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Showing posts from July, 2008

His Mission, My Example

Living Right: Part 3

We acknowledge that it is a struggle to live a life that honors Jesus. From the hardships of life, to the temptation to sin, to the little doubts from the lies of this world we are worn down. The result is that many of us want to give up. It isn’t like we are in danger of becoming atheists, but we just don’t want to try as hard and to go with the flow.

The Bible tells us that if we want to have life, real life, eternal life, then we have to stay connected to Jesus. We stay connected to Jesus by obeying His teaching, loving His creation, and believing His truth. When we give up, even if we remained involved in the church, we are in danger of severing that needed connection to life.

So we read throughout the New Testament that the encouragement to remain faithful and to persevere. One of the ways we do this is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Reading through 1 John I believe we can find two eyes of Jesus life that we need to focus on if we are going to keep our eyes o…

Hope From His Promises

Living Right: Part 2

It is not always easy to do the right thing. In fact, it is one of the hardest thing to do in life. The easy way to live is to submit to the pressure, to give in, and not struggle to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is a struggle. It is a struggle because of the false teachings we hear from inside and outside the church. It is a struggle because life doesn’t go the way we planned. It is a struggle because the we get worn down by all the hassles and difficulties of life.

Yesterday we looked at Hebrews 12:1-4 and noticed that the author of that book tells us to look to the faithful of old and to Jesus to discover the encouragement we need to continue our struggle to live the life God created us to live. In 1 John 2:28-3:10 I think the apostle John helps us understand how we can keep our eyes on Jesus. John tells us we can keep our eyes on Jesus by focusing on two areas of His life.

The first area of Jesus’ life we must focus on are His promises:
28 Even now, little…

We Are Opposed

Living Right: Part 1

Jesus has come to us with the offer of life. That is the promise of John 10:10; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (NET). Now we can be certain that we have access to this life when we remain in Jesus (John 15:1-8). To remain in Jesus means that we live our lives in faith. Our lives should be a reflection of Jesus’ life.

Yet, we know that just because we have this life-giving connection doesn’t mean our lives will be easy. Remember our lives are being opposed and that we are living in a world that is at war. Jesus reminds us of this fact before making His promise in John 10:10. Satan is in opposition to the will of God and that means he is opposed to us having life. The Enemy is going to do everything in his power to oppose us and to keep us from living the life God created us to live. That means life will be a struggle. I want you to consider this question: How has Satan…

Sunday Quote: Following Jesus

"Only by walking with God can we hope to find the path that leads to life. That is what it means to be a disciple. After all—aren't we 'followers of Christ'? Then be all means, let's actually follow him. Not ideas about him. Not just his principles. Him." ~ John Eldredge, Waking the Dead, p. 97

Hating and Loving Ourselves

“Sin is not something you just shake off, like a pesky viral infection. It is enslaving, immobilizing. WE ARE HELPLESS against it.” ~ William Pile, What The Bible Says About Grace

One of the things that I really liked about the movie The Two Towers is the portrayal of the creature Gollum. If you were able to watch the movie you probably began to pity the sad little guy. We could plainly see the struggle Gollum had with the ring, the two distinct sides of his personality. I found what Colin Duriez wrote about Gollum in The J.R.R. Tolkien Handbook very interesting.
The character of Gollum also reveals Tolkien’s concern for repentance in human life. Despite his depravity, a side of Gollum struggles to rise above the overwhelming demands of the Ring, which possesses him. There are times in the story when it seems possible that Gollum will be saved.
For almost five hundred years Gollum was enslaved by the power of the One Ring. Even after years without the Ring, Gollum still was consu…

Bringing People to Jesus

One of my favorite stories about Jesus is found in Luke 5:17-26. You know the story. Jesus was teaching one day, and people gathered around him, bringing to Jesus their sick and crippled friends and relatives, so that they could be healed. The place where Jesus was teaching became so crowded that there was no room left in the house. Jesus healed many people and the news that he was there spread quickly around town, and soon a group of friends brought one of their own, a man who was paralyzed. The problem was that because the were late they could not get near Jesus. So what did the do? They climbed onto the roof, removed some of the tiles there, creating a hole, and then four of them lowered their friend down in front of Jesus. And because of the faith of this man’s friends, Jesus forgave his sins and healed him, allowing this former paralytic to get up and walk.

This is an amazing story about Jesus the healer, because we see the two different ways Jesus heals. When we speak ab…

Needing God's Grace

"The truth is, we all mess up our lives, some in ugly ways, some in tidy ways, and God provides a way out for all of us." ~ William Pile; What the Bible Says About Grace

I am not perfect. This may come as a shock to you, but I struggle with temptation and sin in my life. When I take time to think about my sin I become so angry. I desperately want to do better, but I constantly do things that get in the way of my relationship with God. I just don't have the strength or the self-control to overcome the evil that is in my life.

At times like these it is so wonderful to remember God's amazing grace. God is not up in Heaven waiting for us to sin so He can punish us. God sits on His throne with so much love for us, wanting us to have the wonderful life He created us to have. He weeps for us because He knows the consequences of our sins take us far away from the life we are to enjoy. The consequences of our sin make our lives hard and painful.

Grace is God's way of saying,…

The Wickedness of Ungraciousness

The last two days I have been working on personal devotions for a high school week of church camp. To help me write these I have turned to Stand Against the Wind by Erwin McManus. One of the thoughts that have struck me today is this: “To receive the grace of God and yet treat others ungraciously is an act of wickedness” (p. 41). Do we believe that?

I know that I don’t consider it wickedness when I ignore a request or when I treat another person with contempt. We are constantly acting ungraciously to other people, and we don’t even consider how graciously God has acted to us. When we lack the gratitude to appreciate what God has done for us we will, in turn, be ungracious to other people.

Seems to me that Jesus told a parable about this.
23 “That is why the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he had begun to settle the accounts, a person who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Because he couldn't …

A Faith Lived Out

Faith is much more about how we live then it is about what we believe. The mark of great faith is not superior knowledge but superior trust. We can know the Bible from the front to the back, but if it is not applied to how we live our lives than it just a bunch of nice sayings. The person of faith applies God's Word to his/her life.

I struggle with this. It is so much easier to know things about the Bible, and thus know things about God, than it is to step into the unknown trusting solely on God. It is easier to read the Bible than it is to love your neighbor, and yet true faith demands that we love our neighbor and not merely agree that it is the second most important commandment.

One of my prayer is that I will have a relationship with God and not merely be content on knowing a few facts about Him. I want to live a life of faith and not just increase my knowledge on what the Bible says. How do I do this? The answer is obedience. When I obey what God has commanded me to do…

Sunday Quote: The Importance of Integrity

"Integrity cannot be gained by power and authority. Integrity must be gained long before these have been place in our hands. Jesus lived an obscure life for thirty years preparing for a public ministry that lasted only three.

"Integrity requires that you decide what kind of person you want to become. Integrity not only harnesses our passions but focuses our intentions. Our course is guided by an internal compass of convictions fueled by passions." ~ Erwin McManus, Stand Against the Wind, p. 66

I am at Church Camp

This week I am helping with Junior Camp (5th and 6th grade) at Camp Nebowa. I had hoped to find some time to blog, but so far this week I haven't. I taught yesterday and then preach tonight so hopefully I will find some time to post, but I am not going to make any promises. So if you stop by wondering where the posts are this is the reason. So now if I post you can be surprised.

Willing to Die for Jesus

"Yet Jesus considers Himself, His mission, and the spiritual welfare of men of such surpassing importance that He calls for the absolute loyalty of the disciple to Himself even when that brings enmity from those most closely related to the disciple by blood or marriage. It is even more important that self-preservation. Jesus calls on men to be willing to die for Him" ~ Donn Leach; What the Bible says about Jesus

Pleasing God

The follower of Jesus Christ should strive to honor and please God. That is how Jesus Himself lived. On two occasions, at His baptism and at the transfiguration, God declared that He was pleased with Jesus.

Here is a question I would like for you to consider. Do you seek to honor and please God? The answer for is a scary one. I realize what I seek most in this life is the life that I want to live. I plan and ask God to bless that plan, but I don’t take much time to consider what God wants from my life. I want to do what makes me happy, rather than what will make God happy.

This is part of human nature. It is hard to give up our agendas and pursue God’s will. So it really isn’t all that surprising that one of Paul’s prayers for the Colossians centered on them pleasing God.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about this, we have not stopped praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the full knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 1…

What is the Motivation?

Let me ask you a question: What is your motivation for following Jesus? As I pondered this question I realized that often my motivation has been to live up to the expectations of those around me. In other words I have been seeking the approval of people rather than seeking the approval of God.

The apostle Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with an interesting thought, one that took me by surprise. This is what he wrote:
3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 because we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, 5 based on the hope laid up for you in heaven. Some time ago you heard about this hope in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and spreading all over the world, so it has been doing among you from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth. (Colossians 1:3-6; ISV)

I have to be honest, I have not been looking forw…

A Good Father?

Do you believe God is a good father? It is easy to answer yes because I know that is supposed to be the “right” answer, but I am afraid my life tells another story. Too often I believe that God is opposed to my happiness.

John Eldredge wrote:
“You are the son of a kind, strong, and engaged Father, a Father wise enough to guide you in the Way, generous enough to provide for your journey, offering to walk with you every step.

“This is perhaps the hardest thing for us to believe—really believe, down deep in our hearts, so that it changes us forever, changes the way we approach each day.” (The Way of the Wild Heart, pp. 22-23)

I know that I struggle with believing that God wants what is best for my life. So often I don’t recognize God being engaged in my life, rather it seems that He is detached and uncaring about what happens to me. The result of this type of thinking has been that now I believe I have to create a happy life for myself, it is all up to me.

How do we trust God to do the ri…

I am Sorry

To the faithful few who read this blog I am sorry I have been such a bad blogger lately. I don't feel like posting. It is hard to put thoughts together. I absolutely hate feeling this way. It isn't just about the broken heart, but it is about trusting God do what is best for me. I keep thinking if I understood His purpose that this would be easier to take, but perhaps this is just one of those bad things that happens that God will work for good in the end.

All I can do right now is remind myself about how God has worked in the past, because I sure can't see Him working right now. I am so tired of praying right now, so I ask for you prayers, that I find some hope and am reminded that God is in control.

Thanks for understanding and I will do my best to post a new pondering tomorrow.

Heartbroken Me

I have been in a fog for most of the day. I have been forcing myself to go through the routines of living, because I so much want to just give up. I am tired and discouraged and right now it is hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Why am I feeling this way? Last night the relationship that I have enjoyed for the past 13 months came to an end. My girlfriend and I came to the conclusion that there were a number of things in our lives that we needed to work on in our lives and that we couldn’t do work on them while we were in a relationship.

This is so hard because I truly thought she was the one I was going to marry. I was getting prepared to close out my ministry here in Storm Lake and move to Las Cruces, NM so we could actually begin to create a life together. Now all that is over and I have to try to get back into a ministry mindset after being on autopilot for the better part of the last month.

Even though the decision was mutual it still hurts and it leaves me …

We Were Made For Relationships

"Contact with the real word--it's not optional; it's essential. We are created for relationship. We are born for community. For us to be healthy, we must be a part of of others. Independence is one thing; isolation is another. The more we live disconnected lives, the more we become indifferent to the well-being of others." ~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Intimacy: Entry 5

A Place to Grow

The Environment for Growth: Part 6

The reason God has given us the church is to help us along in our journey of faith. He sends us people to teach us, equip us, to lead us, and help us mature. But the church is also where we can begin to live out our love and practice serving people. We need to give to the church as much as we get from it. From this process of give and take we are matured into the people that God wants us to be.

This is what I want you to take away from this series of ponderings: The Church exists to grow Christ Followers. The Church is there to help us grow and it is there to help the person across the room grow. In this community of faith we find the environment God ordained to be the environment to mature faith. If we are not maturing then it means that we haven’t allowed ourselves to be lead by the right people. The right leadership is essential in creating the right environment.

Here is what I would ask you to do: pray that God will help the leadership of th…

Help in Maturing

The Environment for Growth: Part 5

Jesus told a parable in Luke 8 about a Farmer who planted seeds. Some of these seeds fell on hard ground and were eaten by birds. Some fell in shallow soil and sprang of quickly, but did not develop root systems, and they died just as quickly as the dry heat scorched them. Still others fell in weedy soil, where they were choked out after a while by the weeds. A some fell in good soil and produced a good crop. One of the lessons we can take away from that parable is that environment is vital to our growth.

Remember this: Our spiritual growth doesn’t happen by accident. Not only doesn’t it require us to be intentional about doing those disciplines that lead to growth, but it also requires us to be part of a good church that provides the right environment for us to grow. The right environment includes leaders who are interested in Cultivating us to Maturity.
11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as …

The Need For Leadership

The Environment for Growth: Part 4
Did you know that rainforests make up 6% of the land on the earth but account for more than 50% of the animal and plant life? Why is that? Because the environment of the rainforest makes growing and surviving easier than it is in the desert or the tundra.

The right environment is so essential to our spiritual growth. If we get in the wrong environment it can quite literally kill us. God has given us the Church to provide the right environment for us to grow. And to make sure the local church is the right environment God Provide Leadership for that church family.
11 And it is he who gifted some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers, 12 to perfect the saints, to do the work of ministry, and to build up the body of Christ 13 until all of us are united in the faith and in the full knowledge of God's Son, (Ephesians 4:11-13a; ISV).

On a football team the coach provides leadership.…

Equipped to Serve

The Environment for Growth: Part 3

If we are honest with ourselves we would admit that it isn’t easy to grow spiritually and mature in our faith in the culture that we live in. We live in a culture that is hostile to God’s Word and to God’s people. The millions of different temptations that rush at as all the time. If we are not intentional about growing then we will be swept way with out culture. We will be like those seeds Jesus talked about (Luke 8:4-15) that sprang up quickly but allowed the worries and carries of the world to choke the growing plant of faith out.

The Church is God’s gift to us; the right environment for spiritual growth to happen. If we don’t make use of the Church as we strive to grow in our love and our faith, then it will be doubtful if we will survive. For spiritual growth isn’t about filling our head with a bunch of knowledge and nice sounding doctrines, but it is about preparing for ministry. The apostle Paul in Ephesians tells us that the special peop…

The Right People are Essential

The Environment for Growth: Part 2

The Church is God’s environment for our spiritual growth. Basically that is what the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians. You need to know that the Ephesian church was a divided church. They were segregated by Jew and Gentile, slave and free, and male and female. Paul’s word to them was that they needed to be a united church, a church that enjoyed fellowship with each other just as the Spirit, Son, and Father enjoyed fellowship with each other.

In that same chapter, Ephesians 4, Paul tells them why they need to be a united church.
11 And it is he who gifted some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers, 12 to perfect the saints, to do the work of ministry, and to build up the body of Christ 13 until all of us are united in the faith and in the full knowledge of God's Son, and until we attain mature adulthood and the full standard of development in Christ. (verses 11-13, ISV)

The Chu…