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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spiritual Gifts

Read 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

In this chapter the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Corinth to explain about spiritual gifts.  The church at Corinth had many questions and misunderstandings about spiritual gifts.  As a life-long Baptist, I can easily say that I have many questions and much to learn about spiritual gifts.

Below are a few things we can know about spiritual gifts from this chapter.

1) We all have at least one spiritual gift.

"All these (spiritual gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines."  1 Corinthians 12:11

"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body... whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free... and we were all given the one Spirit to drink" 1 Corinthians 12:13

I believe that we all have the complete indwelling of the Holy Spirit from the moment of conversion.  We at that moment were baptized into one body of believers and given the one Spirit to drink.  Because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we will have a manifestation of the Holy Spirit of some kind.  What manifestation and to what degree will vary, but we all have some gift/gifts of the Spirit.  No Christian can say that they don't have a gift.  One could say they aren't aware of a gift or aren't using a gift, but I believe all Christians have a gift of the Spirit.

2) All gifts of the Spirit are important, likewise all those with the gifts are important to the body of Christ.

"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be/  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would they body be?  As is is, there are many parts, but one body."  1 Corinthians 12:14-20

The metaphor is easy to see in this passage.  Don't let yourself be tricked into thinking that you are not important of your local church or the Church universal.  You are essential and so is everyone else.  Don't think of yourself too lowly or too highly.  You are essential but not self-sufficient.

3) The purpose of Spiritual gifts.

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."  1 Corinthians 12:7

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen."  1 Peter 4:10-11

Spiritual gifts are given for the common good and the glory of God.  When using your gift of the Spirit you should ask.  "Is this for the good of others or just me?"  "Does this glorify God or me?"  Asking these questions will help you faithfully administer God's grace in the form granted you to do so.

Gifts of the Spirit are also to highlight the diverse and wonderful character of our God.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Merry Christmas,

We did not send out a Christmas letter this year (Matt thought we weren't at that life stage yet and then we started getting cards from our friends who are our age), so we are writing our letter online.

2013 was a monumental year for us.  We had so many exciting changes.  On January 17th Matt proposed (Christine said 'yes') and on August 17th we were married in front of our friends and family.  We've reflected on that day and are amazed at how lucky we are and how much our friends and family love us  This year we also moved into a new home in Waverly.  The house is very nice, perfect for our needs and our landlord is the best.  We are learning to live with each other.  It has been better than great, but we are still learning to care about each other's needs before our own.

Besides getting married, Christine had a big year.  In May she graduated from U.N.I. with a degree in biology.  Just a few weeks later in June she began a 15 month accelerated program at Allen College to get her B.S.N.  She is finishing up her second semester now and will graduate in August.  Christine has also begun helping Matt lead the youth group at our church.  On top of all that she is writing and directing our church's annual Easter passion mime.  This is a huge undertaking and she is filling big shoes because our friend Becky Baker had done it every other year until moving to Wisconsin this year.

Matt is still working at KWAY radio in Waverly.  He's on the air from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every weekday.  He enjoys being on the air and getting involved in the community.  He also continues to broadcast sporting events for the station.  He does play-by-play for football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball; and has averaged doing 135 games a year.  Matt also is working part time at our church.  He is the youth leader.  Matt is in his ninth year working with youth at the church, but with the departure of Jay Baker, the previous youth leader, he's accepted some more responsibility in that role.

Spiritually as a couple we've grown a lot this year.  We've been actively involved in our church, Grace Baptist.  We enjoy serving, doing Bible studies and anything else we're able to do.  We each have our own personal studies, we do Bible reading together and through leading the youth and writing the mime we have been deeply rooted in the Word this year.  We thank God for the ways He's lead us closer to Himself together as a couple.

We thank you also for all your love, support and friendship this year.  Thank you for helping make 2013 the best year of our lives so far.  We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy 2014!

Love,

The Rays

Friday, December 13, 2013

Reverence

Please read 1 Corinthians chapter 11.

My generation is one of the champions of "come as you are."  I myself prefer this notion of church going (mostly because I dress up all week long for work) and I also can be disgusted at the way some people make a church service into a fashion show.

That being said, many people dress nicely for church services because they want to bring their best before God.  I find this to be completely unnecessary and commendable at the same time.  I'm sure that God couldn't care less what clothes I'm wearing, but I think the attitude that the "Sunday best" folks bring to church can be better than we "come as you are" folks.

Here's what the "Sunday best" folks get right: reverence.  I'm not saying that wearing jeans makes you irreverent, but I am saying that the attitude of the "Sunday best" folks errors on the side of reverence.  Now, I can be completely reverent in a T-shirt, but what one wears isn't the point.

I'm not talking about clothes, or rather I'm not trying to talk about clothes.  The point of this post is not to convince you to start wearing slacks and a button-up shirt.  What I want is for you to examine how reverent you are in your church service.

There is something special, something different about our church services.  For some reason we treat them differently than our potlucks or even Bible studies.  Something about our communal worship is different and begs to be treated with reverence.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 11 the church at Corinth was not treating their church service and the Lord's Supper with reverence.  For this reason Paul gives them instruction on public worship that error on the side of reverence.

So, we must ask ourselves: "How do we practice proper reverence in public worship?"  I'm not instructing you necessarily to change your dress code.  I'm not necessarily suggesting you should make a rule about hats in your local church.  What I do want is for you personally to examine how much reverence you exercise in the public worship of our holy God.

Don't start rule making, and for goodness sake don't start judging the reverence of others unless you've been appointed leader of them.  Examine yourself.  Approach God with reverence today.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Decision Making 101

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 10.  It is full of some great truths.  Truths about withstanding temptation, truths about why we continually preach the Gospel to even those who should have already been able to see God clearly, truths about how we need to be fully committed to God and truths about the believer's freedom.

I want to focus, as I did in a previous post, on the believer's freedom.  I believe that 1 Corinthians chapter 10 has some great instructions on how to make decisions.

There are three questions we can expound from verses 23 through 33 that we should ask when making decisions.

1) Does it glorify God?

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

We should ask ourselves, "Does this glorify God?"  If it does, then it may be worth doing.  If it doesn't, then we shouldn't do it.

This is an amazing verse and an amazing questions because it presupposes that everything we do, from eating to preaching, from A to Z, can all be done for the glory of God.  There is no action too small to honor God nor is there any task too lofty in which to honor the Almighty.

If we ask, "Does this glorify God?" our lives will be changed for the better.  So often I ask, "Can I get away with this?"  If I instead asked, "Does this glorify God?' my actions would no doubt be more in line with God and His ways.

2) Is this the most beneficial for the most people?

"Everything is permissible'... but not everything is beneficial.  'Everything is permissible'... but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."  1 Corinthians 10:23-24

We should ask, "Is this constructive?"  "Is this beneficial?"  "Is this for my good or the good of others?"  How much better would our world be if people asked this question?  This, like the question before it, can change the world.

We all want to hear, "Everything is permissible".  The Corinthians made this saying famous.  It was the Y.O.L.O. of the ancient world and it is somewhat true with Christian freedom.  But just because you can do something does not mean that you should.  Jesus could have had ten thousand angels wipe out those plotting to kill Him, but He, for the glory of God and to achieve the most good for the most people, endured the cross.  We are to imitate Him.

3) Will this show others Christ?

"Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God... even as I try to please everyone in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved."  1 Corinthians 10:32-33

Ask, "Will this show others the love of Christ?  Will it show others the Gospel?  Or will this obscure the glory of the cross?"  If we ask this question our lives will be changed and the lives of those around us may be changed.

We are called to live missionally.  Do we live in a way to makes Jesus look attractive to an unbelieving world?  Through actions and words we are to live missionally.

Don't think of yourself only.  Don't be fooled by your prideful ego.  Make good decisions by asking the questions above.  1) Does it glorify God?  2) Is this the most beneficial for the most people?  3) Will this show others Christ?

Make decisions based in this Biblical principle today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Things I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  Here is a list of a few things I'm thankful for.

1) My new wife.  I thank God for her everyday.  She's amazing.

2) My family.  They've always been there for me and as I get older I'm more thankful for them.

3) My new family.  Christine's family has accepted me so warmly.  I'm glad I found a beautiful woman with a fun family.

4) My church.  Grace has helped me grow in so many ways.  They are my family in Waverly.

5) My friends.  There are too many to list and they are fantastic.

6) My job.  I don't make a lot of money and I don't have a lot of benefits, but how many people get paid to do what they love to do?

7) My home.  Our house is so perfect for us and our landlord is the best in town.

8) My community.  Waverly has become home to me.  It's hard to believe I've been here for the better part of eight and a half years.  It has everything I need and it feels like a small town.

9) My health.  I have been, and hopefully will continue to be, blessed with good health.

10) My Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  He is my rock and my redeemer.  He's the reason that I live.  He did what I cannot do and I owe it all to Him.

I have so much to be thankful for.  Far more than ten things.  I can't think of much more I could ask for.

That all being said, if I have numbers one through nine but don't have number ten, it is all a waste.  Life, health, friends, family and work are all a supreme waste of time without Jesus.  Why would I want to gain the whole world and lose my soul.  In fact, I hope to be able to say if I lost all of the first nine but kept the tenth that I'd feel like a king.

If you don't have number ten in your life, you are missing out on true blessings.  You are missing out on the real reason to be thankful.  You're missing out on the one thing that will keep you thankful for eternity.  If you don't have Jesus, you're life is a waste.  But here's good news... Jesus is available to you today.  Ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.  Ask Him to take the wheel of your life and watch how thankful you will be.  You'll never regret it.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Be thankful for the blessings in life and the Great Blesser today.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Run a Good Race

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 9.

There is a lot of great information in this chapter.  Please take time to read the chapter because reading it will do you much more good than reading this post.  That being said, I want to look at a few ways to run a good race.

1) Realize that God doesn't need to use you.

Paul writes in this chapter about his compulsion to preach the Gospel.  He also talks about the rights he had as an apostle that he chose not to use.  These rights include things like being paid and having a wife.  Why does Paul not use these rights?  I think the answer is in verse 18.

"What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the Gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it."

He says his reward for preaching without using his given rights is getting to preach without using his given rights.  Why is this?  I think it is because Paul intimately knows that God doesn't need him.  Remember who witnessed to Paul?  Jesus Christ Himself came to Paul on the road to Damascus.  Paul knows that the Lord could do this with anyone, yet God chose to use the Apostle Paul.  Paul knew that this honor was his reward.

When we realize that God doesn't need us we learn to enjoy the privilege of getting to be part of God's work on earth.  God could do it without out us like a father taking his child to work He lets us participate in His wonderful work.

2) Be adaptable.

"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do this all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings." verses 22-2

We should not be so full of pride that we can't adapt to meet the needs and expectations of others.  We should think of the joy of sharing the Gospel as being greater than the joy of serving ourselves.  We should keep our eye on the reward of getting to participate in eternal glory.

Does this mean that we compromise our beliefs and therefore sin?  By no means.  This means that we compromise our own preferences to serve others and Jesus.  If you are one to wear a t-shirt and flip-flops, you may need dress nicer if you want to serve and reach others.  If you are ministering in the inner city, you might not want to wear a three-piece suit.  Become all things to all men to save some.

3) Run with a purpose.

"Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." verses 24-27

Keep your eye on the prize, the knowledge of the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ and the ability to participate in His work on earth.  Remember that you are running a race to win, so run with purpose.  Train daily for this race with disciplines.  Disciplines like prayer, scripture reading, meditation, worship, fasting, etc.

Running a good race is worth it.  We all want to receive a crown that will last forever.  We all want to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant... Come share in your master's happiness."  In order to run a good race we need to remember: that God choses to use us, He doesn't need us; to be adaptable in order to serve God and not our selfish desires; and to run with purpose.

This life is a race.  Run a good race.  Like the great theologian Coach Herman Edward said, "You play to win the game!"  You run to win the race.  Run with purpose the course set before you today.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Hope

This is such a simple Gospel message from Billy Graham.  Take time to watch it today.





Thursday, November 7, 2013

Christian Freedom Gone Wrong

Please read 1 Corinthians chapter 8.  It is a very short chapter.

In this chapter the apostle Paul was addressing a question the church at Corinth had.  They wondered if it was okay to eat meet that had been sacrificed to an idol.  Paul answers this question but before he does he adds this key phrase, "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

Paul says that eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol is absolutely not wrong.  It isn't wrong because the idols aren't really gods.  God is the only God.  See, in Corinth if you shopped in the marketplace and bought meat, it was likely that the meat purchased had been previously sacrificed to an idol.  Paul assured Christians that they need not worry about this in itself being a sin.

However, Paul did not encourage Christians to go out and flaunt their freedom to eat this meat.  Paul realized that some in the church at Corinth wouldn't know that it's okay to eat this meat.  To these people the eating of this meat was haunting their consciences.  In fact, if they believed it to be sinning if they ate this meat, then acting out this supposed sin would be a sin because they'd be, in their minds, intentionally defying God.

Paul never said, "Grow up you immature Christians.  Increase your knowledge about these things and lay off those eating meat."  No.  Instead, Paul says this to those okay with eating meat:

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Just because you know something is permissible does not mean you should do it.  We must remember others when we make decisions.  We must, as a church, submit one to another.  We must remember that Christ died for those in our church, not just for us.

See, when we flaunt our freedom in Christ and cause our brothers to fret we are not being loving.  When we do this we are being selfish.  When we do this we sin not just against them but against Christ as well.

So, the next time you want to exercise a freedom you have in Christ, ask these questions:

1) Does it puff me up or build others up in love?

2) Does it distress those around me?

If the freedom you're exercising builds another up... do it.  If it is a non-factor to another... do it.  But if it distresses them and hurts them... don't do it.  "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

As a footnote, remember that this passage works the other way as well.  To those of you distressed by something not forbidden by God, don't enforce those beliefs on others.  You are responsible to love them in the same way they are responsible to love you.  If something bothers you, voice your concern in a way that doesn't seem as if you are forcing a man-made rule on another Christian.  If they are loving they will not exercise that freedom in your presence.

Bottom line: submit one to another... love one another today.




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Serve God Today

Please take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 7.  This chapter is full of things that I will not get to in this post and you'll be instructed far better by reading it than by reading this post.  I, in this post, will focus my attention on just one point.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"  This question is/was asked of us a lot.  "What will my future be like?"  This is a question I find myself asking a lot.  I find myself daydreaming about the future and the great things it has in store for me.

I often look to the future and wonder about all the great things I'll be able to do for God.  "When I______ then I'll be able to do_________."  Dreaming about the future and wishing to do great things later is not a bad thing; but I do feel that someday can be the bane of today.

"Nevertheless, each one of you should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him..." 1 Corinthians 7:17

Many times we feel that we must rise to another position to really serve God.  If we are single, we must wait to be married to really serve God.  If we are in an entry level position, we must wait until we are in management to really serve God.  Or, sometimes we feel that we must leave our position in life altogether and become a missionary or monk to really serve God.

The apostle Paul clearly says that we are called by God to whatever position we are in today.  Whether or not we are called to always be in our present condition I do not know.  But I know with certainty that wherever you are today is where you were called to be today.  God makes no mistakes and He plans to use you for His glory and your good today right where you are, with no exceptions.

So, if you are a student, serve God in your school today.  If you are a factory worker, serve God in your workplace today.  If you are a patient in the hospital, serve God in your room today.  We are all assigned to where we are by the Almighty God in order to serve Him today.

That's why I end each post on this blog with the word "today".  We are able to serve God today.  Amen.  By His grace He enables us to do things that will last for eternity regardless of RATHER because of our present situation.

So if you are single, serve.  If you are married, serve.  If you are a student, serve.  If you are a worker, serve.  If you are retired, serve.  Don't wait for someday.  Serve God today.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Enjoy God's Mercy

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been given the opportunity to lead the youth group at church through the book The Knowledge of the Holy.  This study, for me, has been an invigorating look at the attributes of our great God.

Last Wednesday we looked at four attributes of God including His mercy.  God's mercy is something with which all Christians should be familiar.  God's mercy is one of the attributes of God that allows us to be on friendly terms with the Holy Uncreated One.

A. W. Tozer, the author of the book, defines mercy as these two things: God's goodness confronting human suffering and guilt; and God's being actively, infinitely and inexhaustibly compassionate.  The definition is an amazing source of hope.  We need God's goodness to confront our suffering and guilt and we would not get that were it not be for God's active, infinite, inexhaustible compassion.

God's mercy is a source of immense hope.  That being said, why don't we enjoy God's mercy more?

For centuries the Church has cried for mercy again and again.  "Kyrie eleison!  Christe eleison!"  "God have mercy!  Christ have mercy!"  The Church has cried again and again for mercy and this is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is this necessarily a good thing.

When we cry for mercy what are we crying for?  If we are crying out for God to continue His purifying work in us; if we are desiring that God be merciful and release us more from the temptation of sin; if these are the reasons, then cry out for mercy.

But, if we the saved Church are crying out for God to save us from the penalty of sin then we are wasting our time.  Faith believes that Christ died for us once and for all.  Faith cries out to be saved from the penalty of sin once and then needs not cry out for this ever again.  When we claim Christ death and resurrection as ours we are guaranteed the mercy of God.  Amen!

Tozer put it this way:
"We may plead for mercy for a lifetime in unbelief, and at the end of our days be still no more than sadly hopeful that we shall somewhere, sometime, receive it.  This is to starve to death just outside the banquet hall in which we have been warmly invited."

This mercy is not to be repeatedly clamored for.  This amazing mercy of God is to be enjoyed today and everyday.  We should dance, sing and shout for joy that we have received God's infinite, inexhaustible compassion.  Cry no more!  We, through the blood of Christ Jesus our Lord, have been freely given the mercy of God.

Enjoy God's mercy today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sexual Immorality

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 6.

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

Sexual sins were rampant in Corinth.  The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was in town and it employed over a thousand prostitutes as priest and priestesses.  Sex was an important part of the worship of Aphrodite and I imagine they had no problems getting people to attend worship there.

Sex in worship was no doubt extremely appealing to those in Corinth and attracted worshippers from all around the world.  But God called His people in Corinth to purity rather than promiscuity.  So, Paul instructed the Corinthians to flee from sexual immorality.  The temptation of sexual immorality was, and is, too great of a threat to flirt with.  We are better off fleeing from sexual immorality than battling it head on.

This advice has been given to us time and again.  You know to flee from sexual immorality.  You know to set boundaries in your dating life.  You know that you are to remain sexually pure until marriage.

Why?

Sex before marriage will have negative consequences in some way.  Below are just a few facts that support that:

1) You'll have to tell your spouse about all you did with someone other than him/her.  Shame may follow.
2) 50% of sexually active adults will get an STD before age 25. (According to the American Journal of Medicine 102 (5a) 3-8)
3) In 2008 there were 110 million prevalent STDs amongst American men and women.
4) Sex releases oxytocin which helps bond the two engaging in intercourse.  The more people you have sex with the more likely you are to have a broken heart when each relationship or one night stand doesn't work out.
5) You defile the temple of the Holy Spirit.

These are just a few ways that sexual immorality hurts us.  "He who sins sexually sins against his own body" is definitely true.

We are called to purity.  God created sex for marriage and in marriage it is a very good thing.  God calls us not to be a slave to sexual temptation, but instead to be a slave to Him.  "You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body."

Flee from sexual immorality of all kinds today.

Friday, October 11, 2013

God's Omniscience is Awesome

The past few weeks I have had the privilege of leading the students in my church's youth group in a book study of The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer.  I've mentioned before that it is one of my favorite books and I've been very excited to teach on it because Tozer spends time looking at the attributes of God, which blow my mind.

This week one of the attributes we looked at was the divine omniscience.  When we say that God is omniscient we mean that He knows everything.  God knows everything that can be known because He is the author and creator of everything.  As Tozer puts it, "God perfectly knows Himself, and being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known."  God also knows everything that was, is and is yet to come because He is outside of time and isn't bound by future or past.

This means that God cannot learn and has never learned.  God has always just known.  For, if He gained knowledge that would mean He was less than perfect before gaining that knowledge.  God never discovers anything and cannot be surprised.

This is all very cool and mind blowing to say the least.  However, I'm sure you're wondering what difference it makes in your life that God is omniscient.

One of the first things that people think of when they hear that God is omniscient is this: "If God knows everything make sure you don't commit a hidden sin because He'll know about it even if no one else does.  Or don't even think about sinning because God even knows you're thinking about it."  This is true, but not all that beneficial.  It does inspire fear and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but I find this way of thinking bogs us down with guilt and paralyzing fear.

Here a much better reason of why it matters that God is omniscient.  Read this quote from A. W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy:

"No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He know us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us."

This is AWESOME!  God knew us fully, knows us fully and will know us fully.  He knows our deepest, darkest secrets and dirtiest inner thoughts; yet He still chose to love us with His infinite love!  God in His perfect knowledge looked at us and deemed us lovable.  He saw us and desired for us to be His bride to be His children.  Wow!

This should inspire us to live a life worthy of this calling even though He chose us when we were unworthy of the calling.  This causes us to live a much holier life than simply the fear that God sees us and will judges us.  God sees us and will love us.

Also, if God looks at your deepest, darkest secrets and dirtiest thoughts and loves you, then you have no right to hate yourself.  You can't call unworthy and unlovable what the Author and Creator of Life, the King of Kings has already pronounced lovable and worthy.  You can't hate what Jesus died for.

God is omniscient.  He knows everything.  He knows you at your worst and chose to love you with His infinite, unfailing, unmatchable, perfect love.  This is the Gospel friends.  Praise God for His omniscience today.

Monday, October 7, 2013

When a Church Gets a Yeast Infection

How many of you clicked on this because of the title?  I want to first apologize to those of you offended by this title, but I'm just trying to add a little humor to a serious topic.  Please take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 5.

The church at Corinth had a nasty problem.  A man in the church was sleeping with his dad's wife.  Now, whether that's his mom or step-mom we don't know.  What we do know is that this situation makes all of us scream "YUCK!!!"

The church at Corinth had another problem.  No one did anything about this man sleeping with his dad's wife.  The man was unrepentant and proud, yet the church didn't address the issue or disassociate themselves from this wickedness.

Paul said that the church at Corinth should expel this man.  That they should hand him over to Satan, which means they should allow him to be in the world without the support of the church.  They should have done this for a couple of reasons.

First, this man should have been expelled from the church for his own good.  If they "handed him over to Satan" he could be crushed and hopefully left with no option but to run back to the refuge of the cross.  Sometimes tough love means letting someone hit rock bottom.  This is hard but it is for the ultimate best even if it's not for the immediate best.

Second, this man should have been expelled from the church for the good of the church.

"Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast... as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast of malice wickedness, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth."  1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Paul is using a compound of analogies here.  He's drawing from the Passover meal during which the Jews were required to clean their home of all the yeast in the house.  Then they were to eat unleavened bread all week.  Paul's also drawing from the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal.  In the Last Supper Jesus said that the bread was His body.  Finally, Paul is hoping the reader remembers that the Church is called the body of Christ.

The church at Corinth, in order to best represent Christ as His body, needed to remove the yeast.  In this case, the yeast was this immoral man who was sleeping with his dad's wife.

In this letter from Paul we can see that a little yeast ruins the whole batch.  It only takes a little yeast to make a whole loaf rise.  It only takes a little immorality to make the whole church misrepresent Christ.  So, the local church must practice church discipline for the sake of the immoral members, the sake of the congregation as a whole and the glory of Christ.

Before we go nuts here, I must point out that church discipline only applies to those who claim to be Christian and are part of your local church.

"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  'Expel the wicked man from among you.'"  1 Corinthians 5:12-13

We are not to pass this kind of judgement on those outside the church as if we are God.   We need to welcome all kinds of "sinners" into our fellowship.   That being said we are to practice church discipline regarding the members of the church.

You may also ask, "Where do we draw the line with keeping the immoral brothers outside of the church?  If we removed all those who are immoral we'd have an empty building on Sunday."  To this I'll say, "I don't know."  All I know is the line is somewhere before sleeping with your dad's wife.  I write that half-jokingly, but also truthfully.  I believe this chapter of 1 Corinthians not to be a template for church discipline, but an example.  I don't know where to draw the line of immorality, but I would suggest this is why you prayfully choose leaders who can wrestle with these kinds of decisions and make wise judgements.

This chapter is tough.  It is often skipped, but I believe it to be important.  Bottom line, take morality seriously within the local church, don't let a little yeast spoil the whole batch.  And secondly, don't be the immoral brother because what you do affects all those that have pledged to represent the body of Christ with you.

Strive for purity within your church and work to dissociate your church from  blatantly, hypocritical "christians" today.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Imitation

Please take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 4.  When you do, here's a little tip that will keep you from missing the meaning.  Read verses 7 through 13 as though Paul is writing it facetiously.  It's actually quite funny when you do, not to mention it's the correct way to read it.

One verse that stood out to me from this chapter was verse 16.

"Therefore I urge you to imitate me." 1 Corinthians 4:16

Paul asked the church at Corinth to imitate him.

This made me think, "Could I implore others to imitate me?"  "Could I say, 'I urge you to imitate me?"

This is a good question.  We should ask ourselves if the life we are leading is worth imitation.  We should ask if people would be living a Godly life if they imitated us.

But I'll let you in on a secret about that great question.

It doesn't matter.

"Could I ask someone to imitate me?" is a pointless question because it doesn't matter if you think someone could imitate you because someone is imitating you.  I can guess that there is someone in your sphere of influence that imitates you at least in part.  And if you are in any position of leadership I can guarantee there is someone in your sphere of influence that is imitating you in at least some fashion.

So, the better thing to ask is this:  "Someone is imitating me.  What should I do to be a better model for them?"

But you may say, "No one is imitating me.  I've never heard once that someone wanted to be like me in any way."

I've felt that way before, but that thought is a lie.  Whether you like it or not, or know it or not, your life is on display and someone is watching you.  Be worthy of imitation.

Another thing I want you to think about is this.  "Who should I imitate?"

Don't get fooled into thinking that you've got it all figured out.  Imitate some of the great men and women of God around you.  Find a Godly father that models what you want to be some day.  Find a Godly woman that is the prayer warrior you want to be.  Find someone worth imitating and watch them closely as they model what it looks like to follow God in the real world.

Finally, if you have someone that you imitate, please tell them.  I'm sick of going to funerals where this line is spoken: "You know I never told them but..."  Tell people in your life what an influence they have been on you.  Encourage them to continue to be a person in the church worthy of imitating.

Be worthy of imitation today.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Magnificent Temple

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 3.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

These verses are two of the most misused verses I can think of in the Bible.  Popular interpretation of this passage is as follows:

"Work out and stop eating McDonald's because you are God's temple, He lives in you and you should stop making His temple so dadgun flabby!"

This is not at all what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote this to the church at Corinth.  Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 3.  In the chapter Paul addresses the local church at Corinth as a whole.  At no point is he writing to them as individuals; rather, he writes to the church as a whole.  Therefore, verses 16 and 17 are written to the church as a whole as well.  In fact,  (surprise, surprise) the verses quoted above stay on topic with the verses before them.

To understand what Paul's original intent was you need to know a little something about Greek temples.  The purpose of Greek temples wasn't entirely the same as the purpose of the Jewish temple.  A Greek temple was primarily a monument to the god for which it was built.  The Parthenon in Athens was built magnificently to show the greatness of the goddess Athena.  The temple of Apollo in Corinth, with its 38 columns, was built magnificently to show the greatness of the god Apollo.  Thus the Greek thinking was, "show me a great temple and I'll show you a great god."  The greatness of a god was known by the majesty of its temple.

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

This passage is preceded by verses denouncing divisions in the local church at Corinth.  So, Paul is saying that divisions and quarreling in the local church cause the temple of God to crumble.  Divisions cause the columns to tumble and the roof to cave in.

Again, please don't misunderstand Paul.  Paul does not mean that divisions in the local church cause the temple of God to crumble and therefore hurt our God who dwells there.  Absolutely not!  We are incapable of hurting the God of the universe.  We are incapable of stopping, bruising or thwarting God even with the worst of infighting.

Rather, the metaphor of the destroyed temple is to warn us that church divisions can keep us from fully displaying God's glory to our community.  If the greatness of a god is evidenced by the magnificence of the god's temple, then when we, the temple of God, have divisions we don't accurately reflect the glory of our great God.  People in our community see our crumbling temple and think, "That must not be a very great god."

Friends, our God is great!  He is the God above all gods!  He is worthy of a great temple!  So, stop destroying God's temple.  Your local church is sacred... treat it as such.  Don't have God destroy you.  Strive for unity.  Strive to build a great temple on the foundation which Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 is Christ Jesus.  Build your local church on the great foundation and use only what's of eternal value to build upon that.

Our God deserves a magnificent temple.  Work hard together to be that magnificent temple.  Fight for unity in your local church today.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Christ and Christ Crucified

Take time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 2.

I have the awesome privilege of teaching the Word of God to high school aged youth.  On a weekly basis I get the opportunity to open the Scripture and speak about our great God.  This is an awesome privilege and an awesome, heavy responsibility.

"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."  James 3:1

Teaching youth, or anyone for that matter, is a grand and heavy task.  So, one must examine what good Biblical teaching is so as not to be judged as doing a bad job.

What is good teaching of Scripture?

This is the question I'm left asking because I don't want to stand before God and be found to have taught incorrectly.

I think Paul answers what good teaching and good scriptural interpretation is.

"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:2

This statement describes good Biblical teaching in a nutshell.  We who teach are not to only look for moral lessons from the Bible.  That's not the primary goal of Scripture.  Now, moral lessons can be found all over the pages of God's Word.  All over the Word we see God's way versus man's way.  All over Scripture we are given good, moral lessons.  But moral lessons are not the goal of Scripture.

The focal point of Scripture is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The entire Old Testament points forward to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The Gospels describe Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  And the rest of the New Testament points back to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus Christ and Him crucified therefore must be the focal point of our teaching.  Teachers, we must not stop at moral lessons and fall short of giving our students what they need most... Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Teachers, if we help our students, whether youth, adult or children, become moral people but miss teaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified we could and should be judged more strictly.  We could be teaching our students to be good, decent, damned people.

So, our call as teachers, if we want to be good teachers that is, is to have Christ and Christ crucified in every lesson we teach.  When we read David and Goliath we must see Christ and Christ crucified in the story... because it's there.  When we teach the 10 Commandments we must see Christ and Christ crucified... because it's there.  Teachers we must resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the focal point of our teaching.

Teach Christ and Christ crucified today.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11

Twelve years ago today my country was attacked on its own soil.  Twelve years ago today terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and had one crash in a field in Pennsylvania.  Twelve years ago today my world and yours was changed.

We watched in horror as we saw specks floating off the side of the Twin Towers.  We were chilled to the bone when we realized that those specks were people.  We trembled as we watched the towers collapse over and over as the scene was replayed on our television screens.

Twelve years ago today we wondered who "they" were.  We questioned who we were supposed to fear and hate.  We desired a face to the enemy because we were angry.

We soon were filled with patriotism, national unity and a communal desire for revenge.  We cheered out loud or in our hearts when on a pile of rubble George W. Bush said as he responded to a rescue worker who shouted that he couldn't hear the president, "I can hear you!  The rest of the world hears you!  And the people... the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"

I remember twelve years ago feeling lost and confused.  "Where was God on September 11th?" was the question of the hour.

I remember huddling for a few people at Fairview Baptist Church praying that day.  I don't remember what we prayed but I remember the church seemed to be the only logical place to go that evening.

So, to this day the questions are, "Where was God on September 11th, 2001?" and "Why did God let this happen?"

I can't tell you why God let thousands of people die on September 11th, 2001 or recently in Syria or for the last several years in Darfur for that matter.  I can't answer why God lets tragedies occur.

I can, however, answer the question of "where was God on September 11th, 2001?"

God was on His throne ruling.  God wasn't surprised by the attack.  He wasn't scrambling trying to figure out what was going on down here.  God wasn't overpowered by fear.  God was on His throne in charge of the universe and He's there today, too.

That is a comforting and a scary thought.  It's comforting because my God is reigning and He is doing things for His glory and my good.  It's scary because somehow even the tragedies of 9/11 fit in that realm of "things".  Even with God enthroned in heaven life will not be easy or even pleasant sometimes.  I'm left having to trust God even when everything hurts.  That is faith and that is why faith is so hard sometimes.

I'm sorry the answer to the question doesn't seem like "...and they lived happily ever after."  But I'm glad God was on His throne on that day.  I'm glad because I'd rather follow a God who is always in control than a god who desires things to be easy but can't do anything about it at times.  I just need to trust that my God who is in control is also the God who says He does all things for His glory and our good even when we can't figure out how.

Take time today to remember those who lost their lives twelve years ago today.  Take time to pray for those who are still living without a loved one.  And remember that God is on His throne today.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Not Lacking Any Spiritual Gift

Beginning with this post I will be spending a lot of time in the books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians.  My Bible study and I are going through these challenging books together and I will try to post on each of the chapters in the books.  I will not be writing about everything that is covered in each chapter.  Rather, I'll try to write about something from each chapter.  I hope you enjoy this walk through 1st and 2nd Corinthians.

Please take time to read chapter one of 1st Corinthians.

"I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in Him you have been enriched in every way... in all your speaking and in all your knowledge... because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
1st Corinthians 1:4-9

In this, the opening of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he spent time giving thanks for the church at Corinth.  This is amazing, especially when you consider what Paul had to deal with in this church.  Corinth was a wicked city.  It was full of mystery religions where you were devoted to the person who converted you.  They had 26 places in town devoted to some sort of god.  They had more than a dozen temples that employed thousands of temple prostitutes.  In fact, the term "Corinthian girl" was slang throughout the Roman world for prostitute.  Not only this but the church itself was full of infighting, immorality, people suing each other, people getting drunk at communion, and more.

Paul gave thanks for this church!  I think that gives all of us the ability to give thanks to God for our church.

Paul says, "... you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed."

When most of us read this we think, "Awesome!  I don't lack any spiritual gift!"  To be honest, I've read those words and thought the exact same thing most of my life.  But I think this interpretation is wrong.

Last night as we were reading this passage my wife made a great point.  In a nutshell she said that Paul wasn't talking about individuals, rather he was saying that the church at Corinth lacked no spiritual gift.

Aha!  That makes much more sense.  In fact, that is the way most people across the world will read it.  We Americans/Westerners love our individuality.  The U.S. Army's slogan was "Army of One", we love D.I.Y. projects, we love individuality to the point that we have forgotten to know our neighbors.  But this passage is not talking about us alone, but about this local church.

See, Paul was thanking God for them because God had given them every spiritual gift they needed to stay strong until the end.  We can thank God because He has given our local churches this too.  I don't think this is a passage that applies to the church at Corinth only.  This passage applies to my church and yours, too.

So, we need to stop thinking that A) we can do it alone and B) that our church is not good enough.

First, we can't do it alone.  Only together do we have the collective spiritual gifts to stay strong to the end.  We need each other to persevere.  You need the local church.  I need the local church.  Staying faithful to Jesus is a community project.

Second, quit comparing your church to another.  "Our church is okay but our worship team does sound like the church in the city" "My church is nice but we don't pack an arena full of people".  Statements like this only keep us from enjoying what God has given us.  He has given our local churches everything they need.

And get this, "God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful".  This means that when God says we lack nothing He is faithful to make His statement true because He is faithful and cannot lie.

So, whether your local church is big or small... Baptist or Lutheran... give thanks to God for it.  After you're done giving thanks go out there and with your church make a difference in the Kingdom because together you lack no spiritual gift today.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mile High Honeymoon

As many of you know, I got married last week.  The wedding was amazing and the reception was a blast!  Christine and I were just overwhelmed by how many great people love us.  Plus, we were blown away when we began to open gifts by just how generous people are.

In between the wedding and opening gifts we got to go on a honeymoon.  We went to the little town of Granby, Colorado.  Granby is a small town nestled in the mountains just west of the Continental Divide.  It is beautiful!

Each day of our honeymoon we were wowed a little more by the mountainous landscape.  Beginning with alpine sliding and a scenic chair lift to zip lining and then the unmatchable Rocky Mountain National Park; we were astounded by God's creation.

On Tuesday of our honeymoon we took a scenic chairlift to the top of a mountain where we had lunch.  On the way down from the mountaintop as my new wife and I sat slack jawed in the air we looked and worshipped.  It was a breathtakingly worshipful experience.  It was then, as we talked about how this stunning view made our hearts worship, that I turned to my wife and said, "The same God that made these mountains with one word wanted us to get married.  Even better than that He calls us His son and daughter."

Did you get that?  The same God that made the mountains with one word calls us His sons and daughters!

The next thing we did was quote this psalm:

"I lift my eyes up to the hills,
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD
the maker of heaven and earth."
Psalm 121: 1-2

Now, get this.  You don't have to go on a honeymoon and look down from a 11,000 foot mountain to know that God is great and His creation is good.  You can know this in Iowa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin or even boring looking Nebraska (no offense we just took too long to go through that state).  Look out your window and see that God is great and His creation is good.  But don't stop your thoughts there.  Look at His handiwork and remember that the same God who made all creation, from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the intricate eyeball on your sweetheart's face, calls you beloved.  Know that the creator of the universe desires a relationship with you.

Remember that the Maker of Heaven and Earth has called you.  If you have never responded to that loving call do it today.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Unity

"How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live 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

Unity of the saints is so important to God.  This psalm is all about that.  Jesus' last prayer was about that.  Therefore, it must be important.

The Church is more beautiful when she is unified.  Make the bride of Christ lovely.  Strive for unity today.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Want to be in Awe

Last night I saw one of the most beautiful displays of God's glory.  The clouds were indescribably beautiful.  Pink, blue, indigo, orange, white, gold and purple were some of the colors painted across the sky.  Social media in my town was loaded with photos of the evening sky.  I was in awe of God's beautiful handiwork.  In fact, I turned upward and said, "Now you're just showin' off."

My fiance (soon to be wife) Christine and I stood outside marveling.  We drove around just amazed at the unspeakable beauty over our heads.  We were in awe.

As we drove back to my house Christine turned to me and said, "I want to be in awe of God again."

There we were at that moment in awe of God and her desire was to be in awe of God.  She spoke of how when she was a brand new believer how she came back from even the simplest Bible study in awe of her God.  While gazing at God's glory she wanted to be in awe of Him.

I'm not sharing this story to say, "Duh, Christine!  You are in awe of God right now.  What's wrong with you?"

No, I'm sharing this story because she had the perfect response to being in awe of God.  She was in awe and wanted more.  She was in awe of His painting called the sky and wanted to be in awe of another part of Him and His ways.

Her desire has convicted me.  While I spent a little time recommending ways that she could be in awe of God more, I found myself listening to my own words.  I want to be in awe.

In my "Christian maturity" I have become calloused to the wonder and mystery of God.  I have many explanations for why and how God does things, but does that make me a mature Christian?  I think the answer is "no".

Maybe the mature Christian is the one blown away by the "simplest" of truths.

Think about it.  "Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so."  This is a children's song.  This is something we move by rather quickly.  "Yeah, Jesus loves me."  But that should not be a nonchalant statement.  That statement should blow us away.

Truths like: We are now called children of God, the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet, God made the heavens and the earth, God has existed forever and will exist forever; these are not truths to pass by quickly.  These should bring us to our knees.  These should cause our brains to hurt.  These truths should make us awe.

Today, I'm going to try to have fewer answers to the questions of God.  Today, I'm going to try to be lost in wonder of God.  Today, I'm going to think about who God is in comparison to me.  Today, I want to be in awe.  Join me.  Be in awe of our God today.

Monday, July 15, 2013

D.I.Y. Christianity

We American Christians have bought a lie.

We American's pride ourselves on self-sufficiency.   D.I.Y. (do it yourself) is part of the lexicon.  We love to do things all by ourselves.  We pay to go to a restaurant where we can grill our own steaks.  We search the aisles of Menard's and the Home Depot so we have the right equipment to do it ourselves.

Those who are D.I.Y.ers feel superior to those of us that call the plumber for help and in some ways they may be.  D.I.Y. is a source of pride and I'm not saying that this is completely wrong.

But D.I.Y. Christianity is not what Christ has planned for us.  When I say "D.I.Y. Christianity" I don't mean someone who is trying to earn heaven on their own without Jesus.  When I say "D.I.Y. Christianity" I mean someone who thinks that needing others is a sign of weakness and that strong Christians can will themselves to righteousness.

First, we are never called to be self-sufficient Christians.  We are called to be semi-self-fed, mature Christians, but not self-sufficient.  We are called to pursue God and stay faithful to Him together.  As my pastor says, "staying faithful to Jesus is a community project."  A brave Christian is not one that suppresses his/her needs and does it himself/herself.  No, a brave Christian is one that bares his/her weakest points to another in the Church and says, "Help me."

Secondly, we are not called to will ourselves into righteousness.  Far from that, we are called to submit ourselves to righteousness.  We are not purified by our sweat.  No, we are purified by allowing Christ Jesus to work in us.  We are purified by letting God do His work.  Does this require some effort?  Yes. But it isn't our doing, it is all God's doing.

So, submit yourself to God's working.  Stop trying to do it yourself.  Also, bare yourself to a brother or sister in Christ.  Let them see your weakness and help you grow up into Christ.  We are not called to be D.I.Y. Christians.  We are called to be brothers and sisters submitting mutually to one another out of love under the headship of Christ.

Let go of your attempts at self-sufficient righteousness today.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Psalm 112

I've been reading a Psalm a day during the summer for the past two years.  I'd highly recommend this reading plan.  Below is my Psalm for today.

"Praise the Lord.

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who finds great delight in His commands.

His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.
He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.
He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor,
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn will be lifted high in honor.

The wicked man will see and be vexed,
he will gnash his teeth and waste away;
the longing of the wicked will come to nothing."
Psalm 112

Sure makes you want to fear the Lord and find delight in His commands.  Fear God.  Find delight in His commands today.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Declaration of Dependence

I posted this the last couple of years and I think it's perfect again for this year.


Declaration of Dependence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary of one man to dissolve the bands which have connected him to his self, and to reject the Powers of the earth, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that all men fall short of the glory of God, and that the wages of sin is death.  When any Form of Living instituted by Men becomes destructive to man he should abolish it and institute a new Life. laying its foundation on such powers that will provide life.

I, therefore, do declare that I am abolished from the Allegiance to the self and the Powers of the earth.  Not that I would be free and independent from all control, but rather that I would place my life in the hands of one who would fulfill my needs and provide me with life.

I declare dependence to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The foregoing Declaration was engrossed and signed by the following members:

Matt Ray

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blessed by Discipline

"Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law;"  Psalm 94:12

Does this verse feel like an oxymoron?  "Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord,".

If you're like me, you hate being disciplined.  You hate the idea of being disciplined.  Yet we all applaud well disciplined people.  "Wow!  Your kids are so well behaved."  "That team plays a discipline style of basketball."  We appreciate the idea that well disciplined individuals and groups are better off than undisciplined individuals and groups; so, why don't we appreciate the Lord's discipline?

When I think of discipline, I think of getting a spanked or grounded.  When I think of discipline, I think of punishment.  But my fiance Christine made an excellent point a few weeks ago while we were reading Hebrews 12.  She said that discipline does not necessarily equal punishment.

Discipline does not necessarily equal punishment.

With this in mind Psalm 94:12 makes a lot more sense.  "Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law;"  See, this isn't a sentence with two main points, it is one thought.

A parent can discipline a child not to play in the street by simply saying, "Don't play in the street."  Parents don't wait for their children to frolic in traffic and then beat them to teach them not to play in the street.  Parents discipline their children through their teaching and through their lifestyle.

God is no different.  When God is teaching us His law He is disciplining us.  Now, does God also punish us?  Absolutely, but as a wise Father that is not His first resort in discipline.  God teaches us His law to discipline us for our good.

Look at the next verse.  "... you grant him relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked."  Psalm 94:13.

See, God disciplines us through His law in order to keep us from trouble.  And much more than that, he will dig a pit from the wicked.  God will destroy wickedness because our trouble doesn't just come from our own wickedness.  Our trouble can also come from living in a wicked, unrighteous world.  God disciplines us now to help remove us from trouble and He will soon rise up against wickedness to remove us from every trouble once and for all.

"Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law; you grant him relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked."  Psalm 94:12-13

Embrace the discipline from God's Word before you endure unnecessary days of trouble and punishment.  Do yourself a favor and live your life according to God's Word today.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Signs of a Mature Christian

Today let's look at some signs of a mature Christian.  These signs can be found in Hebrews chapter 13.  Please take time to read this chapter.

Mature Christians are:

1) Loving toward their local church body.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers" Hebrews 13:1
A healthy church will be full of love for one another.  You will never enter a healthy church and feel widespread animosity amongst those worshipping there.  Mature Christians love one another.

2) Hospitable.
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
Mature Christians realize that their stuff is not their stuff.  Mature Christians view their possessions as tools in the service of God and others.  They will be hospitable, and hospitality is a high virtue in the Word from Genesis to Revelation.

3) Empathetic.
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."  Hebrews 13:3
Mature Christians feel the heartbreak of others and do something about it.  Now, we can't all feel heartbreak for everyone, but if your heart isn't broke because of some sort of suffering I'll venture to say you need to grow in Christian maturity.

4) Honorers of marriage.
"Marriage should be honored by all,"  Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is to be kept pure.  If you are sleeping around, before or after marriage, you have much room to grow in Christ.  Also, singles are to honor marriage.  This means to honor your spouse before you meet them, and to help married couples by honoring their marriage.  Maybe you could offer to watch their children so they can have a date night, for example.  All mature Christians honor marriage because it is a picture of Christ and the Church.

5) Content.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5
This one is tough.  We are not to be like everyone else in the rat race for more and better stuff.  We are to be content because mature Christians have the mature belief that God is more than enough to fulfill every need and want we have.

6) Rooted in sound doctrine.
"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings."  Hebrews 13:9
Mature Christians know the orthodox teachings of the Bible and can spot or sniff out things outside of that.  Above that, they don't get carried away by strange ideas even if they take the time to hear them out.

7) Prone to think of the Kingdom of God.
"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come."  Hebrews 13:14
Mature Christians realize that the things of this world will pass away and only what's done in the name of Christ will last.  Mature Christians think on an eternal time scale when they consider their priorities.  They know what lasts forever and what is like dust in the wind.

8) Continually offering a sacrifice of praise.
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise... the fruit of lips that confess His name." Hebrews 13:15
Mature Christians confess the name of Jesus without shame.  Do you do this, or are you shy to confess that Jesus is your Lord and Savior?  Until we are bold confessors of His name we have room to grow.

9) Good followers.
"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."  Hebrews 13:17
Mature Christians realize that their leaders in the Church must give an account to God for their souls.  This is serious business!  Mature Christians are good followers.  Do you follow the leaders in your church in a way that makes leading you a joy or a burden?  Do you pray for them?  Unless leading you is a joy you have not entered into complete Christian maturity.

10) Doers of good.
May the God of peace... equip you with everything good for doing His will,"  Hebrews 13:20-21
Mature Christians do good things in accordance with God's perfect will.  Good things don't make you mature; rather, a mature Christian realizes he/she has been given the opportunity to do good by God and he/she chooses to do good.

Do these ten things describe you?  I'm doubting any of you can say 'yes' perfectly.  Find the one that you need to work on and grow in that aspect of your race toward Christ.  But remember, Hebrews is first and foremost about the supremacy of God's grace through Christ Jesus.

Grace be with you all today.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Surprise for Christine

Today I got the chance to finally surprise my fiancĂ© Christine with the song she's going to walk down the aisle to.  She had no idea what the surprise was until I announced it and played the song this morning on the air. 

Thank you Kat Bell for playing piano, Cody Drilling for playing the 12 string guitar and Austin Mittelstadt for recording and producing the song for me.  You guys made it easy to sing.

Here is the link to my station's website to hear the announcement and the song.  (This link won't be available forever.  If you're reading this long after this post it will likely not be available.)

Thank you Christine for being a blessing in my life today.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Running the Race

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

This blog is called Running the Race for a reason and these verses are part of the reason.  So, obviously this is a chapter of Hebrews that is going to be fun for me to write about.  Today I want to focus on a few ways to run the race successfully.

1) Remember we aren't the first people to run this race.
Hebrews chapter 11 is known as something of a faith hall of fame.  Hebrews chapter 12 begins with the word "therefore".  The therefore is there for the purpose of helping us remember that we aren't the first to run this race.  Others have run the race with great success; knowing this should inspire us to keep on running because it can be done.

2) Throw off hindrances.
The writer of Hebrews says hindrances and sin.  I think he does this because hindrances aren't necessarily bad things.  To run the race well we need to prioritize.  Many a good thing will keep us from God things.  We need to prioritize our lives to maximize the strengths God designed in us.  Throw off hindrances to run the race well.

3) Remove sins.
Sin trips us up.  The writer of Hebrews says that sin entangles us, we get caught up in sin.  This is because unlike hindrances that may weight us down sin is actually out to destroy us.  If we don't remove sin we will be strangled by it.  If we don't remove sin, we will stop running the race.

4) Run with perseverance.
The race toward Christlikeness is not a sprint; it is a marathon.  In our lives we may slow down, but we are never to stop moving toward Christ.  Our race may become a walk or a crawl, but Christians are called to move forward.  We must persevere.  Perseverance is one of the cornerstones of our faith, so keep on keeping on.

5) Fix your eyes on Jesus.
We are told at first that the saints of old are our motivation, but above and beyond that our motivation is Christ Jesus our Lord.  Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith and He is the goal of our faith.  We run toward Jesus.  Like a greyhound runs toward the rabbit on the track we too are to run toward Jesus with abandon.  Jesus Christ has blazed the trail for us.  He marked the race for us.  We aren't left guessing what route our race goes.  We don't have to search for some secret personal calling when running the race.  Not at all, we are called to run the race marked out for us by fixing our eyes on Jesus.  This means we run toward Jesus and no runner can run blindly, so fix your eyes on the prize.

Hebrews chapter 12 is packed with even more great truths so please read it.  But above all I want you to remember to run your race today.  Even if you only take a few steps, even if you walk rather than run, continue to move toward Christlikeness.  Run with perseverance the race marked out for you today.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

By Faith

Take time to read Hebrews chapter 11.  This chapter has come to be known as a kind of faith hall of fame.

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

I'm sure many of you are familiar with this verse about faith.  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  We see from this verse that faith leads us to certainty.  We can know for certain that our faith in God will not fail us.  We have a certain hope, not a "Well, it'd be nice if it happened" hope.

We have hope and certainty through faith because of the One we have faith in not because of our efforts.  Amen!  Hallelujah!

But what about all the verses that follow Hebrews 11:1?  Many of these verses speak of great men and women who had faith and effort commingled.  Let's take one example.

"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built a great ark to save his family."  Hebrews 11:7

Noah had faith and made an amazing amount of effort.  Noah built an ark that was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.  How did Noah do this?  Hebrews said he did it by faith.  I'm stealing this from my friend Harold; but Noah didn't pray a prayer of great faith and have an ark miraculously appear.  No!  Noah spent years building this big 'ole boat with his bare hands and the help of his sons while being ridiculed no doubt.

Noah had faith according to Hebrews chapter 11 but we can see from Genesis chapter 6 that Noah had to work in response to his faith.

So, is faith achieved through works?  No.  But faith without works in not faith.

"... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."  James 2:17

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."  James 2:26

Our faith is not found in our works.  Our faith is exclusively found in the person of God Three in One.  And if we have genuine faith and trust in the sovereign Lord of the universe we will operate more like Him each day.  We will do works by faith.  Why?  Because the One who began to change us to be more like Him will not stop until He is done, and we can have faith in that.  And sometimes exercising faith involves effort, ask Noah.

Walk by faith.  Be sure of what we hope for yet do not yet see.  Do great things for God and His Kingdom today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eating at a Billboard

Take time to read Hebrews chapter 10.

This chapter is packed with some awesome truths and I want to unpack a few nuggets of truth from this chapter.

1) No one eats at a billboard.

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming... not the realities themselves.  For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.  If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?  For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.  But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."  Hebrews 10:1-4

The writer of Hebrews is addressing a problem that first century Jewish Christians had.  These Jewish Christians felt the need to hold on to the law and all the religious traditions of Judaism as a means for salvation.  They kept thinking, "God's grace and..."  The writer makes it clear that the law and the religious traditions do not save; rather the law and traditions were shadows or signs pointing to the real deal.

No one would pull over to the side of the highway to eat at a billboard for McDonald's.  The billboard is a sign pointing toward the real deal which is coming up.  Same with the sacrifices and the law.  The law and sacrifices pointed to Jesus' perfect life and perfect, once for all sacrifice.  The writer of Hebrews is arguing that Jewish Christians stop feasting at a billboard and instead "taste and see that the Lord is good".

We need to listen to this.  Although I've never felt the need to sacrifice a bull, I have felt the need to add something to grace.  We add nothing to grace.  Sure, we will obey but not in an effort to earn grace.  Grace is unearned by us because it has already been purchased by Christ.  That is what we feast on; the goodness of God's grace through Christ Jesus our Lord.

2) Spur each other on toward love and good deeds.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another... and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  Hebrews 10:23-25

These verses pretty much speak for themselves.  But ask yourself these questions: a) do I act in a way that shows I believe in the promises of Christ; b) do I spur on my Christian brothers and sisters toward love and good deeds; c) do I meet with other Christians regularly?

3) Remember the fervor you once had.

"Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.  Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.  you sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions."  Hebrews 10:32-34

The writer is saying, "Remember how fearlessly you followed Jesus when you first became a Christian?  Where did that go?"  I could ask myself the same thing.  Young Christians are so fearless with the way they share their faith.  It's like we forget the "better and lasting possessions" that we've been given through Christ.  This is a challenge for all of us: "Remember the fervor you once had."  We need to relight the fire of our love for God.

This chapter is an amazing chapter. Please take time to study it on your own.  Don't waste time eating at a billboard; go for the real deal, God the three in one.  Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  And remember the fervor you once had, today.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

All Days are His Day

You may be sick of hearing it by now, but I will be getting married in fewer than three months.  I'm excited to be a husband and I'm excited to celebrate our wedding with our friends.  Many people are excited for us, too.  They keep saying, "Your big day is getting closer."

"Our big day is getting closer."  This is an interesting and exciting phrase.  But one statement that we've heard a lot that I don't feel comfortable with is this: "Remember, your wedding day is your day not anyone else's."  I understand why people say this.  I understand that they don't want us to feel that all of our decisions must be based on pleasing others.  But the thought that bothers me is that our wedding day isn't mostly about us.  We want our wedding day to be about our Heavenly Father.

All days are His day; this includes the day of our wedding ceremony.  In fact, the entire wedding ceremony is His.  But that's not all.  Our marriage is His.

With that in mind, Christine and I thought of ways to honor God in our wedding and to be a part of His mission in the midst of our wedding.  I honestly believe that we shouldn't get married unless we can make earth a little bit more like heaven together.  Our influence in helping expand God's Kingdom should be enhanced by our marriage; not hindered.

This is where we need your help.  We have been lead to help Cedar Valley Friends of the Family through our wedding.  One of the places on our wedding registry is Cedar Valley Friends of the Family.  We want people to make a donation in our name as a wedding gift.

Cedar Valley Friends of the Family is a local organization that helps sexually assaulted women, women and families affected by domestic violence and the homeless.  They help give housing to homeless and women evading an abusive partner; as well as several other things.  Check out their website for more information.  They are a great organization in our back yard.  We feel that they do an awesome job of serving people as Christ would want us to.

Here's how you can give.  Click here to go to their website and donate online.  Once you've donated, there is a place that allows you to put a comment in with your donation.  Please comment "Ray Lind Wedding".  We would love to know how much money is raised, it would be a huge encouragement to us.

We would love for you to give to them.  If you don't give, that is okay.  However, if you are getting married or thinking of getting married or know someone who is getting married please spread the word about this idea of making a donation to a charity or mission part of a wedding registry. We want to start a new trend.  We want things that make the world a better place and that help "the least of these" to be common place in wedding registries.  We love bouquet tosses, rehearsal dinners and crazy wedding party introduction dances; but we'd love to see this idea catch on in wedding culture.

Thank you for your love and support.  Thank you for helping us recognize "our big day" as "His day".  Thank you for helping make this world more heavenly.  God bless you today.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The King is Enthralled by Your Beauty

My fiancĂ©, Christine, wrote a very good post.  It's a post that all women and girls should read.

Read Christine's post today.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Proverbs for Graduates

I went to a graduation party yesterday.  Despite the fact that we had snow this week and it felt like winter, Whitney's graduation party reminded me that the end is near for many seniors.  Graduates from both high school and college are in need of wisdom as they move on to whatever is next in their lives.

Here's a post from last year full of wise words for you graduates.  I'll admit I stole all of this from King Solomon.

"Hatred stirs up dissension,
but love covers over all wrongs"
Proverbs 10:12

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom."
Proverbs 11:2

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid."
Proverbs 12:1

"A mise son heeds his father's instruction,
but a mocker does not listen to rebuke."
Proverbs 13:1

"All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty."
Proverbs 14:23

"Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisors they succeed."
Proverbs 15:22

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed."
Proverbs 16:3

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue."
Proverbs 17:28

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are saved."
Proverbs 18:10

"Listen to advice and accept instruction,
and in the end you will be wise."
Proverbs 19:20

I could go on.  In fact, read Proverbs and you will find more wisdom. 

My advice for you is to seek the Lord, seek knowledge and surround yourself with wise people.  Search for good friends wherever it is you are going.  Find a good church and become friends with those older than you. 

Congratulations graduates and search for the wisdom of God today.