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

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.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Matthew 25

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  "If you aren't going to help, just stay out of the way."

How many of you have heard these statements?  I'm sure we all have.  So, is doing nothing better than doing something wrong?

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells two stories I want to focus on.  The first is the parable of the talents.  In this story the Master leaves three servants with money while He is away.  The servants get different amounts of talents (money) according to their ability.  The first two servants put their money to work and double their Masters money.  The third was afraid to do wrong so he did nothing, he just buried the talents.

To the good servants (the first two) the Master says, "Well done, good and faithful servant!... Come and share your Master's happiness!"

To the third servant (the bad one) the Master says, "You wicked, lazy servant!... throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus is upset with laziness and apathy.

In the second story Jesus talks about the end times.  In the end Jesus says the King will separate people into the sheep (the good) and the goats (the bad).

Now the sheep the King says, helped Him when He was in need, meanwhile the goats did not.  To the sheep He says, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  To the goats He says, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

What Jesus is saying in these stories is simple: what we do or don't do matters.  Just not doing bad is not what He desires from you.  God knows both your sins of commission and omission!

It reminds me of a quote my teacher Mr. Semler said, "Apathy is the yeast of injustice."

We need to fight and work for good.  We need to further the Kingdom.  Most importantly, I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master's happiness!"

So don't just not do bad, but do good.  Fight injustice.  Love your neighbor.  Serve your Master with the talents He has given you today.