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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Acts 25- Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Read Acts 25.

When we left Paul in Chapter 24 he was being held in jail for two years.  The Roman Governor Felix was a wimp of a man and despite knowing that Paul was innocent he kept Paul in prison to appease the Jews.  Well, in Chapter 25 Felix gets replaced by a fair man named Festus.  Festus wasted no time dealing with Paul fairly.

Paul stood trial before Festus and Festus rightly declared him innocent.  Festus still wanted to appease the Jews so he asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem on trial.  Paul refused and appealed to Caesar, which is like appealing to the Supreme Court.  Festus granted him his wish but Festus still didn't know what to tell Caesar Paul was on trial for.

Festus said that the Jews hadn't charged Paul in the manor he had expected.

Verse 19: "Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive."

Festus knew nothing about Christianity.  He had only been in the region as Governor for maybe two weeks.  Despite this Festus recognized the key claim of Christianity: Christ died and rose again.

In Paul's message he kept the main thing the main thing.  Paul's message was clear and to the point.  Jesus lived, died and rose again.  Even an outsider named Festus understood this much.

Do we keep the main thing the main thing?  If we asked people who've heard us talk about Christianity what our message was about what would they say?  I'd bet they'd speak of morality, church attendance, living like Jesus, the dos and do nots, etc.  But would they say our message was chiefly about Jesus' life, death and resurrection?

I'm not saying that all the other tenants of Christianity are unnecessary.  Not at all!  What I am saying is  the fact that Jesus died for me and then rose again conquering sin and death should be the chief message of my life... especially when sharing with non-believers.

Don't miss the point.  Don't let others miss the point in your message.  Keep the main thing the main thing today.

Friday, April 27, 2012

John 21:15-25 Attitudes Necessary for Christian Growth

My dad may not realize it but this is his second post on my blog... a.k.a. I copied and pasted his sermon e-mail into this blog and fixed the spelling errors.  Enjoy.

We have been looking at some of the resurrection appearances of our Lord. For a period of 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to his disciples many times.. In John's gospel we read about three appearances Jesus made to his disciples. Last Sunday we looked at the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. That was by the Sea of Galilee when the disciples followed Peter as he went fishing.

After they had fished all night Jesus cooked breakfast for them and just after they finished eating Jesus called Peter aside to speak to him. Jesus gave Peter some special attention. Peter was a leader among the apostles and Peter had just failed the Lord in a terrible way. Before Jesus was crucified Peter denied three times that he was a disciple of Jesus. He said that he was not one of Jesus disciples, he was not a follower of Jesus, and he swore that he never even knew Jesus. But just after the third denial the rooster crowed just as Jesus prophesied. Peter realized what he had done and then he wept bitterly.

Sometimes when people fail in life we want to throw them away. Some one has said, “The Christian army is the only army where we shoot our wounded."  When a person messes up and commits what we think of as a really big sin, we tell them in so many words: You sinned, you failed, you messed up and therefore the Lord can never use you again.  But I thank God Jesus does not think like that. Jesus knows we are all sinners. He knows none of us are perfect. He knows we will all make mistakes in life and he knows sometimes we will make very big mistakes. But when we do God does not throw us out. Instead when we fall, God picks us up, he dusts us off, and he gives us another chance. God will help us face our failure and learn from it. And even more wonderful than that God teaches us when we give our lives to him after making a big mistake, God can use us in spite of our imperfection in a mighty way to serve him.

Today I want us to read this passage from John 21 and see some necessary attitudes we need if we are going to grow as a Christian and if we are going to be useful in God's service.
John 21:15-25
  1. We need an attitude of humility to grow in Christ.
    After Jesus and the disciples finished eating breakfast Jesus took Peter aside and asked him a question and repeated it three times. Jesus said, “Simon son of John, Do you truly love me more than these?' I want us to look carefully at that question.

    First notice Jesus did not call him Peter he called him Simon. Simon was the name his father Zebedee had given. Remember when Jesus was calling his disciples at the beginning of his earthly ministry he called Andrew to follow him and Andrew went and told his brother, Simon and Simon also begin following Jesus.  After following Jesus for several months at Ceaserea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I am.” They said some say you are John the Baptist, some say you are Elijah, and some say you are another prophet. Then he asked them, “ Whom do you say that I am?" Simon declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus said to him, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Peter means rock. Jesus said upon this rock I will build my church. This is the scripture Roman Catholics use to teach that Peter was the first head of the church, the first Pope. But Evangelical Christians believe it was not upon Peter that the church is built, it is upon the confession that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the Living God that the church is built. Jesus is the only foundation for the church, not Peter. But by changing his name from Simon to Peter, Jesus was saying Peter you are going to be rock of a man a strong leader for my kingdom.  But after Simon had just denied the Lord three times because he was afraid of the Jews, it would not have been appropriate to call him Peter, the rock. He called him Simon.

    Second look at the question itself. "Simon, Do you truly love me?" Now that is an important question, it is a probing question to consider. What if Jesus would ask that question to you or to me directly? If Jesus asked “Jack do you really love me?" That question would put a person on the spot. It is easy to say, I love Jesus, to to sing the Old Hymn, Oh How I love Jesus. But the way we show we love Jesus is when we obey him. Jesus said, If you love me, what, Keep my commandments! If we really love Jesus we will do anything Jesus asks us to do.

    I once remember a sermon when a preacher was telling about the time shortly after he was saved. His pastor asked him to go out witnessing with him. He was a little shy and afraid and said, “I don't know if I could do that.” His pastor said, “If you love Jesus you will do it.” I have never said that to a person as a way to get them to do something. But really it is true if you love Jesus you will do what ever he asks you to do. If Jesus asks you to be baptized, if you love Jesus you will do it. If he asked you to Tithe if you love Jesus you will do it. If he asked you to go to church, to help teach a Sunday School class or whatever He ask you, if you love Jesus you will do whatever He asks you to do.

    The third thing about the question: "Do you truly love me more than these?" What is meant by the phrase “More than these?” Some people think Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him more than he loved his boats and nets and fishing equipment. Peter went back to fishing, so maybe Jesus was asking Peter if he was ready to leave his life of fishing to serve as a leader in the church.  Or maybe 'more than these” means, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus more than the other disciples loved him. Before his crucifixion Peter said, No matter if all the other disciples desert you, I would never do that! He thought he was stronger and more committed than the other disciples. Peter implied that he loved Jesus more than any one else.

    I don't know if I could ever say something like that about my self. I could never say, I love Jesus more than somebody else loves Jesus. I think only God knows that. There is no way for me to compare my love for Jesus to somebody else s love for Jesus. When I read about how some persecuted Christian confesses his faith even as he or she is put in prison, or beaten or persecuted, I ask myself, "Do I love Jesus as much as that person does?"

    Notice Peter's response. "Lord you know that I love you." Peter's response to Jesus was based on humility. Before he denied the Lord, he would have bragged about how much he loved Jesus. But now he said, “Lord you know that I love you. I will not say how much I love you, but you know I love you.

    I think the big lesson Peter learned after he denied Christ was humility. He thought before he was very strong. But when push comes to shove, in fact he was really weak. It is easy to say in a time of ease I really love the Lord. But you never know how much you love him, until you are faced with big test or trial in life. In order to grow as a Christ we must first have a humble attitude.

  2. We need an attitude of simplicity. (In seeing what Jesus wants us to do)
    After Jesus asked Peter the question, “Do you truly love me? And after Peter said, "Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said,” Feed my lambs”. Jesus was saying to Peter if you really love me the way you can show you love me is by feeding my lambs.

    Jesus was not talking about literal lambs or sheep. This time of year as I drive out in the country delivering mail, I sometimes see some sheep and some lambs. You can see the little lambs skipping around in the pasture and they are so beautiful.. Jesus said, I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus' sheep and lambs are his followers. Just as a shepherd takes of his sheep, Jesus calls those who love him to take care of his people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord you God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. But he said the second commandment is to love you neighbor as yourself. So the way we show we really love God is to love people.

    The sheep are specifically Christians, people who have decided to follow Jesus. In the letter of 1st Peter in chapter 5 Peter calls the elder, the church leaders or the pastors to shepherd the flock of God, God called you to be under shepherds, but one day the chief shepherd will appear. Now Jesus was saying this to Peter, as a leader of the church, he was saying this to pastors to take care of the sheep and lambs the people in His church. But Jesus calls all Christians take care of one another, make sure all believers have the spiritual food they need, which is the Word of God and watch out for one another. Our calling as Christian is not a complicated thing, it is a simple thing. If we are Christians and if we love Jesus we are to love people in Jesus' name. We are specifically to love those who are believers. We are also to love those who are not believers and by doing that we are showing them the love of Christ.

  3. We need an attitude of willingness to suffer for Christ.
    Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. If you could read this in the original Greek Language that is was written in there are different words for love used. Sometimes it uses the word Phileo, Brotherly love, sometimes it uses the word agape or unconditional love. I once thought that these differences in the original words held great significance. But I have found some Bible scholars see that John in his writing uses a variety of different words often to say pretty much the same thing.  Notice also that Jesus says, Feed my lambs, shepherd my sheep, and feed my sheep. The lambs may refer to young Christians and the sheep may be more mature Christians. But basically it all means the same thing. If you love me take care of my people, feed them from the Word of God, and watch over their souls.

    My greatest desire as a pastor is that I do my job to feed the flock of God. Every Sunday I pray that I might have a strong message from the Bible which feeds the sheep. I want to explain clearly the word of God, so that all the people can grow. If you come here on Sunday, you need to be fed from the Word of God. I am not here to entertain you, or to lecture you, or to talk about world events or politics; my job as a pastor is to feed you with the truth from God's word. My job is also to help you learn how to read the Bible for yourself and feed yourself from the Word of God during the week.

    Just as Peter denied three times that he knew the Lord, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?"  Peter was grieved that the Lord ask him the third time, “Do you love me?”  But then Jesus said to Peter, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted to go. But when you are older someone else will dress you and take where you do not want to go." John interpreted this for us and said Jesus said this to indicate what kind of death he with which he would glorify God. John's gospel was the last of the four gospels written. Maybe when this was written Peter had already been killed for his faith. Christian tradition tells us that when Peter was taken to be killed on a cross just like Jesus, he asked to be crucified upside down, because he felt unworthy to be crucified right side up like Jesus.

    Jesus was telling Peter if you follow me you must be willing to suffer for me. This week I just purchased a new book, a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who stood up to Hitler in the 1930's. When Hitler came to power in Germany he tried to hijack the church. He wanted to use the German Church to gain and hold unto power. He wanted to change basic Christian beliefs and he wanted the church to teach his racist beliefs and his hatred of Jews. Many German churches went along with Hitler because the pastor were paid by the government and they were afraid to stand up to Hitler. They were afraid they would not get their salary and have no way to support their families. Bonhoeffer could see that this change in the church was heresy, it was worshiping a false god. He called on German Lutherans to organize a Confessing Church those who stood for the Word of God and rejected Hitler. Because of this Bonhoeffer was persecuted. When he began to see Jews being persecuted and even killed and being taken to death camps, Bonhoeffer even got involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. When this plot failed to kill Hitler, this German pastor and theologian was arrested. Just about two weeks before the war ended and before Hitler committed suicide Bonhoeffer was taken to a concentration camp called Flossenburg and hanged. 

    One person who witnessed his execution was the camp Doctor. H. Fischer Hullstrung.
    He said, “ Before taking off his prison garb he saw Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor fervently praying to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I had hardly seen a man die, so entirely submissive to the will of God.” 

    Jesus told Peter if you follow me you will have to suffer. Peter was killed for his faith. Bonhoeffer also was killed because he boldly obeyed what he believed God was calling him to do. If you and I commit our lives to follow Jesus we must be willing to suffer for his sake. We probably will not be called to give our lives for Christ. But that could happen and it still happens in many places in the world today. But even if we are not killed if we follow Jesus sometimes we will suffer for his sake. We may be mocked for being a Christian and for standing up for the Lord.
  1. We need an attitude of obedience to God. (Instead of questioning what others may do.)
    Jesus had just asked Peter three times if he loved him. Then Jesus told Peter basically one day you will be killed for my name's sake. Peter looked behind him and saw John. John does not call himself by his name, as he did not do in other places in the gospel. He said, "This is the disciple who leaned back against Jesus at the last supper when the disciples ask who will betray me." But this was John and Peter looked back at John and said in effect. Lord you say I will be killed for your sake one day. What are you going to ask John to do for you?

    We are so prone to want equality in life, We want everyone to be asked to make the same sacrifice. When my three children were at home and I told them to help with the house work, if I told Matthew to do something like mow the grass, he would sometimes say,  "What about Maggie?" If I told Maggie to wash the dishes, she would say, “What about Patrick?" So maybe I would say Patrick would have to vacuum the carpet. None of my three children want to have to work while their brother or sister had no chores to do.

    We are often like that with God. If God asks something hard for me to do, we look at someone else and say what about them? But Jesus said to Peter, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

    God has called each one of us to obey him, We are called to do what ever Jesus tells us to do. We are not called to hand out assignment for other people. We sometimes think God has given us the job to tell everyone else what they should do. But that is not our job. Our job is not to give out the assignments.  Our job is just to do what Jesus tells us to do.
I believe God has a plan for the life of every Christian. And we are often prone to think my job is the hardest. Sometimes I hear one mail carrier say, my route is so much harder than your route. Usually they are just teasing. But people tend to think we have it the toughest.
But God says you job is not to compare your assignment to somebody else's assignment. Your job is just to obey him and do what he tells you to do. One day I will stand before God and I will be judged by my obedience. I will be saved because I have trusted in Christ's death on the cross for me. But in regard to rewards, I will be judged by my obedience to Christ. Did I do what he asked me to do? And I cannot compare me self to others.

Conclusion Peter denied the Lord three times. Peter failed the Lord greatly. But Jesus did not throw Peter out. Jesus restored Peter and used him in great ways. He would preach on the day of Pentecost and in one day 3,000 souls would be saved. I think Peter learned from his failure. He learned to be humble and not depend on is strength but to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. He learned that Gods work for him was simple, he was to feed the sheep the teach, the word to hungry Christians. He learned that following Jesus would mean suffering but God would give him the courage he needed in the hour of trial. And he learned that it was not his job to tell others what they should do for Jesus. His job was to do what Jesus told him to do. Humility, simplicity, suffering and obedience, these are attitudes that if we have God will greatly use our lives.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Save a Life

This morning we had a couple of guests on our morning show for our Tuesday segment "The Waverly Health Center Update."  This morning we had two guests talking about organ donation.  The man, Bill Flege, had received a liver in 2003.  That hits close to home for me because my uncle Brad had a heart transplant several years ago.

I learned a couple of things I didn't know before.  First, did you know that each organ donor could donate to 100 other people.  I thought each person could help about ten so I was surprised by that.  Imagine your body helping 100 people after your death.

Also I learned about the website www.iowadonorregistry.org  Here you can declare yourself as a donor much the same as you do when on your driver's license.

In talking with our guests this morning I asked why people don't donate their organs.  Several reasons were given but one stood out to me.  Religious objections.  I have heard these religious objections from some Christians before.  They say, "My body is going to be resurrected on Judgement Day and I do not want to have it missing parts."

That objection is silly.  Think about it.  You believe that God can raise your dead body from the ground and reunite it with your spirit and that this body will be perfect when you rejoin it.  You believe that, but you don't believe that God could do that if you donated parts to another person?  That is crazy.  If God can do the first He certainly won't have any trouble doing the second... He is God.

Save a life.  Give the gift of yourself.  Offer your body not only as a living sacrifice but as a dead one too.  But don't miss this: tell your family that you want to be a donor.  Don't think your registering will be enough because if they aren't aware of your desires you could under donate.  My family should know that I want all of my body to be used.  I want to help 100 people.  I mean, how cool would that be?!

Register to be an organ donor.  Talk to your family about your wishes.  Plan to save a life today.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Acts 24- Waiting and Squad Car Lights

Read Acts chapter 24.  It won't take you very long as it is a short chapter.

In this chapter Paul went to trial before the Roman governor Felix who had replaced Pontius Pilate.  In the trial the Jewish lawyer Tertullus presented the case against Paul.  Paul, in his defense, refuted every point Tertullus made.  Paul rightfully proved to Felix that the dispute was simply a religious one that violated no Roman law.  Paul proved his innocence to Felix.  Felix, having heard the case, went home to think about it for several days.  He then came back heard again from Paul and proceeded to keep Paul in prison for two years despite his innocence.

What can we learn from this story in Acts?  I believe we can learn a few valuable lessons.

First, God will make you and I wait sometimes.  This story is a relatively short story in the book of Acts, only 27 verses.  It was not a short part of the Apostle Paul's life.  Paul was wrongfully imprisoned for two years in this story.  Think about that.  Paul, the rock star of the early Church who had reached much of the world with the Gospel was thrown in prison for two years!  Why would God do that?  Wouldn't Paul be better served out on missionary journeys?

We aren't given an answer to the questions posed but we, like Paul, are forced to trust that God's plan endures.  I'm sure Paul learned to trust while waiting but I'm also sure he had times when he was supremely frustrated by it.

Next, sometimes people don't respond to the Gospel in acceptance.  Paul shared the Gospel with Felix and Felix in turn kept him in prison for two years.  Beyond that it says Felix "sent for him (Paul) frequently and talked with him."  Felix wanted to get paid a bribe by Paul which is why he sent for Paul, but in doing so Felix frequently heard the Gospel from history's greatest evangelist.  Felix never responded to the Gospel in obedience.  Some people won't respond to your sharing of the Gospel the way you would want, but that isn't a knock on you.  If Paul couldn't get a surrendered response from Felix you won't always get a surrendered response from your hearers.  Felix and others aren't rejecting the messenger rather they reject the message.

Finally, Felix responded to God's authority with fear.  Paul "discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgement to come, Felix was afraid."  Felix heard the God had authority to judge and that scared him.  Some people respond to God's authority and coming judgement in that way.

Others respond to God's coming judgement like we see David do in Psalm 96:10-13

"Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns.'
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the Lord, for He comes,
He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in His Truth."

Same judgement.  Different response completely.

I'm going to steal an analogy from my pastor and expand on it.  The authority of God is like squad car lights.  If you see squad car lights behind you while you are driving you will fear.  I hate seeing those lights then because I know I got caught screwing up.  Felix saw God's authority like that in part because he had taken the wife of another man and felt guilty.

The authority of God is like squad car lights.  If you are being mugged in a dark alley and see squad car lights you will rejoice.  The squad car is there to save you.  That is how David saw God's authority because he recognized God's judgement as a good thing to be rejoiced in.

How do you see God's authority?  I pray that you see the saving squad car lights.  God's authority means salvation for those that believe in Him.

In conclusion: trust in the Lord while you wait.  Don't view the rejection of the Gospel as a rejection of you.  And finally, rejoice in the supreme authority and judgement of God today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Acts 23- The Lord Stood Near Paul

Please take time to read Acts 23.

I'm excited to be back in the book of Acts.  I'm excited because it means all the interruptions that kept my Bible study and I from meeting are over.  I'm also excited to see what God reveals in the final chapters of Acts.

In chapter 23 Paul stood trial before the crooked Sanhedrin, had his nephew save his life and had 470 Romans soldiers escort him to safety.  This would be a great episode in the mini-series movie of Acts.  In this action packed John Gresham style court drama one verse stood out to me in particular.

"The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome."  Acts 23:11

The Lord stood near Paul.  Think about that.  The Lord stood near Paul.

A friend of mine recently challenged me to use my imagination to glorify God.  She said that I am quick to use my mind but I can use my imagination more often to see God.  So let's imagine right now.  When you finish reading this post imagine the Lord standing near you.  Imagine Him side-by-side with you in your struggle.  We do not serve a God who is distant.  Yes, our God is sitting on His throne right now but He is so big He can also be at your side.

"The Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage!"

What is the Lord asking you to take courage in?  What struggle are you in that He wants to encourage you through?  Whatever it is He will encourage you by your side!  That is awesome.

So, join me in using our imaginations to worship God.  Imagine the Lord, as He is, at your side today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Viewing Beauty and Lusting: Can they be separated?

The question posed is a very important question.  As a single man I feel so strongly about treating women with respect and avoiding sexual sin that I sometimes miss the beauty in the women around me. 

The linked article does a decent job of addressing this question.  I don't want to endorse the entirety of the article but it is a good read. 

Read it today.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Is Lord!

Happy Easter!  I woke up with a few songs in my head this morning.

"He is risen from the dead and He is Lord!
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord!"

"How sweet to hold a new-born baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurrance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives."

"Love's redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight the battle won,
Death in vain forbids Him rise,
Christ has opened Paradise,

"Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior!
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose!
He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!"
Happy Easter!  Celebrate our Risen Reigning Lord today.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Yesterday was Good Friday and tomorrow is Easter.  Today is Saturday.  "Duh, Matt."  But let's think about that a bit today.

On my Good Friday post I wrote about Jesus' victory cry of "It is finished!"  Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter which is the experience that the victory cry is truth.  Saturday we are left unsure.  If Jesus just dies for us He is just one of the most loving people in history, but He is not Savior.  Good Friday is great but it is only a neat story without Easter.  But what about Saturday?

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in Saturday.  What I mean is I know the victory is mine to claim with Christ, but I haven't seen its completion.

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6  I know that He will completely perfect me, but it hasn't been completed yet.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or morning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4  I know this is true but I see cancer and heartache every day.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Romans 16:20  I know I will crush Satan's head but right now he's tormenting me.  I'm stuck in Saturday.

We live much of our life in Saturday.  The victory has been declared but we can't realize or see it fully yet.  That is why we must hold on to the promise of victory in faith.  Easter will come into its fulness in everything that was promised.  Until then believe the truth of Good Friday, "It is finished!"  Saturday will pass and the sun will come up tomorrow.  The Son will return and we will see that "It is finished!"

Hold fast to the promises of Christ because they will come to pass.  Look forward to tomorrow and in doing so endure today.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It Is Finished

Today is Good Friday.  I hope you all went to a Good Friday service at your church or a local church.  I want to read the last few words of Jesus as recorded in John.

"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.  When He had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.'  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."
John 19:28-30

It is finished.

These words have so much power.  Jesus was, in His dying breath, declaring victory.  It kind of reminds me of the scene in Braveheart when William Wallace shouts "Freedom" at his death.

The similarities between the scene and Christ's crucifixion are awesome.  The devil's taunts, Christ's bravery, his wife as the Church, etc.  You can watch the scene from the movie here:

It is finished.  The victory cry of Christ.  Is it your victory cry as well?  If you claim His sacrifice you also claim His victory.  Do it.  Claim His victory today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

Today we celebrated the Last Supper of Jesus with His disciples.  We are getting so close to Easter.  Here is part of Mark's account of a conversation just after the Last Supper.

"You will all fall away,' Jesus told them, 'for it is written:

'I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.'

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.'

Peter declared, 'Even if all fall away, I will not.'

'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'today... yes, tonight... before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.'

But Peter insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.'  And all the others said the same."
Mark 14:27-31

Peter was zealous.  Peter was so sure that he could stand alone.  Look at his two sentences in this passage.  In two sentences Peter says "I" three times.  Peter said "I" three times because he was so confident in his own strength.

Jesus then told Peter that before the rooster crowed twice Peter would disown Him three times.  Three times Peter spoke of his own strength and three times his own strength would fail him.

This story is not here for us to think, "Silly Peter!  How could he disown Jesus?"  The story is here to show us that if we rely on our strength we will fail even when we attempt to do good.  What Peter swore was a good thing, but his source of strength was severely misplaced.

Make big commitments to Christ but trust in His strength to accomplish the task not your own.  Peter would go on to accomplish mighty things but not until he was shown that his weakness revealed God strength.

Give up trying to do it on your own.  Drop the "I" statements in your relationship and commitment to Christ.  Rely on Him solely today.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Faith, The Cubs and Opening Day

I wrote a post last year that is fitting for today so I'm using it again.  I hope you enjoy it the second time around.  Although I have even less confidence in Chicago this year than I did last year.  I'm already thinking next year.

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

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

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

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

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

Paul writes this to the church in Corinth:

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Psalm 117

"Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol Him, all you peoples.
For great is His love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord."
Psalm 117

No explanation needed.  Praise Him for His great love and faithfulness today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Measure Your Worth

In Sunday School yesterday morning there was an excellent question about how we should measure our worth in light of the Gospel.  Self worth is a struggle for most every person.  As someone who works with youth I see too many kids, especially girls, undervalue themselves.  They feel invisible and worthless.  I also know the tendency to think of ourselves as top shelf.  We feel like we are the center of our universe.

So how do we measure our worth with the Gospel?  I'll answer that by prodding us from both extremes.

We are of great worth because God says so.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  We know what John 3:16 says.  It says that God SO loved the world.  God saw you and felt that you were worth sending His Son to die for you.  He thinks you are beautifully and wonderfully made in His image.  You are of great worth to Him.

We are not to boast for at least one simple reason: He had to die for you.  Romans says that "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Romans also says that we were enemies of God before we were reconciled to Him through Christ.  Before we start to feel holier than thou we must remember that Christ had to die for us.

Measure your worth with the Gospel.  God loves you immensely and overwhelmingly but it isn't because of what you've done.  God sees you as worthy not because of the love you had for Him but because of the love He has for you.

There is no better measuring stick for your self worth than the Gospel.  Use it and only it.  Ignore what the world has to say because the prince of this world is a liar.  Go to God for the truth about your worth today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools' Day

I was torn today about what to write.  It is Palm Sunday and it is April Fools' Day.  One might assume that given what I write about I would choose Palm Sunday, but I like April Fools' Day.

When I was growing up my little brother and I always pulled a prank on my sister for April Fools' Day.  One year we changed things up.  One April Fools' Day we did nothing to her all day.  She had to have been wondering when the prank would come, but it never did.  We didn't even speak of April Fools' Day.  She went to bed most likely assuming we had forgotten to prank her or that we'd finally grown up.  She was wrong.

When Maggie went to sleep Patrick and I set our alarm for 11:30.  We woke up at 11:30 and went around the house quietly changing all the clocks to 8:00.  We got dressed and grabbed our book bags.  Then at 11:45ish we, in a panic, woke up Maggie.

"We're late for school!  Hurry, brush your teeth!  We don't have time to shower!  Grab my keys and start the car so we can go!"

She shot out of bed and hustled to get dressed and brush her teeth.  She was half asleep and in a stressed out panic.  I tossed her the keys to my 1988 Pontiac Le Mans, which was a stick shift.  She ran outside in the pitch black night and tried to start my car.  She couldn't though because she didn't know she needed to push the clutch.  She turned the key over and over.

Patrick and I just laughed.  We woke up Mom and Larry because we were laughing so hard.  Then at 11:59 we ran outside and yelled "April Fools'!"  She obviously was pissed and hit us both and went back to bed.

Patrick and I thought that was the best prank ever.

April Fools' Day always has us on the edge.  Sure, it is fun but we have our guards up and don't know who to trust.

Thank God that He never plays April Fools' Day pranks.  You can take Him at His word 24/7 365.  When He says, "Never will I leave you nor forsake you."  Take it to the bank.  When His Holy Word says, "...Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." You can trust that He won't say, "April Fools'!"

Put your guard down.  Trust in the Lord.  Believe His promises for you today.