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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Psalm 13- A God Big Enough to be Mad At

This summer my Bible study group is going through the book of Psalms.  Ironically, I just found out my Dad is doing the same thing in his summer sermon series... I'll say he copied me.  So, this summer my friends and I are reading one Psalm a day.  This summer I want to highlight some of my favorites.

"How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord
for He has been good to me."
Psalm 13

In this Psalm David is upset at God.  I picture him screaming at the moon in parts of this Psalm.  David is feeling mad, scared, and alone.  He feels like God is slow in rescuing him... or not caring about him at all.  David is upset at God.

I love this because we serve a God that is big enough to be mad at.  God does not get scared when we yell in frustration.  He won't even think you are evil if you doubt him for a time.

Christians, if others are going through a valley and they are mad at God, let them be mad.  If King David, a man after God's own heart, can be mad so can they.  We are not to be Christian cheerleaders all the time.  Encouragement is great but sometimes we need to shut up, give them a hug and as my philosophy professor says, "drop off a casserole".

However, at the end of the day we must trust in God's unfailing love; that's called faith.  God's love cannot lose.  He is good to us... even when it doesn't immediately look at that way.  So, it's okay to feel mad, alone and scared but at the end of the day we must anchor ourselves to the truth that is God's unfailing love.

It's okay to despair and wonder what God is doing.  We are human and at many times we will be frustrated because we can't understand the Master.  But in the end we must trust God today.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

For my job we play a lot of sound clips from various forms of entertainment.  This morning we played a clip from Oprah's interview with the Kardashian family.

In the clip we played Oprah asked Kim why she got a divorce.  Oprah asked if Kris Humphries, her former husband of 72 days, abused her or treated her poorly.  Kim said, "No".  Oprah then asked if she was bored with Kris.  Kim said, "Yes, but you don't leave someone because you are bored.  I just had a hole in my heart and the marriage wasn't right for me." (paraphrased from memory)

She said she had a hole in her heart.  Now, this morning my job was to make a joke about the interview but really I feel for Kim.

Kim has money and fame.  She has dated NFL stars, has been married to an NBA player and now is dating world-famous rapper Kanye West.  She is told by everyone that she is beautiful.  People pay attention to her every move.  She has the world at her fingertips.

But she has a hole in her heart.

She has everything the world can offer yet she feels that there is a hole in her heart and because of that I feel for her.

Kim, and you for that matter, will not fill that hole in her heart through money, fame, sex, success or companionship.

Blaise Pascal once said, "There is a God-sized vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ."

See, stuff can't do it.  Stuff will not fulfill us... Jesus will.

Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full."  John 10:10

Jesus is the only way to fill that hole in Kim Kardashian's heart and your heart; don't look anywhere else.  Fill your heart and mind with God, made known through Jesus Christ, today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Acts 28- Snakes and Promises

I know I wrote about Acts 28 just a couple of days ago but we had some awesome discussion about Paul's snake bite that I wish to share.  Remember that Paul had been promised that he would make it to Rome.  Also, remember that he had just been shipwrecked on Malta.

"Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened on his hand.  When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, "This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live."  But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects." Acts 28:3-5

Cool story huh?  There are a few awesome points from this story that I wish to highlight.

First, God continued to keep His promise to Paul.  He told Paul that he would make it to Rome, and nothing would stop that from happening.  Prison didn't, a shipwreck didn't, attempts on his life didn't, and a snakebite sure didn't either.  Luke is showing us yet again that God's Will is unstoppable and that He is faithful to His promises despite what our present situation looks like.

Second, God continued to keep His promise to the saints.  Remember that Luke wrote Acts as a letter to Theophilus.  Luke, of course, also wrote the letter of Luke to Theophilus.  Read this:

"'The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:17-20

Theophilus would remember this passage from Luke's last letter.  Again, God kept His promise.

Finally, Paul threw the snake into the fire.  We know that at the end of time God will through Satan, the serpent, into the lake of fire.  We also know that in Romans 16:20 Paul said to the church in Rome, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."  See, Paul's destroying the snake in the fire is an analogy for what we will do to Satan through the power of the risen Christ.

What an awesome passage in Acts!  Who knew a snakebite could say so much?

Remember, the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  He will keep this promise so get your stompin' shoes on today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Acts 28- The End?

After nine months we have finally come to the final chapter of the book of Acts.  It is a great chapter so take time to read it.

In this chapter there is a great story about Paul and a poisonous snake, the story of when Paul finally met the church at Rome, the mixed reception Paul received and more.  However, I want to write about something else.

"For two whole years Paul stayed in his own rented house (in Rome) and welcomed all who came to see him.  Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 28:30-31

Those are the final two verses of the book of Acts.

Are you asking any questions?  I am.  Like, "When did Paul get out of prison?" "What happened during Paul's next missionary journey?" "How did Paul die?" "How did Peter die?" "What's next?"

But Acts just ends.  It ends rather abruptly.


I think to figure out why Acts ends abruptly we have to look at how Acts began.  Dr. Luke was a very educated man and knew how to write.  If you are someone who has been to college you probably have written more than a few papers.  In the papers I had to write my professors demanded that I had a good and clear thesis statement.  Dr. Luke does this in Acts.

(Jesus speaking) "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

This verse is the thesis statement of Acts.  This is the purpose of Acts.

The Gospel went to Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  In fact, Rome was the recognized center of the known world.  When Paul took the Gospel to Rome (although it had already been there although not through an Apostle) the thesis statement was complete.

Acts is not about Paul.  It is not about Peter.  It isn't even about the acts of the early Church.  Acts is about God's Sovereign Will advancing the Gospel to complete His command that He gave to the Apostles.  Acts is about what God did.

So what?

I think the so what is that God completed His own command.  He told the Apostles that they would be His witnesses to all of those places and He ensured that it happened.

Remember this command?

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matthew 28:18-20

If God completed His own command in Acts you can be certain that He will do the same with The Great Commission.  He will cause us to complete His task.  He will do it and He will use us to do it.  Isn't that awesome!  We are guaranteed to succeed.  We are going to complete the task because He always does.  So join Him in completing the task today.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Acts 27- Storms

Read Acts 27.  In this chapter the feel switches from a John Grisham courtroom drama to a Robert Louis Stevenson story.  Here we read of Paul's sea voyage and the shipwreck.

At the beginning of this story the ship and its 276 passengers safely make their way all the way to a harbor called Fair Havens.  The group then has a decision to make.  Keep traveling or stay for the Winter.  Paul advices them to stay put because it is around October and everyone in the culture knew that mid-September through November was a dangerous time to travel and after the beginning of November it was even illegal under Roman law to travel by sea.

Paul gave good advice based on cultural common sense but it was ignored.  The pilot and the owner of the ship thought they knew better and that while sailing at this time of year was dangerous it would be different for them.

In verse 13 we see that a gentle south wind began to blow and the ship took off.  I'm sure a number of men were teasing Paul saying, "I told you.  Boy, were you wrong."  However, their tune would soon change.

"Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the 'northeaster,' swept down from the island.  The ship was caught in the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along... When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved."

The ship was in trouble.  They were throwing things overboard, using ropes to hold the ship together and everyone knew they were going to die.

Finally, Paul was listened to.  Paul reminded everyone that he said they shouldn't have left Fair Havens, but then he started to give advice again.  The 276 people on the ship listen to all of Paul's advice.  They even follow his unconventional advice to cut the lifeboats loose from the ship.  These same people who wouldn't listen to Paul's culturally normal, sound advice were listening to anything he suggested in the storm.  Because of this and God's promise to Paul that no one would die, everyone was saved.

We can often find ourselves in Paul situation.  Sometimes we give sound, wise advice to people and they don't listen because they are convinced that things will be different for them.  I'm sure it aggravated Paul that they didn't listen and it does irritate us too because we care.

Funny thing happens though when the storms of life come... people start listening.  When this happens we need to be like Paul.  Paul reminded the people of his good advice earlier, but he didn't dwell on that; rather, he immediately began giving advice in the storm.  And while the storm was going on and no one would listen to him he prayed not just for himself but for everyone on the ship.  We need to follow this pattern.  When people come back to us in the storm we need to move on from the advice that would have helped them miss the storm and begin advising in the storm.

But in the end advice only goes so far.  Paul prayed.  He did what he knew how to do and used the knowledge he had gained and he prayed.  He didn't do one or the other, he did both.

So, remember that if you try to help someone avoid a storm your advice will not always be taken because people will, in the end, make their own decisions.  But also remember to continue to pray for them and be there for them when the storm drives them back to you.  Be a buoy in the storm for someone today.