Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God With Us

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23)

I read recently where some atheist organization had put up a billboard in New Jersey claiming that the nativity is a myth and appealing to "reason." It is truly sad how insecure someone must be to attack a cherished celebration in that way, but then, as Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God."

Atheists firmly believe that if they can just appeal to reason we'll lay this God foolishness down. They can't see the reality of "God with us." Jesus didn't come and die to make us religious but to bring us into a relationship. Relationship with God is an awesome wonderful thing. By faith, we lay hold of the reality of that relationship. By faith, we walk and talk with Him and hear His voice. By faith we receive what He has for us. By faith, we live in this wonderful fellowship with Him.

We are in an age where access to information has exploded exponentially. The internet is a wide open opportunity for argument. People who, face to face, would have kept quiet now have a vehicle to broadcast any ignorant opinion they like. You can search online and find a million arguments for or against God. People can argue with your theology and mock your beliefs, but they cannot take away your relationship with God. I see Christians online trying to argue with unbelievers. It rarely works.

But something different happens when you live in relationship with God. Sadly, many believers rarely grasp the fullness of that walk. There is nothing like it. His very presence now dwells within us. God is truly with us! That is the only antidote to an age of skepticism. If we truly desire to walk with Him and know Him He will oblige. The man or woman that knows the Lord is never at the mercy of an unbeliever with a bunch of arguments.

God is with us! As we enter into this Christmas season I pray that the reality of that will be manifest more and more in each of our lives. Jesus came to bring us into fellowship with God. Let's grab hold of what He has provided for us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Other Name

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Jesus Christ is still "the way, the truth, and the life" and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). Salvation is by no other. It was only Jesus Christ who made a way for each of us when we could not make a way for ourselves. He paid my blood debt and bought me eternal relationship with God. It's not cool to believe that anymore. We like to believe that all paths lead to God, but that's just not the truth according to God's Word. Jesus Himself said that the person who doesn't believe is "condemned already" (John 3:18). No amount of monkeying around with scripture can change that. As His follower it's not my job to change the message to make it palatable -- if I were to do that it would, in fact, prove that I am not much of a follower of His. I live according to what He has said, not according to what I think or want to believe.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This salvation comes by faith, in other words, we receive it by believing God. In Romans Paul writes that we must confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). God has purchased our salvation for each of us, but we must receive it by faith. In Galatians 3:22 we read that "the scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." Hebrews 10:39 says that "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Perdition means destruction.

Judgment is not a popular topic anymore, but the Bible is clear that judgment awaits those who reject Jesus. 2nd Thessalonians 1:8-10 makes that abundantly clear: "in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed." There's that belief again.

In Matthew 28 and Mark 16 we read where Jesus commanded us to go into the world as His witnesses. We carry the most wonderful news in the history of mankind. The word gospel, literally means "good news." We carry the good news because there is bad news for those who reject the Jesus. We are salt and light in a messed up world.

Salvation is by no other.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Above and Beyond

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think! What an awesome passage of scripture. I think we sometimes get so caught up in thinking that if we don't do everything just right then God won't come through for us. There are tons of books on how to pray. Pray this way. Pray these scriptures. Pray my way.

I don't really mean to demean the work and sincerity of those authors or their readers. many wonderful books on prayer have been written that the Lord has used to encourage and grow believers. What I do fear is that sometimes we can, inadvertently, implement something good in a harmful way. We can easily begin to think that something I must do is the key in all of this. I must say the exact right prayer in exactly the right way. We can create a real burden for ourselves in doing this.

Ultimately, prayer is less about our imperfect linguistic ability, and much more about faith. God really does see our hearts. While I do believe that what we speak and pray does matter, (we want to always agree with God's Word) I don't believe that we are going to get hung on a technicality. He does above and beyond what we can ask or think according to the power that works in us. What we believe is far more important than the words that come out of mouths. Like it or not, faith does make a difference. There is very little theological wiggle room there.

God looks at the heart. We think because someone says a long eloquent prayer they must have some kind of real great thing going on with the Lord. They might. They might not. They might just be good at saying long eloquent prayers. What matters is the heart. I'd rather have someone who believed God, but stumbles over their words, agreeing with me in prayer than someone who prays a beautiful prayer with the wrong heart.

He does above and beyond. Our faith is not in our faith. Our faith is not in our words. Our faith is in Him. He is the object of our faith. Faith matters because Jesus is alive and at work in our lives.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is the Bible Reliable as a Historical Document?

Here is an intersting conversation between Lee Strobel and Jerry Johnston. The primary impetus for this is Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, but the conversation on the reliability of the Bible is interesting and informative.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beware the Tale Bearer

"The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17)

Ever been in a situation where someone came and laid out some story about someone else only to find out later that the story was terribly distorted? Most of us have, at some point, probably found ourselves in this kind of situation. The Bible has much to say about this kind of destructive gossip and what it says is not good.

"The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body." (Proverbs 18:8)

"A man who bears false witness against his neighbor Is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow." (Proverbs 25:18)

"You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." (Exodus 23:1)

In proverbs 6:19 a false witness is listed as one of the things the Lord hates. He considers it to be an abomination.

Why do people do it? Frequently it is done out of anger or frustration, but sometimes the people who do it just seem to enjoy the drama of it all. It is done with the intention of hurting someone's reputation. It is a repugnant thing since the person who is being victimized usually has no idea what is going on unless someone clues them in. They then find themselves in a situation where somebody might be treating them differently based on falsehoods. This kind of tale bearing is truly nasty.

When someone comes to me with a story about someone else I always take it with a grain of salt. That doesn't mean I don't believe them. There is a balance here. Sometimes people are truly wronged and it does help to allow them to tell their story, but there is a different kind of spirit at work in this kind of gossip. There's a nastiness involved. If you have any discernment at all you can pick it up. The stories usually have no purpose other than hurting someone's reputation or bringing division into a relationship. Sometimes it's to gain leverage or to spin a situation. Sometimes it's an extreme form of self-justification. In a work or family situation the tale bearer may be trying to get some kind of upper hand by ruining the credibility of the other person.

Be wise. Be wary of people who seem to intentionally sow strife. Be careful of people who are too quick to talk about someone else. In my counseling role as a pastor I hear all sorts of things and that comes with the territory, but outside of that role I am very leery of people who just want to tell me about the wrongs of others. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your discernment. Don't allow yourself to be an instrument of the talebearer's manipulation.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Speaking the Truth

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14-15)

The gospel literally means good news. We have the greatest news in the world, but we are often afraid to share. We have seen a radical shift in the culture of the United States to the point that Christianity is so odious and offensive to some people that they have gone to great lengths to shut Christians up. They try to control the language and terms of debate. They have pretty much created an atmosphere of fear and contempt for Christianity in government and other public institutions. Even personally, we have been indoctrinated to believe that anything to do with Christianity is pretty much offensive to unbelievers.

It's not really true. Most people are out there living and struggling and and trying to make the best of life. People get involved in all sorts of "spiritual pursuits" in the hope of finding some sort of meaning to life. Even atheism is an attempt to make sense of it all.

We have the best news around. In the big picture it is the only message that really matters. Everything outside of that is like painting tombstones to make them look better. In the context of that message the other aspects of life fill with hope and meaning.

I think we've been too programmed to see sharing the gospel as some sort of religious duty. That takes all the fun out of it. Do you feel like it's some kind of chore to tell your co-workers about how your kid did at the ball game? Probably not. We've taken what should be the consuming passion of our life (knowing God) and religonized it to death. That effects how we share the good news.

The good news ought to be an integral part of our lives, playing out in every area. Ministry is out there -- all around us. People are hurting and looking for more. God is so good. He sent His very son to bring us into relationship with Him forever and ever.

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Wandering Heart

Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:11-24)

This is a wonderful story about our wandering hearts and God's great compassion. The world beckons with a siren's song that calls people away from the Lord. It is so easy (and I'm talking about believers here) for us to become like this young man and stray from our Father's estate.

Here we had a young man, living in the security and safety of his father's house. The father was obviously well off enough to go ahead and give the young man his portion of his inheritance in advance. He had servants, and owned livestock and fields that were apparently pretty substantial. Despite the affluence of his father's house this young man was discontented. He wasn't happy at his father's table. He wanted more. He wanted different, so he packs up and heads to a far country and blows his inheritance.

It is easy to look at the story and think how foolish and rebellious this young man was, but we often suffer from the same wandering heart. We have been brought into the family of God. We are now joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). We have a heavenly Father who promises to meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). He won't leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Psalm 103:2 tells us not to forget all the benefits we have in Him. I could go on and on.

Somehow, though, we still seem to be prone to wander. We are probably the most distracted and entertained people in the history of mankind. These distractions draw our hearts away. It doesn't mean that we are participating in things that are wrong or evil. Sometimes we can get drawn away doing good things.

One question we can ask ourselves is , "Where is the Lord in the priorities of my life?" We all will say He gets first place, but what is the reality of how your time is spent? How often does God come into your thoughts? How does your relationship with Him play out in your every day life?

Our lives are an ongoing interaction of relationships and experiences. Our lives are constantly in a state of flux. We go through good times and bad times. We have seasons of great joy and seasons of great pain. The only thing that doesn't change is the Lord and His love for us. The son went out and spent his inheritance, but when the son returned the father didn't react the way we we might have expected. He didn't yell or scream or kick him off his property. He didn't disown him or make him a servant -- which is the best the young man seemed to hope for. When he saw his son he ran to him. He called for the best robe to be be brought and put on his son. He had his servants bring a ring for his hand ( a symbol that this is still my son) and sandals for his feet. He ordered the fatted calf to be killed and a party in celebration. His son was home.

The enemy uses the attractions and distractions of the world to draw our hearts from the Lord, but it really is all a lie. The best part of life is found in knowing him and walking with Him. Thankfully, He is a God of restoration and compassion. Too often (and what a testimony to our ignorance) we have viewed our walk with the Lord as a series of things we must do to curry favor. Time with Him and in the Word seems like an obligation to fulfill, instead of a love relationship to thrive in.

We don't get favor with Him because of our works. Jesus gained that for us, but think on that for a minute. Think on it in the context of a relationship. Think of it in the context of people who view pretty much everything about the Christian life as some sort of work. Our love relationship with Him has become some kind of chore we have to do? Ouch.

Maybe this young man began to view living at his father's place as some kind of burden? Only when he was almost destroyed did he really appreciate how great life was at his father's house. I know he was glad to be home. Our home is in the Lord and it really is the best place to be.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Building Together

"For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?" (1st Corinthians 12:14-19)

In the third chapter of Nehemiah we find an account of the rebuilding of the city walls around Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians and the people carried away to Babylon. In 445 BC Nehemiah led a third group of exiles back from the captivity to rebuild the city walls. The Temple had been rebuilt around 516 BC, but the walls and gates remained broken, which left Jerusalem vulnerable to attack. In a culture based upon honor, broken walls were also a blight on the city's reputation. Nehemiah was led by the Lord to see that the walls were restored.

Nehemiah completed the restoration of the walls in under two months. In Nehemiah, chapter three, he records the various people who worked the wall. It was true team effort. Instead of having a select group of wall-builders who did all the work, different groups of people worked on sections of the wall. Nehemiah chronicles the work counter-clockwise around the wall.

Eliashab, the High priest, and some fellow priests rebuilt the sheep gate.
Men of Jericho worked next to them to rebuild their section of the wall.
The sons of Hassenaah rebuilt the fish gate.
Further down, Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah, repaired the old gate.
Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahathmoab, repaired part of the wall and the tower of the furnaces.
Shallum and his daughters worked on a portion of the wall. His father, Halohesh, ruled half of Jerusalem. While some nobles refused to work, they pitched right in to help.
On the south side of the city we find Shallun, the son Colhehez, the ruler of Mizpah, repairing the fountain gate.
A group of priests lived near the horse gate and each repaired the section near his home.
A group of goldsmiths and merchants fixed the walls from the northwest corner to the sheep gate.

I haven't included everyone listed by Nehemiah but I'm sure you get the point. The wall was a collective effort. People from all walks of life worked on it -- men, women, priests, Levites, merchants and goldsmiths. Sons of rulers worked alongside regular folk.

It took everyone to get the job done. In First Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul compares the church to the human body. He makes the point that every part much do its part for the body to function correctly. Everyone doesn't have the same purpose. It's when everybody is fulfilling their individual part that the whole works the way God would have it to work. We all have something to give and a part to play in what God is doing. Don't sell yourself short. Don't look at your own limitations but at the greatness of God!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Simple Word

In Matthew, chapter 8, we read the story where a Roman centurion came to Jesus with a request to heal his servant. Jesus' responded, "I will come and heal him." The centurion then said something that Jesus was really impressed with.

He said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed."

The centurion then goes on to explain his understanding of authority.

I think what I really like about this story is the simplicity of the centurion. He wasn't looking for magic acts and thunder and lightning. He just knew that if Jesus spoke the word it would be done. He had a very simple but very rooted faith.

There's a lesson there for us. While I do believe that certain people and ministries are anointed and gifted to certain tasks, I also believe that we can make a mistake chasing after people instead of simply believing what God has said in His Word. The Word of God is true for you today!

Jesus marveled (Matthew 8:10) at this man's faith. He simply believed. The enemy wants to complicate and obfuscate faith. He works on our fear, anger and disappointment. He uses bad theology and intellectual straw men against us. He reminds us of our mistakes and sins. He uses any weapon at his disposal to propagate doubt and unbelief, but we're not stuck.

God's Word is true for you today. Stand on it. Don't war against it and don't let the devil rob you of the promises found in it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Grace In Which We Stand

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)

We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. The eternal theological struggle seems to be the ongoing attempt to answer the questions, "What does God do? What do we do?" In this blog we've looked at different aspects of this relationship between God and man and what I think, personally, is a fruitless attempt to gather all of our theology in a neat little box with a bow on top. We want all the answers. God is just way too big for that. We only really know what He has revealed to us. Thankfully He has revealed a lot to us!

We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. Grace is what He has done for us. Faith is our response to His grace. Access means that we gain entry to something. In this case we gain entry to God's grace by faith. Paul could hardly make it any clearer. By grace, through the finished work of Jesus Christ, God has made a way for us to enter into relationship with Him. Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world -- everyone. No sin was left out.

And yet, we have to receive this wonderful gift by faith. A gift that is not received does the recipient no good. We stand in this grace by faith. Grace without faith is like an unopened present. Faith without grace has no leg to stand on. Thanks be to God for the wonderful provision He has made for us in Jesus Christ!

"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:8-10)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Amazing Rescue

This story is pretty darned incredible and what a great testimony to the Lord and the leading of the Holy Spirit! It's about the little girl who disappeared last week in Florida and how she was found. be sure to watch the video.

The Rescue of Nadia Bloom

Friday, April 9, 2010

They Didn't Believe

"When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?" So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." (Matthew 13:54-58)

These verses open up a conundrum for a lot of believers. Here we have Jesus, back at home, and the outcome of going home is that "He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." There's nothing here about His will or His timing. His will is, pretty obviously from scripture, that people would believe Him. His will is that we would put our faith in Him. What happens when we don't? Now that's a big question with scary ramifications.

Mark 6:5 described the situation this way --"Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them." Mark is pretty definitive.

Here's the conundrum. If God is sovereign why could he do no mighty works there? We have the answer -- because of their unbelief.

In Christianity we have a whole host of beliefs about God and what He actually does. They range from God does everything -- He ordains, arranges, and pulls the string on everything to a tacit deism -- He's out there but He doesn't actually do anything anymore. Most Christian's beliefs fall somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes.

We desperately want to figure out how things work. That includes God. There's nothing particularly wrong with that unless we come to a wrong conclusion and think we have all the answers. Thinking you are right when you are not can have some pretty serious ramifications.

What do we know from the Word? We know that God is sovereign, if the definition is correctly applied. He is in charge. He has plans that will ultimately come to fruition. We also know that faith and unbelief do matter in our individual lives. In His hometown Jesus didn't do much because of their unbelief. People argue this a few ways. Some will say that his power depends on our faith but I think, more likely, the correct answer is that we receive from Him by faith. His power was not the issue. Their unbelief was the issue. We see this all the time. We ask angry questions of God and why he let's things happen the way they do. That's another big theological wringer but the short answer is that we live in a fallen world that we surrendered to Satan. God gave Adam authority and he turned around and gave it away. In Christ we get His authority but we have to exercise it. The responsibility is placed on us. That's a hard truth for us to deal with. It is easier to just blame God.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Matthew 17. The disciples tried to cast a demon out of a young man and could not. This is an interesting story because of the way it connects illness with the demonic, but what is more interesting (to me anyhow) is how this story plays out. The disciples try to help this boy and fail.

This is where we are so much of the time. We throw a prayer up and see what happens. If something good comes of it we assume God said yes, if not, we assume God said no. But what happened here?

The disciples couldn't help the boy. That's where we invariably say that it must not have been God's will. But what happened when God came down the road?

The boy was healed and delivered.

The disciples asked, "How come we couldn't cast it out?" Jesus did not say that it wasn't His will or it wasn't His timing. He simply said that it was because of their unbelief.


That puts a little pressure on me. In his home country we read in Matthew 13 how "they were offended at Him." They knew Jesus back in the day. It wasn't an easy leap to recognize Him for who He really was. But that's just one of many excuses we can come with.

It doesn't really matter what causes unbelief. What matters is that unbelief will keep you from receiving from God. It will render you powerless and ineffective. God will still love you, That won't change at all. You'll just miss out on so many of the good things He has for you.

"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." (Mark 11:24)

Friday, March 19, 2010


"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." (Mark 11:24)

What does it mean to simply believe? Belief operates under different paradigms. There's belief that is a mental assent. I believe there is a president of the United States. I've never met him or seen him personally but I'm pretty confident that he exists. I give a mental assent to his existence.

Then there's the concept of
believing in someone or something. That concept is closely connected to faith. You can only truly trust someone you know well.

Our calling in the Christian life is to know God. Romans 10:17 tells us that, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Hearing is a relationship word. We grow in the Lord and in our walk with Him as we give place to the Word of God in our lives.

As we grow in our walk with Him we grow in trust of Him! As we grow in trust our faith increases. Sometimes, I think that we have tried to teach faith without the concept of relationship. We've tried to teach it as a belief apart from the context that causes it to thrive. Faith doesn't exist in a vacuum.

How do we simply believe? We simply get to know God. The more we know; the more we learn to trust and to rest. How do we get to know God? We spend time in His Word and in prayer and with other believers. It's pretty simple. We just have to do it.

We grow up in a world that would rob our faith (after all Satan is called the god of this world and he comes to steal, kill and destroy) and keep us from the very relationship we were created for but God, in His wonderful goodness, has made abundant provision for us in Jesus Christ!

Monday, March 15, 2010

First Things first

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

This is such a powerful picture of sowing and reaping. To put it simply, what Jesus is saying here is that when we really put God first in our lives then He will take care of the rest. I think the problem comes in that we have a very low bar for what we consider seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Let's make one thing clear. This is not about legalism in the Christian life. It is about reaping the benefits of a love relationship with God. This is not about being saved or going to heaven or how much God loves you. It is about you making yourself available to all the wonderful promises that God has for you.

This kind of relationship is more than about going to Church or reading our Bibles. Those are pieces of the whole but they are not the totality. And maybe that's a big part of the point.

Our walk with God is not found in some single aspect of Christianity and the things we should do. Relationships are multifaceted. They involve give and take. They involve talking and listening. They cost you. A good relationship will cost you some time and some effort.

It has been said that things that are worth doing are worth doing well. That is certainly true of our walk with God. Getting saved and going to Church is a start, but the true joy in the journey comes as we grow in Him. We learn to hear His voice. We become vessels for His glory. Life becomes less and less about us and more and more about Him.

Take a good, honest look at your life. Does God really get first place in your life? Are you truly seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness? What adjustments do you need to make? What can you do differently?

A life truly given over to God will be a life lived well.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Things Not Seen

"While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2nd Co. 4:18)

It's important to have spiritual eyes. To keep our eyes on the eternal and not on the temporal. I think that's one of the reasons why faith is such a struggle for people. Believing what God has said is not always easy when compared to the mountain of physical evidence in front of us. What we see and how we feel wars against the truth of God's Word.

Romans 10:17 tells us that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." We tend to synthesize this down to faith comes from hearing God's Word but it's a little more than that. Faith comes by hearing ... hearing comes by God's Word. The Jewish concept of hearing was a little different than ours. Hearing was equated with doing or believing -- not just the physical import of information.

When we submit ourselves to God's Word we begin the process of receiving what He has said. As we receive it faith arises in our hearts. Not a passive faith, but an active, life-changing faith. A faith that changes us -- that changes our lives. As we hear God's voice (in all the wonderful ways that He speaks to us) we grow in relationship. As we grow in relationship, we grow in trust. As we trust, we walk by faith and not by sight. When we do that we take our eyes off the temporal stuff and fix our gaze on the eternal. The view looks a whole lot better from there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Fellowship

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace." (Philippians 1:3-7)

Fellowship is a funny word in the church. We have "Fellowship Halls" and "Fellowship Dinners" and "Fellowship Activities" but do we really have fellowship? I think some churches probably do a better job of achieving fellowship than others but it really is a part of the Christian life we all need. True fellowship is not going to church and shaking hands five minutes before and five minutes after. The Greek word that we translate fellowship is kononia. It is a powerful word. We get communion from this same word. It implies a joining together of our lives. One meaning of the word is actually intercourse.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy the first book is called The Fellowship of the Ring. It's about nine characters who commit themselves to a quest to help Frodo destroy Sauron's ring. In doing so they endure hardship, loss, fear, hunger and separation. Their commitment to one another endures. Natural enemies become close friends and the companions of the Fellowship achieve things they had never dreamed they could do.

In church it is all too common for us to cluster among people who are like us. But a big part of the joy in the journey is to stretch and to love those who don't look like me or act like me --to find fellowship with someone that I have absolutely nothing in common with except a love for Jesus. Real love is proven when it is tested. Real love will make you stretch. Real love is sometimes messy and inconvenient.

We all have people we admire and want to be around. Typically we gravitate toward people who encourage us and make us feel better. That's okay. But in doing that never forget that maybe, just maybe, you can be that person for someone else. Take a chance. Stretch a little. Reach out to that person at church who always seems to be alone. God will use you in doing so. Be an encourager for someone else.

We need one another. I believe in healing. I believe that Jesus paid for our healing at the cross according to God's Word. I have seen lots and lots of people healed. And yet, when I get sick or have a physical problem I have rarely seen a dramatic healing in my own life from one on one times with the Lord or by standing on the Word. I have seen some -- once when I had kidney stones and another time when I had a stomach virus, come to mind. But those times have been the exception. The dramatic healings in my life have occurred when I went to the church and had people lay hands on me and pray. I think this kind of thing speaks to our need for one another.

True fellowship happens in the ongoing interaction and intersection of our lives. One of my wife Gloria's favorite sayings is that church should be a place where we can "share our deepest joys but also our greatest pain." This can only happen in an environment of intimacy and trust and through the process of relationship. This kind of fellowship encourages a natural real ministry to one another. Sometimes you're on the receiving end and sometimes you're on the giving end. One of the weaknesses of church celebrity is that we put people on pedestals that can remove them from the safety and protection of this kind of fellowship. We all need real friends and real relationships that are healthy. We all need people in our lives who want to see God's best for us.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rumors and Gossip

"Now the children of Israel heard someone say, 'Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan--on the children of Israel's side.'" (Joshua 22:11)

The tribes of Reuben and Gad, along with the half tribe of Manasseh, had returned to their allotted land after helping the other Israelites enter into the promised land. In doing so they decided to build a memorial to the Lord -- a reminder to generations to come of what God had done. Unfortunately, a rumor had spread that they were building an altar to offer sacrifices that were only to be offered in the Tabernacle. The other tribes of Israel gathered for war. Thankfully, they had enough sense to talk before attacking and sent Phineas and some other leaders to meet with the offending tribes. War was averted as the Israelites learned what these tribes had really done.

How easy it is for us to assume the worst in a situation. Notice the verse above. The children of Israel heard someone say. They heard a rumor. They listened to gossip. We need to be rally careful with our words and actions. Have you ever ended up in an argument with someone because you assumed things that were not true? It can happen to the best of us. Rumors and gossip are tools the devil uses to stir strife and division in the body of Christ. He is called the "accuser of the brethen" in Revelation 12:10. That is one his primary "ministries." That's one we don't want to participate in.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Saturday or Sunday?

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17)

I read an interesting article today about the "controversy" about the Sabbath. The article was kind of funny because it said that Christians were "at war' over the Sabbath. One gentleman quoted said the Christians meeting on Sunday is "the biggest hoax the world has ever seen." Another said it is "the most flagrant error of mainstream Christianity." The argument in question is what day is the Sabbath? Saturday or Sunday? Saturday was the traditional Sabbath of Israel. Sunday was the first day of the new week. What facilitated the change? There are multiple possible explanations. Jesus was raised between sundown and dawn. Pagan influences caused the change. Maybe it was because of prejudice towards Jews?

While reading the article I was struck by a couple of things. First, 99% of Christians don't care. This is a "war" in the mind of a few. Second, we have an amazing ability to focus on things that don't matter. I know this is a big issue to a few but what a colossal waste of time.

Paul nails the issue. In Colossians 2:23 he comments, "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."

I guess the irony here is how we miss the point despite God's wonderful generosity to us. We no longer keep a day for the Lord. Every day is the Lord's day. We don't go to church. We are the church. The house of God is not a place where we go but now we have, literally, each one become, houses of God.

Paul writes extensively about the grace of God. And you can see why. The ever present need to create rules resides within our hearts. Rules are easier than relationship. Rules are much cleaner. Figure out what they are and keep them as best you can.

Relationship is much more difficult. It's messy and time consuming. It is an imperfect process, one that we have to wrestle with, but relationship is the greatest joy. Knowing God and walking with Him is the real calling of our lives. Jesus did not die so that we would keep one day a week to honor God but that we would come into fellowship with God and live lives every day that honor Him!