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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Build Your House on the Rock

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and if fell with a great crash."
Matthew 7:24-27

We've all heard this story many times.  Many of you can probably sing the children's song that is word for word this parable.

Don't miss the meaning of this parable just because it is familiar.

1) We must build our lives on the rock (Jesus' words).  We do this through hearing AND obedience.  We cannot just know what the Bible teaches and the Holy Spirit speaks into our souls; we must be doers.  When we do build a foundation on the rock we have security.  Building on the rock is not done in the hard times; by then it may be too late.  I love the quote, "Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it."  We build on the rock on a daily basis for the hard times.

2) The rain falls on everyone.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP4F3G8L41Y  Being built on the rock doesn't mean life's storms won't come.  It does mean that your life will be there when the clouds part and the sun pokes out again.  The sun comes again.  Really it does.  Will your house still be standing when it does.

If you want to read a story about a man and family that did this I encourage you to read Sacred Acre about Coach Ed Thomas and his family.  You will be wowed and encouraged by the grace and strength God gives the ones He loves in the midst of the storm.

Build your life on the rock of Christ Jesus' teachings today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Colossians 4

Below is Colossians 4:2-6.  I think this is so relevant for us today that an explanation is hardly needed.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:2-6.

Are you devoted to prayer? Are you watchful?  Are you thankful?

Do you pray for those spreading the Gospel so that they have open doors?  Do you pray for the missionaries your church supports?

Do you pray that the teachers and preachers around you can proclaim the Gospel clearly all the time?

Are you ready to make every interaction with a non-believer count for the Kingdom?

Do your conversations exude grace?  Do they leave people hungry for more because of the holy salt that is infused in your words?  Do you pray for that to be the case?

Pray the prayer of Paul in this passage for yourself and those Christians around you today.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Details Matter

In church we just finished a series on the book of Ruth.  One thing that really stood out to me is that God is in the details doing more than you think.

In Ruth we see these characters, Ruth, Boaz and Naomi, that do seemingly small things in the grand scheme.  I mean, Ruth moving with her mother-in-law to Israel would not have been the top story on Ancient Israel's CNN.  Naomi's plan to have her very normal daughter-in-law propose marriage to Boaz would not have been on Ancient Israel's TMZ.  And Boaz's faithfulness to provide for the two women would have only received a few likes on Ancient Israel's Facebook.

Yet, God used this story to change the world.  Sure this story is about three people in a small town in Israel, but read the genealogy in Ruth 4 and the genealogy in Matthew 1.  This small story spawned King David and King Jesus.  God used the details to write His story.

Here's my encouragement and challenge to you.  Live your life like the details matter.  Don't just live like God is part of your story, but live like you're part of His story... history.  The details of your life might be the reason someone is in heaven for eternity.

This is an older song by Ray Boltz but I think the lyrics are so powerful in lue of this topic.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-3BJrG79IA&feature=related 

I'm not sure if this link works, but look it up because it's worth it.

Your details matter.  What seems trivial to you may be pivotal to the Kingdom.  Live your life like the details matter today.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I hope you all had a great time worshiping our God today.  I hope you all have a good, Bible-believing, loving, active church that you not only attend but live with in community.  I'm not going to post about this, but I do love being with all my church family on Sundays.

I want to talk about a lie in our culture.  We are told that tough guys should always stand their ground.  I do believe in standing your ground most of the time.  However, there is even a time when tough guys should run.

"Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Guys, and gals too, run from sexual immorality.  Flee from situations that will severely tempt you.  Set up boundaries to protect the temple of the Holy Spirit which is your body.  He lives in you.  Don't violate His temple!

Plus, you must value yourself enough to want what the Father wants for you, i.e. the best.  Sex, I'm told, is a great thing.  I look forward to having sex with my wife, but God says that sex outside of marriage is a sin against God, our own body and a violation of the temple of the Holy Spirit.

I do not consider myself strong enough to put myself in a situation where I could be sexually immoral and still choose not to.  I know my weakness and I bet it's not much different from yours.

So  flee.  For example, if you are married or single resolve not to be alone in a room with the oposite sex unless it is your spouse.  Resolve to having your running shoes on to flee, because real men value themselves and their wives enough to run.

Sorry to rant, but I for one am sick of the lie that real strength is putting yourself in a no-win-situation and trying to pull out a victory.  Real strength and courage is surveying the situation well enough to avoid sexual temptation.

Be strong and courageous.  Flee from sexual immorality today.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Carry Your Cross- Holy Burdens

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  Mark 8:34

Yesterday I wrote about how carrying your cross is about self-denial and submission to God.  That is what it is about, but I believe there is more to be found out about carrying your cross.  A couple of days I mentioned that our cross is not His cross.  My friend Carolina added that my cross is not her cross.  She must have looked at my notes because I couldn't agree more with her.

So, if my cross and Carolina's cross aren't the same then carrying your cross is about more than just self-denial and submission.

I want to steal an idea from Craig Groeschel's book Weird and put a different wording on it.  In Craig's chapter in Weird about values he prayed that we be blessed with a burden.  That sounds strange, doesn't it? Groeschel argues in this chapter that God wants us to have a divinely given burden.  I call it a Holy Burden.

What is a Holy Burden?  Well, it's different for me than it is for you, most of the time.  Well, then how do we hind it?

Craig says, and I agree, that we find our Holy Burden by figuring out what righteously angers us.  For Moses and Martin Luther King Jr. it was the oppression of their brothers.  For you it might be seeing people starve.  For someone else it may be kids that are picked on.

Find out or examine in your heart what angers you.  Then avoid the sin that the anger could ignite and instead do something positive in light of that anger.  If you hate seeing starving people; feed them.  If you hate seeing people not growing in their faith; teach them.  Do something about this righteous anger because it is a gift from God.

Find out what ignites your heart to jump into action.  This thing is your Holy Burden.  This is, in many ways not all ways, your cross.  Take up your cross and follow Him!

I will warn you not to place your Holy Burden or cross on someone else.  God has given us different crosses so that the entirety of His will is accomplished through the work of His saints.

Love the cross you have been given.  Do not be ashamed of it even if it is a cross that doesn't put you in the limelight like the cross of another might do.  Everything done for Jesus' name is important no matter what men might think.

Pick up your cross and follow Jesus today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Carry Your Cross- Deny Yourself

In the previous post I included Mark 8:34 through the rest of the chapter.  Either open you Bible and read that or look at the previous day's post.

Jesus says, "He (you and I) must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

So, part of what it means to take up one's cross is to deny one's self.  We hate that phrase, don't we?  Why would I deny myself?  If Jesus is better why should I have to deny myself anything?

I believe that to deny yourself means to take yourself off the throne of your life.  In other words, get out of the driver's seat of your life and let Him drive.

William Ernest Henley wrote a famous poem entitled Invictus.  This poem is about a man who both denies God the drivers seat and hates the idea of God existing at all.

"Out of the night that covers me,
black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
my head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the menace of the years
finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

Well, that sounds great, huh?  That is what it looks like not to deny yourself the driver's seat, or should I say helm.

Below is a poetic response to Invictus by Dorothea Day entitled My Captain.

"Out of the night that dazzles me,
bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
for Christ the conquerer of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under the rule which men call chance
my head with joy is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears
that life with Him! And His the aid,
despite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep, me unafraid.

I have no fear, though strait the gate
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate:
Christ is the Captain of my soul."

How much better is that?!  When Christ is the Captain of your soul then, and only then, you can truly be unafraid.  To deny yourself is to gain more than you could ever provide you.  You can provide nothing for yourself in comparison to what Christ wants to do for you!

Pick up your cross.  Deny yourself and gain it all today.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Carry Your Cross- Our Cross vs. His

I just got to teach last night about Mark 8:34-38.  Over the next couple of days I want to share with you some of my thoughts on this section of Mark.

"Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels."  Mark 8:34-38

I want to examine several aspects of this section over the next couple of days.  I want to discover what it means to carry your cross.

So, the first question is: if I carry a cross is mine the same as Jesus' cross?

I believe the cross you and I carry is extremely different than the one that Jesus carried for you and I.  The cross that Jesus carried brought salvation.  The cross that Jesus carried enabled Him to have the full measure of God's wrath unleashed on Him.  The cross Jesus carried led to His painful physical death.

The cross you and I carry cannot be the same.  I'm not able to save anyone.  I'm not able to withstand the full wrath of God.  I might not die a painful death because of my cross, although I may be called to that.

I will examine more in the next couple of days into what our cross is, but we need to know that our cross is not His.  Thank God!

I believe that our cross is sized for us.  Meaning, I don't believe that God will give me a bigger cross than I can handle; although I believe we are given a bigger cross than we think we can handle.  Our cross is to be so large that we can't carry it without Him, but I'm sure that my cross is not too big.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30, "Take my yoke (cross?) upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke (cross?) is easy and my burden (cross?) is light."  (Words in parenthesis are mine not Christ's)

Wow!  We are called to carry a cross, but we are promised the cross is easy and light.  Compared to what?  I'm not sure.  I guess it's compared to the burden of worrying about our life without the Almighty on our side.

I hope you'll stay with me on this look at what it means or rather might mean to carry your cross.  Remember, that God is not calling us to carry the same cross that the Son did.  Be encouraged and carry your cross today.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Growing up this day meant next to nothing to me.  Then I went to a Lutheran College and I enjoyed the attention this day received.  I don't think this is a necessary celebration for Christians, I know St. Paul would agree with me there, but I have started to celebrate Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent in the past few years.

During Lent many of you and millions of Christians worldwide give something up as part of a fast.  Sweets, pop, swearing, TV and the list continues.  I have never given anything up for Lent.

However, I have in the past couple of years made it my aim to focus on a daily discipline.  Last year I decided to write a blog post every day.  This forced me to read the Bible critically and think in a focused manner about my God every day.  I grew so much in my understand of God last year.  So, rather than picking a new discipline I have decided to repeat last year's.

I hope you benefit from this Lenten Challenge (the word challenge helps guys like me get motivated) as much as I do.  If you want to read every day, great.  If you don't, that's great too.  This is a personal discipline, but I hope I can perhaps help your faith during Lent as well.

Please pray that God helps me to see Him and understanding His Word daily.  And think about what you might want to do for Lent today.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Acts 19- Sex and Money

Acts 19 is a tremendous chapter in Acts.  Please read it.

In this chapter Paul went to Ephesus where he lived for just over two years.  Paul had many great triumphs in this city.  People were coming to faith in Jesus and they were even being healed by handkerchiefs and other articles of clothing that Paul had touched.

This chapter is awesome.  There are so many lessons to be learned from this section of Acts.  But I want to focus on one particular thing.

Ephesus was the capital of Asia (modern day Turkey).  It was  a trading hub of the ancient world, a hot bed of the occult and the home of the Temple of Artemis.

The Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; alongside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  The Temple of Artemis and Artemis were the source of pride and a lot of money for Ephesus.

Artemis was a fertility goddess pictured with many breasts.  The way she was worshipped was with wild orgies and drinking.  You can see why she was popular to worship.  The worship of Artemis also involved pre-pubescent and adolescent girls serving in the Temple of Artemis for one year.

Sex and money.  These two things drove the Ephesians to riot and nearly kill the Christians in town, including Paul, because the Christians were speaking the truth.

Before we say, "Silly Ephesians!  How could your society be so base?"  Let's look at our own society.  While we don't have a temple were we have orgies and make money, we do have a terrible secret obsession with sex and money.

Let me tell you about one aspect of our dangerous obsession with sex and money.  Breaking Free ministry is an organization that helps free girls and women from sex trafficking.  Below are some stats about sex trafficking:

~The U.N. estimates 27 million people are enslaved worldwide (more than any time in history).
~50% of these are children.
~Human trafficking is the fastest growing black market crime in the world.  $32 billion a year.
(The U.S. is not exempt.  In fact Minneapolis/St. Paul is a hub for this market.  That's were Breaking Free is located.)

So, what's the answer to this issue that we and the Ephesians share?  Jesus.  He will have victory over this problem.  In fact, remember the Temple of Artemis?  Of the 121 beautiful columns that composed it only one still stands.  The rest were used for making churches, roads and forts.  The pagan temple was turned into Christian church buildings.

What's the answer to our ugly sex and money problem today?  Jesus.  But Jesus loves to use His people to answer prayers.  I invite you to visit www.breakingfree.net if you are interested in one way you can be an answer to a young woman's prayer.

Jesus is the answer.  Don't be controlled by the gods of sex and money.  Instead, let Him use you to be an answer to a prayer today.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Psalm 73- When Good Guys Seem Like Losers

Below is a Psalm I read today.  I "randomly" flipped to this Psalm and it is exactly what I needed to read.  In Pulse (my church's youth group) we have been talking about sex.  I talked about waiting until marriage, which I am.  While I want to follow God's plan, sometimes I look around and it seems like those that aren't waiting are doing just fine and enjoying themselves much more than I am.  This Psalm is the perfect response from God.

Psalm 73 A psalm of Asaph.

1 "Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Acts 18- Paul, Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos

Please read Acts chapter 18.

In this chapter of Acts Paul finishes his second missionary journey and begins his third missionary journey. Also, in this chapter we meet three amazing Christians named Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos.  I want to take a look at something we can learn from each character in this story and I'm taking the husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquila as one.

Paul's story:
Paul's biggest impact in this chapter comes when he lets go or seemingly does nothing.  First, he spends a lot of time sharing the Gospel with the Jews in the synagogue in Corinth.  Paul gets nowhere and he is frustrated saying in verse 6, "Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clear of my responsibility.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

Story over, right?  The Jews blew their chance, right?  Wrong.  Paul realized that he could not force people to convert; all he could do and had to do was share the Gospel as best he could.  So, Paul let go.  Amazingly as soon as Paul let go and went next door to share the Gospel with the Gentiles at Titius Justus' house the synagogue ruler Crispus showed up.  Crispus and his whole household heard the good news and believed.  When Paul stopped God didn't.

Later Paul was brought to trial accused of teaching a religion that was unlawful under Roman law.  In verse 14 Paul started to talk, but was interrupted by the Roman proconsul Gallio.  Gallio interrupted Paul and ruled that Christianity was a sect of Judaism and therefore a legal religion throughout the empire.  When Paul did nothing God did a huge thing.

From Paul's story we can learn that sometimes trusting God means leaving the work up to Him.  This isn't always true; I'm not promoting sitting on your butt and waiting for God all the time, but sometimes this is how God works.

Priscilla and Aquila's story:
Priscilla and her husband Aquila were kind, hospitable people.  They housed Paul and gave him work while he lived in Corinth.  They also were kind rather than confrontational with Apollos.  Apollos had half of the Gospel when he arrived in Ephesus (only what John the Baptist taught).  Apollos was preaching this less than complete Gospel to many people.  Apollos just didn't know better.  So, instead of calling him out in public, Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos over to their house probably for dinner and explained the whole Gospel to him.  Because of their kindness Apollos became a powerful missionary in the early church.

From Priscilla and Aquila's story we can learn that God loves to use kindness to expand His kingdom.  If we are kind and hospitable we may not be noticed by men but we will be noticed by God.

Apollos' story:
Apollos was a man that came to Ephesus and was the smartest guy in the room just about everywhere he went.  He was from Alexandria and probably went to the world's greatest university that was located in Alexandria, Egypt.  He had a following of people.  He had no human reason to listen to Priscilla and Aquila when they invited him to their house.  Apollos was a smart, persuasive, magnetic man; however, his best quality may be teachability.  Apollos was teachable.  He humbly listened to Priscilla and Aquila and therefore was able to share the whole Gospel to thousands.

From Apollos' story we can learn that God loves His people to be teachable.  We as Christians should be lifelong learners always looking to the other parts of the body to grow us.  Don't be so full of yourself that you become unteachable.

So, let go and let God when the occasion arrises.  Be kind and hospitable.  And be teachable today.

Monday, February 6, 2012

You Complete Me

Valentine's Day is next week and I just got back from my beautiful cousin Kirsten's wedding (I'm not sure beautiful cousin narrows it down in my family), so I've been thinking about relationships and marriage.  Don't worry, this isn't a completely sappy post and yes I will be back in Acts soon.  Anyway, I was thinking about relationships and marriage.

You've seen the movie Jerry Maguire, right?  It is a pretty good movie and it has some memorable lines.  "You had me at hello" "Show me the money" "Help me, help you" and of course, "You complete me." Great lines.  But "You complete me", is that what relationships are for?  Should I look for my better half.  Do I need to be completed by another person?

My cousin Nate (slightly less beautiful than Kirsten, but better than the average bear) officiated the wedding Saturday.  He said something that I've heard probably a hundred times before, but something we all need to hear again.  He said, "Don't expect the other person to be everything for you."  His point was that Kirsten is not going to be able to complete Phillip and Phillip won't be able to complete Kirsten.    Only God can complete you.

If you feel less than complete then find Jesus.  Jesus is the only one that can fill your life.  He promises to give us life to the max.  We can only be complete in Christ Jesus.

Where does that leave marriage?  While I'm not going to write about all that marriage is supposed to be Biblically (mostly because I'm not qualified to do it), I do want to give some advice to those of us who are single.

Don't look for someone to complete you.  Search out completion in Christ.  "It's not good for man to be alone".  The Holy Trinity said that.  Trust that God will not leave you alone.

Look for a companion, not the missing puzzle piece.  I want the woman that my sovereign God has prepared for me, but not because she can complete me.  I want a companion.

Then what's marital companionship look like?  I'm not completely sure yet.  All I know is that the analogy Paul gives us of running the race to the end is important to me.  What I want is someone to hold my hand as we run toward Christ together.  I want a companion who will encourage me to run with more endurance and speed than I am now.  I want to pick up the pace every day as we run side-by-side.

Sorry if that's a bit cheesy; but it makes more sense than "You complete me"... sorry Tom Cruise.

Search out the One who can complete you.  Be complete in Christ.  Run the race with endurance today.