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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolution

It's the last day of 2011and many of you are trying to finalize a New Year's Resolution.  Lose ten pounds.  Stop smoking.  Run a half-marathon.  Pay off loans.  Whatever it is many of you have one in mind.  Resolutions that are realistic and planned out can be good things.  

However, so many times we focus so much on resolutions that we think "If this were this way, then I'd be happy."  Especially when it comes to monetary things or just money in general.  "If I made 40k instead of 25k, then life would be better."  "If I had a 46" TV instead of this 36" TV, then I'd be content.

I'm going to admit that I'm not always content.  However, look at all the great things I had in 2011: an almighty God who loves me, a job I enjoy, amazing friends, fantastic family, a great church family, a house I can afford, good meals, an opportunity to work with energetic kids and so much more.  2011 left me with a lot of things.  I'm rich beyond imagination.  Do I make $100,000/year? No.  Do I make $30,000/year? No.  But I'm richer than 98% of the world and have never been in want.  I have a great life.

But for many more money and more stuff is the measuring stick for happiness.  Let me share a quote I stole from Craig Groeschel, who stole it from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Charlie's grandpa is trying to convince Charlie not to sell his golden ticket for money when he says:

"There's plenty of money out there.  They print more every day.  But this ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money.  Are you a dummy?"

I have a great life.  The things I listed above as my blessings are rare.  Only a dummy would give that up for something as common as money.  I'm not a dummy.

But we idolize money.  We put money and the insatiable desire for stuff ahead of those we love and most importantly God.  In fact, the average American Christian loves money much more than God.  The average Christian in the U.S. gives about 2% of his/her income toward helping people and advancing the Kingdom of God.  (Courtesy Weird by Craig Groeschel page 86)

Go ahead and make your New Year's Resolution.  Go ahead and do something to make 2012 better than 2011, but if you haven't made a New Year's Resolution let me make a suggestion.  In 2012 resolve to be content with what you have and resolve to have an unquenchable thirst for God.  Be satisfied with the life you have been given, but don't stop running after the God who gave that life to you.

Lastly, if you don't have a relationship with God resolve to know Him.  That is the greatest New Year's Resolution you could ever had; I'd call that The New Life Resolution.

Enjoy your New Year's Eve.  Reflect with contentment on 2011.  Resolve to be content with what you have and resolve to have an unquenchable thirst for God today.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I had a fantastic Christmas, other than my sister getting sick.  I was able to go see family, Skype other family and celebrate Christmas Eve at my Dad's church for the first time.  Friday I was also able to hang out with guys I graduated with, some of whom I hadn't seen in 6 1/2 years.  It was a great couple of days.

What did you do for your Christmas?  Please comment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Re-gifted Post

Below is the second post I ever made on this blog.  I'm re-gifting it to you because it is appropriate for the Christmas season.  Enjoy Matthew chapter 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 in order 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!  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Habakkuk's Prayer

I was reading this morning and came across this prayer from the prophet Habakkuk.  It is found in Habakkuk 3:2

"Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy."

What a powerful and timely prayer.  This can be our prayer today!  So, if we want to be able to pray this effectively we should understand what is being prayed.

"Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord."

Habakkuk begins his prayer in awe and fear of God.  Habakkuk remembers what God has done in the past and is in awe of God for that.  He begins his prayer by getting his perspective straight.  If we want this prayer to be for us, we also must remember what God has done and put Him in right perspective.  As always, we start in fear of God.

"Renew them (the deeds) in our day,
in our time make them known;"

Habakkuk asks God to make Israel back into what it was designed to be.  For me, I would pray that God makes the Church back into what God designed her to be.  Habakkuk boldly continues to ask God not to do it eventually, but rather he asks God to do it while he can still see it.  Does this seem familiar?  Remember Jesus prayed, "Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  Habakkuk is basically praying the same thing but additionally asking God to let him see it happen.  What a prayer!  I want this, too.  I want to see the Church as God designed her while I'm still alive and can be a part of it.

"in wrath remember mercy."

Wrath?  Habakkuk is wise enough to realize that if Israel is going to be anything like God designed it to be there will need to be discipling first.  Israel needed to be stretched back into place and cleansed from the crud it put itself through.  Same thing with the Church.  We will need to endure some pain to change.  In fact, change and pain almost always coincide.  That is why Habakkuk pleads for God to remember mercy.  Basically, he says "Be gentle".  We need this, too.  God renew your Church through painful change, but be gentle because we are fragile.

"Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy."

Pray this with me today.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Acts 12- Multiple Pasts, One God

Acts 12 starts with the story of two of the disciples, James the brother of John and Peter.  King Herod arrested both of these men but two very different things happened to James and Peter.  James was executed.  Peter was miraculously saved by an angel.

We are left with a very big question.  Why did God allow James to be murdered and save Peter?

I'll answer this question with another question in my life.

This weekend I was able to go visit a ministry called Breaking Free.  Breaking Free helps free women from the bondage of sexual slavery and prostitution.  It is an amazing ministry but the stories that the women have lived through are sickening.  It is disgusting to hear what some monsters, who call themselves men, can do to another human.  I was pissed listening to the woman telling these stories and I asked "How do you not want to kill these men who do this?"  The woman explained that many of the men who do this were victims of sexual abuse.

These men, most of whom were sexually abused, became such monsters.  They prostituted these beautiful women.  They stole their dignity, self-worth, purity, and souls.  Much of this because of the pasts of these men; because someone had molested them.  Why would God allow them to be molested and therefore become so awful?

When I was young, about kindergarten or 1st grade I was playing with my friend Marshall.  As we were playing in my room Marshall pulled his pants down.  He then asked me to kiss his penis.  Now as a little boy I don't know why, but this seemed very strange and wrong.  Why would it seem so wrong to a very young kid?  I don't know.  But I immediately went downstairs and told my parents.  It turns out that Marshall had been molested earlier.  But the point is, why did God spare me from unwittingly doing that?  Why did He somehow let me know that it was wrong?  How would my life be different if I had innocently done that disgusting thing?

Why did God spare me, but allow sickos to make other little boys into troubled men?  But for the grace of God I could be like them.

We can't understand why God saved Peter and not James.  We can't understand why our pasts are different than someone else's.  We can't understand why one person get trouble and another gets blessing.  But we can know this: 1) God is going to end all sin and suffering 2) we can trust our God because He is in control even when we don't understand.

We have multiple pasts, but one God.  God is the God of the troubled and of those on Easy Street.  Rest in His control and remember that He works everything for good for those who love Him.  Trust Him today.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Acts 11- Christians

Take time to read Acts 11, it's a very short chapter.

In Acts 11 we learn a little about the church at Antioch.  The church at Antioch was the first place the disciples were first called Christians.  I want to look at three things that may explain why they were labeled Christians and how those three things can help us be labeled Christians as well.

The disciples at Antioch were called Christians because:

1) Christ was their commonality.
Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman world behind only Rome and Alexandria.  Antioch was a port city with people of many different races, cultures, languages and religious backgrounds.  Now picture a major city of this time.  Much like today I'm sure they had areas where a certain language group lived.  Areas where a certain culture lived.  You know, like our Little Italy's or Chinatowns today.

So, can you imagine the surprise of those in Antioch to see this melting pot of a church.  They struggled to figure out what defined this hodgepodge of a gathering so they called them Christians because Christ was their commonality.

2)They gave.
Just as the prophet Agabus predicted the Roman world had a severe famine.  In response to this famine the church at Antioch gave "each according to his ability to provide help for the brothers in Judea."  The people of Antioch were probably shocked to see such random generosity toward a place most of them had never been and toward people they had never met.  I imagine the people of Antioch trying to figure out what was in it for the church.

3) They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
When Barnabas came to visit the believers at Antioch he "saw evidence of the grace of God."  The "evidence of the grace of God" Luke writes about here is the Holy Spirit.  People can tell when you are full of the Holy Spirit because there is an amazing power associated with that.  The church at Antioch had "a great number of people" brought to the Lord.  Obviously, a lot of people believed because they were large enough to support the original church at Jerusalem.  So the Holy Spirit was doing work in those at Antioch.

The people of Antioch recognized the believers at Antioch as Christians or "Christ-ones".  Would your community recognize your church as being associated with Christ if the sign was taken off the door and the steeple was removed?  Do people notice anything different about you?  Do you associate with people so different from you that Christ is the only common denominator?  Do you give generously?  Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?

Live in such a way that people notice you as a Christian.  Let others see Jesus in you today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving: Second Helpings

This is a repost from last year.  It is about Thanksgiving so I hope you enjoy.

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.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peace with God

I'm going to take a break from the book of Acts today and visit the next book of the Bible, Romans.  I'm looking at the awesome verses in Romans 5:1-11 and I'll primarily look at one piece of that in particular.

Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..."

This amazing verse has more to it but it's so amazing that I can't write about the whole verse in one blog.  So what does this verse mean?  I'll be honest, I have read this verse incorrectly for years.

Justification brings us "peace with God", not the "peace of God".  Is there a difference?  Yes!

The peace of God is the peace that passes all understanding.  This is the supernatural peace that we can feel in the midst of the storm.  The peace that will make others wonder what's different in your life.  We are promised this kind of peace, but this is not what Paul writes about in Romans 5:1.

Peace with God is different.  Before we are justified we are at war with God.

Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:10 "...when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son..."

Before God reconciled us we were His enemy.  When were were sinning we were working against God.

Romans 8:31 "...If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Well, if we are against God, what can we accomplish?  Nothing!  It is hopeless because He will beat us.

But here is the good news: He initiated the treaty with you and I.  He dictated the terms of peace and payed the price necessary for peace.  All we have to do is surrender to Him.  Christ died for us, so surrender to His terms of peace and be reconciled into peace with Him.

God's peace treaty goes beyond just peace.

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

We get peace.  We also get access to God in the grace we now stand.  We also have the certainty of God's completed glory in His new heaven and new earth.  Now that is a one sided treaty!

So surrender to His terms of peace.  Remember that before reconciliation we were at war with God.  As Thanksgiving approaches be thankful that He gives us peace with Him today.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Acts 10- The Gospel is for All

Acts 10 tells the story of the conversion of a Roman man named Cornelius.  See, Cornelius was a Roman Centurion who didn't know the Lord but feared the Lord.  He had a vision of an angel telling him to send for Peter.  So Cornelius sent three men to get Peter.

While this is happening Peter got a vision of his own.  In his vision he saw all sorts of unclean animals and a voice told him to, "Get up Peter.  Kill and eat."  Peter refused to three times (I guess that's Peter's thing).  When Peter woke up the three men Cornelius sent there to get him arrived.  So Peter walked the 32 miles north to Cornelius' house.

Once at Cornelius' house Peter shared a simple version of the Gospel and many Gentiles believed and received the Holy Spirit.  After this Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?  They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have."  Then the new believers were baptized and Peter stayed a few more days with them.

The point of this story in Acts is that the Gospel is for all.  Peter and many of the early believers thought it was just for the Jews.  If fact Peter and John were surprised just a few chapters earlier that half-blood Jews (Samaritans) could receive the Holy Spirit.

Now most of the time when we read this story we think, "Silly Peter, why did you screw up again?  Of course the Gospel is for everyone."

Soon after thinking silly Peter we go and hoard the Gospel.  We refuse to tell so and so because they'll never listen.  Or I can't tell them they'll never listen, I'll just live my Gospel and if they believe then God can save them.

Well, silly Christians the Gospel is for all.  The Gospel is for all and it comes through the hearing of the Word.  The men and women at Cornelius' house believed by hearing Peter speak God's Word.  Folks, nothing has changed.  We must speak God's Word if we want the world around us to believe.

The Gospel is for all; it's that simple.  Who have you counted unworthy to hear the Gospel message?  Who have you passed by because there's no way they could be saved?  Or did you see that tattoo?  Did you know they spend most nights at the bar?  Did you know he's a Muslim?  The Gospel is for all.  If we believe that and we believe the urgency of the Gospel we will do something today.

The Gospel is for all.  Share it today.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Acts 9- Microwave and Crock Pot Change

Acts 9 is an incredibly familiar passage, but that being said read it before continuing.

Acts 9 is the unbelievable story of the conversion of Saul (later Paul).  Saul starts off the chapter "still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples," but by the end of the chapter Saul is friends with the disciples and is beginning his first missionary work by heading to Tarsus.

When many of us read about the conversion and amazing change of Saul (Paul) we think, "What is wrong with me? Why is it taking me so long to make a difference?"

When you read Acts 9 the sequence of events is boom, boom, boom fast; however, that is just the pace of Acts.  Let's look at Galatians to hear how Paul tells the same story of his conversion.  I'm writing from Galatians 1:13-18

"For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I returned to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him for fifteen days."

So the sequence in Acts 9 happened over a 3 year fifteen day period.  Saul was not the Billy Graham of his time over night, God took time to prepare him.

So, what can we learn?  I believe this shows, as my pastor likes to say, that God changes us both like a microwave and a Crock Pot.

God changed Saul like a microwave.  He's on the road to Damascus to kill Christians and boom three days later he is a Christian.  Saul immediately began to share the good news with those around him.

God changed Saul like a Crock Pot.  He waited three years to even visit the disciples.  Saul spent time in the desert of Arabia and in Damascus being prepared for his role as the greatest missionary of all time.

When we begin to ask God, "Why are you taking so long to use me?  Didn't you call me to great things?"  When we ask this we should think of Saul.  Saul was faithful sharing the Gospel in the community around him before God expanded his mission field.  Therefore, if God is calling you to a big thing, be faithful in the smaller role He has given now.  Now is when God is preparing you to do a big thing.

God will change your heart immediately when you come to Him.  Yet, God will change your heart over time as well so that you can do amazing things for Him.  Be patient, but don't neglect to be faithful in the small things today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Acts 8- The Unstoppable Force of the Gospel

Before you read this post take time to read Acts 8.

Acts 8 is amazing, but Acts 8 is most amazing because it follows Acts 7.  In Acts 7 we saw the murder of Stephen.  A murder like this could spell the end of a movement or at least a dip in a movement's momentum.  However, in Acts 8 we see the unstoppable force of the Gospel.  The Word spread like wildfire in the midst of persecution... take that Satan.

I want to take a look at three simple truths from this chapter.

1) Acts 8:1-8
Here we see that God used persecution to spread the Gospel.  The church at Jerusalem was comfortable staying in Jerusalem, but persecution drove them out.  Did God cause the persecution?  I don't know.  Did God use the persecution?  Heck yes.  I believe that God uses the hard times in our lives to do the same thing.

So, how is God trying to spread the Gospel through your trouble?

2) Acts 8:9-25
Pride is a dangerous sin, but it can be overcome.  In this story we see Simon the Sorcerer who was full of pride due to his position in the community.  Simon even desired status so much that he asked if he could pay the disciples to get the ability to give the Holy Spirit.  Now the disciples rebuked him and, as I read it, he was so humbled that he didn't even feel worthy to pray by himself for forgiveness.  I have a lot of pride in my life, thank God he can overcome my pride.  However, the removal of pride often comes from a harsh rebuke.

Are you able to take that kind of constructive criticism?

3) Acts 8:26-40
Sometimes God will ask us to leave a good situation to be in step with His plan.  Earlier in the chapter we saw Philip go from deacon to evangelist.  Philip got the opportunity to lead many people to Christ.  Then God told Philip to leave.  What must that have been like?  He must have wondered what God was thinking, but he went.  Because Philip left he was able to meet the Ethiopian Eunuch and lead him to Christ.  Did you know that the Ethiopian Church is one of the original Christian groups in the world?  If Philip wouldn't have left a good situation to stay in stride with God maybe the Gospel doesn't reach Ethiopia and millions die without having ever heard.

Is God calling you to leave a good situation to trust that He still has good in store for you?

Marvel at the unstoppable force of the Gospel and pray that you can be a part of God's work today.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Acts 7- Courage for Christ

In Acts 7 we see the murder of Stephen.  Stephen was one of the Church's first deacons and a man filled with the Holy Spirit.  In Acts Chapter 7 he went to trial.  In Stephen's trial he showed no fear and spoke truth through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That truth got him killed because it was offensive and convicting to those that heard it.  Stephen was the Church's first martyr.

Stephen was the first of many martyrs in the first church.  Stephen was the first of the martyrs in the Church in general.  Martyrdom has not gone away.  Just because we here in the United States talk about persecution like it's being made fun of, doesn't mean that that is the reality throughout the world.

Read this story from a past National Review article:

"Afghan Christian, Shoib Assadullah, was arrested on October 21, 2010, for giving a copy of the New Testament to a man, and is being held in Mazar-e-Sharif. No Afghan lawyer has agreed to defend him, and (he) will probably face charges of apostasy, a crime that is punishable by death under the government’s version of sharia. As the State Department’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report notes, religious freedom in Afghanistan has diminished “particularly for Christian groups and individuals.”

For all I know this man was killed for sharing a copy of the New Testament.

The same author wrote a follow-up article to update another Afghan man who had been arrested for his faith:

"The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which, together with the U.S. Embassy, has been active on the case, is reporting that Said Musa, the Afghan man facing a death sentence for having become a Christian has now been released and is safely in another country."

Sadly Musa is the exception in countries like Afghanistan.

Persecution.org writes that the Iraqi Christian Community is facing ethnic cleansing from Muslim Terrorist and is in danger of disappearing from the planet.  Due to persecution their numbers have declined by about one million since 2003.  You Tube Iraqi Christians: Facing Extinction.  You will be shocked.

So, we are left with the question: "Could I suffer and die for my Savior?"  But I think we are left with something else.  I know that all of these martyrs were not poor saps.  I think the reason they died is because they recognized the beauty of their Savior in a way maybe I haven't.  They love God so much that they would die for the one who died for them.  So, instead of asking, "Could I die for Christ like them?' ask "Do I live for Christ like them?"  Do I see my God as He truly is?  Do I risk anything to follow my Lord?

Stephen and other martyrs were not fools.  Stephen saw the glory of God before he died and accepted death gladly and was even able to forgive his murderers.  Only an all powerful God like mine could render that response.  

See our God as He is and live courageously for Christ today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Acts 6- Come On Men

Acts 6 is a fairly short chapter with two stories in it.  I believe the second story fits best with the next chapter so I want to focus on the story in verses 1 through 7.

When we left the first church it seemed like a perfect church, unless your name is Ananias or Sapphira.  In chapter 6 we see the first church dealing with its first congregation wide internal conflict.  One half of the church believed that the other half was ignoring their needs.  So the first church needed to respond.  (By the way this should prove their is no such thing as a perfect church, so stop looking for one).

How did it respond?  Did it ask the leadership to spread its self more thinly?  No.  The twelve disciples said it would be wrong for them to neglect the ministry of the Word and the ministry of prayer to do another ministry.

The leaders in the church did a few great things here and the first is that they didn't underestimate the enormous power of the ministries of prayer and sharing the Word.  Those two ministries are immensely important for the life of a church and these men were wise to keep up their work there.

So how did the first church rise above their first congregation wide internal conflict?

Men stepped up in leadership.  These men were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  The Church and our churches need men to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom and to step up in leadership.  When this happened in the first church, "the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly".

Women, this does not mean there are not leadership and service roles for you.  Of course there are, in fact I would not be who I am today without the many women who were Sunday school teachers and servant-leaders around my life.  What I am saying is that for a church to have great growth men need to step up.

Women are filling many roles and spreading themselves thin because men are dropping the ball.  Step up men.  I'm sure the women of the church would agree with me that they want the men of the church to be prayer warriors, ministers of the word, servants, and leaders.  In fact I believe men should be leading more in every aspect.  What woman dreams of being with a man that is an impressionable tag-along?

So men, step up.  Minister in your local church in the capacity God created you for.  If that's teaching, then teach.  If it is serving widows and orphans, then serve.  But the bottom line is step up and do something.  When we do men, our local churches will grow in influence in our communities.  So if you want God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven... then step up men today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Psalm 29

I want to take a break from Acts for just a while.  Here is an awesome Psalm I want to share with you.

"Ascribe to the Lord, O might ones,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
the voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in His temple all cry, 'Glory!'

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to His people;
the Lord blesses His people with peace."

How Great is Our God!  He has total control over trees like the cedars of Lebanon that could get to be 120 feet tall and 30 feet around!  He has total control of Sirion, the mountain also know has Mount Hermon!  He controls the barren desert and the lush forest!  He is the God of the sky and the water!

Not only is God all the things mentioned above, but He is Lord over you and I.  When we start our prayers, "Dear Lord", this is the Lord we are talking about.

Thinks about the might of our God today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Acts 5- Yeah Pain!

Acts Chapter 5 is a pretty wild section of scripture.  It is a very difficult passage of scripture for many as well.  Therefore, I'm going to apologize for not answering some of the obvious questions in this chapter like, "Why would God kill Ananias and Sapphira for something as small as a lie?"

In this chapter we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  Following that story we see the miraculous signs and wonders that God performed through the apostles.  We see people healed by the shadow of Peter.  We see the Church getting a right fear of God.  We see many added to the Church.  And we see Peter and the apostles arrested... again.

This time Peter and the apostles were put in prison for the night.  An angel of God busts them out of prison and tells them to preach again.  So, when those in charge find the prison empty and the apostles doing again what they had been arrested for, those in charge were ticked off.

"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name.  Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."

Peter and the guys replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"  Then Peter gave the Gospel again to those in charge.

Those in charge were now even more ticked off and if it were not for a wise man named Gamaliel they would have killed the apostles.  But instead they had the apostles flogged and released.  (Remember the flogging scene in "The Passion of the Christ"?  This is what they did to the apostles.)

So the apostles came away beaten and bloody with chunks of their back having been ripped out.  And here is their response in verse 41, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."

Wow!  Rejoicing after being flogged?!  Why?

Believe it or not I played football in high school.  One thing about playing defense is that you won't get blocked if you aren't going toward the ball.  No one would care if I was going to the left and the play was going to the right, no lineman would block me.

Same thing with Satan.  He will not block you if you are not pressing on toward the prize.  So when you get blocked in life you should rejoice.  Easier said than done, right?  Still, persecutions are road signs as we are running the race.

Be worthy of being blocked.  Run toward the ball.  Rejoice when you suffer for the Name today.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Acts 4- Sovereignty, Fear and Prayer

When we last left Peter and John they had just healed a man and were preaching to a large group of people.  They were preaching the resurrection through Jesus and this angered the Sadducees (the Sadducees don't believe in the resurrection of the body.  So, they are sad you see.).  So Peter and John were arrested and brought to trial the next day.

Peter and John were not given a fair trial by a jury of their peers.  Rather, the same folks who condemned Jesus to death put them on trial.  This was a grave situation for Peter and John.

As we read we find that God made everything work out and Peter and John went free because they had done no wrong.  So, let's take a look at a few things we can learn from Acts Chapter 4.

I believe we can learn about: 1) God's sovereignty, 2) The Fear of God and 3) Prayer.

1) God is sovereign.
Peter and John were in a pickle.  The men who killed Jesus were looking to silence them.  These men killed an innocent Jesus and therefore would have no problem killing an innocent Peter and John.  However, God didn't want this.  God wanted Jesus to die.  He didn't want Peter and John to die, or at least not yet.  God willed both trials as He saw fit.

2) Fear God, not men.
Peter and John were in a pickle.  Men were threatening to harm them and commanding them to be silent.  This is how they responded in verse 19: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."  They feared God more than men.  God has really been pressing this with me, "Do I fear Him more than anything else?"  Do you fear God?

3) Prayer.
When the Bible spotlights a prayer we should look at it.  The prayer in this chapter is not a template for all prayer, rather just one template for prayer.  Let's look at what we can learn from the believers' prayer in verses 24-30.
A) They prayed together.
B) They adored God first.
C) They prayed scripture.
D) They asked God for strength in their situation, not for God to remove the situation.
E) They asked God to show His greatness.

Take time to read Acts 4.  Focus on the sovereignty of God, learn to fear God more than men and pray like the believers did today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Acts 3- Priceless

What do you have in your life that is worth something?  What would you run back into your burning house to get?  Would it be family photos?  Your guitar?  Would it be your safe?  Your quilt that your grandma made you?  What would you say you value?

What do you have in your life that you protect at all cost?  Is it your status?  Your wealth?  Is it your safety?  Your connection to family?  What do you value?

In Acts 3 we have a story about Peter healing a crippled man and the crowd's reaction to that healing.  At its root this story is a story of value.

The crippled man in the story was doing what beggars in Jerusalem did.  He was sitting at the temple gate asking for money.  When people gave him money, or any cripple for that matter, it blessed both him and the giver.  Giving to the beggars in the temple court was a good thing to do.

However, when this man asks Peter and John for money this was Peter's reply.  Verse 6 "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."  And the man stood up and walked and ran and jumped around praising God.

"Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you."

What is it that Peter and John had?  Do we have what they had?

Peter and John had the power of the name of Jesus.  They had a cure to the root of the problem, not the symptom.  They had something better.

I can imagine the gleam in Peter's eyes as he looked at this man and thought, "Money?  Oh you have no idea.  I have something so much better for you."

Do we have something better?  You bet!  We have the power of the name of Jesus.  When we see hurting in the world everything but Jesus only cures the symptoms.  Nothing else gets at the root of the problem... Jesus does.

So, what we have is priceless.  Friends, silver or gold I do not have (trust me), but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, be free!

We have something of great value.  Protect it.  Treasure it.  Savor it.  Share it today.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Acts 2- Church 101

Acts 2 is one of the more dramatic chapters in the Bible.  We see the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the first Gospel message, 3,000 new believers in one day and the blueprint of a successful church.  Please read this awesome chapter.

When we last left the disciples Jesus had asked them to wait.  Waiting is tough but in this chapter we see why God's timing was/is perfect.  Much of me wants to write this blog post on the beauty being on His timing.  However, I'm going to write about the basics of the church.

In verses 42-47 Luke writes about the first church.  Below are the basics for a successful church.

A successful church:

1) Teaches and is taught.
Any church worth its salt will be full of solid teaching and preaching and listeners.

2) Fellowships.
Do you want your church to be successful?  Then hang out and uplift one another.

3) Has communion.
Communion is essential.  The first church had communion.

4) Prays.
They devoted themselves to prayer.  Is your church devoted to prayer?

5) Knows that everything is God's and act like it.
To have success a church must treat possessions as "His" and "ours" not "mine".

6) Fulfills needs.
The Church has dropped the ball here.  It is not the governments job, rather it is ours.

7) Meets together.
Church is not an individual sport.  Man was not made to be alone.

8) Eats together and loves it.
Do you eat with people in your church just because you love being with them?

9) Loves God and loves each other.
You can sense this prominently in a healthy church.

When the first church did these nine things "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

The Church is the bride of Christ and the key tool used by God here on earth.  Let's be the way He intended her to be.  Do your part to be a member of a successful church today.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Acts 1- Waiting

I'm getting back to what I really enjoy doing in a blog, that is expository writing.  Last year I walked through the book of Matthew with some pit stops in Malachi, Proverbs and other more random posts.  This year, or at least for 28 posts, I will walk through Acts.  I'm excited for this study because I truly believe that my generation is eager to get back to an Acts kind of Church.

Please read Acts 1 because I will never be able to touch on all of it.  However, I do want to land on one verse.

Acts 1:4 "On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about."

Do you like to wait?  I'm guessing none of you do because I hate it.  Saturday I was stuck in a rain delay during a football game I was calling for three hours.  I went nuts!  I hate to wait.  I especially hate to wait when I know I'm supposed to do something.

This is where the disciples are in Chapter 1 of Acts.  Jesus tells them to wait.

Why on earth would Jesus tell them to wait?  He had died on the cross for the sins of the world.  He had risen again, conquering death in the process.  Why wait now?  I mean the disciples have good news a.k.a. gospel to share with everyone.  Why wait on a good thing?  But Jesus said, "Wait".

Some of you are in this spot with the disciples.  God has told you that you are going to do something good and then He said, "Wait".  Maybe you know that you are supposed to have a job that will do good for others and He says "Wait".  Maybe you know that you are supposed to be a husband and a father and He says "Wait'.  Maybe you are supposed to be a missionary somewhere and He says "Wait".

Why on earth does Jesus ever say wait?  Doesn't He say "Go"?  I mean, I've read the Great Commission and He told the disciples "Go", right?

I believe Jesus said "Wait" to the disciples for the very same reason He says "Wait" to you and I.  Jesus was preparing them for the task.  "... but wait for the gift my Father promised."  He wanted the disciples to be fully equipped with the Holy Spirit.  If they hadn't been equipped the miracles Luke writes about later in Acts might not have occurred.

So, while we wait Jesus is preparing us for the task.  Ask yourself how you can allow Him to prepare you.  Maybe this involves spending time in the Word so He can speak preparation to you.  Maybe you need to be in prayer like the disciples were in Chapter 1.  Maybe you need to do similar, smaller tasks to get prepared.  Whatever it is we need to wait actively so that we can be prepared for the task we are waiting for.

Waiting isn't fun, but waiting is for our good.  Remember the song, "Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord."  His timing is right.  Actively wait today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hard Truths in Hard Times

I am a very confident person.  I have confidence to go out and speak a hard truth to people and have no issues backing it up.  I feel just fine telling people what's right and what's wrong... and then stuff gets tough.

Late Saturday afternoon a group of five local kids were driving near New Hartford when they wrecked their car.  In the accident a boy named Paxton Miller died.  He had just turned 15 on July 12th.

What now, is the confidence still there in the hard truths I lean on?  I'm going to ask some questions about some hard truths.  This is not me doubting, but it is me wondering.

1) Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

I can't speak for Paxton, because I didn't really know him, but how is this working together for the good of the young guys I know who love Paxton?  God, why would you use a death for good?  How could you use death for good?

2) 1 John 4:8 "... God is love."

How is this love?  I don't know, but wouldn't love give him more time?  When is the death of a boy love?

3) John 14: 6 "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."

Why can't everyone come to the Father?  I mean, couldn't you do that?

4) Psalm 115:3 "Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him."

Why didn't it please you to save him?  Did it please you that a boy should die?  

It is easy to believe the hard truths of God in easy times, but to believe hard truths in hard times is not easy at all.  We can't do it.  I'm serious, we can't.  It is only through the strength God gives us to trust Him that believing these hard truths in hard times is possible.

Do I know the answer to the questions posed above?  No.  But read Job 38.  This is where I have to go.  I have to trust that He is bigger than me and can see the whole plan.  I have to trust that He is keeping His promises and doing what's right.  But I never have to understand it.

God give me the strength to believe in hard truths in hard times today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jesus Lover

I read a post today by a friend and she said she doesn't have a religion, rather she is a Jesus Lover.  Now this isn't the first time I've heard this, more likely the 1,000th time, but what does "Jesus Lover" mean?

First, what does it mean to be religious?  Religion is the ritual observance of faith.  My friend is right, religion is not the answer.  Remember what Paul said to the people of Athens in Acts 17:22 "Men of Athens!  I see that in every way you are very religious."  See, they were religious but they didn't love Jesus.

So, what does it mean to be a Jesus Lover?  If this is the answer we should know what it means.  Far too often I think people love this term because it allows them to throw away doctrine and be sedative in their race toward Christ.  I want to know what it really means to be a Jesus Lover if I am going to hang my salvation on it.

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command"

John 15:10 "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love."

1 John 5:3 "This is love for God: to obey His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome."

Psalm 119:127 "... I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold."

To be a Jesus Lover is to obey His commands and to actually love His commands.  This seems hard, unless we actually believe that Jesus loves us.

1 John 2:15 "Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

To be a Jesus Lover not only should we love Jesus but we need to hate the world.  This does not mean we don't love the people of the world; rather we don't love the stuff of the world and the ways of the world."

Jesus and Peter talking.  John 21:17 "'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you'  Jesus said 'Feed my sheep."

If we love Jesus we will feed His sheep.  This means if we are Jesus Lovers we will love His people.  His people are the Christians next door and the homosexual couple down the road and the dictator across the world and the starving child in the cold.

How much does a Jesus Lover love Jesus?

Deuteronomy 6:5 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."

How on earth can we do this?!

1 John 4:15-16 "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us."

Did you get that?  We can only love like Deuteronomy says by "relying on the love God has for us."  He supplies us with the love to love.  We can't even be Jesus Lovers without relying on Jesus to give us the love to do it.  That's mind-blowing and truth.  We can't love Jesus without the love of Jesus.  He loves us first... always.

Finally, don't be religious.  Be Jesus Lovers.  But know that Jesus Lovers are doers.  Jesus loving is an active pursuit.  In this active pursuit the key is to be one step further today than the day before.  Love Jesus today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sing a New Song

Psalm 40:1-4
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
 and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man
who makes the Lord his trust."

Psalm 149:1-5
"Praise the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
His praise in the assembly of the saints.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise His name with dancing
and make music to Him with tambourine and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in His people;
He crowns the humble with salvation.
Let the saints rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds."

Psalm 150
"Praise the Lord
Praise God in His sanctuary;
praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His acts of power,
praise Him for His surpassing greatness.
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet,
Praise Him with the harp and lyre,
praise Him with tambourine and dancing,
praise Him with the strings and flute,
praise Him with the clash of cymbals,
praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord."

Lord, put a new song in our hearts.  Thank you for lifting us out of the mud and mire and slim that was our lives without you.  Thank you for taking delight in losers like us.  You are great and worthy of praise and we will praise you.  Amen.

God has a new song in your heart.  That song is your new life filled with new desires.  Sing your new song today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interesting Web Site

My friend Chris showed me this web site that helps you discover your spiritual gifts.  

http://www.kodachrome.org/cgi-bin/spiritgift28.pl visit this site to do it your self.

Below is what mine looked like.

ScoreGraph of ScoreSpiritual GiftStatement / Response
25==========================Music20 = 548 = 576 = 5104 = 5132 = 5
25==========================Pastoring21 = 549 = 577 = 5105 = 5133 = 5
23========================Teaching24 = 552 = 580 = 5108 = 3136 = 5
21======================Hospitality13 = 541 = 369 = 597 = 5125 = 3
21======================Exhortation8 = 536 = 564 = 192 = 5120 = 5
21======================Writing28 = 556 = 584 = 5112 = 5140 = 1
19====================Leadership16 = 544 = 372 = 3100 = 5128 = 3
19====================Administration1 = 329 = 557 = 385 = 3113 = 5
19====================Discernment5 = 333 = 361 = 389 = 5117 = 5
19====================Giving10 = 538 = 366 = 394 = 5122 = 3
17==================Wisdom27 = 555 = 383 = 5111 = 1139 = 3
17==================Faith9 = 337 = 565 = 193 = 3121 = 5
17==================Encouragement6 = 334 = 362 = 390 = 3118 = 5
17==================Knowledge15 = 543 = 571 = 399 = 1127 = 3
17==================Poverty22 = 350 = 378 = 5106 = 5134 = 1
15================Healing11 = 539 = 167 = 395 = 1123 = 5
13==============Apostle2 = 330 = 158 = 386 = 5114 = 1
13==============Evangelism7 = 335 = 363 = 191 = 1119 = 5
11============Mercy17 = 545 = 173 = 1101 = 3129 = 1
11============Helps12 = 340 = 168 = 396 = 1124 = 3
10===========Prophecy23 = 351 = 379 = 3107 = 1135 = 0
8=========Celibacy3 = 131 = 359 = 387 = 1115 = 0
7========Intercession14 = 142 = 170 = 198 = 1126 = 3
7========Miracles18 = 546 = 074 = 0102 = 1130 = 1
7========Missionary19 = 347 = 175 = 1103 = 1131 = 1
6=======Craftsmanship4 = 532 = 060 = 188 = 0116 = 0
3====TonguesSpeaking26 = 354 = 082 = 0110 = 0138 = 0
0=TonguesInterpreting25 = 053 = 081 = 0109 = 0137 = 0

Sunday, August 14, 2011


In the movie Avatar a group of marines are stationed on the moon Pandora. The marines are humans but when they get into this machine they take over the body of a Na 'vi, which is the native alien (oxymoron) to Pandora. Getting into this machine to control the Na 'vi body is why the movie is called Avatar.

Despite Sam Worthington's lack of acting, the movie is really fun.  However, I'm not going to write a review of the movie.  

The dictionary definition, one of them at least, of Avatar is "an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life."  This definition is why the marines called the bodies they took over their Avatar.

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

Are you an Avatar for Christ or do you contend that you can do alone?  Jesus wants you.  That not only means that He wants you to love Him.  It means that He wants you... all of you.  You were designed to be His Avatar so that "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

So, how do we do this?  "I have been crucified with Christ."  We must die to ourselves.  

Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world."

To be crucified with Christ is a one time experience and a daily routine.  Meaning, yes the victory is won for me at the cross and salvation; but to run this race daily, I must die to the world daily.

"I no longer live, but Christ live in me."  Pray this with me: "Jesus, kill my self.  Daily.  I want to be your Avatar.  Live through me so that I can truly glorify you."

Be an Avatar for Jesus today.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Touch my Mouth

Please open up your Bible and read the first chapter of Jeremiah.  A friend of mine shared this chapter with me tonight and it completely convicted me.

Jeremiah 1:4-9  
The word of the Lord came to me saying:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations"
"Ah, Sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.'  You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you." declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth."

There is so much good in these six verses and I could not touch on all that these six verses speak; however, I want to hit on one thing.

I could speak about the goodness of God knowing us before we were born.  I could write about not being afraid.  I could write about not making excuses when called by God.  I could write about God the rescuer.  But let me share what jumped out at me from these six verses.

God touched Jeremiah's mouth and put His words in his mouth.  Has God done that for me?  Have I asked Him to do that for me?  Would I ask Him to do that for me?

I am challenged, and I want you to be challenged, to pray that God touches our mouths.  I know we will be amazed what God will do when our words get out of the way and God's words are spoken.

I mean, have you ever felt this before?  Have your words ever been completely controlled by the Spirit of God so much that you wish you could take notes on what you just said?  Have you ever gotten out of the way to let the Master work?

So, how do we do this?  Good question.  First, we need to know what God's words sound like by being in God's Word.  Second, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that He can overwhelm our thoughts, hearts and speech.  Lastly, we need to desire it.

God give me your words.  Reach out your hand and touch my mouth today.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wisdom Quest IV

Proverbs has been awesome!  It's been awesome to absorb the wisdom of God and it's been nice hearing that some of you have taken up this challenge too.

In Proverbs 25-31 there are a lot of great truths.  Here a just a few:

Proverbs 25:21-22 "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you."

Proverbs 26:11 "As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."

Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another."

Proverbs 28:19 "He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty."

Proverbs 29:20 "Do you see a man who speaks in haste?
There is more hope for a foot than for him."

Proverbs 30:5 "Every word of God is flawless,
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."

Proverbs 31 talks about a wife of noble character.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Men, look for this type of woman.  Women be this type of strong, noble woman.  Men, lets quit spreading the rumor that we want some floozy.  I don't, and I'm sure you don't, want some floozy.  Women, we might like to look at a floozy (we shouldn't want to, but we do), but know that we don't respect that kind of woman at all.

I want the type of wife that is described here.  I pray often for this type of woman to come into my life, and I hope that you do too.

So, read Proverbs.  Devour the words of God's wisdom because "Every word of God is flawless".  Live for God in His wisdom today.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wisdom Quest III

I have now completed three weeks in my month through Proverbs.  Let me tell you that it has been awesome.  I recommend that all of you try this, just one chapter a day and you can read Proverbs in one month.

I want to highlight a few of the Proverbs that spoke to me this week:

1) Proverbs 22:1 "A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."

It is great to have a good reputation.  What is your reputation?  Women, know that we men pay close attention to your reputation.  We want a woman that is respected.  What would people ask you to do?  Are there some things people wouldn't ask you to participate in because of who they know you are?

A reputation is an important thing that takes a long time to build and a moment to destroy.  Guard your reputation and earn a good name today.

2) Proverbs 18:24 "A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

How many Facebook friends do you have?  How many real friends do you have?  Don't surround yourself with acquaintances only; build a tight core group of friends or even just one friend that you know will be there for you.  Conversely, be that friend for someone.

However, know that in the end the "friend who sticks closer than a brother" is Jesus.  Only He can fullfil your deepest needs.

3) Proverbs 19:22a "What a man desires is unfailing love..."
Solomon is a wise man.  He hit the desire of mankind right on the head.  Of all the wishes that we have only one floats to the top... the desire for unfailing love.  We will search for it everywhere but will only find it in one place.  God is the only source for unfailing love.  He is the only one that will never disappoint.  To fill this desire seek God with all your heart, mind, strength and understanding.

This unfailing love is available.  As a boy at church said recently, "Hurry, supplies are unlimited!"

I beg you to give your life to the One who made the universe.  He is the One who will love you without end.

It's easy.
A) Admit you are a sinner who needs a savior.
B) Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived a perfect life, was crucified, died, and was buried, the He was raised from the dead conquering sin and death, and He is seated now at the right hand of God.
C.) Commit your life to Him as your Lord and Master.

Let God fill your need for unfailing love today.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spiritual Hunger... Location, Location, Location.

I normally don't do short posts but this is going to be a short post.

Sunday I got the opportunity to teach Sunday School from a book known as "The Purple Book".  The topic was spiritual hunger.

This chapter was a great one.  I got to look at much of Psalm 119 which is full of passages about spiritual hunger.  However, the chapter made me feel more inadequate than excited.  I mean, I want to be spiritually hungry.  But must of the time I'm not.

This is the Catch 22 I'm in, I want to desire.  Huh?  How is that possible?  I want to want to.  But that is exactly where I am.  I want to want to.  I desire to desire.  I hunger to be hungry.

In light of this I want to encourage you to read some of Psalm 119.

Also, I'll leave you with something my wise friend Harold said:

"If you want to be hungry go where the food smells good."

That seems like a simple fix.  Go where the food smells good.  Find a good Bible teaching church.  Get involved in an active Bible study.  Go to the Word itself.  Go where the food smells good and you are sure to get hungry.

So, desire to desire.  Go where the food smells good and get hungry for the sweet honey of God's Word today.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wisdom Quest II- Hold on to the Bar

I am continuing in the book of Proverbs and I would like to encourage you to take a look at this easy to read book.  My strategy has been a chapter a day and you can read the book in one month (thanks Pastor John).   While in the middle of reading Proverbs I was floored by an illustration I heard this morning from my friend Dean.

Dean and his wife are watching their grandkids this week, ages 5 and 10.  Now Dean was helping the 5-year-old in the tub.  The little guy was finished with his bath and began to get out.  As he rose out of the tub he didn't hold on to the safety bar attached to the wall.

 Dean said, "Hold on to the bar so you don't fall and get hurt."

The little guy snapped back, "I don't need to use the bar.  My dad never makes me do it!"

"You will use the bar so you don't get hurt and that's final." replied Dean.

Dean told me that he is sure that 99 times out of 100 this bar attached to the wall is unnecessary.  But why not use it?  See, Dean wasn't being mean by making his grandson use the bar; he was protecting him.

Isn't it the same with God and us?  God gives us proverbs and promises to hold on to.  He gives us boundaries to secure us.  Now, we could live life pretty well most of the time without these.  But God, like Dean, says, "Hold on to the freakin' bar!"

Dean loves his grandson and will be stern enough to keep his grandson safe.  God loves us and will be stern enough to keep His children safe.

So hold on to the bar.

Here are some bars to hold on to from Proverbs chapters 11-17...
Proverbs 11:7, Proverbs 12:25, Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 15:30, Proverbs 16:3 and Proverbs 17:17.

Take a look at these Proverbs and hold on to the promises and truths of God today.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wisdom Quest I

I am reading a chapter in Proverbs every day this month.  I'd encourage you to do the same.  During this month I want to highlight some of my favorite verses from each chapter.  Feel free to comment with your favorites.

Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline."
Fear the Lord means to recognize that He knows more than we do.  When we recognize this we can begin to ask for wisdom.

Proverbs 2:16 "It (wisdom) will save you from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words."
Sin is seductive.  It looks good, but it is not.  Wisdom will save you from this.

Proverbs 3:34 "He (God) mocks proud mockers,
but gives grace to the humble."
Don't be proud, rather be humble.

Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life."
Don't give your heart away on a whim.  It's that simple.

Proverbs 5:19 "A loving doe, a graceful deer,
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love."
Waiting for your wife/husband looks stupid to those around us, but God promises that it is worth it.  If we wait for the one He has for us we will "ever be captivated by her love."

Proverbs 6:19 "Six things the Lord hates..."
Read these six things and hate what the Lord hates.

Proverbs 7:27 "Her house (sin) is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death."
Solomon is clear that sin is not worth it even if it looks that way from the outside.

Proverbs 8:13 "To fear the Lord is to hate evil,
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech."
Do you hate evil or just the consequences of evil?

Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
Know God at all cost.

Proverbs 10:19 "When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise."
When I get into trouble it is usually due to my mouth.  It is better to be thought as dumb than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Take time to read in Proverbs today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Christ's Authority in Matthew 28

Well, after 10 months I'm just about done with my study in the book of Matthew.  During this time it has been nice to become reacquainted with my Savior.  I mean, I have almost forgotten who He is and who He isn't.  Our culture has dumbed down Jesus.  He has been made less radical and powerful, but Matthew shows Him to be the powerful king that He is.

So, as we finish Matthew in chapter 28 we see Him get victory over the grave, but we also see Him give us a mission.  Our mission, if we choose to accept (which we have to if we are really Christians), is the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.'"

Our mission is:
1) Make disciples not just converts.
2) Baptize them.
3) Teach them to obey Christ's commands.

Now we have to ask why Jesus can send us on this mission?  The answer sandwiches the mission and explains who Jesus is.

First reason.  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."  Meaning, "I am the King of Kings".  When we go on this mission we are basically the town cryer shouting, "Hear ye, hear ye on authority of the King of Kings..."

Jesus can authorize this mission because He is the King.

Second reason.  "And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."  Meaning, "I am your friend and I will ensure success of this mission."  When we go on this mission our friend Jesus comes with us.

Jesus can authorize this mission because He is going with us as our friend to ensure our success.

Choose this mission because Jesus is King and friend.  That's one of the dual natures of Christ.  He is 100% God and man and He is King and friend (Biblically I don't know if I can do the math on this one).  God is King, God is friend, serve your King with the help of your friend today.  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Declaration of Dependence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary of one man to dissolve the bands which have connected him to his self, and to reject the Powers of the earth, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that all men fall short of the glory of God, and that the wages of sin is death.  When any Form of Living instituted by Men becomes destructive to man he should abolish it and institute a new Life. laying its foundation on such powers that will provide life.

I, therefore, do declare that I am abolished from the Allegiance to the self and the Powers of the earth.  Not that I would be free and independent from all control, but rather that I would place my life in the hands of one who would fulfill my needs and provide me with life.

I declare dependence to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The foregoing Declaration was engrossed and signed by the following members:

Matt Ray

Declare your Dependence today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Love Letter

Have you ever written a love letter?  Have you ever received a love letter?  Do you enjoy listening to love songs?

If you said 'yes' to any of the above or wish you could say 'yes' to any of the above you can help me out.  Read this and then I want to ask the ladies for some help.

"...This is what the Lord says,
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
-Isaiah 43:1-3

This is a love letter from God to you.

So ladies, if some guy wrote something similar how would you feel?  Especially think of the lines like: "I have summoned you by name; you are mine."  or "I will be with you... When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned."

So often in love letters guys use hyperbole that they could never live up to.  (i.e. "I'd catch a grenade for you.")  But get this, God can't do hyperbole because all things are possible for Him.

So, how does a love letter like this from God make you feel?  Please post your response today.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Matthew 27

Please read Matthew 27.

Matthew 27:44 "In the same way the robbers who were crucified with Him also heaped insults on Him."

That's the complete story of Jesus and the robbers during the crucifixion according to Matthew, but isn't there more?  According to Luke 23 one of these robbers repented.  I like that story more.

I mean, in Luke's telling we see a man who had nothing to bring to the table.  A man who was on his last day and Jesus promised him heaven.  God's grace was enough for this man.

So, why on earth would Matthew 27 leave that out?  What's important about Matthew 27's telling of this part of the story?

Here's my take: Matthew wants to highlight how Jesus won this robber over.

So, how did Jesus win this man over?  Humility and endurance.  Jesus was humble; He could have sent 10,000 angels to take Him off the cross, but in humility He bore our punishment.  Jesus was humble on the cross.  Jesus endured with grace; He was being tortured, insulted, and humiliated.  But Jesus did not lash out.  Many times when people were crucified they would yell back, spit back and even urinate on those watching; Jesus did none of this.  Jesus endured with humility and grace.

Jesus wasn't dynamic on the cross.  He didn't persuade this robber that He was right.

We need to follow Christ's example with people.  Now did Jesus always use this approach to reach people?  No.  But some people need to see us live our lives with humility and grace under pressure to believe that we really believe what we say we believe.  When we talk the talk and walk the walk when life is good, our witness is fair.  When we talk the talk and walk the walk when we are suffering, our witness is amazing.

So, be like Jesus.  Be humble and endure when the road is the toughest.  Shine for Jesus today.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fathers: You Need to Make Men

Tomorrow is Fathers' Day.  So, much like I did for Mothers' Day, I want to tell you a little about what my Dad did right.

My Dad played a major role in making me who I am today and was very intentional, I believe, in fulfilling that role.  Let me tell you a few of the things that my Dad did for me.

My Dad prayed with me every night.  Every night before bed my Dad and I prayed.  This taught me several things including: the importance of regular prayer, the power of prayer, how to approach a God that is both one's father and Lord, and it gave me an insight into what my Dad cared deeply about.

My Dad read me Bible stories.  We had a children's Bible story book and my Dad would read me those stories.  My parents also got me cassette tapes of Bible stories that I listened to every night.  Without this I don't think I would have the understanding of the Old Testament that I do today.

My Dad talked to me about sex.  I remember the day when my Dad said we were going on a car ride... the longest car ride ever!  My Dad told me about every thing from sex to dating to premature ejaculation... he held nothing back.  Now, I hated that car ride then.  He was not afraid of the subject and he showed me that day that there was nothing we couldn't discuss, that sex wasn't strange and that real men valued purity.

My Dad showed me how to deal with failure.  My Dad failed when I was looking many times and this by no means made me think less of him.  I admired watching his reaction to failure.  When he swore in front of me, he appologized and asked for forgiveness.  When he talked bad about my mother, he appoligized and asked for forgiveness.  When he made the wrong move with someone in the church, he worked to make it right.  He wasn't always gracious, but often he was.  I learned from watching my Dad fail how men deal with failure.

Titus 2:6-8 "...encourage young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."

Men raise up young men of God.  If you are a father be one like my Dad was to me.  If you are not, do what Paul tells us to do in Titus.  If you are a young man, seek out that sort of instruction.  The world today needs more men... real men. 

Thank God for your Dad and raise up and be men of God today.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Matthew 26- A Judge, His Son and a Garden

Please read Matthew 26 before reading this story.

There once was a Judge who had a Son.  The Judge and His Son had the best relationship ever.  The two played catch in the backyard, they had long talks about life, they always said "I love you" to each other... they were inseparable.  Not only that, they were both great people.  The Judge was widely known as a fair, righteous Judge.  The Son never did any wrong and was immensely loving toward others.

Then it came to pass that a horrific set of crimes were committed.  Murder, rape, child abuse, theft, arson, and more all rolled into one event.  The law was clear that these crimes were punishable by death.

It also came to pass that the offenders were not caught by the community, but the Son and the Judge knew who they were.  And the loved them, but the law was clear these criminals should die.

The Judge and the Son cried together.  Then the Son asked what could be done.  The Judge said the only way to save these offenders would be for the Son to take the blame.  Lovingly the Son did.

The trial was the trial was the biggest trial the community had ever seen or would ever see again.  The crimes were damning.  The law was clear that these crimes were punishable by death.  And the prosecutor was good.  He made it clear to the Judge that the Son should be put to death.

What a situation!  A Judge and a Son.  Love so strong.  Yet a law so clear.

As the trial moved on it was soon time for the sentencing.  The Son knew that He would be declared guilty.  The Son also knew that death was the punishment.  But the Son knew that His Father, the Judge, loved Him more than anything.

The Son asked for a recess.  It was grant.  Then the Son and the Judge went to the back room.

"Dad... Daddy... Dad!  If there is anyway to get out of the death penalty, please find it.  I'll do community service until I'm 130-year-old, but don't give me the death penalty.  Please, please, please don't.  You are the Judge, you have the power to lessen the sentence.  However, I trust you.  Do what is right."

The recess ended.  The gallery was at the edge of its seats.  The prosecutor was salivating.  The judgement was near.

"I have weighed the case carefully and thoughtfully" announced the Judge.  "The facts are clear.  The defendant is guilty."

The gallery waited for the sentenced to be delivered.  What would it be?  They knew that these crimes deserved death and they wanted it.

"The defendant is guilty and I have decided upon a sentence."

The Judge took a deep breath.  His face became serious.

The gallery waited for the news.

The Judge lifted His strong right hand, the gavel slammed and a deafening silence filled the room.

"Put Him to death."

Then the Judge rose and turned His back on His beloved Son to leave the room.  As He turned a single tear floated down His cheek.

The law was clear: these crimes were punishable by death.  Justice had been served.