. Popular belief, among both Jews and Gentiles, was that divine punishment handed out in the form of physical suffering. So if this man was blind was it the result of his sin or his parents sin?

If it was his sin, since he was born blind, it would mean that he would have sinned while still in the womb. Some rabbis, and please don't take this as the belief of all Judaism, that it was possible for a person to sin prior to being born. Based on Genesis 25:22-26 some rabbis taught that Esau tried to murder Jacob in the womb.

Of course for us the more plausible opition is that his parents sinned. In the Old Testament God makes in clear that the sin of the parents carry consquences for their children (though the New Covenant has done away with the children being punished for the parents sin, we can still see how the consquences of the parents sin effect their children).

A third opition is that the consquences of Adam's sin is the cause of the man's sin. One doesn't have to believe in original sin to know that things are not the way God intended. We are still experiencing the effect of Adam's sin through the sickness and other tragedy the rampages this world.

Then a fourth opition, and the one that appears to be what Jesus suggests based on our English translations is that God caused the blindness so that His glory might be seen. While I acknowledge that it sounds cruel Romans 9:20-23 implies that this is under God's sovereign judgment.

Even though this is the way the verse has been translated it doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus is teaching that God ordained this man's blindness. According to Mark Moore the hina clause can indicate result but usually indicates purpose. If this is the case it could be that Jesus is ignoring the speculation and just stating the positive result. So it essence Jesus is saying, It doesn't matter why this man was born blind, what matters is that I am able to heal him. While the disciples wanted to use the man as an object for a theological discussion Jesus wanted to extend the man compassion.

Sometimes, I think, we become like the disciples because we are willing to engage in theological discussion and in the process we miss extending a compassionate hand of service to people. Theological debate should never distract us from doing what we can to help other people. There is a world of hurting people and some are hurting because of their own choices, some are huritng because of the actions of some one else, and others are hurting because of a tragedy God allowed to happen. The reason of their suffering isn't the point, the point is whether or not we will use the blessing God has given us to help them.

As followers of Christ we can't focus on the wrong thing. There is certainly a time to discuss theology and doctrine, but it is never more important than helping out people in need. Don't focus on talking about God, but focus on how you can share God's love with others.

(This was based on the thoughts Mark E. Moore shares in The Chronological Life of Christ: From Glory to Galilee pages 392 and 393.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Cure for Loneliness

"As grand an experience as love is, it is not the final answer to loneliness." ~ Ravi Zacharias; Cries of the Heart

Loneliness is universal to human experience. Everyone, from the most famous to the least known, has experienced loneliness. Not just being alone, but the feeling there is no place we belong. Most of us believe the answer to our loneliness is a love relationship. The close relationships of friends and the intimate relationship of marriage we believe provide the answer to the loneliness which we experience. After all, if we are able to be with people then we will have place to fit in.

The trouble is many people who have friends and are married still experience loneliness. This is even the worst type of loneliness because we have what we believe is the answer to loneliness. So loneliness drives people to drugs and alcohol. Loneliness is the justification married person uses to have an affair. Love is a wonderful experience, but it alone cannot rid our hearts of loneliness.

What is the answer to loneliness? Worship. Understanding our purpose and giving our lives away to a higher calling than ourselves. Worshipping in Spirit and Truth, takes the focus off our lives and places it on the Person who deserves it. Our worship of God relieves the loneliness in our heart.

Loneliness is not a symptom of having no love in our lives. Most people have friends and family who love them. Loneliness then is a symptom of a hole in our heart that no human relationship can fill. Only God fill that hole. Yet, it is not filled by God's love. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life~ John 3:16 (NASB). God's love already exists for everyone, and yet people are lonely. Our loneliness is the longing God put in us for Him.

Our longing for God is only met in our worship of Him. This is not just singing a few songs on Sunday morning, at church camp, or at Christ In Youth Summer Conference. Worship is what we do to show our appreciation for who God is and what He has done for us. Worship is what we do in response to God's great love. It is through our worship that we discover a place to belong and the meaning for our lives. The more we respond to God, the more we experience His love, and the more we experience God's love the more we understand our lives.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them~ 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT). Though this verse isn't specifically talking about loneliness, I believe we can see the two ways we handle loneliness in it. The first way we can handle loneliness is to live to please ourselves. We can seek out relationships which we can use for our benefit, we can do things which will give us a moment of pleasure and dull the feeling in our heart, and can try to find the "one" who will make our lives complete. That way will not provide us with what our heart is truly longing for, it just dulls the feeling.

The second way we can deal with loneliness is to live to please Christ. Isn't that what worship is? It is a response to the one who has given us so much. It is through worship we discover what our heart longs for. Not only the love for God, but having a relationship with Him. It is through our relationship with God which provides the final answer to the problem of loneliness in our lives.

If you are lonely, the answer is not in a new relationship, a weekend fling, or the bottom of a bottle. The answer is worship. Living to please Christ. It is a relationship with God that our heart longs for, and that relationship is only possible through Jesus.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

God Is Not Pleased

"Thus, any discussion of the unfairness of suffering must begin with the fact that God is not pleased with the condition of the planet either. The story of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the story of God's plan to restore his creation to its orginal state of perfection. The Bible begins and ends with the same scene: Paradise, a river, the luminous glory of God, and the Tree of Life. All of human history takes place somewhere between the first part of Genesis and the last part of Revelation, and everything in between comprises the struggle to regain what was lost.

"To judge God solely by the present world would be a tragic mistake. At one time, it may have been 'the best of all possible worlds,' but surely it is not now. The Bible communicates no message with more certainty that God's displeasure with the state of creation and the state of humanity." ~ Phillip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts? , pg. 67

To Follow Jesus

It is easy to follow Jesus when we agree with what He says. I feel more inclined to give when I have extra money in the bank, but it is a little hard to be generous when I am worried about paying the bills. I am okay with loving people until they do something to hurt me, then it is a little harder to love them. I love to preach risk taking and stepping out of our comfort zone, but it sure is another thing when I am actually faced with the opportunity to do something that will stretch me. A follower of Jesus doesn't get to pick and choose what commandments or teachings he or she is going to obey. A disciple of Jesus spends their lives trying to be like Him in every way they possibly can.

To be a Christ Follower means that we have submitted our entire lives to the will and teaching of Jesus. It is moving beyond agreeing with data or mentally agreeing with truth and changing they way we live based on who Jesus is and what He taught. Faith is not demonstrated merely when we do the things God has commanded us to do which make sense to us, but doing those things God has said that make absolutely no sense in the light of our understanding and situation. Through this type of living we learn to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

As they were walking along someone said to Jesus, "I will follow you no matter where you go."

But Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head."

He said to another person, "Come, be my disciple."

The man agreed, but he said, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father."

Jesus replied, "Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God."

Another said, "Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family."

But Jesus told him, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of the God."
~ Luke 9:57-62; NLT

Each of these men had an excuse why they couldn't follow Jesus right a way. They believed in Jesus, they apparently agreed with His teaching, but what He asked them to do conflicted with what they wanted to do. Our faith is developed when we put aside those things we want to do and change those long held beliefs that we have so we can surrender to the will and teaching of Jesus.

There were many people who wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus reminded them what was expected of them. It wasn't just about following Jesus, witnessing miracles, listening to His teachings, and being part of a spiritual group. To follow Jesus meant to give up everything and do God's will. This is what separates the followers of Jesus from the fans of Jesus. It is the difference between merely believing and having true faith.

To really have faith in Jesus means that we do the things that don't make sense to us. Perhaps we give up our will paying job and enter the paid ministry, perhaps we pick up our family and move to a different country to be missionaries, perhaps we decide to give a little more money even though it will stretch the budget, or maybe we decide to quit just sitting in the pew and find a way to volunteer in order to use the talents God has given us.

Following Jesus isn't about our safety and dreams, but rather it is about doing God's will. When we learn to trust Jesus even when we don't understand the reasons or when we don't agree with God that is when our faith is able to mature and deepen. Following Jesus is about learning to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jesus a Hawkeye?

Last week I became rather excited when I realized something. You may or may not be aware of the fact that I am a big Iowa Hawkeye fan. Hawkeye football and basketball are my true loves when it comes to following sports.

What exactly is a Hawkeye? In 1826 James Fenimore Cooper’s book The Last of the Mohicans was published. The book features a character by the name of Nathaniel "Natty" Bumppo also known by the name: Hawkeye. According Wikipedia Hawkeye “was a personification of rugged individualism and pioneer spirit that remains central to the American identity to this day.” So a person could accurately describe a Hawkeye as a pioneer or trailblazer.

In the book of Hebrews the author writes; fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith...(Hebrews 12:2; NASB). F. F. Bruce in his commentary on Hebrews translates this verse as “pioneer and perfecter” of faith (The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Hebrews; pg. 337). In other words Jesus is a Hawkeye! He is the Hawkeye of faith.

Given this obvious connection I think it would be safe to assume that when it comes to college athletics Jesus is decked out in the black and gold of Iowa.

Now if you think I a playing fast and loose with Bible interpretation I would agree with you. When we go to the Bible to prove a certain point of view it is all to easy to do. If we are not committed to staying true to the Biblical text then we will interpret the Bible in any way that tickles our fancy.

What I want to do with this silly little post is to remind us the need to study the Scriptures on our own and not just rely on the teachings of other people. No matter how sincere a person is if they are working from a faulty foundation then they will arrive at faulty conclusions.

In Acts Luke praises the disciples in Berea for their willingness to search for truth.
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth (Acts 17:11; NLT).


Are you willing to be a student of Scripture? Or will you accept whatever teaching comes your way?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Indie?

Indie Personality Test Results
44% Indie
Scoring highly suggests you are likely to be very liberal, independent minded, self identify as an outsider, shun materialism and popular culture, and have an aversion to organized religion. While high scorers are more intellectual than average, they are probably more artistically astute than intellectually avante guard (i.e. they are more likely to know of new interesting new bands/artists/writers than the best way to extract energy from a hydrogen atom. Low scorers, will generally tend towards the opposite of the above. They will tend to be more materialistic, conservative, corporate friendly, social and are more likely to be religious.
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Chosen By God

"'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo. 'Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'

"'Such questions cannot be answered,' said Gandalf. 'You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.'"
~ The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Ring has a dark history. It had used different people in an attempt to get back to its master. Yet something happened the Ring had no control over, it had abandoned Gollum in hopes of being picked up by a goblin, but instead, at just the right moment the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins discovers it. There is a higher power at work than the force of evil.

In the long history of the Ring, only Bilbo gives it up by his own choice. All the other beings in possession of the Ring had lost it, and even Frodo, at the end, has it taken from him. Yet, in the choice of Bilbo to let go of the Ring makes way for Frodo to become the next Ring Bearer.

Frodo felt ill suited for the task which had to be done. He didn't believe that he had what it took. And Gandalf agrees. Frodo was not chosen because of his mighty talents, but because of the strength of his character. It was the same reason Bilbo was chosen before him. Gandalf urges Frodo to use the strength, the wits, and the heart he has to carry out the mission.

God has chosen every Christians for a task. Generically that task is to make God famous throughout the world; to proclaim His love and forgiveness to the nations. Specifically it is discovered as we walk with God each day.

To be honest we are ill suited for the task God has laid before us. We don't have what it takes to change the world. Just like Frodo, we look at ourselves and think we are not made for this type of work. The task is too big for us.

What God is interested in is that we use what He has given to us and leave the rest up to Him. We go about our lives believing that we can make a difference in the world in which we live. It might seem like we have no chance at making a difference, but God wants us to act like we will.

That is what Frodo does. He goes on this adventure as if it were possible for him to succeed, and God shows up to make it happen. To miss the theological content of The Lord of the Rings I believe misses the story Tolkien wrote.

Here is what we can take away from Frodo's journey. The job we have before us is huge and we are small in comparison. God wants us to live from the strength He has given to us and believe we can change the world. When we do this we then experience God in a whole new way. A way that is not possible from study and prayer.

9 He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our own works but according to his own purpose and the grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. 10 Now, however, it has been revealed through the coming of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and through the gospel has brought life and release from death into full view. 11 For the sake of this gospel I was appointed to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. ~ 2 Timothy 1:9-11; ISV


God has chosen us. Even though we don't feel up to the challenge, if we go forward, He will experience His power as He carries out His plan for our lives and for the world.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Honoring Her Choice

As I watched The Return of the King today a thought occurred to me: women make awful big sacrifices to be with the one they love. Arwen, the elf princess, gave up immortality in order to be with Aragorn, the man she loved. For Aragorn to honor the choice Arwen made he had to put aside the ranger and become the king he was born to be.

I am no expert in female psychology and so I am not going to delve into the choices women make in order to be with the man they love. It appears obvious to me that women give up many dreams that they have to be with a man who they believe loves them.

What I want to consider is how men can honor the choice women make to be with them. How can a single guy begin to honor the choice some lady will make in the future? How can a boyfriend honor the choice of the girl he has yet to commit to? How can a husband honor the choice of his wife to be with him until death?

Maybe being a single male without very much experience in romantic relationships I am not very qualified to write about this subject, but the more I think about it the more I believe it is something that we have to consider. It is time for men to respond nobly and honorably to the choices the woman in their lives make.

Single guys if we are going to honor the choice of our future wife we have to do at least these two things. First we have to find our identity. Our identity cannot come for the girl we are with, it has to come from a different source if we are going to love and lead her the way we need to. Second we must commit to purity. This isn't just about abstaining from sex before we are married, it is about how we treat women. Remember Jesus said that having lust in our hearts is the same as committing adultery. It is vital that we learn to respect the women around us. To honor our wives now we must respect all women.

Guys in a relationship but aren't married I believe it is vital for you do discover your identity. You will never be the man your wife needs you to be until you discover who you are. This might mean taking a break from your current relationship to do that, but it must be done. You also must guard the purity of the one you are with right now. Since you are not married so much of what you desire to do with her you cannot do. She is your sister in Christ and you must treat her as such. You have to be the man, even if she is willing to give you have to have the courage, the strength, and the love to say no. If you are going to honor the choice your future wife is going to make you have the responsibility to guard the purity of the woman you are with right now.

Married guys. She has already made the choice, and now you have the responsibility to live up to that choice she made. First this requires living out the roles in your life. So often as guys we put ourselves into one or two roles, but we neglect the others. Your wife doesn't just need a provider, but she needs a protector. She doesn't just need a lover, but she needs a friend. She doesn't just need a playmate, but she needs a partner. You need to be a leader, a lover, a helper, a listener, and when the time comes, a father. You also have the responsibility in helping her realize her God-given potential. To do anything less would be to dishonor the choice she made to love you. God created her with certain gifts and talents and He brought her through different experiences and pain so that she could do good works. As her partner it is up to you to help her realize the potential she has.

When a woman decides to love a man she chooses to join her dreams and goals with his. She is sacrificing a lot to make that choice. It is up to us not to let her regret the choice that she made.

And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God's word. ~ Ephesians 5:25-26 (NLT)

(It needs to be pointed out that I orginally wrote this post in January of 2005. I thought I would pull it out of retirement for a Valentines Day reflection).

Divided About Jesus

As I have read through the book of John one of the things that have hit me is how people were divided over who Jesus is. Even the Pharisees, the group of people we talk about opposing Jesus were divided by Jesus (John 9:16).

In John 10:19 we again see that people were divided over Jesus: When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him(NLT). People we divided because Jesus provided something of a paradox for them. On the one hand Jesus taught with great authority and insight. On the other hand Jesus did not obey the culture expectations of the day, he was not always a "good" Jew.

The centuries really have changed much. People are still divided over exactly who Jesus is. Some want to classify him as a good teacher who was able to give profound spiritual insight. Some may elevate him to the position of prophet, a man of God giving people a word from God. Others may not be so kind and label Jesus as a liar who led people astray, or worse yet, the invention of people. People are still divided about who Jesus is.

As a person who claims to follow Jesus it is very important that I understand who Jesus is to the best of my ability. It is so easy, even by looking at the biblical account, to create Jesus in our image. To make a Jesus we are comfortable with, who will support our agendas, and promote our world view. Even within the Church their are some many different ideas of who Jesus is, how He lived, and what He taught.

I think we need to spend some time trying to discover, to the best of our ability, who Jesus is. We need to make an effort to understand the culture in which Jesus lived and the context of His teaching. Sure it is easier to engage the text at just the surface level, but I have come to believe that we have missed so much of the truth God has for us by not digging deeper into the text.

While people will always be divided over who Jesus is, we have a responsibility to put the effort to discover Jesus for who He is and what He taught. When we commit ourselves to such a study we will be blessed by getting to know Jesus for who He is rather than just who we imagine Him to be.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Why Do I Quote Erwin McManus?

It was 3:11 am on Sunday morning when one of the many citizens of Los Angeles, CA visited this blog and left an anonymous comment. Really it wasn't a comment, it was a link. No, it wasn't a spam comment, though I treated it as if it was one. The comment was in response to the Erwin McManus quote I shared on January 30. The link took me to a blog set up by former members (supposedly including former staff) of Mosaic, the church that Erwin McManus is the lead pastor of in Los Angeles. Now what this has to do with a guy living in Iowa I have no idea, but this anonymous commenter thought it was important for me to know about this church conflict.

This got me to pondering. The reality is that I don't know the character of Erwin McManus. I wouldn't know if he was a prideful jerk or not. I have no idea how he treats his wife and children or his staff. I don't know what type of person he is, but I quote him an awful lot. Why is that?

It was January 2003 and I was in the midst of the darkest time in my life. I had spent time with my family a few weeks before at Christmas time and I hated it because I thought I was being unfairly judged and that they didn't understand what I was going through, I didn't think I was connecting very well with kids in my youth ministry, and I was beginning to think I wasn't cut out for ministry (but I had no idea what else to do). I was in Joplin, MO for the National Youth Leaders Conference (which is now defunct). The entire week went by and I got absolutely nothing from the conference. I was miserable and I had no idea what I was going to do to get out of it.

The last morning of the conference a guy by the name of Erwin McManus was scheduled to speak. At this point I had no clue who Erwin McManus was, but when he began to preach from one of my favorite Old Testament stories (1 Samuel 14) I became totally engaged in what he was saying. During the course of the sermon he said something that started to penetrate the darkness that I had allowed to surround my heart, it is something I have shared with other people as they sought direction in their lives: If you go for the right reason God will get you to the right place. I began to understand that my feeling had nothing to do with other people and their perceived expectations for my life, but about the condition of my heart. Was I willing to trust God and allow Him to take care of the rest? For whatever reason God chose Erwin McManus to speak to my heart on cold January day so that my life would be put back on the right track.

It was from the event that I began to read Erwin McManus and for whatever reason I have found the I connect with what he has written more than any other author I have read. That is why I quote him so much. I don't know his character, but the Holy Spirit has used his words to provide clarity and direction for my life.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weary of Pleasure

"The Bible addresses pleasure far more than it does the issue of pain, because the truth is that ultimately meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain, but meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure." ~ Ravi Zacharias, Cries of the Heart, pg. 128

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Persecution for Iranian Christians

Dr. Carl Moeller in a column earlier this week for The Christian Post writes about some of the persecution Christians in Iran are facing. Here are a few excerpts.

In November, 2005, Ghorban Dordi Tourani, a 53-year old Muslim convert to Christianity, was arrested by police. A few hours later, his stabbed and bleeding body was thrown in front of his home in Gonbad-e-Kavus, where he lived with his wife and four children.

A year before his death, Tourani wrote this prayer: “Lord Jesus, please let me glorify your holy name in every moment of my life on this earth. I am willing to give my life that belongs to you, for the sake of you and your church.”
And...
Over the past two years, Iran’s harsh Islamic regime has targeted various Christian groups known to use literature and other means to spread their faith among the majority Shiite Muslim population. Under Iran’s strict apostasy laws, any Muslim who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death penalty. Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of Shariah, which is strict Islamic law.
Another one...
Christians have also lost their jobs, had their shops shut down or had their livelihoods removed. Depriving converts to Christianity of their means of employment is the government’s way of “trying to asphyxiate the church,” one Iranian source told Compass Direct. “A lot of believers lost their jobs after the intervention of the security police.” The officials’ objective, he said, is to force Christians to leave Iran permanently.
Last one...
Last June Iranian church leaders issued a joint statement which says in part: “We cannot express how deeply encouraged and thankful Iranian Christians are that so many are standing with us in prayer. We believe the Lord will hear the cries of His people, so we urge everyone to carry on praying and spreading the word about this prayer effort. Let’s see millions praying for Iran and let us witness together how God can transform a nation.”


D. Moeller concludes the column by encouraging the reader to be in prayer for these followers of Jesus Christ in Iran. Here is a list of things he asks us to pray about:

• Strength in the midst of persecution. Pray for protection, wisdom and boldness.
• Openness for Christians to worship in freedom.
• For Muslim background believers and secret believers. They face tremendous pressure to return to Islam


And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the member rejoice with it. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:26; NASB

Set some time aside this week to pray for these brothers and sisters in Iran, and other Muslim countries, who are experiencing such horrific persecution. It is the least we can do for those suffering on the behalf of Jesus.

Friday, February 09, 2007

That Amazing Thing Called Grace

11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. ~ Titus 2:11-14, NLT

"He never has enough of us until He has all of us. Ninety-nine sheep weren't enough. Nor were nine coins. Nor one son. We've learned too easily to look at the lostness of our family and friends in statistical terms. Ninety-nine percent; ninety percent; even fifty percent -- those aren't bad numbers really. But God's grace isn't centered in statistics. He intends to give until there are no more in need. Don't you get the feeling from the good news story that even if there had been only one lost sinner in the world, God would still have given His son?" ~ William Pile, What the Bible Says about Grace, pg. 44

Amazing Grace
Words by John Newton 1779

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
'Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.



"Ponder the acheivement of God. He doesn't condone our sin; nor does he compromise his standard. He doesn't ignore our rebellion; nor does he relax his demands. Rather than dismiss our sin he assumes our sin, and incredibly, sentences himself. God's holiness is honored. Our sin is punished. And we are redeemed. God is still God. The wages of sin is still death. And we are made perfect." ~ Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace, pg. 75

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ Romans 5:20-21, NASB

Some times we just need a reminder. May you continually live your life in the light of God's wonderful and amazing grace.

The Life Robber of Guilt

"But the one who comes to the cross of Christ knows with certainty that the debt has been paid. This is the grace of God that faces the guilty one head-on and is big enough to forgive." ~ Ravi Zacharias; Cries of the Heart

Guilt is a great life robber. Guilt holds us back, keeps us locked in fear, and prevents us from building the deep relationships we need to live the life God has for us. We will never be the people God has created us to be when guilt is allowed to flourish in our lives.

I have this sense that God is calling me to do something, but I have yet to do it. The reason is guilt. In my mind what God is asking me to do I am unqualified to do because of my past. It is the very same sin that I allowed for so long to exist in my life that God is now asking me to challenge. "But God," I say, "wouldn't someone untainted by this sin serve you better?" I am ashamed over what I have done and the guilt weighs me down. To step out in faith seems to be hypocritical. What I have forgotten is that my past is gone, my sin is atoned, and my guilt removed. The death and resurrection of Jesus make it possible for me, for us, to step out in faith no matter what we have done in the past.

Erwin McManus wrote; "No matter what kind of life you've lived, no matter how many wrong choices you've made, the next moment is waiting to give birth to new life"(Seizing Your Divine Moment; pg. 23). That is the truth we find in the life of everybody God has ever used, except in the life of Jesus (he never made a wrong choice). A prime example of this truth is a woman we meet in the book of Joshua.

Rahab was a prostitute. Her life was an existence of humiliation, abuse, loneliness, and rejection. She came to hear of the God of Israel, and when her time came she chose to step out in faith. She helped the two Israelites spies to escape Jericho. As a reward for her faith, not only was her family saved, but she became an ancestor of Jesus. She chose to forget the past and step out in faith.

Peter is another example. After Jesus is arrested Peter follows at a distant to see what is happening. Jesus is before the high priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin (the Jewish High Council) while Peter is outside in the court yard. The apostle is recognized as one of the men who followed Jesus. Peter denies that he is a follower. As the people around him probe further, Peter curses and denies that he even knows Jesus. Peter was guilty of the very thing he said he would never do.

After his resurrection, Jesus pulled Peter aside one morning and provided Peter with a choice. "Do you love me?" Jesus asks Peter three times. "You know that I love you," Peter responded. A few weeks later Peter stands up on the day of Pentecost and preaches to the crowd in Jerusalem. He chose to forget the past and step out in faith.

19 And so, dear brothers and sisters,we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.20 By his death,* Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's house,22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22, NLT)


The point is when we put our faith in Jesus, repent, and are baptized (Acts 2:38) our sins are forgiven. They have been dealt with and they no longer matter to God. We need to take a hold of that promise and stop letting guilt live in our lives. Since we have been forgiven we can choose to do the right thing and step out in faith to do whatever God has for us to do.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Are You a Nerd?














You are most like:


Nerd is a type of candy


You lack all things nerdy The closest you've ever come to being nerdy was the time you ate too many nerd candies. Chances are your favorite subjects include art, fashion and makeup. Math, Science and Algebra are words you've heard somewhere but could care less about. After all - they don't make you look any better do they?


 

Take this quiz: How Nerdy Are You?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Importance of God's Word

One of the weakness we have with the present day Church in the United States is the reality that we have promoted experience over teaching. We have become more interested in trying to make Jesus attractive to people rather than teaching the truth about Jesus. The result of this practice is a Church in the United States which is basically indistinguishable from the rest of the world.

An honest evaluation of the Church in the United States leads us to understand that we lack the knowledge and the spiritual maturity that we need to impact the world in which we live. We are ignorant about what the Bible says and how its teachings apply to our lives. Many of our leaders are better students of culture and current events than they are of the Bible. We are people of the sound byte and video clip rather than people of the text.

This lack of commitment to the Bible has hampered us from becoming the people God created us to be. The Bible is God’s revelation to His people, and if we truly want to please Him then we will make the Bible our source of truth for living life.

We shouldn't be surprised that Paul encouraged Timothy to be a student and teacher of God’s Word.
1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you (2 Timothy 4:1-5; NLT).

Without a proper foundation for spiritual truth we will be carried this way and that way by whatever suits our fancy. Whatever seems attractive to us becomes our guide for life rather than the Truth God has given us in His Word.

This is the point I would like to make: As we, the Church, have moved away from solid Biblical teaching, as we have sought to be “relevant” to the world, we have made the church inconsequential to the world that we live in. After all the church offers no answers that couldn’t be found on Dr. Phil and too often he is better at communicating them than we are.

It is time for us to return to strong Biblical teaching. Rather than picking out topics and finding proof texts for our teaching points, we need immerse ourselves in the entire text of the Bible. Rather than seeking to be relevant and attractive to culture, we need to offer God’s truth and allow the Holy Spirit to use God's Word to impact the hearts of people.

We cannot hope to become spiritually mature until we allow the Holy Spirit to teach our hearts the truth through the revelation of God that is found in the Bible. Yes, we need to be active in loving people. Yes, we need worship experiences that will warm and encourage our hearts. But we will not change, we will not live a life pleasing to God, until we are founded in the truth of God’s Word.

Let’s stop allowing the Bible to be demoted in our Church Families in favor of a worship experience and seeker sensitivity. Let’s trust God enough to know His Word, teach His Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to use that Word to impact the hearts of people. Let’s be people of the text rather the people of the sound byte. Let’s be rooted in the Word of God.

Visit Paul's new blog at www.paulsponderings.com.

Proper Worship

"You only have one life. And you only have one life of worship. You have one brief opportunity in time to declare your allegiance, to unleash your affection, to exalt something or someone above all else.

"Don't waste your worship on some little god, squandering your birthright on idols made only with human imagination. Guard your worship...and carefully evaluate all potential takers." Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe, pg. 29

You Are Loved

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Finding Freedom in Jesus

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1; NASB

Christ has come to set us free! Freedom is what we all desire and it is, at least for Americans, a right for all people. We want to see people live in freedom rather than in oppression. God too desires that we be free! This desire is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This news that Jesus brings freedom is indeed good news.

We desire freedom and God desires that we be free. Here is where we run into a little bit of a problem: our definitions for freedom aren’t necessarily the same. Too often we see freedom as the ability for us to decide what we want to do. To be free from the expectations of authorities, parents, and other social restraints. To have the financial freedom to go where we want to go and do what we want to do. Freedom is defined when we have complete control of our lives.

God’s definition appears to be different, at least if we look at the Bible. In fact the writers of the New Testament who experienced freedom in Jesus described themselves in an interesting way. In Romans the Apostle Paul writes; Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus...(Romans 1:1, NASB). We would understand a bond-servant to be a slave. James, the half-brother of Jesus, also writes; James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ...(James 1:1, NASB). And the Apostle Peter wrote; Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ...(2 Peter 1:1; NASB).

It is obvious that these men did not equate autonomous control of their lives to freedom found in Jesus. They believed they were free, but that freedom lead them to surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ. So while we might think that they are free, these men we lived under the authority of Jesus, had found true freedom.

Now I have this question to throw out to you: Is your life better or more complicated since you have made the decisions on how to live? In this country and in this period of time we have had great freedom to choose our lives. The freedom to choose our careers, the freedom to choose our spouses, the freedom to choose friends and other relationships, the freedom of what to buy with the money that we make, and the freedom to believe what seems most logical to us.

With all this freedom many of us feel trapped and enslaved. We feel trapped in a job that we hate. We feel trapped in a marriage that we no longer want. We feel enslaved by the expectations and whims of our friends. We feel enslaved to the massive amount of debt that we have. We feel trapped and enslaved by hopelessness of beliefs that offer facts but are devoid of truth. When we are free to decide how we want to live we end up being trapped and enslaved in thousands of different ways.

That is why Jesus brings freedom. He offers a life free from the curse and condemnation of the Law. He offers a life free from the addictions of sin. He offers a life free to live in the spontaneity of love for God and people. Free to use our money to help other people. Free to use our blessings to be a blessing to other people. Free to hope in the midst of hopelessness. And free to give our lives to God in response to the great and amazing love that He has shown to us.

Are you living a free life or are you enslaved to your addictions and the whims of other people? The only way to truly experience freedom is to give your life to Jesus. Are you willing to put your life under the authority of Jesus so you can experience everlasting freedom?

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Characteristic of a True Disciple

21"Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as `Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. 22On judgment day many will tell me, `Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' 23But I will reply, `I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized'" (Matthew 7:21-23; NLT).

I find this teaching of Jesus quite interesting. The point Jesus is making here is that not everyone who refers to Him as Lord is a Christian. This is pretty easy to understand because we are witness to numerous people who make a claim to be Christians, but their lives reflect a very different lifestyle.

Some people understand the Truth, it makes sense to them, but somewhere in their lives there is a disconnect. The truth which makes sense in the mind never makes it to their hearts. While they agree with what Jesus says their lives are never changed.

That is not what I find interesting about this teaching, because that is the obvious application to what Jesus is saying. To truly be a Christian requires more than verbal acknowledgement. It also requires obedience to God's will.

What I find interesting are the activities these false disciples were doing. They were proclaiming a word from God (prophesying), casting out demons, and performing miracles. In my mind these would be signs that they had a close relationship with God. If a person could do those things it would seem that they were the genuine article. Yet it seem Jesus has a different understanding. Jesus wants us to understand that these things are not necessarily evidence for a true disciple.

I don't know how it is possible to fake such things without having a relationship with God, but I do know that it is easy to fake the public side of ministry. It is easy for me to wow people with a great sermon, to write words that reflect Biblical teachings, and to have a "correct" theology to make the people at church believe that I know my Bible. It is possible to go through ministry without real faith in God.

Real faith makes us step out of our comfort zone to do the things that need to be done. Real faith seeks to make changes in our lives so sin is no longer our master. Real faith is seen in our behavior. What makes a person a Christian is not a flourishing public ministry or correct theology, but a Christ-like life of faith which is expressed by love.

How does this apply to you and me? It is to easy to use this passage of Scripture to judge people who are not living up to our standards of what a Christian to be. While we need to be vigilant concerning our leaders and teachers I think we need to approach this passage primarily as a warning for us.

Are we too wrapped up with what other people think about us? Do we put on a spiritual or religious mask in front of certain people so they will think we are great "Christians"? Is part of our identity derived from this "Christian" image we think other people have of us?

Being a follower of Jesus isn't about doing "religious" activities and making other people believe that we are "spiritual" people. Being a follower of Jesus is about following Jesus where ever He leads, throwing off sinful habits, and living a life of faith. This is how we get to know Jesus, and how Jesus gets to know us. "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!" (Matthew 25:21; NLT).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My Brain Gender

Your Brain is 33% Female, 67% Male

You have a total boy brain
Logical and detailed, you tend to look at the facts
And while your emotions do sway you sometimes...
You never like to get feelings too involved

Psalm 23: My Thoughts

Henry Blackaby in Created to be God's Friend has the reader read and meditate on Psalm 23. The following are the thoughts I had has I went through this exercise this morning. Perhaps you will find them helpful or encouraging.

Thoughts on Psalm 23 (NASB):

Verse 1: The LORD is my Shepherd I shall not want. Jesus is my shepherd, for He is the good shepherd (John 10). I can trust Jesus to provide what I need. He loves me and will give me what I need for life. Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:2-3, NASB).

Verse 2: He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. Jesus provides the security and rest I need so I can learn to trust His Father. Though it may not always seem to be green pastures and quiet waters, God will give us those opportunities to find rest in Him. Hebrews 10:23-25 reads; Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and al the more as you see the day drawing near (NASB). One of these safe places God has provided for us to learn of His love and provision is in the Church, the fellowship of other followers of Christ.

Verse 3: He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Jesus restores my life, gives me hope for the futures, and puts a new heart in my chest. But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY (NASB). Through Jesus we have received God's mercy, become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us in truth and righteousness (John 16:7-15).

Verse 4: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Following Jesus isn't safe, there will be moments of safety, but He will also lead us into dangerous places. Places of opposition and persecution. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39; NASB). With this truth in our hearts we should approach whatever is before us with courage: For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7, NASB).

Verse 5: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. This is found in the promise that the last will be first and the first will be last. While I do think that when I follow Jesus my life will be better, I don't think that I always see how God will honor me in this life over those who choose to oppose me. I think this is more of a verse of hope than something I will see played out in my everyday life (though God's blessings are overflowing!). Jesus made this promise; "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2; NASB).

Verse 6: Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Following Jesus will lead us into places and situations in which we will be blessed by the lives of other Christ-Followers, but will also give us an opportunity to bless the the lives of other people (Hebrews 10:23-25). James writes; Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27, NASB). A person who lives in such away (who through faith in Jesus does what is right) is a person who has fellowship with God (1 John 1:6, 7) and can be confident about the future (1 John 2:28).

Accept the Differences

Most of us understand that people are different and those differences are a good thing. The world would be a boring place if everyone beli...