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.