Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year of Jubilee

Happy New Year!

2010 was a good year for me.  I've gotten more comfortable in my job (maybe even better, who knows).  I've kept great friends and made great friends.  I've had and lost roommates.  I've watched God miraculously heal someone I love.  I've had a great year.  Most importantly God has used people, circumstances and His Word to grow me this year.

As I look toward 2011 I hope it brings more of the same.  I don't want the same year, but I want to see God's imprint and fingerprints all over 2011 like 2010.

I also would love to see The Year of Jubilee.

Leviticus 25:8-12,  "Count off seven sabbaths of years... seven times seven years... so that the sabbaths of years amount to a period of 49 years.  Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout the land.  Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each his own clan.  The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines.  For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields."

This is awesome!  God scheduled a revolution every 50 years for the people of Israel (there is no evidence that they ever did this).  This revolution may seem semi-socialist, because it is.

Why did God require The Year of Jubilee?  Simply, he wanted the people of Israel to remember that the land is not theirs exclusively but that it is His absolutely.  He can do with the land what he wants and what he wants is to set people on an even playing field every 50 years.

For us today this means that we can't think of our stuff as our stuff.  It is God's and He will do with it what He pleases.  Isn't that great?  It is great because He has a much better plan for our stuff than we do.

So I want 2011 to be The Year of Jubilee for me.  This is a scary request, but I want to want this (Do you feel like that sometime?  You want to want something).  He may take all I have or ask me to give all I have, but I've found that He is worth it.  I hope to find out in 2011 that He is even more worth it than I think now.

So Happy New!  Happy Year of Jubilee!  I hope your 2011 is filled with God.  So count your blessings from 2010 and prepare to be amazed by God in 2011 today!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Avent- Malachi 4

On Christmas Eve we finish Advent.  We also finish Malachi with chapter 4.  This is a Christmas chapter.

This chapter is all about The Day of the Lord.  On that day the arrogant and evildoer will be set on fire, but those who revere the Lord's name will celebrate.

Verse 2, "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall."

The Day of the Lord is the final judgement and Jesus' second coming.  But it all begins with His first coming.  Christmas is a day of celebration.  We should leap for joy because we know who Jesus is and what He will do.  Christmas brings Jesus and Jesus brings justice, salvation, and love to this world.

If you don't have Jesus in your heart this is a scary chapter, but if you do have Him this is awesome.

Christmas is awesome because it is Jesus relating to our circumstance before He comes later to release us from our circumstance.  At Christmas Jesus relates to suffering.  At His second coming He will defeat suffering.  Hallelujah!  This is the Good News of Christ and Christmas.

God bless you and your family on Christmas.  And if you don't have Christ get Him because He is so good.  Celebrate that goodness today!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent- Malachi 3

Christmas, in the eyes of many, is a time of giving.  We give gifts, baked goodies, volunteered time; we give a lot.  When many read Malachi 3 they find a chapter about giving.  It is not a chapter about us giving... it is a chapter about us stealing.

Verses 8-9 "Will a man rob God?  Yet you rob me.  But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'  In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse... the whole nation of you... because you are robbing me."

See our tithing (giving 10% of what we have) is not a gift to God.  No, it is owed to God.  Think of it this way, God lets us keep 90% of what is his.  If you do not tithe you rob God.  You are "The Grinch Who Robbed God".

When we don't rob God he wishes to bless us.  Read verse 10.

"Bring the whole tithe in the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this', says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

When we trust God enough (and that's what tithing is) to tithe he promises to bless us.  He dares us to tithe. He says he will not be outdone.  He rewards trust with blessing.  Isn't this prosperity gospel?  No.  This doesn't mean you necessarily will be rich, but you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams.

A final point about tithing.  Tithing is not giving... we must go above and beyond tithing to be in the giving category.

Finally, verse 16.

"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name."

My friend Carl says this is just another verse that reminds us to meet together and talk about God.  Sounds simple because it is.

So, don't rob God.  Tithe and spend time with your brothers and sisters today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent- Malachi 2

We are one week from Christmas as I write this.  So let's dive back into Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament.

In this chapter God is very upset with the priest because they are not living the way they should.  The priest are supposed to be an example to the believers, but they are not.  Read verse 8:

"But you have turned from the Way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble."

This is a big problem.  Priest should never cause many to stumble, rather they should point people to the Way.

Before we start saying, "Those stupid Jewish priest.  How could they?!"  Read this 1 Peter 2:9:

"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Malachi 2's rebuke is now for us.  We Christians are priest who have a direct line to God!  We need to respect the position and not cause many to stumble but as 1 Timothy 4:12 says, "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."  We should point people to the Way.

How do we priest go from pointing to the Way to causing many to stumble?  Malachi answers this: it is because we lose the flame of our first love.  It says we left the wife of our youth.  That means sometimes we forget the passion that we had/have for Christ and go chasing after other passions.  Like a man cheats on his wife, we cheat on Jesus- the bridegroom.

Below is the second verse to one of my favorite songs, O Lord You're Beautiful (I miss singing it with Miss. Hope Matus).

Oh Lord, please light the fire
that once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first
love that burns with holy fear

Oh Lord, You're beautiful
Your face is all I seek.
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me.
Your grace abounds to me.

Remember that you are a priest of the Most High God.  Re-fan the flame of your first love today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent- Malachi 1

As we approach Christmas (which is much closer than I thought) we are in a time of Advent.  A time of expecting.  So I want to look at the final book of the Old Testament, Malachi.  I thought this would be fitting (because it is the last book of the period of expecting and waiting) and not exactly the same as what  you've been getting everywhere else.

I bet many of you, or even most of you, have never sat down and read Malachi.  I encourage you to do that.  Let's start with chapter 1.

In this chapter God is upset with the Israelites.  We often take this time to point fingers at them, but when we do we find that the finger is pointing straight at us.

God is upset because the people are bringing him their leftovers.  When they make a sacrifice they give a blind, ugly animal; not the best.  God hates this.

I do this.  I give God the leftovers of my life.  I pray, if I have time.  I read my Bible, when I feel like it. I share his Gospel, if I wont get made fun of.  I, figuratively, give God my blind calf, even when I have better.

Verse 14 "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.  For I am a great king,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and my name is to be feared among the nations."

Don't give God less than your best.

Verse 8  "Try offering them (bad sacrifices) to your Governor."

God is saying that you wouldn't give scraps to your boss or family or friends or self.  So don't give God scraps.

Don't put God first in a priority list.

What? Matt that doesn't make sense!

Yes, it does.  God is not to be fit into your life, even as first priority.  God, as Francis Chan put it, did not save you to be a part of your life.  God is not a priority in the Christian life, He is the hub.  God should be critical in every part of the Christian's life.  When at school- God.  When at work- God.  When with your girlfriend- God.  When on the crapper- God.  I mean, seriously, He is to be your All in All, not just a priority!

This is hard and God knows I continue to give Him scraps and make Him a priority (sometimes not even priority #1).  But why does God demand this of us?  Look at verse 2, which is how God begins his criticism.  It is the reason for the criticism.

Verse 2 "I have loved you,' says the Lord"

God loves you so much that He wants only the best for you and He is the best... hands down, no questions asked.  Do you believe that?

So make God the hub of your life and stop giving Him the scraps of your life in this Advent season.  Make your life about Him today.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Matthew 10

In this chapter Jesus sends out the 12 disciples.  He gives them instructions, advice, warnings and basically prepares them for the ministry he calls them into.  This is an excellent chapter for those of us who are called by God into his harvest (we all are).

Take time to read this chapter.

Here's one truth from the chapter I want to share with you:

Verses 24 and 25 "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.  If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!"

If we truly follow Jesus we will get what he got.  If Jesus is called Beelzebub (the prince of demons), we will too.  People hate Jesus and they will hate us.  People persecuted Jesus and they will persecute us. People rejected Jesus and they will reject us.

This is sobering.  Life as a Christian is not a cake-walk, so don't tell people it will be and don't tell yourself it will be.  Is the life of a Christian awesome?  Yes.  Is it easy?  No.  But it is worth it.

Remember, when people persecute us for being Christians they are not persecuting us, really, they are persecuting Christ (read Acts 9:4 to prove this).  So don't be offended by people hating you.  Rather, weep for them because they are rejecting the one who loves them and can save them.  That is sad stuff.  You wouldn't be mad at them if you thought of it that way... would you?

Again, the juice is worth the squeeze.  Verse 28, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Jesus is worth it because the consequences of not being persecuted is hell and the consequences of being persecuted is heavenly rewards.

So take heart.  It is worth it.  Live boldly for Jesus today.

P.S.  Slightly different subject but ask yourself this:  "Who would I die for?"  This may seem morbid, but make a list.  I believe the longer and richer this list is the better your life is.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Matthew 9

Another awesome chapter in Matthew.  Please, take time to read it because it's better than what you'll find in this blog.

I want to look at three verses from this power-packed chapter, verses 36, 37 and 38.

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field."

This is an awesome responsibility Jesus has handed us.  This responsibility is three-fold.

First, Jesus expects us to see the world with His eyes.  Yes, like the Brandon Heath song (the youtube link is at the bottom).  Jesus sees the crowd and has compassion on them.  Not because they have disease or are blind, but because they are lost.  They are like sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus saw their need and was moved by it.

Do you see God's children like He does?  My friend Harold told me of a non-Christian who didn't believe in Jesus because he reasoned if it was all true Christians would crawl on their hands and knees over mountains to share the Gospel.  He didn't see Christians doing this.  Wow.  To see with His eyes means to realize that sharing the Good News, with actions or words, is not a life or death situation but an eternal life or death situation.

Secondly, we need to find our section of the field to work.  We wont all tend to the same section of the harvest, but we should all be workers since 'the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few'.  What is your section?  Seriously check yourself.  What section is yours?  If you have one, great.  If not, get in there and take part in the harvest.

Thirdly, 'Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field'.  Pray.  Do it today, pray that God sends out more workers.  Pray for the strength of youth ministers, missionaries, pastors, school teachers, coaches, factory workers, etc.  Pray that God employs you and many others in His harvest field.

So see the world with His eyes, get involved with the harvest, and pray for more workers today.

Brandon Heath's Give Me Your Eyes.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eternal Life

I, personally, will say almost nothing in this blog.  Below are excerpts from John about Eternal Life in Christ:

John 3:16-
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 4:13-14
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 5:24
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

John 6:40
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 11:25-26
"I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live forever, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?"

John 12:25
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

John 17:2-3
“For you have granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

This is good news!  I wonder if I would love Jesus even without the promise of eternal life, but I will never need to worry about that.  Our awesome savior gives us himself forever!  

Think about forever with Jesus today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Thanksgiving is next week.  I love Thanksgiving because it's the one time a year I see a lot of my family; plus the food is awesome.  I want to use this blog post to take a quick look at what Thanksgiving is to a Christian, and I'm not talking about the American tradition necessarily.

Psalm 100
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."

This psalm is awesome!  It teaches us about thanksgiving and the phrase "Know that the Lord is God" is the lynchpin of the psalm.

Also, when Christians have Thanksgiving they remember the good God has done for them.  Remember the hymn "Count Your Many Blessings".  Do that.  List and see what God has done; "and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

I have so many to list that this blog would get ridiculously long if I did, so I wont do it in a blog.  But if you are reading this you are most likely one of those blessings.

Finally, when a Christian celebrates Thanksgiving he/she should look at Deuteronomy chapter 16.  Here Moses writes down God's decrees for certain parties the Jews will have.  These parties sound lavish and awesome, but I don't want to overlook a key ingredient.

During these feast God says, "No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you."

This means we should present a gift to God at these celebrations.  So I challenge you to do this.  This can mean donating food to a food bank, giving more than your tithe in the offering, etc.  Do something to thank God for blessing you.

I personally packed a shoe-box for Operation Christmas Child.  This is a fun, easy, creative way to give your gift to God and give the gift of God to someone else.  You see Christian living is all about loving God and loving people.  I feel this tradition is an awesome tradition for a Christian Thanksgiving.

So count you many blessings, know the Lord is God and don't appear before the Lord empty-handed.  Love Jesus today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Matthew 8

This word is such a simple word in our Christian lives.  We say it without thinking.  Really think about what Faith is while you read Matthew chapter 8.

Here are some thoughts on Faith from this chapter.

Jesus sees many people in this chapter; some have Faith, some don't.  Which are you?

The man with leprosy had Faith.  "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean?'  Do you have Faith like this man that God can do anything he wants to do?

The centurion.  "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed."  This man had Faith that God has the power to command.  Do you believe this?  When Jesus heard the centurion's statement, "he was astonished", do you have Faith that astonishes Jesus?

Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and she got up and began to serve Jesus.  When Jesus fulfills our need prayed to him by faith do we return to Jesus with an attitude of servitude or apathy?

I wont go into those in this chapter that didn't have much Faith because we've seen that side of the coin too much in real life.  But here's a reason for Faith out of the mouth of a demon: "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'

Boom!  Even the demons know that Jesus wins in the end and they will be tortured.  How can we not have Faith in the winning team?

Pray for more Faith today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Matthew 7

Matthew 7 is the final chapter of the account of the Sermon on the Mount.  This chapter is also awesome and packed with good, practical advice.  But in reading it a few things stood out to me.

Jesus begins the chapter (not that he spoke in chapters) by saying, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."  This is the non-Christian's favorite verse of the Bible.  This may be better known than John 3:16 to most of the world.

People hate to be judged, and they should hate being judged.  Jesus is serious when he commands us not to judge unless we like being judged.  Still, I'm bad at this.  I will judge someone based on what they wear.  I'll judge you from the first moment I see you.  I hope this doesn't scare you away, but it's true.  Jesus is commanding me not to judge and I need to listen!

Judging is what non-Christians hate most about Christians.  I get it too.  We become exclusive when we judge... and we should never be exclusive.

However, God is exclusive.  I'm not saying God doesn't love everyone.  He does.  But he is Holy and can't be any other way.  Read this, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it".

Some loving God, huh?!  Hell is going to be more crowded with people than Heaven?!  Some loving God!  Yes, he is very loving.  We all deserve Hell, all of us.  It is unfair that any receive Heaven.

Here's the tough thing.  We Christians are called to not judge, and we are told that many people are walking straight to Hell.  What are we to do?  Is it judging to tell them they are wrong, to say 'look out, cliff ahead'?

Jesus leaves us hanging, doesn't he?  He contradicts himself, doesn't he?  No, he doesn't.  The glue that holds these two statements both together as truth is Love.  Love is the difference.  Look at verse 12.  The Golden Rule: "Do to others what you would have them do to you."  When we are discerning whether we are judgmental or whether we are warning others of impending doom, we just need to test it with The Golden Rule.

If you are warning someone out of Love, good.  If you are trying to look superior, don't do it.

For example: if I can't afford nice shirts don't judge me by pointing that out to me.  You wouldn't want that done to you, would you?  If I have dropped mustard on my shirt then tell me.  You would want me to do that for you, wouldn't you?  The heart is the key.

So love people.  Warn them about the penalty of sin and point them to Jesus who can fix them.  Do not judge for judging's sake according to your standard; or God will gladly judge you according to his standard, which is perfection.

Love and do not judge today, but fight for the Truth.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Matthew 6

Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.  This chapter is full of great, applicable, everyday truths.  I will touch on a few.  If you want to read an in-depth blog on just The Lord's Prayer check out patrickrussellray.blogspot.com

1) In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us to be careful who gets the glory.

Jesus says, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.

When we give to the needy, when we pray, and when we fast (notice Jesus does not say 'if') we are to do so for the glory of God.  We don't need to make an announcement.  Jesus knows the identity of an anonymous giver.  Jesus knows when you fast even when you don't exclaim, "I'm so hungry".  Jesus hears us pray in our room alone.

2) In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us to think about Heaven.

"Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

If our thoughts are on Heaven our hearts will be in Heaven.  Heaven is real... the rewards of Heaven are real... and we can do something about that now.  Rather than serving money or our pride; do things in secret and trust in God for great is our reward in Heaven if we do.  And I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get to Heaven and I want to be able to hear God say, "Well done good and faithful servant".  I want treasure in Heaven.

3) In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not to worry.

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

I come from a family of worry-warts.  We worry about what we will do this weekend.  What we're going to eat tonight.  We worry why so-and-so might be mad at us.  Well, we shouldn't worry.  Flowers don't worry about clothes and they are beautiful... because God wants them to be that way.  God's plan will prevail.  Worrying doesn't make a positive difference (if anything you'll die sooner).  Rather, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  If we are consumed by the Kingdom of Heaven, God will take care of the rest and then some.  This isn't prosperity gospel, it's truth.  As the old hymn says "God will take care of you".

So trust God, think about your treasure in Heaven and give all the glory to God today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Matthew 5

This chapter begins Jesus' most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount.  There are many upon many great truths in this chapter.  This chapter is so fundamental to the Christian faith as Jesus is turning the world on its head setting up a new world order.

Let's look at a few difficult sayings Jesus has in this chapter.

1) "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."

Are you serious?  Rejoice when we are persecuted?  Yes!  My football coach would say to our defense, "If you aren't getting blocked you're going the wrong way."  If the devil isn't bothering you then you aren't about to sack him.  When people persecute us because of Jesus it is a big road sign that says, "Right Way: No U-Turn."  Rejoice when you get blocked because the devil doesn't mess with Christian linebackers running the wrong way.

2) "You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."

Don't lose your saltiness.  Hold on to your usefulness for Christ.  Keep your passion bucket full (for Dan Patrick fans).  How do we lose our saltiness?  A little at a time, so don't let go... endure.

3) "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Wow.  I don't get this one.  It is very hard to understand and if you get it help me get it too.  But I do believe this is Christ's way of saying that the law still is important and even with faith works are valuable to him.  Very valuable.

4) "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away."

How can we gouge our eyes today?  I know I need to do some gouging.  This can mean putting the computer in a visible place where you wouldn't look at porn.  This can mean not reading that gossip magazine.  This means removing our stumbling blocks because purity is important as we are the bride of Christ.

5) "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

This is the most difficult saying of all.  I fall very short of jumping this hurdle.  But realize that this command comes after Jesus speaks about loving our enemies.  I can't achieve perfection like Jesus did, but he is saying that perfection starts with love.  If I can love my enemies I am closer to obeying this command.

Read the whole chapter (or hopefully you already have).  Realize that Jesus is serious about flipping this world on its head and start loving people and living for Jesus today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not Matthew

So, the Bible study on the Gospel of Matthew has gotten a week behind.  Therefore, no new Matthew post.    But I'd better write something or I'll be like Patrick (kid leaves me hangin').

Aren't good friends good?  I guess by definition, yes.  But have you taken time to thank God for good friends.  I have been looking around me lately and realizing how lucky I am to have friends who let me be a part of their life.

I have got to believe this is a huge gift from God because I need good friends.  I am the type of person (whoops, I'm talking about myself and not God.  I knew bloggers were full of themselves) who needs people in their life.  I get charged by people.  I get excited being around people.  I do like some alone time, but I love being with friends.

So thank you God for good friends and thank you friends for allowing God to use you in my life.

Having said all this, I've got to admit that I don't always love some people as a friend.  There are many people out there that feel alone today and I'm not loving them.  They feel that no one cares about them.  Friends, be to them what you are to me.  I want to be to them what you are to me: a reflection of God's love.

So reflect God's love and be a friend today, maybe even to someone you wouldn't normally think of.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Matthew 4

Matthew 4 is jam-packed so I can't possibly touch on it all, so read Matthew 4 you'll be glad you did.  I do, however, want to point out a few things:

1) What is Jesus' message?
We, as I mentioned in the post 'Hijacking Jesus', have answered this question many times on our own; but let's look at what Matthew says Jesus' message is.  Matthew says Jesus preaches, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven in near."  Jesus' main subject when preaching was repentance.  Christians many times want to get The Kingdom of Heaven without repenting.  Jesus says because The Kingdom of Heaven is certainly coming (near can be translated 'certain' from the Greek) we need to repent. Repenting is not fun and in fact many Baptist like myself shy away from the word because it makes grace sound works based.  Grace isn't, but true repentance produces fruit.

2) How can we be a disciple of Christ?
When we read about Jesus calling his disciples we will find some truths.  First, if you are a disciple of Christ you will value him.  The disciples valued Jesus so much that they left everything for him.  Is God calling you to leave everything?  I don't know.  But ask yourself: are you willing to leave anything to follow Jesus?  Many times we are not.  Secondly, to be a disciple of Christ you must have a heart for other people.  One thing that obviously appealed to the original disciples was the idea that they would be 'fishers of men'.  They wanted to save people.  Do you want to save you friends and neighbors and give them The Kingdom of Heaven?

3)  How do we beat the devil?
Quickly, the devil used many things to tempt Jesus.  One of those was scripture.  Satan knows how to use the Bible to trick us into sin.  How do we combat this?  We must know scripture too and be in tune with the Holy Spirit.  Know scripture in context.

4) Why was Jesus tempted?
The Spirit led Jesus into the desert TO BE tempted.  It was the Holy Spirit's goal that Jesus be tempted by Satan.  Why?  I'm not sure, but God is all about using tough times to grow us.  Before one of Jesus' greatest works (preaching) he endures one of the worst times in his life.  Before he preaches he battles Satan.  Later before he conquers death his is killed.  What's this mean?  The night is darkest right before dawn... hold on daylight is coming (to steal a Remedy Drive lyric).

God uses our tough times.  Hold on... daylight is coming.  We are running a race.  Endurance is key when running the race!  Rejoice when we are tested because through endurance and holding on to Jesus we will prevail!  We will do mighty, awesome work for The Kingdom of Heaven.

Endurance is key when running he race... hold on to Jesus today!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Matthew 3

In this short chapter God spoke a few things to me.

In verse 8 John implores us to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance".  True repentance is of the heart but it will be seen.  If you say you have Christ and have repented in your heart but you still live the same you are saying that God isn't powerful enough to change you.  That is a lie!  If you don't see the fruits of repentance check yourself and make sure you really have Christ in your life.  A corn label on a can of beans doesn't make corn.  You need real change and real change shows.

Also, we try to put Jesus in a box so we can make him a blonde-haired hippy.  He is not.  Look at verse 12.  Now tell me why, according to John, Jesus is coming to Earth.  Got it?  Jesus is coming to separate people. Yeah, he's coming to weed out the true believers from the posers.  Make sure you aren't posing for Jesus because he hates that and if you do you will be thrown into an unquenchable fire.  Don't want to get all Hell fire on you, but it's right there in the word.  Jesus is serious!  Are you serious about wanting him?

Finally, Jesus was obedient and was baptized even though he didn't need it.  Remember obedience is better than sacrifice.

So check yourself and produce fruit for Jesus today!

Matthew 2

In the second chapter of Matthew he has a point to prove.  Matthew has one thing he doesn't want you to miss (and remember he is originally writing to Jews), Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Matthew shows time and again proof that Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophesy.  So, great I already knew that.  Plus, I'm not a first century Jew who isn't convinced.  What does this mean to me?  Here's what this has to do with you.  Read the Old Testament and look for Jesus.  He is all over the pages of the Old Testament.

Secondly, note that when Joseph has his dream in verse 14 it says he got up and went in the middle of the night.  When God calls us to do something, to love someone, to serve him... do NOT wait.  Get up and do it.  

Finally, don't doubt God.  God can still and does still communicate via dreams.  Here is some ways you can tell a dream is of God.
1. It matches his word.
2. It will reoccur.
3. It will look like his previous work.
4. It will stretch your trust in him.
5. it will give him praise.

So get up and go when Jesus tells you to because he is the Messiah and the Lord of all.  Live like he is today.

Matthew 1

How many of you skip this chapter?  Seriously.  To be honest I always did because the names were confusing and who cares about a genealogy?!  When I finally studied this chapter I was floored... there is some good stuff in here.  Here's a taste of the good stuff in Matthew 1.

The genealogy can be a long list of faceless names, so I want to put a face to a few of these names.

-Abraham (read Gen 12:2-3) Father of Judaism.  God promised that through him ALL people will be blessed.  This promise is fulfilled by Christ on the cross.

-Isaac (read Gen. 22) Son of Abraham.  Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham listened to God but at the end of the story God spares Isaac's life.  God later will do the same thing but he will not spare his son, Jesus, and through this sacrifice all nations are blessed.

-Tamar (read Gen. 38) Tamar is part of what seems like a throw in story in the middle of a great story about Joseph, but it is a crazy story.  Tamar is slighted by her family and especially her father-in-law to the point where she pretends to be a prostitute inorder to be impregnated by her father-in-law.  Soap Opera's don't even touch that storyline!

-Rahab (read Joshua 2) She was a prostitute who faithfully helped Israeli spies in Jericho.  She hid the spies because she had heard the wonders God had done and knew he would do another.

-Ruth (Read Ruth) Ruth's story is a great one.  In the end she still is a Moabite with the curse of the Moabites hanging over her, but God blessed her descendants in spite of this because of her faith.

-David (read Samuel 7:11-16)  God made him king and promised to establish his throne forever.  Jesus fulfills this prophesy.

-Bathsheba (read 2 Samuel 11)  David cheated with her and murdered her husband who was David's friend  yet God forgave this sin and blessed her offspring.

The genealogy is full of diverse people.  Some of the above were given promises by God, some are great examples of faith and some are the black sheep of the family that Matthew didn't have to include in the genealogy of Jesus.

Matthew includes these people for many reasons, but one of those is to show that Jesus starts in a similar place as us.  I have some great examples of faith in my family and I've got some black sheep.  It doesn't matter.  God will prepare good works for you to do if you ask him to regardless of your family tree.

There is so much more in this chapter but don't miss this.  God loves you and wants to use your life regardless of where it starts!

Hijacking Jesus

I have begun to feel that we are hijacking Jesus.  We make Jesus into what we need him to be.  I mean I want my Jesus loving so I make a loving Jesus or I want my Jesus to hate homosexuals so I make him do just that.  I am done taking Jesus, I'm ready for him to take me.  So I want to go back to the Gospel of Matthew to find out exactly who Jesus is (note I didn't say was).

So over the next many post I want to look at the Good News of Matthew chapter by chapter.  I will not, nor could I, talk about everything in each chapter.  What I will do is relay to you what Jesus is telling me about himself as I run through the book.

I hope you enjoy.