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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

I want to share a song I woke up with this morning.

"O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

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.

Through death into life everlasting,
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O'er us sin no more has dominion,
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell."


Turn your eyes upon Jesus today.

Friday, March 30, 2012

O Lord You're Beautiful

Before I tell you what God has been teaching me, I want to tell you about The Great Saga.  The Great Saga is an Easter Passion Mime that my church puts on.  I know miming seems stupid.  I thought the same thing until I saw it for the first time, so give it a chance.

Here is a video and all the dates, times and locations for The Great Saga.

Now God has been teaching me many things lately through weakness.  I've been realizing my need for others and my need to seek God.  I've tried to do things on my own and as Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for ya?"  Not great.  I've told people many times that we weren't made to live life alone, so I need to take my advice.  Thank God He's put people in my life that are eager to share the load with me.

Again, I've also been shown I need to seek God.  I have been trying to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, but I think I've missed the forest through the trees.  I've loved His work more than Him.  I need to adjust my focus and fix my gaze on His face not just the work of His hands.

Here is a song that speaks to what I'm trying to do.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jethTOQMZY

O Lord you're beautiful,
Your face is all I seek,
For when your eyes on this child,
your grace abounds to me.

Pray that my focus can be on His face today.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

$540 Million Jackpot

I've never played the lottery until today.  Every Christmas for the past few years we have gotten scratch tickets in our stockings and this year one of my tickets netted me an amazing $2.  So, today I finally cashed that ticket in for a lottery ticket and a buck.

The lottery is not something I'd recommend people do and I've seen people throw their hard earned money away to it on a consistant basis, but a $540 million jackpot and not having to spend money on the ticket convinced me that is was an okay thing to do today.

After I purchased the ticket I began to think about the wild possibility of winning.  I know that isn't going to happen, but it was fun to imagine.  What would I do if I won?  Would I continue to work?  Would I buy the station I work at?  How much would I give away?  How would I know who to give it to?  Lump sum or monthly payments?

The idea of $540 million seems incomprehensible.  I would be so rich!

Then I started to think.  You know, I'm one of the richest people to have ever walked the earth.  I never have to think about shelter because I have bought it.  I never worry about being hungry because I have money in my pocket and a kitchen full of food.  I never worry about transportation because I own a car that I can afford to insure and put gas into.  I never think about hygiene because I own soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, etc, etc.

On top of all that I pay people to entertain me.  I have cable TV and internet.  I go to movies.  I go to concerts and plays.  I attend sporting events.

I am so rich.  Forget the $540 million jackpot.  I mean, I'll take it if I win, but I'm already rich beyond what most people in the history of the world ever dreamed of being.  I live more comfortably than ancient kings and my jesters are more entertaining.   

"Dear Lord, help me to count my blessings.  Keep me from chasing some fantasy and make me thankful for the fantasy I'm living right now.  Lord you have blessed me.  Let me be a blessing to others today."

Watch This Short Video

My cousin Nate posted this video.  Go to his site and watch the video about forgiveness.  It is only 3:30 but it is powerful.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is God Teaching You?

I've been writing a blog post daily during Lent.  It has been incredibly encouraging to me but I'll be honest and tell you that today I have nothing of great worth to share.

So, what is God teaching you?

Please comment on this post so I can learn from what God is teaching you today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Triumphal Procession

Before we take a look at the Word of God I want to teach you a little history.  A triumphal procession was a Roman military tradition.  After a victory the Roman general would display his treasures and captives amidst a cloud of incense being burned.  To the winners the incense probably smelled of sweet victory.  To the defeated people the incense smelt of the fore coming slavery or death.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?  Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit.  On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God."
2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Let me confess something to you.  I write a lot about the importance of evangelism but I don't find myself personally leading others to Christ often, or I should say hardly ever.  I don't mean that I don't share the Gospel; what I mean is I don't get the opportunity to pray with someone as they accept Christ.  I want badly to do that, but it hasn't happened in a very long time.

So, I'm left wondering what I do in light of that.  Let me say first that it is frustrating, but it will not stop me.  Not everyone who shares the Gospel will see changed lives but everyone who shares the Gospel will get results.  Unfortunately and fortunately it isn't up to us to decide the result, it is up to our Sovereign God.

To some I am the smell of death; to others I am the smell of life.  Is the difference my approach?  No.  The difference is the choice of God.  I am not a peddler of the Word of God; I cannot sell the Gospel.  My job is to in Christ speak the Word of God with sincerity like a man sent from God.

Friends, the response to the Gospel is just that; the response to the Gospel not a response to me personally.  It may feel personal but it isn't.  I'm writing this to encourage myself and you.  Be the aroma of Christ, share the Gospel with your words and actions.  But let God be God.  Let God take care of saving people because He is the one who saves, not us.

Don't be discouraged.  To some we are the smell of death; to others, the fragrance of life.  Waft the aroma of Christ and leave the rest up to Him today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Father's Discipline

"Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you."
Deuteronomy 8:5

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
and do not resent His rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those He loves,
as a father the son he delights in."
Proverbs 3:9-10

I'm not a father but I often think about how I might deal with situations as a father.  I don't have any fatherly stories per-say but I think I understand these verses.

Yesterday I was sitting by a campfire with my good friends' son C.J.  C.J. is two years-old and is a fun boy.  Before we sat by the fire we were running around and playing and having a good time.  Then we sat by the fire and he stood up to walk a safe distance from the fire.

I said, "C.J. don't get close to that fire, it is hot."

"Okay." He replied.

Then as he was walking he started to back up and got dangerously close to the fire.  I shot up and grabbed him.  After grabbing him I sat him down and looked him sternly in the eye and told him not to get close to the fire.  I told him he needed to listen to what I said earlier about the fire.  I told him that I loved him and didn't want him to get burned.

His eyes watered a bit and his front lip started to pout.  I had ruined his fun and he was sad that fun Matt was giving him the stern look that his parents sometimes give him.  He immediately wanted to get away from Matt because the fun was obviously over in his mind.

Why did I have to get stern (something I'm not very good at) with C.J. for a moment?  Because I love him and want him to be safe.  I didn't want to ruin his fun.  I didn't hate his freedom to walk around, I hated the thought of him getting hurt.

God is our heavenly father.  When He disciplines us He is showing us His love.  He doesn't want us to get burned, but we look at him with our lip pouted and tears in our eyes when He corrects us.  We look at Him like He ruined our fun when in reality He protects us.

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
and do not resent His rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those He loves,
as a father the son he delights in."

Many times we want to love God when we are running around and playing in His blessings.  Remember He disciplines those He loves.  His discipline is done out of the same passionate love that Christ had for us on while He was hanging on the cross.  As difficult as it may be, appreciate the Lord's discipline today.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Colossians 3:12-14

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Colossians 3:12-14

Lord, help us to forgive as you forgave.  Do that for us today.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Isaiah 41:9-13

"I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, 'You are my servant';
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you.
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

'All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you."
-Isaiah 41:9-13

God is with us, amen.  God has established a relationship with us, amen.  God will help us win the war against the enemy, amen.  Thank God this is true today.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Habakkuk's Prayer II

A few months ago I posted a prayer from Habakkuk chapter 3:2.  Now I want to look at Habakkuk 3:18-19.

"yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights."
Habakkuk 3:18-19

Habakkuk writes these two verses following several verses about hardship.  He writes about national crop failure and other calamities.  Yet, these two verses are his response and bookended with the praise he begins this chapter with.

The key word in these two verses is 'yet'.  Troubles will come 'yet' we are to rejoice in the Lord our Savior because He is our strength.

I watched a video tribute today for a classmate of mine named Aaron Wernimont.  Aaron and I were not friends but we graduated Wartburg the same year.  He was extremely respected.  He was a two time National Champion wrestler who won 80 matches in a row to finish his career.  He was a brilliant student.  He married a beautiful woman who also loved the Lord.  He had so much going for him.  Then he woke up the other day and died.

While watching this video I was overwhelmed by the strength his family and now widowed wife have.  They acknowledge the horror of there loss 'yet' they trust in their Sovereign Lord who is their strength.  Wow.  That is the kind of faith I want.  They said they don't know how but they trust that Aaron's death at age 26 in the midst of being a healthy, Godly man preparing for a marathon who just married the love of his life in August is somehow part of God's plan.

Pray that Habakkuk 3:18-19 can remain true for the Wernimonts.  I know that these verses remaining true for them is and will be a great witness for the glory of God.  It's sad to me that this is the means being used but I trust that Aaron will be join in heaven by friends who wouldn't be there without seeing God's strength in action in the Wernimont family.  Join me in praying for them today.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Read?

In the youth group at Grace we've been going through the book Think by John Piper.  I'd recommend it to you and I'd tell you to make it through the first couple of chapters because the rest is really good.

The book raises a question we must ask ourselves.  Why read the Bible?  Or rather, why study the Bible?  If grace is free is understanding also free?

These I believe are not silly questions.  Let's look at Scripture for the answer.

"Reflect (think) on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight (understanding) into all this."
2 Timothy 2:7

"...if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."
Proverbs 2:3-6

We are told that God gives understanding.  Therefore we should just sit with our hands out to get it, right?  Wrong.  We are told that God gives understanding so that's why we search for it.

In 2 Timothy we think about what is said for/because the Lord will give understanding.  In Proverbs we look and search for understanding for/because the Lord gives it.  Isn't this contradictory?  Not at all.

Let's say I told you to drive to Chicago because/for I will give you third base, second row tickets at Wrigley.  Would you sit on your butt with your hand out waiting for the ticket?  No!  If you are like me you would drive to Chicago.  Why would you drive to Chicago?  Because/for I have the tickets.

The reason we put effort into study and reading is because we are promised understanding.  God will freely give us His knowledge and understanding when we search for it as for hidden treasure.  We don't "figure it out", rather in our searching He presents it to us.  That is why we read His Word.

So, search for wisdom in the Scriptures.  Think over what He has to say for/because He will give you understanding.  Treasure hunt in the Bible today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1

We all use the phrase "person of faith".  What does it mean to be a person of faith?  Is a person of faith someone who is really good at exercising faith?

I guess a "person of faith" is someone who is good at exercising their faith.  Look at the examples in Hebrews chapter 11.  But I'm sure that being a "person of faith" is not completely or even chiefly about being good at exercising faith.

I think we often look at faith in the wrong direction.  Faith isn't powerful because of the skill of the person with the faith.  Faith is powerful because of the object of the faith.  Faith is only powerful when the object of the faith is worthy of that faith.

Someone who is good at exercising faith in, let's say, the Washington Nationals winning the World Series this year is a fool.  Is he/she a fool because they aren't skilled at exercising faith?  If they have enough faith to purchase World Series tickets today to see the Nationals play are they not exercising extreme faith?  Of course they are but there is no power in that.

The power of faith in God is that we have faith in a sure thing.  Knowing that God is a sure thing will make us more bold in exercising our faith.  Let's say I was Marty McFly and had the 2013 Sports Almanac read it and saw which team was going to win the World Series.  My faith in that team would be unshakable, even if they were like the Cardinals last year and it looked like there was no chance.  I'd bet a lot of money on that team.

We have been given the 2013 Sports Almanac, McFly.  We have the Holy Bible and it tells us who wins.  That very reason is why our faith is powerful, not because of what you or I do.  So go ahead and exercise your faith in a sure thing.  Exercise your faith in God today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


"How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron's beard,
down upon the collar of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows His blessing,
even life forevermore."
-Psalm 133

Pray for the Church to be in unity.  It was part of Jesus' last prayer for us.  That sounds like a great reason for us to pray it as well.  We pray it because we know He is doing it.  Pray for unity today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Acts 22- Tell Your Story

Read Acts 22.

The last chapter of Acts left us at a cliffhanger (chapter 22 does again).  Paul was about to speak to a group of riotous Jews.  This is where we pick up the story.

Remember that Paul is one of the most intelligent men in the Bible.  He was great at using logic to argue for the Gospel.  However in this chapter that is not what he does.  Paul tells his story.

I'll let you read his story in Acts, but I want to find what we can learn from Paul's story.

1) Whenever possible establish a common ground with the hearer of your story.

Paul explained how he was a Jew's Jew.  He was taught by the most respected rabbi of his time.  He was zealous for God just like his hearers were.  He, like them, persecuted Christians.

When you tell your story begin with where you were before Christ came into your life.  This doesn't need to be dramatic.  I thank God that my story isn't dramatic.  I wasn't an alcoholic or in a biker gang or a staunch atheist.  No, I was blessed enough to be born to great Christian parents.  But I was born into slavery to sin and that's exactly where I can start my story.  But if you are blessed with a dramatic story, don't spare the details.  Tell the depths that you were brought out from.

2) Tell the difference Christ has made in your life.

Paul explained not only where he was before Christ but he also shared with his hearers where he was at that moment.  He was no longer a persecutor of Christians; he was changed into a missionary for the Gospel.

When you tell your story share the change that God has made in your life.  Tell what He is doing for you today.  Our Christian race does not end at conversion.  Share where you are on your journey and how far you've come.

3) Maintain God as the main character of your story.

In verse 14 Ananias said to Paul, "The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from His mouth."  Paul highlighted that God chose Paul not the other way around.  Jesus revealed Himself to Paul when Paul didn't want to see Him.

Your story, in its entirety, is the story of the work of God NOT of your work.  When you tell your story you must make this abundantly clear so that your hearer doesn't mistakenly think that you are more capable of being saved than they are.  We are all savable without exception because it isn't about us it is about Him!

I encourage you to know your story and then to tell your story.  Paul was a great theologian and thinker, but you don't need to be a theologian to present the Gospel.  Many times the best way to share the Gospel is to share your story.  As the hymn says, "I once was lost, but now I'm found."  That is so simple, but oh so powerful.  Share your story with someone today.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Morning Has Broken

Here in Iowa the weather has been unbelievably beautiful.  I mean, you couldn't schedule better weather.  I have been trying to enjoy it as much as possible.

I've taken a nap outside, played frisbee golf with my sister, I ran around outside with my friends' boy C.J., I've grilled out.  It has been great.

Last night I was able to sit out on the back deck at my friends' house.  We sat from about 8:30 to 11:00 outside talking and enjoying God's creation.  The stars were out brilliantly and Roland even saw a shooting star.

Now creation is not to be worshiped, but it is to point us to the Creator.  If the past week in Iowa hasn't pointed my to the Creator then nothing will.

Listen to one of my favorite hymns as sung by Cat Stevens and praise Him for His beautiful creation today.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Patrick

Today not only is St. Patrick's Day but it's also my brother Patrick's birthday.  Happy Birthday Patrick!

So, instead of reading a blog post written by me you should check out his today.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Great Quote

Read Romans chapter 9.

In Romans 9:1-33 we see what seems to be a strict contradiction.  We see God choosing who He will save.  Then we see that the unsaved are unsaved due to their own blindness and arrogance.  We are left wondering if there is a serious contradiction.  How can God be completely responsible for something and we be held responsible as well?

This is something that I think we will all struggle to understanding.  I found a great quote from our Sunday School binder that Tim Keller's church helped prepare.

"In (Romans 9) verses 6 to 29, Paul explains why anybody is saved... it is the sovereign election of God.  In these verses (30-33) he is showing us why anybody is lost, and the explanation of that is their own responsibility... So this is what the Bible teaches.  Election alone accounts for the saved, but non-election does not account for the lost... No one would be saved were it not that God in a sovereign manner has chosen him, as we have seen abundantly from verses 6 to 29.  It is God's action alone that saves someone.  So why is anybody lost?  Is it because they are not elected?  No!  What accounts for the lost is their rejection of the gospel... We are not responsible for our acceptance of the Gospel, but we are responsible for our rejection of it."
-D.M. Lloyd-Jones

He is the author of our salvation, but we are the authors of our damnation.

I just wanted to share that with you because it is the best response to the questions that Romans 9 brings up that I have ever heard.

Thank God for your salvation today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March Madness

Today marks the true beginning of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  I know they tell us that those play-in games are the first round, but the round of 64 is the true beginning of the tournament.  As a sports fan I love today and Friday.  Today and Friday are my favorite two sporting days; I think they way surpass Super Bowl Sunday or anything barring the day when my Cubbies play in the World Series.

Today 64 teams are trying to become champion.  So, I looked up the word 'champion' today for some inspiration for today's post.

1 Samuel 17:4-7 says, "A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp.  He was over nine feet tall.  He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels (roughly 125-194 lbs); on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back.  His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels (about 15 lbs).  His shield bearer went ahead of him."

Goliath fits the mold of a one seed.  He is big.  He's undefeated and the prognosticators see no way of beating him.

Let's meet his opponent.

David was "only a boy, ruddy and handsome."  He had, "his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in hand, approached the Philistine."

David clearly fits the mold of a sixteen seed.  In fact he wouldn't have made it passed Selection Sunday.  I wouldn't chose him to play in the NIT.

But we all know the story, David beats Goliath and cuts his head off after hitting him in the head with a stone.  This story is so familiar.  In fact, if you watch basketball today I can guarantee that an announcer will use the story of David and Goliath in his work.

I know this story is familiar and we all know that David beats Goliath.  But don't miss this.  David didn't know that he'd beat Goliath.  He had all faith in his God, but no where in the story does God promise David that he will win.  David said, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"  David believed that God was greater than Goliath, but he was never promised victory.

That is faith and courage.  This sixteen seed was eager to fight to the death with the one seed who also happened to be a giant professional killer.

Where should you show this kind of faith and courage?  Where is God asking you to step into a desperate situation where victory isn't promised?  Do you believe, like David did, that our God is greater?

Think about this.  Enjoy watching basketball.  Have faith in our God and take courage today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acts 21- Paul Arrested

Read Acts 21:27-40.  

In this section Paul got into some trouble.  People accused him of telling a Gentile to go into the Jewish section of the temple.  Paul would have never done this not because it was wrong but because it wouldn't be profitable and it would upset folks.  So the people were upset and began to riot and try to kill Paul.  The Romans intervened and Paul was arrested just as Agabus predicted.

When Paul was with the Roman soldiers he spoke in Greek to them and convinced them to allow him to speak to the crowd.  Then Paul addressed the crowd in Aramaic (the next chapter records what he spoke to them).  

So, I find myself wondering, what can I learn from this passage?  

2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture in God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,".  

That being said some passages of Scripture is more useful than others.  So, what can I learn from this passage?  This was one passage that was a tough one to mine something that I could apply to my life today.

I found one thing.  Use your education and quick thinking to glorify God.  Let me explain.

Paul spoke to the Roman soldiers in Greek.  Greek was the language of commerce and diplomacy not the native tongue of the region.  Only well educated people could speak fluently in Greek.  Paul was proving that he was a cultured man not a rioter. 

Paul spoke Aramaic to the rioting Jews.  Aramaic was the language of the people.  Paul was proving that he was one of them, a Jew.  This got their attention and they listened.

Paul used his education and knowledge of two languages to accomplish God's task for him.  He also used his quick thinking to do this.  Paul took the gifts God gave him and used them on the spot.  We should do the same.  Now, I'm not bilingual or even close to that but I can use my gifts and education on the spot to glorify God.  You can too.

What are your gifts?  Use them, whether you feel they are big or small, to glorify God and accomplish the task He has given you.  What did you go to school for or what are you going to school for?  What is your occupation?  Whatever the answers use them to glorify God today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Acts 21- Pick Your Battles Wisely

Let's continue in Acts chapter 21 by looking at verses 17-26.  In these verses Paul arrived at Jerusalem where he was warmly welcomed.  Paul told the wonderful stories of God's work in his missionary journey.   James and all the elders celebrated when they heard the news.

Then, James and the elders dropped a bombshell on Paul.  They said that many of the Jewish Christians were under the belief that Paul had gone beyond the Jerusalem Council's decision.  Remember, the Jerusalem Council had said that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised; only to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, the meat of strangled animals and sexual immorality.  Paul was being accused of telling Jews not to circumcise their children.

This accusation was completely false.

Then James and the elders told Paul he needed take a purification vow (the Nazarite vow specifically).  Not only that but he must pay for four other guys to take their vow.  Paul could have been furious.  He was falsely accused and ordered to complete a part of the law that his own theology claimed was completely unnecessary.  It may have been helpful but it was not necessary.

But Paul did it, he submitted.  He had to complete the seven days of personal sacrifice involved in the vow.  He also had to purchase 10 doves, 10 pigeons, 5 year old male lambs, 5 year old ewe lambs, 5 rams, 5 grain offerings, 5 drink offerings, 5 baskets of unleavened bread, and 5 cakes (look at Numbers 6 to find this). I imagine this was expensive.

If I'm Paul I'm crying foul.  "I don't need to do this vow to be forgiven by God and hey I didn't do anything wrong in the first place.  Do you know what I went through to get here and bring you a gift of money?  People were warning me not to come here.  Forget you guys!"

Paul, however, was a bigger man than I.  He did just as they asked.  He submitted.  He, the rockstar of all Christians, submitted to authority.

He knew he didn't need to take this vow but Paul was willing to not fight over the fringes of his faith in order that no one miss the meat and potatoes of his message.  He didn't want dogma in the way of the Gospel of Christ.

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Paul picked his battles.  He often fought and argued for the Truth, but he knew what battle was worth fighting.

Do you?  Have you made a list of uncompromisable tenets of your faith?  I encourage you to do that.  Then don't let the rest get in the way of you being a part of the expansion of His Kingdom.  Sure the details are important, but know when you want to fight over them because many times we Christians let the details blur the main point, namely the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Know what's worth fighting for.  What are the tenets of your faith?  Fight for those and be a slave to everyone to win as many possible today.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Acts 21- Courage

Over the next few days I want to look at Acts Chapter 21.  Please read this chapter.  We'll start today looking at verses 1-16.

In this section Paul had just left the Ephesians at the beach and was heading toward Jerusalem.  When he got to Tyre the disciples there warned Paul.  "Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem".  The Holy Spirit was involved and these disciples wanted Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Paul got to Caesarea and the story was much the same.  The prophet Agabus, who had predicted Jerusalem's 15 year famine, predicted by the Holy Spirit that Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles.  When the Christians at Caesarea heard this they pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

But remember in Acts 20:22-24 Paul said, "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me... the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace."

Do you see the dilemma here?  The Holy Spirit is involved in the Christians warning Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem yet the same Holy Spirit compelled Paul TO GO to Jerusalem.  Is the Holy Spirit making a mistake?  Is He contradicting Himself?  Not at all!  (To use a Paulism).

The Christians through the Holy Spirit had been warned that Paul would face arrest and trouble in Jerusalem.  They, in love, wanted Paul to stay away.  Why go to a place where you would be arrested?  Jerusalem had Peter and James and the apostles, why did Paul need to go there?  Give the money you need to deliver to someone else and go to some distant land that needs to hear the Gospel.

Paul, however, was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem, hardship or not.  Jail or not. Death or not.  Paul was going to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, even when He was warning Paul of the trouble ahead.

Paul had courage to care more about completing his mission from God than about his own comfort.

Do we still experience this?  I think we do.

I get to work with youth at my church.  I love it.  However, I know that if I work long enough in this I will face great personal heartbreak.  I have already experienced this some in my short 6 1/2 years in this ministry.  But I know if I stay in this long enough I will at times be completely frustrated by God not showing me what He is doing through my work.  I know a student will be hurt severely emotionally or physically.  I know that I may have to deal with the death of a student... and that scares me.  I thought I was going to face that not long ago and I should have if not for a miracle of God.

This isn't just for youth ministry.  If you are a teacher your heart will be broken by tragedy.  I don't know a teacher in the profession long enough that has never dealt with the death of at least one student.  If you are married you will be disappointed and discouraged at times.  If you have children they, at times, will do exactly what you told them not to do and it will hurt them.  If we get a mission from God we will face hardship at some time in that ministry.  We will have our hearts broken or our bodies literally broken.

Should that stop us?  Not at all!  It didn't stop Paul.  He went to Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit told him to go there.  He had a mission from God and God gave him courage to complete the task.  In fact, through the Holy Spirit's warnings, God gave Paul an opportunity to reveal His courage.  (Note it is His not his)

Paul valued the completion of God's mission more than he valued himself.  "I consider my life worthing nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me... the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace."  Paul treasured God's glory more than his life.  Paul could not have had the courage to complete the task if he didn't absolutely treasure God and His glory.

So, treasure God's mission for your life.  Thank Him that He allows you to play a part in the expansion of His Kingdom.  Treasure God and His glory.  Have courage today.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Don't Stop Believing

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you..." Colossians 1:9

I'm going to take this verse completely out of context, but bear with me.

This morning at church my pastor shared stories of answered prayer.  He shared about the seniors group at church and how they pray constantly for the salvation of their kids and grandkids.  Then he shared the success stories from their prayer.

He also shared about how his brother recently accepted Christ.  I couldn't imagine having my brother or sister rejecting God.  I would pray daily for them and I'm sure he did.  What an answer to prayer.

So, at church I was reminded that we should never stop praying for those we love.  As Journey would say, "Don't Stop Believing".  Keep praying for those you care about because you never know when God will answer your prayer.

I want to ask you.  What did you learn at church today (or whatever day it is that you are reading this)?  Please comment and share today.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Psalm 23

I love the Psalms.  Sometimes it's just good to go back and read a favorite.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

This is a great Psalm.  I remember memorizing this one as a kid.  I'll never forget it.  Meditate on Psalm 23 today.

Friday, March 9, 2012


"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for ours sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us."
1 John 4:9-12

Love is a word that gets thrown around quite a bit today.  I could do a million posts on this subject and not be comprehensive or even close to comprehensive.  I just want to quickly look at a couple of truths about love.

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

Think about this.  We are being asked to love in the same manner as God loved us, i.e. sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Wow!  This is a tall order.

I don't know exactly how we can fulfill this completely.  We are to love each other sacrificially.  Love your brothers and sisters until it hurts or rather beyond that because that is what God did.

"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us."

By loving we can become the closest representation of God this world can see.  If we hide our love, we hide God.

This post feels incomplete and incredibly terse, but I don't even want to try to pretend like I could ever write enough about love.  I do want you to think today about what real love looks like.  So, read more of 1 John and explore what real love looks like today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Jesus Got Angry

Below is the script for my dad's sermon for Sunday (Sorry if I've ruined it for you guys at FCF).  This is a good word that I want to pass on to you.  It is a little longer than my usual post, but enjoy.

When Jesus Got Angry
John 2:13-22

Introduction: Some of us who are in the congregation today have struggled at times controlling a hot temper. At times in our lives we have lost our temper and said things we should not have said and done things we should hot have done. There have been times in my life that I have lost my temper and had some outburst of anger. “Maybe you say, Pastor Jack I just can't see you doing that!” The reason you say that is that you have not lived with me 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 56 years. Now as I have grown older and hopefully wiser and as I have matured as a Christian, those outburst of anger have happened less often. I have found out that when you lose your temper and blow your top you may feel better for a moment. But it makes such a mess that it takes a lot of time and effort to clean up the mess you made. It takes humility to apologize, it takes times to rebuild people's trust and confidence in you. So you think hard and long before you explode in anger.

James 1:18-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Be Quick to Listen
Be Slow to Speak
Be slow to become angry.

Moses is an example of a man who was a godly man but a man who struggled at times to control his temper. The first time we see Moses temper was when he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Moses was beginning to identify with his own people, after being raised by Pharaoh's daughter. He saw this poor slave being beaten by his Egyptian master and he got so mad he struck the Egyptian and the man died. This outburst of anger cost Moses 40 years of living in the wilderness. Of course God used that time to prepare Moses to lead his people to freedom.

Another time when Moses' anger got the best of him was when he was leading the Israelites. No matter what he did or what God did to provide for them all the people did was complain, complain, complain. They came to a place where they did not have enough water. God told Moses to speak to a rock and he promised water would come forth. But Moses got angry and struck the rock with his staff. Water came forth, but God punished Moses for his disobedience by prohibiting him from going into the promised Land. No matter how much Moses pleaded, he who had led his people for 40 years was not permitted to go into the promised land. He was able to go up on a high mountain and see the promised land, but he never set one foot on Canaan's promised land.

Anger can be a big problem in our lives. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 "In your anger, do not sin, Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” That verse tells us it is not always a sin to get angry. Some things ought to make us angry as Christians. Anger is a common emotion in our lives. Sometimes we are going to feel anger. But when we do, Paul says do not sin. It is possible to get angry and respond in productive way that does not cause us to sin.
Today we are going to read about a time when Jesus got angry. Jesus acted on his anger in a powerful shocking way, but Jesus did not sin. Hopefully we can see from Jesus what should make us angry, how to respond to our anger and when we have the right to respond.

Read John 2:13-22

Before we look at this story in depth. It is interesting to note that in John's gospel the story of Jesus cleansing the temple occurs at the beginning of his public ministry. But in Matthew, Mark and Luke the story of his cleansing is told during the last week of his life before he was crucified. Many conservative Bible scholars believe Jesus cleansed the temple twice. William Barclay who writes some of the most helpful commentaries I ever read thinks it only happened once. He says John is not concerned with chronology but put the material in his gospel in a way designed to reach a certain group of people. I believe there probably were two cleansing of the temple by Jesus. But it really does not matter in the lessons we can learn from Jesus and this story.

There are three things I want to point out that we can learn from this story about dealing with our anger. We need to understand:
  1. What are some things that should make a Christian angry?
    Jesus went up to Jerusalem. It says he went down to Capernaum but he went up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was 2500 feet above sea level it is one of the highest point in all of Israel. So from almost every town or village to go to Jerusalem was to go up. It was passover time. Passover was one of three annual feasts that the Jews celebrated. In that feast they remembered how Moses delivered them from slavery in Egypt. God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message, “Let my people go!” But the king resisted and God gave Moses the power to command the ten plagues to fall on the Egyptians. The last and most terrible plague was the death of the first born child of all the people. God told the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and put it blood on the door post of their houses and that would be a sign so the death angel would passover their homes and their first born children would be spared.

    At the Passover celebration thousands of Jewish pilgrims would come to Jerusalem and worship in the temple. But when these sincere worshipers came to the temple, they did not find a place to worship in quiet reflection. In the court of the Gentiles people had set up a market for buying cattle, sheep, doves for sacrifice. God originally intended people on a farm who raised these animals to bring their best ones to be sacrificed. That taught the people that sin comes with a heavy price. But some people lived too far to bring their own animals. But these animals were sold at high prices, maybe the priest would not even let people bring their own animals. There were also money changers. Every Jewish male over 19 years of age was required to pay the temple tax of ½ shekel. These money changes would make change for a fee, and take foreign money with images on it,and give them Jewish money, but they also charged a high rate for this exchange.
All this happened in the court of the Gentiles. The Temple was a series of courts. The most inner court was the Holy of Holies which was only entered once a year by the High Priest on the day of Atonement. The Holy Place was only entered by priests and they they offered sacrifices. Then there was a court of Men. After that was the court of women, and then there was a court for Gentiles. God chose Israel as his chosen people but he wanted them to live in such a way that the whole world would come to know the only true and living God. But if a spiritually hungry Gentile came to the temple in those days, he or she would not learn of the only true God, all they would see was a noisy market.

Jesus got angry at this sight and he said, Get out of here! How dare you turn My Fathers house into a market!” That is how John tells what Jesus says. I think most of are more familiar with the word Mark records. “My Fathers House shall be called a House of Prayer, but you have made it a Den of Thieves.”

Not only did Jesus tell them to get out of the temple, He made a whip of cords. No weapons were allowed in the temple. Some people were revolutionaries and so people were searched for weapons. In our state where thousands of people have permits to carry concealed weapons I see on some buildings, like a courthouse or even a school or nursing homes, no weapons allowed.

Jesus made this whip of cords and began to drive out all the animals and then he over turned all the tables of the money changers. It was a wild sight cows and sheep running all around, coins being thrown to the ground, people running every where.

Jesus got angry. But the Bible says plainly in the book of Hebrews Jesus was tempted in all points just like us, yet he never sinned. Jesus got angry for a good reason. His Father's house was not being used as a place for worship, it was a market place, where honest God fearing Jews were being cheated. Access to the worship of God was blocked by religious hypocrites.
Martin Luther as a young priest made a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Rome. But instead of being impressed by the city being a place for worship, he saw religious hucksters making money from all the pilgrims. When people use religion to make a buck, or to become extremely wealthy that is a reason to get angry. I have gotten angry at Televangelists who live in million dollar mansions get their money from contributions of old people barely getting by on social security. Some people take money claiming they are helping hungry children who may be starving and take a high percentage of the gifts for their own self indulgence. That really makes me mad. I think Christians have a right to be angry at religious scams.

But I think there are other things that should make Christians angry. Human trafficking makes me very angry. Young women are lured from home, by offers of good jobs or through drugs and other ways and then are forced into prostitution. The pimps who handle them beat them and force them to be prostitutes. That happens in third world countries and also right here in America.

Child abuse makes me very angry. Those who physically or sexually abuse children make me very angry. I think they should face the most severe punishment allowed by our constitution. When innocent or disadvantaged people are hurt or used by others and harmed in anyway that really makes me hopping mad.

Sometimes getting angry at injustice is the motivation we need to change things for the better. As a young man Abraham Lincoln made a trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. In that city he saw his first slave auction in which human beings were being bought and sold like animals and families were broken up. Abraham Lincoln vowed in his heart, if he ever got the chance to end such an evil institution as slavery he would do it.

So when you are angry ask yourself. What is making me angry? Am I getting angry at something that would make God angry? If so that is not a sin. Most of the time we get angry at a personal slight. Someone said something bad about me. Or someone did not give me something I think I deserve. Or somebody hurt my poor feelings and we get angry and sulk. It is often a sin to get angry when someone hurts out feelings. But it may not be a sin to get angry when others are treated unjustly.

The second thing we can learn from how Jesus handled this situation.
  1. When we get angry, do we express that anger in such a way that we are not out of control.
    Jesus got angry and he not only felt anger he spoke up about it. He cried out. “Get out of here. How dare you turn my Fathers house into a market.”

    And then he began drive out all the animals with his whip of cords. Now it never says Jesus used that whip to whip any people. It probably did not hurt the animals but just scared them so they fled. Then the turned over the tables of the money changers and coins went rolling every where. But in all this activity Jesus was not out of control. He knew exactly what he was doing. He did not curse and swear and call people names. Although he said the temple was a Den of Thieves. So I guess he called them thieves but they were thieves because of the way they cheated the people.

    Jesus acted in a drastic way, but he was not out of control. His action was sort of like an act of civil disobedience. Maybe like some of the Marches led by Martin Luther King. Or maybe like something else that happened in our history. I watched a PBS special by Ken Burns the film maker on 'Prohibition”. That was the experiment to out law the sale of alcohol in the 1920's. It gave a pretty fair and balanced story of the times. Drunkenness was so rampant before that time, it was not uncommon to see a saloon on every corner and drunken bums lying in gutters. Many men would drink away all their money they got paid on the job and their children and wives would not have food. Many women were beaten and abused by drunken husbands. Now we must remember this was before there was any AA or and Treatment centers or programs, like ASAC or Sedlacek, or the Betty Ford Clinic.

    Religious people took up the fight for prohibition and it passed. One woman named Carey Nation from Missouri would see a saloon that was operating illegally and she would go in the saloon with an ax and bust up the place and smash all the bottles of booze. She would be arrested and put in jail and when she got out she would do it again.
Burns in the film series tells how organized crime got to smuggling booze and there was much violence and killing by gangs with leaders like Al Capone and others it is much like the terrible gangs that are so violent on the Mexican border.

I am not saying Carrie Nation was Jesus. But Jesus acted in a drastic way and yet he was not out of control.

Ask yourself when you are angry and decide to act. Am I doing something that needs to be done?  Am I under control or am I out of control? Sometimes we get mad for a good reason, but when we act out of control, or our reaction may be a bigger problem than the thing that made us made in the first place.

Lets suppose an underage teenager is found to be drinking and breaking the law in some way. A parent has the right to take some drastic action. Maybe you take away the kids car keys, maybe you take away his or her cell phone. Maybe you take away their right to use the computer to communicate with friends on Facebook. Maybe you tell them they must only go to school and then they must come straight home for a certain period of time. When you makes these demands on a teenager you will probably hear some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But if you are good parent you will stand strong.  

But if you teen gets in trouble and you yell and scream at them and call them names and attack their worth as a human being, you are out of control and not helping the situation. We need to learn how to be firm and how to discipline with love, without getting out of control.

The last lesson I see here is:
  1. When I get angry about something, we must ask myself, do I have the authority to act.
    Notice how people reacted. The disciples remember a scripture from the Old Testament that says. “Zeal for your house will consume me.” But the Jews, meaning the Jewish leaders, demanded of him. “What miraculous sign can you do to prove you have the authority to do this?”

    Notice they did not at first say Jesus was wrong in doing this. Many people were probably cheering him on. It is about time somebody threw those crooks out of the temple. Some times we hear the cry in an election year. Throw the bums out, get some honest politicians!

    But they said give us a sign to prove you have the authority to do this. Now Jesus had the authority to clean up the temple. He was the Son of God and this was his Fathers house. If you drop by my house and see me pushing the vacuum cleaner around, don't worry I have been given the authority by Becky to clean house. I live there too, why should she have to do all the cleaning. I agree with that.

    But they asked Jesus for a miracle. He said I will give you a sign “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days.” Now in this instant Jesus said something in the Bible that was not intended to be interpreted literally. His disciples understood after he was raised from the dead, that Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body.
    But the Jews said, This temple had been under construction for 46 years. Herod the Great began building the temple in the Roman year 734-735 and it was finished in the Roman year 779-780, that would be AD 27. A few years after Jesus death and resurrection. It is hard for us to imagine a building that took 50 years to complete. But some of the great cathedrals in Europe took 50 to 100 years to build.
    It was said to be a magnificent looking structure. But Jesus told his disciples one day soon not one stone would be left upon another. In the year 70 AD the Roman destroyed the temple because the Jews revolted against their rule.

    It is not wrong to have a beautiful church building. If that building is used to worship God and to build his kingdom and help people. When my son Matthew was in college his Choir at Wartburg toured Europe and he saw some churches in Rome and some in the Vatican and he said the art work was amazing.  One large church in Cedar Rapids built a new complex and someone told me it cost 28 million. I am not sure if that number is right but it cost a lot of money. But I am not going to judge them. We have considered building a church building and some people have told me it would cost 300 to 500 thousand dollars. To me anything over 100 dollars seems like big money.
    But Jesus was talking about the temple of his body. His resurrection from the dead proved he was the Son of God and he had authority to clean up the temple which was suppose to be the house of God.

    When you get angry before you act you must know if you have the authority to act. Some times I may be in the grocery store and I see a little child behaving very badly throwing a fit. I know if that kid were my child, I would give them a spanking. But unfortunately I do not have the authority to spank other people's children. I might get arrested for that.
    In some situations you have authority to act. If you are upset at something the school is doing as a citizen you can go to the school board meeting and complain. As a citizen of Springville I can go to a city council and speak my peace. I  may not like the color of my neighbors house, but I do not have the authority to start painting it a different color. I may get upset about how Micheal Jackson's doctor treated him, but really the life of some celebrity is none of my business. Certain things are in my circle of responsibility and I need to take care of those things. Some things are in somebody else's circle of responsibility, I might get angry at what they do, but it is not my right to tell them what to do. I may get angry when my grown children do things I do not think is best, but when they are grown and on their own they must answer to God. Their decision are no longer my problem.

    Conclusion What can we learn from Jesus about how to handle our anger? First ask, "What is making me angry and is this something that would also make God angry, or is it just my hurt feelings?" Second ask, "Am I my reacting to this problem in a way where I am in control, or am I out of control blowing my top in a way that will not help the situation?" Finally ask, "Do I have the authority to do something about this problem? Or is it really none of my business?"

    Some times anger can motivate us to do good. But it is a powerful emotion and we must be careful so we do not let our anger cause us to make problems worse.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psalm 37:4-9- Praying Scripture

Today I was getting ready to do some serious praying.  I had a concern that weighed heavy on me.  I was bowing my head to pray, but I didn't know where to begin.  At just that moment I received a text that said "Psalm 37:5-7... God wants to bless you and give you peace."  This person had no idea I was getting ready to pray nor that I was carrying a heavy burden before the throne at that exact moment.

I read a little more than suggested, but it was perfect.

"Delight yourself in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret... it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land."
Psalm 37:4-9

After reading this Psalm I prayed it.

"Lord, make me delight in you, Lord, make me delight in you."  Over and over I mumbled this.

"Give me the desire of my heart.  Give me the desire of my heart.  Give me the desire of my heart."

"Lord, I commit this burden to you, take it."  Again, I mumbled this over and over.

"I trust you.  I trust you.  I trust you.  I trust you."

"Help me be patient and wait.  Help me be patient and wait.  Help me be patient and wait."

"Take away my worry.  Take away my worry.  Take away my worry.  Take away my worry."

"Take away my anger.  Take away my anger.  Take away my anger.  Take away my anger."

"My hope is in you.  I trust you.  I delight in you.  I commit this to your hands.  Take it.  Make me patient while I wait for you to do it.  Help me not to worry and become angry."

I prayed this for what seemed to be a long time.  I wish I could say that I got up and my problem was solved and I had peace instantly, because I didn't.  I had some peace, but I'm waiting for more.

My point is that scripture is not just to be studied for knowledge.  Scripture is also the living and active word of God.  It spoke to me like it was written for me today.  When we experience passages that were written thousands of years ago, but yet feel like they are shouted to you today; pray them.  Prayer is not a formula; however, what could be better to pray than the very words of our Lord?!

Delve into the word of God.  Try praying scripture today.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Acts 20- Guiltless Preaching

Let's look at the emotional story found in Acts 20:13-38.  In this passage Paul said goodbye to a church he loved deeply, Ephesus, knowing that he would never see them again.  This passage would make an awesome scene in a movie because it is filled with a full range of emotions for Paul and the church at Ephesus.  I want to use this passage to explore how to preach guiltlessly.

Most of you reading this are not preachers or pastors.  I know that.  I think that preaching is something we are all called into in some sort of capacity and maybe it is "just" sharing the Gospel with the few around you.  You don't need a pulpit to preach.  You just need the story of what Christ has done for you.  That is an endless story that I'm still discovering more of in my life.  So, let's look at how to guiltlessly preach.

If you want to guiltlessly preach the Gospel you can't hold back.

"You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus." Acts 20:20-21

I have said this before but our job is not to convert, that belongs to God.  Our job is to clearly present the Gospel without hiding any part of it.  We can't turn it into a prosperity Gospel.  We cannot turn it into a partial surrender.  We have to preach repentance from sin to God and faith in our Lord Jesus.

If you want to guiltlessly preach the Gospel you must have courage.

"... in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." Acts 20:23

Paul knew that trouble was coming but he followed Jesus anyway.  He didn't want the guilt of not preaching to people because of a crippling fear.  A guiltless preacher has courage.  As John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

You can guiltlessly preach if you follow the lead of Paul.

"... I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God." Acts 20:26-27

Don't feel guilty if you've spoken the truth and people don't listen.  Again, it isn't our job to convert, just to present.

Once you've done all that God require of you then let go.  Don't feel guilt for someone because of your pride.  When you let go, let go.  This is a hard part of guiltless preaching.

"Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:32

This is a hard thing to do.  We like to have control, but when God tells us to let go we need to leave it in His hands.

I know I just said to let go.  However, don't let go until God tells you to let go.  You can't guiltlessly preach if you don't finish.

"... I consider my life worth nothing, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me... the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace." Acts 20:24

Be relentless.  This doesn't mean you aren't ever to let go.  Rather, it means to value the task God has set before you above your own life.  Trust that the cross that God gave you is worth the effort.  Paul believed this.  Do you?

Preach the Gospel.  Declare the glorious work of God in Christ Jesus.  Experience guiltless preaching today.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Acts 20- The Supreme Point

Read Acts 20:7-12.

These verses contain a story that is just wild.  I'll try to recap the story and then we'll look at what the supreme point of the story is.

Paul got to Troas.  Troas is the town where he and the other men with him were going to board a ship.  Paul only had one day in Troas and wanted to make the most of it.  So Paul spoke to the people... for a very long time.  He started speaking during the day and spoke until midnight.  While Paul was speaking a young man named Eutychus began to drift asleep.  Who could blame him?  The warmth from the candles and Pauls continuous speaking lulled him to sleep.  The problem is that Eutychus was sitting by the window.  Eutychus fell back out of the window three stories to the ground and died.  Paul then ran down the stairs, threw himself on the boy and resuscitated him miraculously.  Paul then went back upstairs, got a bite to eat and went back to preaching until morning.

What a wild story.

So, what is the supreme point of this story?  Is it Paul's miraculous resuscitation of a dead boy?  Is it a warning to pastors not to preach too long?  Sorry guys, it isn't those two points.  The second one would be nice if it were true.  I mean we could finally beat the Lutherans to the chinese restaurant.

I believe the supreme point of this story is the Gospel.

Paul was given one day with the folks at Troas.  What does he do with that day?  He preaches the Gospel.  He preaches all day long.  He has people light lamps so he can preach at night.  He let nothing stop him, not even a death.  Eutychus falls out the window and dies.  That would make me stop preaching, I can say that for sure.  But not Paul.  Paul runs down stairs and heals him then grabs a bite to eat and proceeds to preach until morning when he needed to leave for the boat.

Paul's greatest goal in this story was sharing the Gospel.  His resolve to share the Gospel was so resolute that it outshone a boy being resuscitated from the dead.

So, what's the supreme point of your life?  Is it the Gospel the supreme point of your life?  Pastor and author John Piper defines the supreme point of our life as this, "... that God be displayed as glorious because of all the He is and all that He has made and done... especially the grace He has shown in the work of Christ." (Think p.15)

The Gospel should be the supreme point of our stories.  I once was lost but now I'm found.

Do we hide the thesis statement of our lives?  Do others see the Gospel as the supreme point of our lives?

Make the Gospel the supreme point of your life.  Don't let others miss the supreme point of your story today.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Acts 20- Purposeful Meandering

Over the next couple of days I want to look at Acts chapter 20.  Today let's look at verses 1-6.  Take time to read these few verses.

 In these few verses Paul takes a strange path for a journey.  The starting point of this journey was Ephesus and the ending point was Troas.  However, Paul goes from Ephesus, passed Troas, through Macedonia, into Greece, back through Macedonia and then to Troas.  What a strange journey.  This would be like me wanting to go from Atlanta to Washington D.C. by going from Atlanta to D.C., then to Philadelphia, up to New York City, back through Philadelphia and then to Washington D.C.

Why did God take Paul on such a strange trip?  I think there is one reason with at least two examples.  The reason is: because God wanted to in order accomplish His purpose.  Is that vague enough for you?

Let's look at two ways that God accomplished His purpose in this trip.

1) Paul wrote Romans on this trip.  Paul's purposeful meandering brought him into Greece to the city of Corinth.  We see from this section of scripture that Paul spent three months in Corinth.  What this passage doesn't tell us is that while in Corinth Paul wrote the book of Romans.  Romans is a letter to the church at Rome.  It also is one of the most important books of the Bible for the theological foundation of the Church. If Paul didn't have this period of purposeful meandering maybe he doesn't write Romans.

2) Paul was able to give some of the leaders of the churches a tour of God's work.  Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, Trophimus and Luke met Paul to take gifts of money to the church in Jerusalem.  You can read about this gift for the church in Jerusalem in 2 Corinthians 8:1-21.  So, these men are bringing a gift of money to Jerusalem, but they get a gift themselves.  These men accompany Paul as he went back through the churches that he had helped established.  These men got a tour of the work of God.  Imagine what that did for their faith and the faith of the churches they returned to.

Paul's trip from Ephesus to Troas wasn't what Map Quest would have recommended, but it was in line with the will of God to accomplish His purposes.

Are you in a place where it looks like God has made you take a wrong turn?  Does it look like God has you wandering when you He's told you where He wants you to go?  Don't be discouraged.  If God told you in your life you are to go from your personal Ephesus to your personal Troas then trust Him.  Trust Him even if you just walked by your Troas.  God has a purpose for where you are now.  Don't miss His purpose for now because you are engrossed with the destination.  Don't miss the blessing of the journey.

Trust our Lord.  Sometimes we are called into purposeful meandering.  Make each step of your journey worth it in the scope eternity.  Live for Jesus wherever you are today.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I get the opportunity to teach tomorrow morning in Sunday School.  We are going through the book of Romans.  I want to share a passage from tomorrow's reading.

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."

Romans 10:13-15

The world needs Jesus.  How can they know Him if we don't tell them about Him?

Tell them.  It's that simple.  Our job is not to convert, just to tell the Good News.

Be the beautiful feet today.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Psalm 1

"Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish."
Psalm 1

Delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it today.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Phalanx

I've used the imagery before of fighting a battle in our lives as Christians.  Ephesians 6 gives us descriptions of the armor of God.  It is such a powerful analogy because some days, weeks and months feel more like war than others.

So, put on your amor to fight the powers of darkness.  The powers of darkness want to destroy you.  Be ready to fight.

However, we are not an army of one.  We are an army of The One, but this is not a solo battle.  I firmly believe that we need to be in a phalanx with our brothers and sisters in this fight.

The phalanx was a Greek and Roman fighting unit made up of tight knit infantry.  These men were alright fighting alone in open space; but together, side-by-side, they were a force with which to be reckoned.  The phalanx kicked butt against the enemy through their synergic power.

We need to be in a phalanx to kick the enemy's butt.  Brothers and sisters, we need each other.  Don't fight alone!

My cousin Nate has an interesting blog on community and how he encourages it in his church.  www.nateray.com   You can read it if you'd like.

Live together.  Fight together!

This is so important.  I want to thank the many of you who are in my personal phalanx.  Some of you do it from a distance through the miracle of prayer.  But many of you are so gracious and loving and are able to do it face to face.  Thank you.  You have no idea the strength that this gives me.  God uses you in a big way.

To those of you that read that last paragraph and don't know the feeling that I expressed, I pray that God leads you to a community of brothers and sisters or engages you in the community of brothers and sisters that already surrounds you.

Let's destroy the enemy.  Let's crush Satan under our feet.  Let's do it with God together.  Be in a phalanx of believers today.