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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Faith, the Cubs and Opening Day

I love Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season.  Opening Day means hope.  Every team, except the Pirates, comes in today feeling that they will be the World Series champions come November. 

This year my Cubbies are winning it all.  I've put my hope in it.  This year is The Year.  I know I've said it before, but this is it.  Hey Chicago What Do You Say?  The Cubs Are Gonna Win Today!

I put my hopes in the Cubs every opening day and ever year come November I find that my hope has been misplaced, but not this year.

I am very glad that my hope in the Northsiders isn't the same as my hope in Jesus.  The Cubs have never come through for me, in fact every time I go to Wrigley they lose.  Conversely, Jesus has never let me down.

My hope in Christ is completely different than my hope in the Cubs... THANK GOD!

Paul writes this to the church in Corinth:

"We are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."  2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Paul was so confident in his hope in Christ that he was excited to and willing to die.  I've never had enough confidence in the Cubs to risk my life on a bet that they would win it all; but I have enough confidence in Christ to risk my life on a safe bet that He will win it all.  Christ is a sure bet.  He is not only the place to put our hope, He is the source of it.  Every day is Opening Day with the hope I have in Jesus.

So cheer for the Cubs, maybe even hope they win it all this year, enjoy Opening Day, but remember that our hope is in the Lord today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Matthew 21:18-22

Take this opportunity to read this section of Matthew 21.

Jesus does and says some interesting things on His way back into Jerusalem following His rest with His friends in Bethany.  Let's take a look at a few things we can learn from Jesus' walk back into town.

1) Jesus not only speaks in parable but sometimes He lives in parable.

When Jesus kills the fig tree He was living a parable.  Jesus wanted to show His disciples that He is not interested in empty faith.  This fig tree without fruit represents many of us and/or many of our churches.  Like the tree some of us are Christians without fruit.  We are churches without Jesus.  We look the part but are useless.  Jesus hates this.  He wants authentic Christians and authentic churches, not pretenders.

2) Prayer is powerful.

Verses 21 and 22: "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

Prayer is powerful.  However, prayer is not some magical act. 

Jesus said anything can happen through a prayer with faith.  I believe that a prayer that is done in complete faith will be answered every time.  This is true because a prayer with faith is a prayer that aligns with God's will.  As your faith grows you have no reason to doubt because with a mature faith comes a mature understanding of God's will.  The prayer of a mature, faith-filled person is full of listening as well as asking.  So, of course what ever you ask for in that kind of a prayer will be answered because God's will is always accomplished.

So live authentically for Jesus and remember the power of prayer today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matthew 21:12-17

Immediately following the party of the Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus' story turns slightly darker.  Jesus enters the temple and sees injustice.  People were making money by taking advantage of foreigners.  Many foreigners arrived at the temple to worship without an animal to sacrifice, so they needed to buy doves.  Well, thoses selling doves often sold them for rediculously high prices.  In order to buy anything in the temple the foreigners needed to exchange foreign coins for temple coins.  Well, those exchanging money often gypted people on the exchange rate.  This made Jesus mad, mad enough to do something.

Do we get angry when we see injustice?  I believe that what made Jesus most mad about this injustice was that it was being done in His dad's house.  His father was being associated with crooks.  In my humble opinion, I believe one of the things that makes Jesus most angry is when He or the other parts of the Trinity are misrepresented.  We are often guilty of misrepresenting God.

Have you ever made a claim on God's behalf without knowing for sure that it is what God is saying?  Remember, we are CHRISTians.  We have the name of Chirst in our name.  We are always representing Christ and we need to start acting like it because people associate our life-style with that of Christ. 

Finally, I have a question.  In verse 17 it says Jesus spent the night out of Jerusalem in Bethany.  Why?  Is there some importance to that verse that I don't grasp?

Anyway, remember that you are a representative of God.  Act accordingly today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Matthew 21:1-11

When most people read this section they read it like I usually do: we skim it because we've read this a million times.  Well, we have read this a million times.  We've read this and had the pastor ride in on a real or pretend donkey.  We've read this holding palm branches shouting "Hosanna!"  We've done all that so many times that we really stopped letting the Holy Spirit read with us long ago.  So, I encourage you to read this and ask the Holy Spirit to read with you like you would a passage that you feel you don't understand.

This story is the story of Palm Sunday.  Jesus tells the disciples to get a donkey for Him.  He then rides the donkey into Jerusalem while every one shouts "Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"  When this passage is read in church it sounds like a party, like a parade and it is.  It is a huge celebration and parade for Jesus.  However, the last two verses tell a surprising truth.

Verses 10 and 11- "When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, 'Who is this?'  The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

This is sad.  People are celebrating the arrival of Jesus but they don't know who He is, especially those that answer who He is.  They say that Jesus is a prophet and He was.  But they miss the true picture.  They should have answered, "This is the Son of God."

We do this too many times ourselves.  We allow people to celebrate Jesus for less than He is.  We allow people to celebrate Jesus the great example or Jesus the prophet or Jesus the peaceful protestor.  We let people hijack our Jesus and downgrade His job title. 

We do this for good reasons.  We don't want to offend people.  Well, they're on the right track.  Well, Jesus was good guy so let them learn some good lessons from Him.

NO!  Jesus is Lord!  Jesus is God!  Jesus is Savior!  He is nothing less than that and we Christians need to proclaim that.  Allowing people to believe in Jesus as less than Lord and Savior and God is damning to them.  We need to quit politely damning our neighbors.  We need to make sure people celebrate Jesus for who He is.  No more of this good teacher junk.  He is Lord.

So, put the name of Jesus back where it belongs.  Quit filing Jesus in the same folder as Ghandi.  Celebrate Jesus as Lord and Savior and God today.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

30 Hour Famine

So yesterday and into today I got to do 30 Hour Famine with the kids at Redeemer Lutheran.  This is my third year hanging out with them for that (although I had to leave early this year).  Every year 30 Hour Famine reminds me of a few things.

1) I need to be fasting more.  As Christians, I believe, we are called to fast.  When Jesus gives instructions about fasting He says, "When you fast" not "If you fast".  Jesus expected all of us to fast.  Now I've never done anything more than about a day or two, but we are called to fast.  Fasting reminds us of our reliance on God rather than food.  So if you want to feel closer to God, fast.  Plus, you can fill normal meal-time with pray-time or time in the Word.  So, please fast.

2) Children are dying every day due to hunger related diseases.  Every day 8,000 children die from hunger related diseases.  During the 30 Hour Famine this year we wrote "5 more" on post-it notes to represent the children that die in a day due to hunger.  Those post-it notes covered all the windows in the back of Redeemer's sanctuary.  It took me and three others almost an hour to put up all those post-it notes and that doesn't include the time it took to write "5 more" on each note.  We as Christians need to be the hands and feet of God and work to stop this injustice!  "5 more" should read "NO More!".

So, give fasting a try some time this week (it is Lent) and pray for the starving children of the world today.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Matthew 20:29-34

Take time to read this section of Matthew 20.

At this point in Jesus' life He is literally on a death march.  Jesus had said early that He was walking to Jerusalem to be sacrificed.  Jesus knows that He is going to be betrayed, flogged and crucified while He is in Jerusalem, yet He marches ahead to Jerusalem.

While on His way, two blind men call out to Him.  "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"  Jesus could have turned and been like, "Do you know what I'm going through?  Do you understand the pressure I have on my mind right now?  All you have is a little case of blindness.  Back off because I'm having a bad day!  I mean, I'm being lead like a lamb to be slaughtered and my disciples are arguing about who's going to sit beside me in heaven and you are yelling at me to help you."

Jesus didn't do that.  Jesus, instead, called out to them and had compassion on them and healed them.

So, when you think you're under pressure.  When you are having a bad day.  Remember, that when Jesus was under pressure He still had compassion on those around Him.  So, if Jesus looked beyond Himself (He didn't have to), we should definitely look beyond ourselves.

So don't be absorbed by only your problems.  Be compassionate to the world around you today.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Matthew 20:17-28

The mother of James and John comes to Jesus in this chapter to ask that her sons be seated beside Jesus in His Kingdom.  Jesus responds with this: "You don't know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"

What Jesus is saying is that He is going to suffer and die.  What the mother of James and John mother signed them up for was suffering and death.  What we sign up for as Christians is suffering and death, if we do it right.

Jesus says that to be great in the Kingdom is to be a slave here on earth.  But I thought we got freedom through Christ?  We do.  We are no longer slaves to sin but we are now slaves to righteousness.  Being a Christian is not about doing whatever you want, rather it is about being a slave to righteousness, service and love.

Jesus signed up for this on earth too.  Jesus said, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."  Jesus was a servant on earth and is now exaulted.  If we are servants on earth we will be exaulted in heaven. 

So pursue servant-leadership on earth and your reward will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Remember, as Christians we signed up to be slaves, not to be entitled snobs.  So serve your world for the sake of Christ today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Matthew 20:17-19

"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the 12 disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.  They will condemn Him to death and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.  On the third day He will be raised to life!" -Matthew 20:17-19

I think this is one of the most important truths of the season of Lent and all of Christianity: Jesus could have said "no".

Jesus knew ahead of time what He was getting in to when He went to Jerusalem, heck, He knew what He was getting in to when He came to earth as a helpless baby.  Jesus knew that He would "be mocked and flogged and crucified" and He could have said "no" simply by not going to Jerusalem.  But He didn't.

Jesus chose the cross.  He chose death.  He chose His Father's will.  He chose you.

How awesome is that!  Jesus chose to uphold the will of His Father above all else.  Jesus was thinking of His Father's will and you in these three verses.

To steal a line from Cassandra Pilcher, "You are to die for, just ask Jesus."

Think about Jesus' decision to sacrifice Himself for His Father's will and for you today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Matthew 20:1-16

Please take time to read this passage in Matthew 20.

This is an interesting parable of Jesus because it follows Jesus telling the disciples about the rewards they will get for sacrificing for Him.  When many people read the parable of the vineyard workers they think Jesus is giving a story about rewards.  If He is talking about rewards then He contradicts His early statement.

Jesus is NOT talking about rewards in this story.  Rather, Jesus is speaking about salvation.  In the parable some workers work the whole day, while others are hired at the eleventh hour and only work a little.  Both sets of workers are paid one denarius.  The workers who worked all day find this repulsive, but the employer says that it is his right to do what he will with his money.

Some of us have been Christians our whole life.  Some of you really have lived a straight and narrow kind of life thus far.  Some of you have only recently found Jesus.  You may have spent much of your life before chasing after pleasure and not working for the Kingdom.  Jesus says that both of you will receive equal salvation.

Those of you that were living without Christ for a long time see this as an awesome truth, but those of you who neglected chasing pleasure for the sake of pursuing God may find this to be unfair.  And it is unfair. 

Unfairness is what, in my mind, makes our salvation so great.  The last will be first and the first will be last.  Jesus takes our idea of 'fair' and turns it upside down.  Really, it is unfair that any of us receive salvation.

We Christians need to learn from this parable.  We need to focus on the unfair mercy and love that God has lavished on us, rather than trying to judge what everyone else has. 

Appreciate God's unfair grace today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shakespeare and Paul

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate"
Opening lines of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..."
Philippians 3:7-8

When we are in love everything but the focus of our desire pales in comparison.  In Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 we see a man so in love with a woman that even nature seems less beautiful.  In Philiappians we see Paul so in love with Jesus that all his work before knowing Jesus seems like junk.  Both men write of a love that changes their vision of the world.

Are you in love with Jesus enough that your vision of the world has changed?  Do you see the stuff of your life as rubbish compared to being in Christ Jesus your Lord?  Are you willing to rearrange your life to be centered on Christ or is your life too important to give to the Almighty? 

It's all about love.  When we fall in love with God our world is changed.  And guess what, He is worth the change.  Don't look at the junk we give up and wish that it was still our focus.  Rather, look at what we have.  Look at Jesus. 

The old hymn says:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ look full in His wonderful face/
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim/ in the light of His glory and grace."

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate"

Shall I compare thee to the life I used to have?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Jesus is more lovely than the junk we hold on to.  So "consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ" today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nip it in the bud

So I want to nip a fear in the bud.  And it is nip it in the bud not the butt.  If you've been saying butt you've been saying wrong.  Sorry, pet peeve.

If you do the "follow by e-mail" I do not get your e-mail address and I will not spam you to death.  That is just a new way to get notified when a new post is made on a blog.  I mean, I wish others had this so I didn't need to randomly check their blogs.

So use it if you'd like to.

I will leave you with a really awesome story I am ripping off from the book "The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn't Exist." by Craig Groeschel.

My daughter Anna had been saving her money faithfully to purchase a digital camera.  She asked for odd jobs to make a few dollars to help her reach her goal.  One afternoon as she and Amy leafed through the mail, they came across a request for money to purchase Bibles.  It bothered Anna deeply that many people didn't have access to God's Word.  When Anna continued to ask for jobs, we'd find something for her to do for an extra fifty cents or a dollar, assuming it would go toward her camera.  After several more days, our ten-year-old brought us forty dollars in ones and change.

"I've decided other people need Bibles more than I need a camera.  Would you send this money to help them get Bibles?"

"Anna, are you sure that's what you want to do with this?"  I asked.

She smiled.  "Of course, Dad.  Isn't that what it means to be a Christian?"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Trust You Jesus. Amen.

So yesterday I met a man named Dave Burrier.  Great guy with a passion for helping the homeless and furthering the Kingdom.  Dave talked about four prayers he teaches that he calls "Hemi Prayers".  These four are short prayers guaranteed to change you life if you say them enough and believe in them.

One he had on his list was this: "I trust you Jesus.  Amen".  Very simple but life changing if we really do learn to trust Jesus.

So this morning as I was walking from my house to my garage I said, "I trust you Jesus.  Amen."  I then got in my car and turned the key.  Nothing.  My engine didn't even start to turn over.  I turned the key again.  Nothing.

I chuckled a little and then said, "I still trust you Jesus.  Amen."

I then got out of my car and messed with the battery cables because I had changed my battery terminals just a while back and I thought maybe they were loose.  I got back in my car and turned the key.  Nothing.

"I just want to go to church Jesus.  Why are you testing me this morning?  I trust you Jesus.  Amen."

I pop the hood again.  Messed with the battery cables' connection to the terminal, again.  "I trust you Jesus. Amen."

I then sat down and turned the key.  Vroom.

"Thank you Jesus.  Amen."

This morning God taught me to trust Him.

What did you learn on your Sunday morning?  Maybe you learned something from your pastor's sermon.  Maybe you learned something in Sunday School.  Please share what you learned today.  I really enjoyed reading the comments last Sunday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hope Ministries

Last night and today I got to go on a mission trip with the Pulse youth at Grace Baptist.  This was an amazing trip full of amazing moments.  On the trip we got to visit a homeless shelter, soup kitchen and thrift store.

My favorite moment of the service trip was meeting a man named John.  John is a man that is going through treatment at Mission of Hope in Des Moines.  John had been homeless, lost and alcoholic for many years.  We got to hear John's testimony (we were the first to hear it).  John is an amazing man, but more importantly he follows an amazing God.

John spoke very openly about his alcoholism.  He spoke of drinking at least a 24 pack of beer every day.  He spoke about his homelessness.  He spoke about how he was a promising young man on a music scholarship who let it all slip away from him until he was living in a tent in the woods.

But get this, God was with John the whole time, even when John tried to kill himself.

John talked about how God woke him up and provided him with a place to grow in a relationship with Jesus.  John even spoke about how he recently led his sister to Christ and is working on his other sister.  How amazing is that?!  God took what the world said was broken, John, and used him to fix the brokenness in others.  God is great.

So John gave his testimony and then we were given the opportunity to pray with John.  It was unbelievable.  While we prayed with John he deflected the attention away from himself and prayed for others that he wanted God to save.  In the middle of his battle, he is not done fighting this demon yet, he prayed for others.  I can learn so much from that.

So, I could ramble for a long time and if you weren't with me in Des Moines you probably will be lost but I want to say a few more things.  First, I get to be around powerful kids.  The kids that went with me continue to astound me with their growing love for Jesus and others.

Secondly, please be aware of the hurt in our backyard.  There are so many that are in need of a miracle in our neighborhoods.

Finally, pray for John.  I will be.  John is going to change his family in breathtaking ways just like he has been changed.  So be a partner in what he will do for the Kingdom by praying for him and Hope Ministries (www.hopeiowa.org) today.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Matthew 19:16-30

Jesus talks with a rich young man in this section of Chapter 19 and He might as well be talking directly to someone like me.  This rich young man grew up in a good home and had a great foundation, but he was still missing something.

Jesus tells the rich young man how he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus tells the rich young man to keep all the commandments.  The rich young man replies: "All these I have kept."

Jesus responds, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come follow me."

"When the young man heard this he went away sad, because he had great wealth."

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

It is hard for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven when we are rich.  And we are filthy rich.  I discovered that I make 50x what the average person in the world makes.  I am filthy rich.  Because I am rich I often put my faith in my stuff instead of God.  I love and trust my ability to go to a doctor more than God.  I am too comfortable to place my trust in God and I have structured my life so I don't have to trust God.  I am just rich and comfortable without God.

I need to remember my friend from Cape Town, South Africa, Kia.  When I met Kia I felt sorry for him and his community because they had nothing.  I thought about how much people like me could help him.  But I quickly realized he had something worth the world.  The first words Kia said to me when I visited his barbed wire surrounded school was, "Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?"

Kia was sharing Jesus with me.  He didn't see me as someone who would give him something; rather, he saw Jesus in his life and immediately wanted to share Him with me.  Wow.  Kia was rich although he had very few possessions and 1 in 3 people in his community had AIDs.

The last will be first and the first will be last.

So we need to quit relying on our stuff because it's junk.  If we rely on it now we had better enjoy it because it is as good as it's going to get.  But for those of us that are serious, we need to put our trust in something of value rather than something that will fade away.  Put your faith in Jesus rather than your cashflow today.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Kid

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  My little brother Patrick just turned 18 today.  So, Happy Birthday Kid!  It seems a little weird that my little brother is 18.  And it seems a little weird that my little brother is only 18, I mean grow up faster.

When we were growing up he was the leech that got to hang around me and my friends even when we didn't want him there.  He also is the one who got picked on by my friends and me pretty regularly.

But the kid has turned out okay so far.  He knows a lot more than many expect and a lot less than he thinks he does, but I guess that could be said for all 18 year old boys... err men.  So I'm proud of my kid brother and I hope that he accepts his next step which is dropping the things of childhood and taking on the role of a young man.

So buddy, I'll leave you with this.  Be obedient and observant to those who are older and wiser than you.  And "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."  (1 Tim 4:12)

Happy Birthday Kid!  Now continue to change the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow and I think it's time we took it back.

When you think of St. Patrick's Day what do you think of?  I think of leprechauns, pots of gold, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy, the green river in Chicago, wearing green, Guinness, corn beef and cabbage and my cousin Amber and brother's birthday.

What I don't think of is St. Patrick.  St. Patrick is credited with sending the snakes out of Ireland, although I don't buy that he actually expelled real snakes.  Rather, he got rid of the pagan Druids by introducing the island to Christianity.  The snakes are probably symbolize the Druids, but no one knows for sure.

But St. Patrick is responsible for converting a nation to Christianity (ironically a nation that had kidnapped him as a boy).  St. Patrick used the shamrock in his preaching to explain the Holy Trinity.  He showed how the shamrock had three distinct and equal leaves but was just one shamrock.

So on St. Patrick's Day this year let's have fun.  I mean, I'm part Irish and I am proud of that, but let's give tomorrow a real meaning.  Let's celebrate evangelism and the Holy Trinity.  Let's salute a man who saved a nation and taught us about the Trinity.

When we remember the Trinity let's not forget the Holy Spirit.  Francis Chan calls the Holy Spirit the "Forgotten God".  Is He?  We need to recognize the deity and power of the Holy Spirit this St. Patrick's Day.

So this St. Patrick's Day let's remember the real reason we celebrate.  Let's celebrate the Holy Trinity (one God with three distinct persons who are fully and equal God).  So celebrate the true St. Patrick's Day with me tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Matthew 19:13-15

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place His hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'  When He had placed His hands on them, he went on from there."  Verses 13-15

I have great parents.  Growing up they made it easy for me to find Jesus wonderful.  My parents had Bible stories on cassette that I listened to every night.  They made church a fun place to be.  They read Bible stories to me and let me ask questions.  Every night I got tucked in by my Dad or Mom and we prayed before I went to sleep.

I've decided that when I'm a parent if I don't do those things listed above I will have failed.  We have a responsibility, whether as parents or not as parents, to "let the little children come to Jesus".  We need to make it as easy as possible for the children in our church and in our lives to find Jesus wonderful.

If we hinder the children from coming to Jesus we are spiritually handicapping them.  What a shame it is that anyone should waste any time not belonging to Jesus.  I mean if Jesus wants them they will belong to Him, but what a blessing it is to know Jesus from an early age.

So thank you Mom and Dad for pointing me to Jesus.  I'd hate to think of the time I would have wasted and the growth I would have missed without your Godly parenting.

For those of you who have little ones looking up to you (and that's every one of you) be sure to act like a compass pointing toward Christ.  Let the little children in your world come to Jesus today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lukewarm Christian?

So today I've been working on the message for Wednesday night's youth group.  We are reading the book "Crazy Love", which I highly recommend, and we are on chapter 5 for this week.  So this post will give you a little preview of the chapter and may be some free advertising for Mr. Francis Chan.

Chapter 5 is called "Serving Leftovers to a Holy God".  This is a tough chapter because I am so guilty of serving my God the scraps of my life.

In the chapter before Francis gives a profile of a "lukewarm Christian" (that chapter is very convicting).  In this chapter he speaks about "lukewarm Christians"and the idea of giving God less than your best.  Here is one small piece of the chapter that slapped me in the face when I read it:

"... churchgoers who are 'lukewarm' are not Christians.  We will not see them in heaven."

Wow.  That is scary stuff.  The term "lukewarm Christian" is an oxymoron!  Jesus demands our everything and He deserves it.  However, we still hold back our best for some stupid reason.

So, I'm sorry to maybe have ruined your day.  But if you are a "lukewarm Christian" reading this I pray that you will commit your whole self to Jesus before He spits you out like He promises to in Revelation.

If you are a true Christian with "lukewarm" tendencies I want to remind you how beautiful and amazing grace is.  We are not going to be perfect (although we continue to run our race toward Christ-likeness) and God's grace covers our imperfection perfectly.  So remember that there is nothing that can take you out of His hand after you give yourself to Him.

Are you "lukewarm" or do you just have some of the symptoms?  Check yourself today.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I love Sundays.  I get to see my friends.  I mean it is a great recharge day for me.

So I'm going to do something risky.  I'm going to let you finish this blog.  It's risky because I might find out that no one cares enough to spend time doing something they view as silly, but here it goes.

On the comment page let me know what you learned at church today.  I wasn't at your church, unless you go to Grace, so I'm out of the loop.  So fill me in.

My dad does this for my by e-mailing me the scripts to his sermons every week.  Here is one sentence that spoke to me from his sermon:

"Prayer is not changing God's mind, it is a process when God changes our minds and desires."

So what do you have to share from this morning's sermon at your church?  

If you have nothing to share I hope it's because your pastor had a dud today and not because you don't have a church family.  Because I don't know how I'd function without a church family.  We all need one.  So if you have not committed to a church do that today.

Matthew 18:10-14

Take time to read this section of Chapter 18 because I'm not going to write about the best golden truths in this section.

First of all, today has been a great day.  I guess I should say yesterday because technically it is past mid-night, but I don't care enough about that technicality.  I got to see a run-through of our church's Easter Passion Mime and it looks very good.  I also, got to listen and be a part of the broadcast of the Class 3A basketball championship and although W-SR lost it was fun.  I had a fairly impromptu movie night at my place.  Finally, I got to see my Mom, grandma and brother.  So today was a good day.

Why am I talking about how my day was?  Well, it's because my day today and every day is in the hands of God.

Verse 10- "... For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

This is pretty mind blowing to me.  God has given me personal angels, not angel but angels.  The God of heaven and earth loves me enough to place angels over my care.  So give God praise for putting angels in your life to watch out for you and help you have great days.

I know that this isn't even close to being what this particular section of Matthew 18 is about, but I think it is just plain awesome.

So thank God today for loving you enough to assign angels to assist you today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Matthew 18:7-9

Verse 9- "If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell."

This verse is part of a very hard truth.  We as followers of Christ need to be willing to get rid of things that are temptations in our lives.  We all have these things in our lives and we all need to start gouging out eyes and cutting off feet.

I know someone right now that, in my opinion, needs to grab a saw.  She is a very good person but she is in a relationship that will cause her to sin.  It is hard though, because relationships are the hardest limbs to remove.  However, infectious limbs that aren't removed can be the most deadly.  So it is worth a little pain now to avoid a greater pain later.

So what limb do you need to remove?  What is causing you to sin?  As a guy I can tell you there are too many things to count sometimes, but Jesus says we need to start cutting and gouging.

It all comes down to worth.  How much is Jesus and His Kingdom worth to you?  By not removing things that cause us to sin we are saying, "I value ______ more than Jesus and His Kingdom."

Remember that Jesus by sacrificing Himself on the cross shouted with His actions, "I value my Father's Will and your soul more than anything!"

So be ready to make a tough decision and make living the holy life Christ called us to easier today.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Matthew 18:1-6

Let's take a look at these six verses from Matthew 18.

As Jesus and His disciples are traveling the disciples begin to argue (we know this from Mark 9) about who is going to be the greatest in the Kingdom.    First off, this is not that bad of a discussion to have.  I think we as Christians should shoot to be great Christians.

Jesus answers how to be great by having a child stand next to Him while He says this: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Children were not adored back in Jesus' day like they are now.  Children were second class citizens.  When Jesus tells us to humble ourselves like this child, He is saying this: "Strive to be second class citizens."  What does that mean?  Here's what I think it means: strive to make sure that you view others more highly than yourself and strive to see yourself as completely dependent on your Father.

Service is greatness.  The last will be first in the Kingdom.  So do things for others without seeking to be first here on earth because first on this earth is a blip in time compared to eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I also love how Jesus commands us to be dependent on our Father (God) like a child is dependent on his father.  Do you remember how much you trusted in and was in wow of your father?  Do you remember saying, "Well, my dad could beat up your dad."  Our fathers were invincible in our minds.  They could do no wrong.  Unfortunately, we grow up and realize that our fathers aren't perfect, mighty or completely worthy of our trust.  I remember when I realized that my dad was actually able to lose more fights with other dads than I previously thought.  In fact, the only fight I remember my dad winning was one that shook the perception that my dad was perfect.

Good news though.  We will find as we grow that our earthy fathers are far less than perfect and all-powerful, but the more we discover about our Heavenly Father the more perfect and all-powerful we find Him to be.  So to be first in the Kingdom we need to rely on our Heavenly Father like we did in our earthly fathers in the days we would literally jump from the tops of stairs into our father's arms.

One more thing.  In verse 6 Jesus gives us a stern warning.  Verse 6- "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Jesus is serious about us living in a way that doesn't cause little children or those young in their faith to sin. Those of you that consider yourselves to be mature Christians better start acting like it or Jesus says it would be better for you to be drowned.

So strive for greatness in the Kingdom by submitting to others and God today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Challenge for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  As a kid I never did anything for Lent.  I didn't know what it was except that it meant that school had fish for lunch on Fridays.

Many people give something up for Lent.  My Catholic roommates would always give up candy or something like that.  I've never done that.  I've never given anything up for the 40 days of Lent.  But my brother has.  Patrick does the 40 Days of Water.  This is where, as I understand, you give up every drink except water and whatever money you would have spent on coffee, pop, etc you give instead to a charity.  I think that's pretty cool.

I've never given anything up, but I have added something for Lent before.

Last year I vowed to read my Bible ever day during Lent.  I know what you're thinking, "Aren't you supposed to be doing that already, Matt?"  Yes, I was supposed to be; but I wasn't.

So last year I read my Bible every day during Lent instead of giving something up.  And you know what?  It was awesome!  I got so much out of it and my Bible reading habits are better today because of it.

So this year during Lent I vow to blog every day.  This, I hope, will cause me to think more about the scripture I'm reading.  It should also cause/force me to be more in-tune with the Holy Spirit who (much of the time when I let Him) helps me in my bloging and understanding of the scripture.

So there it is.  I will blog every day during Lent.

What is God asking you to give up or add this Lenten season?  Find out and get to it today.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Funeral

"...What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  James 4:14

Have you ever day dreamed about your funeral?  I've done that recently (Mom, I'm not depressed).  I've thought about what I would like it to be like, what I hope might be said.  So let me share just a bit of that.

At my funeral I definitely want a few things.  First, I want music.  I'd love the Wartburg Choir to sing my favorite song of theirs/ours, "Give Me Jesus".  I'd also like my cousins Kirsten, Seth and Nate to sing "I'll Fly Away" like we did for our Grandma's funeral, but I'd like Brent Krueger to accompany on the slide guitar because that sounds really fun.  So I want music at my funeral.

Secondly, I want stories.  I remember my Great-Uncle Clifford's funeral because it had stories.  These stories should be funny or embarrassing because I want my funeral to be a celebration of fun and embarrassing times.  Nobody should fall asleep.

Lastly, I want the Gospel shared.  People should leave my funeral thinking it was more about God and His gifts than me.  I want God to use my death to reach other people.

Now I know thinking about your own funeral seems morbid, but I don't think it is.  I mean, we are "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" so why pretend that life goes on forever.  Plus, I've got a lot to gain by dying.  Paul said, "To die is gain" and I believe that.

Some of you are thinking, "This is morbid."  Most people that will think this post is morbid will think so because they are afraid of death and there's nothing wrong with that fear.  Others will think this is morbid because they're afraid of what people will say when they die.

What will people say about your life when it is over?

I think this is an important question, because the answer is mostly up to you.  You will be the one who writes your eulogy.

So start writing your eulogy today through your actions.  Write love into your eulogy.  Write service into it.  Write Godliness into it.  Write selflessness into it.  Write reliability.  Write your eulogy through your actions today.