Thursday, November 27, 2008
1 Come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him. (Psalm 95:1-2; NLT)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
For our constitutional scholar, there is no right of sodomy, nor is there a right to sit at a lunch counter, nor is there a right of self defense. In the United States we have a living constitution that affirms fundamental liberties. Most recently, Justice Scalia found a new right of self defense in the Second Amendment and thus protected the rights of individuals to own handguns for self defense. Similarly, rights of privacy have been found. It is good that our Supreme Court protects us from government intrusion in private matters.
For our Bible says so crowd, I suspect you know your argument is completely flawed. I suspect you know dozens of behaviors condoned by the Bible that you do not accept (slavery & polygamy) and restriction you reject (women speaking in church & wearing clothing of mixed threads). I'm not sure why you would bother posting something so dishonest. You did not open the Bible and discover a revelation that homosexuality was wrong.
This, is a serious point, "The person who hates homosexuals will say 'go ahead, there's nothing wrong with it'. But true love warns of dangers." I believe in my heart that those who suggest the love of gays & lesbians is equivalent to smoking are harming gays and lesbians. I think it is evil and missing the lesson of Jesus Christ that it is Love and not Tradition that acts as our guide. That said, I recognize the concern, and I take you at your word.
The world is evolving out of this prejudice. Soon, we will look back at this as we know looked back on prohibitions against interracial marriage. Then, as now, people called the relationships unnatural and worried about the children. Then, as know, there were many hateful bigots attacking people with wickedness in their hearts. But, then, as now, there were people genuinely concerned and worried for the fellow humans. I disagree strongly, but I respect the position.
I believe one of the most important things we can do as followers of Jesus Christ is to examine the thoughts, philosophies, and “truth” that we encounter each and everyday. If we are not intentional about examining these things then we risk being lead astray by a nice sounding lie. Not only should we examine the thoughts we encounter, but we need to share our thoughts as well, for the purpose of exposing other people to different thoughts.
That is what I want to do with Tony Jones’ comment of the day. Jimil brings up some points I think need to evaluated and addressed, especially if we are going to deal honestly with same-sex marriage. It is easy to start throwing stones, and not address what is being said.
First, let us look at this idea of a “living constitution” and rights. What is the purpose of the Constitution? To put it simply its purpose is to limit the size and authority of the Federal government. The responsibilities and authority of the Federal government are plainly outlined in the Constitution, and if a responsibility is not given to the Federal government then it is a responsibility of the State government. Marriage, in a legal sense, is a responsibility of the government. Since we do not find the responsibility of regulating marriage given to the Federal government, then we can assume it is an responsibility given to the State governments.
The people of California are perfectly within their legal right to define marriage between one man and one woman. At this point we have not made a moral statement, just a legal one. The people of California who do not like the law can either stay their and try to convince the rest of their citizens that it needs to be changed, or they can move to a State that allows gay marriage. That is part of the beauty of our Constitution. Laws can be changed and the direction of the government can be altered by the will of the people.
Now, if we as citizens of the United States want to give up the States’ right to define marriage and give that responsibility to the Federal government, then we can amend the Constitution. It is the the process of amending the Constitution which makes it a living document, not the ability of judges to interpret the Constitution to fit their opinions. Legally, homosexual marriage is State issue, and if the majority of the people desire for the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman, then they are free to do so. That doesn’t mean it can’t be changed, but the change must be done legally.
Second, is it dishonest to call homosexuality a sin if we ignore other parts of Scripture? The first issue we have to deal with is whether or not the Bible tells us that homosexuality is a sin. I think it does. Romans 1:18-32 is one text that shows this. Another is 1 Timothy 1:9, 10. On top that, same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s design for life. Check out what Jesus said in Mark 10:2-9, which I will comment on in a moment.
Am I highlighting the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality and ignoring other parts of Scripture? Probably, but let us look at the examples the Jimil brings up. Does the Bible condone slavery? I don’t think so. It makes allowances for slavery, just as it makes allowances for divorce, but the Bible doesn’t condone divorce. Jesus said of divorce (Mark 10:2-9) that God allowed for divorce as a concession to the hard and evil hearts of people. It was God’s plan from the beginning that a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (further evidence that God doesn’t recognize same sex marriage). I would suggest that God allowed slavery for the same reason, as a concession to our evil and hard hearts. The reason I say this is because as we move into the New Testament we find the seeds of change that are planted which lead to our present understanding that slavery is wrong. One of those seeds is 1 Timothy 1:10 where the apostle Paul lists slave traders (as new translations of the Bible correctly translates) as people who contradict right teaching. Another seed is found in Colossians 4:1 where the apostle Paul tells slaves owners to be just and fair to their slaves. What is more just and fair than granting their slaves freedom?
What about polygamy? While there may not be a “shall not” about polygamy in the Bible, I don’t think that God condones it. I think that it is obvious, by what Jesus said, that marriage is between one man and one woman. But there are other reasons why I think polygamy was something that God allowed rather than condoned. One reason is the men of faith in the Old Testament who had more than one wife. God reveals these families to us in all of their disfunction. Jealousy, favoritism, and other family problems were rampant. Isn’t it possible that God allowed us these stories to show us the negative consequences of not following His design?
Let us take some time and look at some of the commands God does give us. In Deuteronomy 17:17 God tells Israel that when they have a king, the king should not take many wives. While God doesn’t condemn polygamy here or specify that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, He did reveal to them the dangers of having multiple wives. Again, I think God is making a concession to people for their hard hearts. His desire is that as people follow Him that they would mature to the point of accepting His design for their lives.
It shouldn’t surprise us then as we move into the New Testament that we do find a command about one man and one woman as God’s design for marriage. Not only do we have the words of Jesus in Mark 10, but we also have the guidance of the apostle Paul. In 1 Timothy 3:2, Paul tells us that a leader of God’s people must be the husband of one wife. The way I see it is a progression from the command about kings of Israel, where the restriction was simply not to have many wives, to a command of only one wife for the leaders of God’s people, the Church. Rather than condoning polygamy, God allowed it so we could mature in our thinking and understanding and eventually accept His original design of one man and one woman as marriage.
Jimil also claims that we ignore biblical restrictions like women speaking in church? There is debate within the Church on this issue, but one thing we know is that women have taught God’s people from the beginning. In the Old Testament there was Deborah who was called a prophet (Judges 4:4). In the New Testament we run into Anna the prophet in Luke 2:36. Then there were the missionaries, the wife and husband team of Priscilla and Aquilla. Since it was unusual for the wife’s name to be mentioned first, it is thought that this meant that Priscilla was the leader/teacher of the duo. I would suggest Paul’s restriction of women speaking in church was a general rule for a culture where women tended to be less educated than men, rather than an universal law for all Christians.
The Old Testament restriction of not mixing fabrics went the way of the dodo along with the food restrictions Israel had to observe in order to be separate from the world. What did Jesus say about food? In Mark 7:17-19 Jesus tells His disciples that food can’t make you unclean because it doesn’t come in contact with your heart, and by saying that Jesus declared all food acceptable. Let us use this principle for the law of mixing threads. What we wear doesn’t come into contact with our hearts, and so it doesn’t matter what it is made of, all types of fabric are acceptable.
Jimil claims that we who say that same-sex marriage is wrong are following the way of tradition rather than Jesus’ lesson of love. I dealt with this a little bit in my pondering from yesterday, but let me summarize what I said. One of my favorite stories of Jesus is His encounter with the rich young ruler. In Mark 10:21 we are told that Jesus looked at this young man, who had an interest in God and eternal life, with genuine love, and yet Jesus allowed him to walk away from God’s Kingdom. Why? Because the young man didn’t trust Jesus enough to provide him with life. The young man believed that his happiness and life depended on his riches, and he walked away from Jesus. What does this tell us about the love of Jesus? It tells us that in love Jesus told the young man the truth about following Him. Jesus didn’t water it down, and what He asked of the young man was difficult, as difficult of leaving a romantic relationship, and Jesus allowed the young man to choose whether or not he would do it and follow Jesus.
If we are to follow Jesus’ lesson of love, then it means that we are truthful about what it means to follow Jesus. It is not loving to allow people to believe they are part of God’s Kingdom when they are not willing to trust Jesus with their lives. Sure there will be people who say that it is not fair, unloving, and intolerant, but it is the truth. This principle has application for more than those struggling with homosexuality, it has application for all of us who hold on to parts of our lives rather than trusting Jesus to provide us with the life God created us to live (Ephesians 2:10).
My greatest desire is to help people live the life God created them to live, and that life is found on the other side of trust and obedience. Let me be very clear about this point: The life God created us to live isn’t about marriage, sex, or romantic relationships, it is about following Jesus. Jesus told us that if we are not willing to give up our relationships then we are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37-39). If you can’t give up a romantic relationship in order to follow Jesus, then you are not worthy of Him. That goes for those in sinful heterosexual relationships as well.
The last thing I would like to comment on is the statement Jimil makes that “The world is evolving out of this prejudice.” I don’t care if the world is evolving, because how I live isn’t based on what the world says. The apostle Paul tells us:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2; ESV)
What the world thinks about homosexual marriage is irrelevant, what matters is what God says. Unlike the examples I have given about slavery and polygamy, I don’t see the seeds of change found in Scripture. What I find is the opposite. What I see is that God reinforces the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman. That is God’s design from the very beginning.
The Church needs to tread very carefully about how we allow the world to influence us. Read the letters to the seven church found in Revelation 2-3. What you will discover is that Jesus has harsh words for those churches that allowed the world to influence them, whether it was their doctrine or how they lived. We can delude ourselves into thinking we are being loving and tolerant, and be very far from God.
I encourage you to read Thomas Sowell's column in its enterity: "Jolting" the Economy
Much as we may deplore partisanship in Washington, bipartisan disasters are often twice as bad as partisan disasters-- and this is a bipartisan disaster in the making.
Too many people who argue that there is a beneficial role for the government to play in the economy glide swiftly from that to the conclusion that the government will in fact confine itself to playing such a role.
In the light of history, this is a faith which passeth all understanding. Even in the case of the Great Depression of the 1930s, increasing numbers of economists and historians who have looked back at that era have concluded that, on net balance, government intervention prolonged the Great Depression.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Emotionally this is a difficult Scripture accept. Even though the words come from the mouth of Christ Jesus, we would like it not to be true. If it is true it means that not everyone will be part of the Kingdom of God, and that includes people who worship with you every week. This is not an issue of church attendance or style of worship, but it is an issue of character and faith. It is not the person who says Jesus is Lord who is part of the Kingdom of God, but the person lives their lives based on the Lordship of Jesus.
This, I believe, is the root of the discussion about homosexuality and the Church. Their are people who can’t come to grips with what Jesus says and they want to believe that no one is exclude from the Kingdom, especially if they have declared their love for Jesus. And so you have Emergent leader Tony Jones writing (How I Went From There to Here):
In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer] can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.It is true that each one of us struggles with sin, and if it was up to us to live a perfect life to be part of the Kingdom of God then we all would be in trouble since none of us do. That is not the issue. The issue is whether or not we are going to do what God asks us to do, even if it is difficult to do. That is the issue. Our faith is seen in our obedience to God’s commands, especially when it is difficult to do. When Jesus is King then we will obey Him and thus be part of His Kingdom, but if we are not willing to obey then we will be on the outside.
Take the rich young ruler as an example. His story can be found in Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-24. This young man was a moral man, which is evident by his attempt to keep the commandments (it is my opinion that when he tells Jesus that he has kept the commandments he indicates that when he has sinned he has followed the Law to deal with that sin). He is a ruler, which means he has the respect of the elders of his community (probably the local synagogue). He is also wealthy, which would be a sign, in that culture, that he was blessed by God. The passage even tells us that Jesus looked on him and loved him. Yet, at the end of the story we discover that the young man is left outside the Kingdom of God. Why? The reason Jesus didn’t let him in was because he was unwilling to let go of his wealth and trust Jesus to provide him with life.
The person who is unwilling to give up his/her sexuality and trust Jesus to provide them with life is in the same position as the rich young ruler was in Yet it is also so much more than that. Each of us have issues and sins that we need to give up so we can follow Jesus. The only way we can be part of the Kingdom of God is to submit to the Lordship of Christ Jesus, and that requires obedience.
That is the message the entire Church needs to hear, and not just homosexuals. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 13? There are many people who have committed to their local church, who teach Sunday School, who sing songs of praise, who read the Bible, and yet do not trust Jesus with their lives. They don’t adjust their lives to His will, and the result is that they will be left out of the Kingdom. Just because we many not struggle with homosexuality, doesn’t mean that we are part of God’s Kingdom. To be part of the Kingdom we must recognize Jesus as King in our lives. That isn’t just about saying words, it is about how we live our lives.
- Point to Ponder: To be part of the Kingdom of God requires us to submit to the Lordship of Christ Jesus.
- Passage to Remember: Luke 13:24-28
- Prayer to Pray: Lord God, help me to see those areas of my life that I need to adjust to Your rule, and help me not to condemn others, but to speak the truth in love.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I must confess that as a NT scholar I am inherently suspicious about theological systems like Calvinism or Dispensationalism or even Arminianism and the like which seem to foster certain kinds of feelings of intellectual certainty and even smugness about things that are in fact profound mysteries.
I would encourage you to go and read the entire post: John Piper Explains Why Calvinists are So Negative. Though I should point out I haven't been wondering why Calvinists are so negative, but how our theologies can blind us to the truth of Scripture.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Apparently it was the teenager’s first day on the job, because when O.D. Cleaver saw the flower arrangement that were delivered to the church building for their celebration in the brand new building he knew something was wrong. The arrangement had a ribbon banner across the front that read, “Rest in Peace.”
So O.D. called the florist to see what happened. The manager of the flower shop quietly listened to O.D.’s problem and then he said, “You think you’ve got problems. Somewhere in this city there is a set of flowers beside a casket with a sign which says, ‘Good Luck in your New Location!’”
When it comes to our eternal destination luck isn’t going to have anything to do with it. It is choice and not chance that determines where we spend eternity. It is our decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ that determines our eternity. So I have this question for you to consider this morning: Have you accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow Him? I am going to preach, but first I am going to pray.
I want you to think about what event is important to you that would not miss for the world. Everything else suddenly become side issues compared to experiencing this event. Perhaps it is the graduation of one of your children or the wedding of a granddaughter or a dream vacation. We all have events and experiences that we wouldn’t let anything get in the way of attending.
One of the experiences that I would drop everything in order to attend is to be able to watch the Iowa Hawkeyes play in a bowl game. If the opportunity came that would allow me to do that I would do whatever it took to make sure that I would be there. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.
As I thought about this I came to realize that one simple thing that I love to experience are family get-togethers. I love sitting around the table listening to the stories of my uncles and cousins. I could sit there all day and not say a word and throughly enjoy myself.
One of the ways we find out what is important to us is by what we will not allow anything else to interfere with. A person who loves football will make sure his Sunday afternoons are free in the fall, and nothing will get in the way of him and his remote. A dedicated golfer will golf in the wind and the rain and the extreme heat. Nothing except a closed golf course will get in his way. For many people family is important and they will drive hours for the chance to be with family. When we allow things to get in the way of certain events and experiences we are sending the message that these events aren’t all that important to us.
The point Jesus makes in the two short parables quoted above is that being part of the Kingdom of Heaven is the most precious thing we can have. If we truly understood it we would gladly sell everything we had in order to be part of what God is doing. I want to leave you with this question: How precious is being part of Heaven to you?
- Point to Ponder: The most precious thing we can have is to be part of God’s Kingdom.
- Passage to Remember: Matthew 13:44-46
- Prayer to Pray: Lord God, Help to understand my true priorities in life and what I might be holding on to that is preventing me from truly following Jesus.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Ignorance of America's history and heritage is a setup for politicians and others who want to manipulate us into a way of thinking that allows them to make decisions that are unconstitutional and unwise. More than repeating phrases and figures, knowledge of the past prepares us for a future based on unchanging principles. That's why knowledge matters and ignorance endangers our government and threatens our way of life even more than terrorism.I would encourage you to read the rest of the column: The Other Deficit.
This is also an illustration about what happens when we allow government to run vital institutions: they break them. Do we really want government doing to health care what it has already done to education? Ignorance has a steep cost, and that cost is the gradual loss of our liberties.
Take a moment and ponder this question: How do you know you are really a disciple of Jesus? If someone asked for proof that you are indeed a follower of Jesus Christ what evidence would you provide? Perhaps there is an even more fundamental question that we need to consider: What does it mean to be a Christian?
I believe that many Christians are frustrated with their lives because they go to church at least once a week, pray everyday, and even manage to read their Bibles on a regular basis, but in spite of their efforts there seems to be something missing from their lives. They question if being a Christian even matters.
In the past Christianity has focused on “spiritual disciplines” to help us understand what disciples, followers of Christ, should be doing. These things include study, prayer, meditation, service, fasting, fellowship, and worship. Let me be absolutely clear in this: these disciplines can play an important role in helping us understand how to live the life God created us to live. The problem we run into is that being a follower of Christ isn’t about checking spiritual disciplines off our to do list. When we make spiritual disciplines the criteria for what it means to be a disciple then it will feel like something is missing from our lives. Remember all these disciplines can be done by people who have no faith in Jesus. It isn't so much about what we do, but why we do it. Jesus wants people of faith, and not just people who are dogmatic to a set of disciplines. After all it is faith that makes the spiritual disciplines effective.
Faith is not just about belief. Belief is the foundation of faith, but if all we have is belief then all we have is a stone foundation without a house. Faith must grow into trust, commitment, and action. Trust means that we will believe Jesus even though His way of living seems contrary to what we think is best. Commitment means that we will remain loyal to Jesus no matter what happens to us. Action means that we will be obedient to Jesus' teachings, even when it is difficult. Only when we have faith do the spiritual disciplines of Christianity come alive and help us mature as Christians.
Jesus tells us in Luke 14:25-27 that we need faith if we are going to be true disciples. The type of faith that we need produces love in our lives. Jesus tells us that unless we love Him above everything else in our lives we will not be able to follow Him. We may be able to go through the motions and look like we are His followers, but we will not be the fully devoted people He demands us to be. When we are not fully devoted to Jesus we will only follow Him when it is convenient to us.
Love will motivate us to behave in a certain way and will lead us to do certain acts of service. Furthermore by love demonstrated in the way we live our lives that set us apart as followers of Jesus. Our love is an outgrowth of of faith. Discipleship for the Christian is about faith expressing itself as love. Our love for God and our love for people.
If something seems to be missing in your life take an inventory of your life. What do you love the most? Are you following Jesus out of faith? I think those are two very important questions we need to ask ourselves as we seek to grow as Christians. Being a Christian is about doing the right things out of the love and faith that we have in our heart.
- Point to Ponder: Discipleship for the Christian is about faith expressing itself in love.
- Passage to Remember: Luke 14:25-27
- Prayer to Pray: Father, thank You for sending Jesus. Help me to develop the faith and love I need to follow Jesus.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
One of the things I find interesting about Jesus is that he didn’t get angry with people who struggled with sin. In the Gospels we see that Jesus became angry with the "religious leaders." Obviously He was upset with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes because they burden people with law but did little to help them all the while opposing Jesus. Jesus also became angry with the Twelve when they prevented children from seeing Him. The people who Jesus became angry with were the people who were to help lead people to God. To the people struggling with sin Jesus showed compassion and offered them an invitation to follow Him.
We see an example of this reality with Jesus encounter with the woman at the well. Jesus and His disciples are traveling through Samaria in order to return to Galilee. The group stops near the village of Sychar to rest. There is a well near the town, a well that was dug by Jacob. It was at the well Jesus rests and the disciples go into the village to buy food.
It was almost noon when a woman came out to the well to draw water. This was odd since the women usually drew water in the cool of the morning and the cool of the evening, they didn’t come out during the day. It was odd because the well was part of the social network for the women, it provided them time to talk and gossip. In other words it would have been obvious to the casual observer that this woman was an outcast among her fellow citizens.
Jesus strikes up a conversation with the woman, which would have been an unheard of event in that culture, and they talk about water. In the course of the conversation Jesus reveals that He knows the woman has been married five times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. No condemnation comes from Jesus’ lips, just the invitation to drink the water He is offering.
The way Jesus related to people struggling with sin has gotten me to think about how we should relate to them. One school of thought is that we need to convict the hearts of people about their sin, so we need to open up God’s Law and show them that they are liars, cheaters, thieves, and adulterers. They need to understand their sin before they can repent of it.
I suppose that is one way to handle the situation, but it doesn’t seem to be Jesus’ way. Could it be that people who are entangled with sin understand fully that things are not the way they should be? I would suggest that a person struggling with sin is already experiencing the consequences of sin. He or she doesn’t need to be told that things need to be changed or be reminded that what they are doing is wrong, their lives are evidence of that fact. What they need to hear is that there is hope and that there are people willing to help them change no matter who they are or what they have done.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a place for telling the world of God’s law, but more often then not what people need is mercy and compassion. People struggling with sin don’t need lectures on sin or be told that they are sinners, but they need to know that there is hope for their lives and that things can be different. They need to know that they are loved regardless of the circumstances in their lives.
Perhaps we need to quit being so vocal about the sins of the world and being more compassionate about their circumstances. When we help people rather than judge them we better communicate God’s love. That is what people really need.
- Point to Ponder: Jesus showed compassion to sinners and so should we.
- Passage to Remember: Jude 21-23
- Prayer to Pray: Lord, thank You for showing compassion and mercy to me. Please help me to see other people, and their sins, through the lens of compassion rather than judgment.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Our lives are the product of the choices that we make. There are big choices which will affect the rest of our lives, and there are small everyday choices which set the direction of our lives each day. Since choices are so important it is essential that we have the proper foundation for making good choices.
According to Jesus the foundation we need to make good choices is His Word. The Bible, the entire Bible, contains the Words of Jesus. The wisdom we need to make good choices comes from the Bible. So how do we go about laying a foundation of Scripture on which we can build our lives? I think if we look at this parable Jesus taught we will find three actions we must do in order to lay the firm foundation of God’s Word.
The first action we must do is to LISTEN to Jesus. Listening implies an active intent on part of the listener. You see a hearer is passive, if we have healthy functioning ears then we hear the various sounds of life. Listening requires us to focus, tuning out the other sounds, in order to hear what is important. It isn’t enough just read the Bible, but we must come to the Bible with the desire to understand what God wants us to know, and how that word applies to our lives.
The second action we must do is to BELIEVE Jesus. We can listen to what Jesus has to say, but if we don’t believe Him then we will not apply what we have heard to our lives. Belief in Jesus is what separates the foolish from the wise. The foolish will listen to Jesus, but because they do not believe who He is or what He has to say, they don’t allow His words to affect their lives. The wise believe Jesus is the Son of God and therefore trust what He says, and their lives are changed as a result.
The third action is to CHANGE the way we live. Hopefully you notice that this action step is the extension of the last action. You have to first believe before you can change. All change is is putting legs on belief. The action of change shouts to the world that we trust Jesus. Since we trust Jesus we will adjust our lives to His word, even when doing so makes us go against the way of the world. Jesus said the fool listens, but does not change His life.
Every single day we are going to be faced with choices, and many times we are not going to have the time we would like to consider all the options. So how do we lay a solid foundation that will help us make wise decisions? We build our lives on the word of God, committing ourselves to listen to Jesus, to believe Jesus, and as a result change the way we live. Without this solid foundation we will be at the mercy of the changing winds of this world, but with this solid foundation we will be able to stand against whatever storm comes our way.
- Point to Ponder: To make wise choices we need the solid foundation of God’s Word in our lives.
- Passage to Remember: Matthew 7:24-27
- Prayer to Pray: Lord God, thank You for revealing Your truth to me. Root me in Your Word so I can live a life that honors You.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Christians in Thyatira desperately needed a word from God. They lived in a city that claimed to have a word from God. According to William Barclay:
The only notable thing about Thyatira from a religious point of view was that it possessed a fortune-telling shrine, presided over by a female oracle called the Sambathē. (Daily Study Bible Series: Revelation of John 1; p. 101)
People would travel many miles to Thyatira was to get guidance for their lives. They believed that the Sambathē could give them a word from a god. This is why I find the opening verse of Christ’s letter to the Christians at Thyatira so interesting: The words of the Son of God. While others would travel great distances to receive a word from god, the Christians at Thyatira received a word from the Son of God right where they lived. They didn’t have to go anywhere, Jesus, the Son of God, was aware of what was happening and He sent them a the word that they needed to hear.
Another reason this is interesting is because the problem these Christians were facing was a false prophetess. A prophet or prophetess, like an oracle, brings a word from God to the people. This false prophetess, given the title of Jezebel by Christ Jesus, claimed to be giving the people a word from God, but she was really deceiving them with a lie from Satan.
There were two sources available to these Christians where they could get a word from God, and both of them were false. Not everything that claims to be from God is really from God. We have to be aware of what we allow to influence our lives. I think too often we allow ourselves to be guided by the wisdom of the world, by cool spiritual thinking, and by our changing emotions rather than by God’s Word, and the result is Christians who are deceived and live no differently from the world.
Not only did Jesus send this letter to the Christians in Thyatira, but He urged them to hold fast to what they had. What did they have? They had their faith which was informed by Old Testament Scripture and the apostles’ teachings. In other words they need to rely on what they had already been given.
While we might not receive a personal letter from Christ Jesus, that doesn’t mean we can’t receive a Word from God. The Bible contains the truth that God wants us to know. We have to make it a part of our lives. It is amazing that we live in a time when we have numerous different translations of the Bible and abundant study resources, but we are ignorant of what the Bible really says and how it applies to our lives. We might proclaim that the Bible is God’s Word, but we don’t live like it is. The majority of people we worship with on Sundays are lucky to crack the cover of their Bibles once during the week. How can we claim to follow Jesus if we don’t take the time to let Him guide our lives?
As we become more familiar with the Bible, we need to allow the Holy Spirit guide our lives. He while help us apply what we have learned for God’s written word. Through the working of the Holy Spirit we are able to receive a word of God that applies directly to our lives.
The churches in the United States are in desperate need of a Word from God. It is time that we open up our Bibles and read the very words of God. We are without excuse, so make sure you do it.
- Point to Ponder: The Bible contains the very words of God.
- Passage to Remember: Revelation 2:18-29
- Prayer to Pray: Lord God, Thank You for revealing Yourself to me. Remind me of the importance of reading Your Word everyday and help me make it a priority in my life.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Keeping in mind what Jesus said to this disciple who wanted to wait, consider what Erwin McManus wrote in Wide Awake:
I wonder if for many of us, the only thing stopping us from living the life God created us to live—the life of our dreams—is to let go of a life so good that it betrays the great. Are we willing to give up all the things we have right now to be able to obtain that which God longs for us tomorrow? (p. 106)
What stopped this potential disciple from following Jesus was not something evil, but something that was good (showing respect to his father). Yet, that decision kept him from experiencing the life God longed for the would be disciple to live.
I believe that same is true for us. Many times we are not held back by sin or addiction, but by good things. “I will give more my income God, but first let me get out of debt.” Or, “Lord, I will serve more once the kids are out of the house.” Or, "Lord, I will learn to trust You, but let me enjoy this relationship." Over and over again we find excuses on why we cannot follow Jesus exactly the way He wants us to.
Part of what Jesus told this disciple is that when we follow Him, these good things in life will work themselves out. His father will get buried if he is there or not. So the lesson we should take away is that we can give and still pay off our debt, it will take some discipline, but it can be done. We can still serve while working and raising a family, it will require priorities and schedule, but it can be done. If we delay gratification and work on our relationship with God before pursuing a relationship, God will get us to where He wants us to be. How much of life are we missing out on because we are not willing to trust God and follow Jesus in every area of our lives?
Following Jesus is difficult. It requires us to make some tough choices that will make us look, and at times feel, crazy. It requires us to give up the security of what we know for the future that we don’t know. It requires us to step out in faith even when no one else will come with us. That is what is required to live the life God created us to live, the life that we truly long to live.
It is very easy to get distracted and to allow our lives to be consumed by good things, but if Jesus calls us to give them up we have to be ready to leave them behind. Is there anything holding you back from fully following Jesus? If Jesus is truly Lord of your life the only thing you can do is lay it down and follow Him. No questions, no whining, just do it. The life you were created to live is waiting on the other side.
- Point to Ponder: The good in life often holds us back from experiencing the life God created us to live.
- Passage to Remember: Matthew 8:21-22
- Prayer to Pray: Heavenly Father, Thank You for this life you have given me. You know my struggle to leave what I know behind and follow Jesus. I ask that You will give me the courage I need to live a life of faith, following Jesus every step of the way, regardless of the cost.
Friday, November 07, 2008
In this parable Jesus tells us that it is important for us to use the gifts He has given us to advance His Kingdom. I believe one of the greatest gifts we have received from Jesus is freedom. In this country we have independence and freedom that has been unparalleled in history. Yet, many of us have squandered this wonderful gift of freedom.
One way many of us have squandered our freedom is by being enslaved to debt. Debt not only prevents us from giving the way we should, it also holds us back from creating more wealth that will enable us to do even more with our money. The reality is that many of us have followed the siren song of materialism, and we have spent money we don’t have. The result is that we cannot be as free with our money was we would like to be since it is already promised to our creditors.
A second way many of us have squandered the freedom God has given us is by being enslaved to our jobs. In part this is tied to the call of materialism. Since we feel the pressure to pay for all the stuff we are buying on credit, we have to make sure we work as much as possible to have as money as we can earn. I also believe that we become enslaved to our jobs because we want our lives to count for something so we try to find our purpose in life in our jobs. The end result to all of this is that we are exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and we don’t give ourselves to ministry and service.
A last way I think we squander the gift of freedom is by living in ignorance. We have vast amounts of knowledge available to us, but we don’t take the time to make use of it. We spend our time seeking out entertainment rather than being disciplined to learn what we can about the world around us. The result is that we are ignorant about the Bible, Church History, American Government, American History, and many other subjects. This harms us because we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past or the wisdom of our ancestors. We become enslaved to our ignorance instead of living a life of freedom that comes from wisdom.
Freedom is a great gift. Let us think of ways we can take advantage of this gift and use it to increase the influence of God’s Kingdom. The gift of freedom is a great one, don’t squander it.
- Point to Ponder: One of the greatest gifts we have received for Jesus is freedom.
- Passage to Remember: Matthew 25:14-30
- Prayer to Pray: Father, open my eyes to the ways I have squandered the freedom that You have given to me. Help me to use my freedom to expand Your Kingdom here on earth
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I hope Barack Obama will not be what he has promised to be. I hope he doesn't have a civilian security force. I hope he doesn't raise my taxes. I hope he doesn't spread the wealth. I hope he doesn't raise taxes on corporate America. I hope he looks at nuclear power. I hope he allows us to drill. I hope that there will be no revival of the fairness doctrine.
As I examine my life I have this sense that I am not who I am supposed to be. It feels like I am missing out on the life that God created me to live. One reason for this feeling is the reality that I am unwilling to change my behavior. I get use to what is comfortable, even though it holds me back from the life God wants me to live, and become unwilling to move outside of that comfort zone. When I am honest with myself I admit that it is easier to settle for this life I have right now than it is to face the hard work and uncertainty of change.
The problem is that following Christ Jesus requires change. We cannot stay where we are and go with Jesus. Following Jesus requires change in our attitudes, behaviors, passions, desires, dreams, relationships, and priorities. The process of following Christ will change us.
The apostle Paul told Titus that the grace of God provides us with what we need in order to change. Not just to make superficial changes, such as changes in diet and exercise, but true and everlasting change. It is hard to change, and we need to be reminded that God, through Christ, has provided us with what we need to become the people that He created us to be.
This true change first requires us to say no. Paul writes that God’s grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. We cannot change if we insist on holding on to the old. God’s grace: the Bible, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, shows us that there is something better than the life we are currently living. This is key because we will not let go of the comfortable and familiar if we don’t know what awaits us is better. The starting place of change is turning our backs on our current circumstances and turning towards what God has promised.
This true change also requires us to replace our sinful behaviors with righteous actions. The Apostle tells us that our lives need to be described as self-controlled, upright, and godly. In other words our lives need to be positively different from the world around us. If we do part one without doing part two, we will discover a life of guilt because we are living a way which we know is wrong. Understanding what is wrong is just the first step, we then need to move on and fix the problems.
Change is what following Jesus is all about. If we are not changing, if we are not adjusting our lives in the light of God’s Truth, then we are not really following Jesus. Ultimately following Jesus isn’t about living the life God created us to live, but it is about honoring Jesus. We honor Jesus by changing the way we live. When we refuse to align our lives with God’s Word we disrespect Jesus, who we claim to be Lord of our lives. Our obedience always brings honor to the Lord, regardless of what happens to us. Remember, Jesus gave Himself for us, we should be able to give ourselves for Him.
- Point to Ponder: We honor Jesus by changing the way we live.
- Passage to Remember: Titus 2:11-14
- Prayer to Pray: Father in Heaven, thank You for giving me the opportunity to know Your grace and allow that grace to change my life. I want to honor Jesus with my life, and so I ask for wisdom to know what to change, understanding on how to change, and the strength to change.
Congressman Ron Paul has an article up at LewRockwell.com that deals with this point. It most deals with regulation in the financial sector, but he also provides this as an illustration:
It is much the same in any area rife with government involvement. Many feel that just because their children are getting good grades at a government school, they are getting a good education. After all, they are passing the government-mandated litmus test. But, this does not guarantee educational excellence. Neither is it always the case that a child who does NOT achieve good marks in school is going to be unsuccessful in life. Is your drinking water safe, just because the government says it is? Is the internet going to magically become safer for your children if the government approves regulations on it? I would caution any parent against believing this would be the case. Nothing should take the place of your own common sense and due diligence.Go and read Congressman Paul's The Moral Hazard of Regulation.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Consider the following quote attributed to Samuel Adams:
He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man...The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.
One of my fundamental beliefs is the belief that liberty, individual freedom, is a gift from almighty God and not a privilege extended to us by the government. That means real freedom is found in the choices that we make, and not in the type of government which governs the country. Make no mistake about it: there are people in this country who are slaves because of the choices that they have made. Freedom is a gift from God, and the purpose of the Constitution of the United States is to ensure that we have the best opportunity to enjoy that freedom. While that is true, ultimately we find or lose our freedom based on the choices we make.
What does a free life look like? According to Samuel Adams the person who enjoys freedom is the person who lives a virtuous life. That is an interesting thought. In other words it is not the person who simply enjoys the benefits of freedom, doing whatever he/she pleases, but the person who lives according to a code of conduct, who gets the most out of freedom. The person who is honest, loving, disciplined, hard-working, and compassionate (to name a few positive virtues) is the person who will best enjoy his/her freedom.
This reminds me of what the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 2:16 we read; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (ESV). Peter tells us that we are to live as free people, and the best way to do that is to live as servants of God. Ultimately freedom is found by living out God’s design for our lives. The way we enjoy freedom is to be disciplined in how we live.
Please understand this: no one can rob us of our freedom. Even if someone takes over and destroys the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, we are still able to live free lives. The reason for this is because it is not the government that makes us free. Freedom is a gift from God. The choices we make, even under an oppressive government, are what enable us to enjoy God’s gift of freedom.
Have hope! God, in His great wisdom and mercy, has placed control of our lives in our hands. The choices that we make are what determine what our lives will be like. God has left it up to us to decide whether or not we will live with freedom. This freedom is not about doing whatever we would like to do, but it is about choosing to live the life God planned for us to live (see Ephesians 2:10).
The ability to be free is discovered in the choices we make. Choose to follow Jesus and enjoy real freedom.
- Point to Ponder: Ultimately we find or lose our freedom based on the choices we make.
- Passage to Remember: 1 Peter 2:16
- Pray to Pray: Thank You Father for the gift of the freedom. I ask for the guidance and wisdom I need to make the most of this wonderful gift.
America is heading down the blind alley of big government toward the brick wall of national bankruptcy. The only way out is to turn the truck completely around and head back toward small government, self-reliance and freedom.We, the freedom loving people of the United States, have to make sure that we are vocal about the huge price of big government and the benefits of personal liberty.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
There are certain times in our lives when it is important for us to step back and look at the big picture. As followers of Christ Jesus we need to remember the reason for our hope. Our hope isn’t in our country, our government, a political party, or even a particular candidate. It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and begin to believe that one candidate will lead us to a glorious new future and the other will destroy our liberties. Election day becomes judgment day and our hope rests on the results.
I want to encourage us today, especially me since I see both presidential candidates as horrible choices, that regardless of the outcome Jesus is still in control. He is still the Firstborn among the dead, the Head of the church, and the Creator of all things. When the smoke clears the leadership of our government may have changed, and with it a great deal of uncertainty, but Christ Jesus will still be Lord.
Last night as I was laying in bed, trying to get to sleep, I read 1 Peter. In this letter the apostle Peter wrote: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16; ESV). Our freedoms are not gifts from the government, but from God. Peter wants us to live as free people live and in the process serve God. This is what we are required to do no matter who is president or what type of government we live under. Because Jesus is Lord let us live as free people live.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
In America, all citizens are guaranteed "the pursuit of happiness," not happiness given to them by a controlling government. Democrats would have you believe that every American is entitled to full healthcare, welfare, and high wages whether they've earned it or not. And, of course, who is supposed to pay for all these entitlements, those greedy, "wealthy" Americans who already pay most of the taxes! Will Rogers said it years ago, "I remember back when a liberal was someone who was generous with his own money."I urge you to check out the rest of the column: Democracies Die
God has given us a wonderful promise. He has promised to remove our sin and make us new. Let me put it another way: God will redeem our lives. God will take all the junk, the sin and the pain, and give us a life that is worth living. That speaks to the heart of so many people because we want our lives to matter, and many of us feel like our lives are being wasted. The consequences of sin hold us in bondage and the addictive nature of sin has turned us into people we don’t want to be. God promises that He will change this!
There is another side to this coin. While God promises to help us, to re-create us and and to take away our sins, but we have to be willing to accept that help. The key to receiving God’s help is faith. Faith is not just about having a belief in God, but it is trusting God. I like to say that belief + action = faith.
So how do we demonstrate our faith in God? First, He has asked us believe in Jesus. Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29; ESV). Jesus is God’s appointed way to salvation and if we expect to receive help from God we must put our trust in Jesus. It is not easy to trust Jesus. One reason is because His way, the way of the cross, is difficult and it demands submission and sacrifice. A second reason is because there are a number of other philosophies or religions that seem make more sense to us. Only a few will follow the way of Jesus.
Second, we must repent. Peter speaking to the crowd at Pentecost said; Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19; ESV). The main idea of repentance is not merely doing a 180 but is changing your allegiance. It is like a person from another country denouncing their loyalty to their homeland and declaring their allegiance to the United States. Repentance means we denounce our sinful ways, our allegiance to the Kingdom of Darkness, and throw our lot in with God, the Kingdom of Light.
Third, we must love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35; ESV). When we love each other we are fulfilling the command Jesus gave us. It is not easy to love people, but when we sacrifice and extend a helping hand to others we are being the type of people Jesus wants us to be. Also by loving other people we prove our love for God. Love is the pathway over which God’s help can come into our lives.
God has promised us a new life that is cleansed from our sins, but in order to receive this promise we need to have faith in God. By trusting God (belief in action) we begin to discover life the way it should be and we begin to see things from God’s perspective. It is at that point that we begin to truly desire the life God has waiting for all those who have trusted in Him. God’s promises are made real in the lives of the faithful.