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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

We Will vs. He Will

In our young adult Bible study we've been going through the book of Hebrews.  I've enjoyed this book immensely and I want to continue to share some truths we've discovered in this awesome book of the Bible.  The last chapter we studied was Hebrews 8.

Here is one of my favorite parts of Hebrews chapter 8 and it's actually a selection from Jeremiah:

"The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
                                                                                     declares the Lord.

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
Hebrews 8:8-12 (italics added)

I love this passage of scripture because it so clearly explains the major difference between the old covenant and the new covenant.  In the old covenant "We will" was the premise.  Blessings were bestowed on us because of our ability to keep our end of the bargin.

In the new covenant "He will" is the premise.  Blessings are bestowed on us because of God' ability to keep His end of the bargin.  The new covenant is completely hinged to God's ability to keep His word.

I don't know about you, but I like the new covenant infinitely more than the old covenant, because I have way more faith in God than I do in myself.

Let's look at a few key phrases in Hebrews 8.

"I will put my law in their minds and write them on their hearts."  We've been given the Holy Spirit to do this for us.  We have the ruling reigning God in us teaching us His law.  This is the reason we can believe that we are being purified.

"I will be their God and they will be my people."  That should remind you of Hosea.  In Hosea, the nation of Israel is pictured as a whore who can't won't stay faithful to her husband.  Because of this God demonstrates what He'll do on the cross with Jesus in this; Hosea purchases his prostitute wife and declares that she will be faithful to him.  That is what God has done for us.  We will be His people and He will be our God.  (Take time to read Hosea chapters 1-3 to understand this story better)

"... they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest."  Look at your church; all sorts of people, from the least to the greatest have been given the ability to know the almighty God on a personal level.  Amazing!

"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."  This would remind a Jewish reader of Leviticus 16 where the practice of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement is described.  Our sins where placed on Jesus and taken away as far as the East if from the West.  God remembers our sin no more and we are forgiven because the onus of this process was a "He will" and not a "We will".

"We will" is gone and "He will" is here.  It is not "He will because we will", it is "We will because He will."  The new covenant is amazing because the onus is on God to keep it and you'd better believe that He will not fail, because He cannot fail.  So, trust in God to be your salvation and forgiveness.  Christianity is not about what we do for God; it is about what God does for us.  This is what makes the new covenant 1,000,000,000 times better than the old covenant.

Trust that God will keep His covenant for you today.


Monday, April 22, 2013

An Open Bar Wedding Reception

Many of you are familiar with the language and analogies that the Bible uses regarding marriage and its symbolism with Christ.  I love these analogies because they are so rich, but sometimes I think we underplay them at times.  Let me explain.

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give Him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and His bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear."
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

The the angel said to me, 'Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' And he added, 'These are the true words of God."
Revelation 19:6-9

When we think about the wedding of Christ and the Church we often think about the wedding ceremony.  We think of something formal, sacred and rich with symbolism.  All these thoughts are great, but if that's where you stop with the analogy you're missing out.

Continue the analogy to the wedding supper of the Lamb.

I recently had the opportunity to be the best man in a wedding for a great friend of mine.  The wedding ceremony was great.  It was rich with symbolism, formality and sacredness.  My dad performed the ceremony, I sang a song, the bride was dressed beautifully, they exchanged sacred vows... it was great.   But that wasn't the whole story of the wedding.  The reception rocked!  It was fun, loud and full of revelers.  The reception had amazing food, an open bar and dancing.  People were celebrating the marriage of two people dear to them.

We need to remember this aspect of Christ's marriage to the Church.  The wedding supper of the Lamb will be a rocking time.  We'll have no inhibitions like its an open bar, dance your socks off reception.  I mean, can you imagine the joy and dancing that will fill this heavenly reception hall!?!

"Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"  Translation: "Dude, this is one party you won't want to miss!"

Are you filled with joyful expectation for that party?  Are you excited to dance like there's nothing to lose (because there will be nothing to lose) at the wedding supper of the Lamb?  Are you smelling a hint of the luscious food that will be served at that feast?

Jesus swore to beautify His bride the Church.  He has promised to make His bride clean and bright.  He will do that.  And He'll throw one amazing reception!  "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'... 'These are the true words of God."

Anticipate this feast.  Help others anticipate it.  Let the world know how blessed it is to be at the wedding supper of the Lamb.  Wait in eager anticipation today.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Golden Rule

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  Matthew 7:12

I'm sure most of you know this verse or at least the idea behind this verse.  It's been called The Golden Rule.  From households to classrooms this is often left as the only firm rule, because it's recognized as a simple yet all encompassing rule.

Many of you, if you're like me, know this verse in the King James Version.  I still hear "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you."  But what does it mean to "do unto others"?

For most of my life this is what "do unto others" meant for me:

"I wouldn't want someone to take my pencil from my desk without asking me, so I won't do that to her".

"I wouldn't want someone to talk while I'm teaching a class, so I won't talk during Mrs. Wright's class".

This is what it meant to "do unto others" for me.

My friend Harold was talking the other day and he shared something that was shared with him.  He said, "It's 'do unto others', not 'don't do unto others."

It's "do unto others" not "don't do unto others."

This is a simple, yet profound statement.  My life and yours can be changed by this simple statement.  To "do unto others" means that I not only try not to be a jerk, but it means that I do things for people that I would want them to do to me.  This means that I actively pursue serving people.  I actively pursue feeding the hungry.  I actively pursue giving money to those in a trouble.  I actively pursue encouraging people.

To "do unto others" is a much higher calling than to "not do unto others".  This doesn't mean that my understanding of The Golden Rule was wrong before; rather, my understanding of The Golden Rule was incomplete.  In fact, I was missing most of The Golden Rule.

"So in EVERYTHING, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  Matthew 7:12

Be transformed by these words of Jesus.  Rise to the call.  Apply The Golden Rule in your life.

Do unto others today.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Ship in the Ocean

An often used, if not overly used, Christianese phrase is "In the world but not of the world."  When I say it's possibly over used, I'm not saying it's not a useful or good phrase.  What I am asking is: Do you know what it means?

Let's look at Jesus' final recorded prayer in John chapter 17:

"I (Jesus) have given them (the twelve) your (the Father's) word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." John 17:14-16

In Jesus' prayer He institutes, or at least reiterates, the idea of 'in the world but not of the world'.  But still left asking "What does it mean?"

Let's look at the word 'world'.  What does this word mean in this context?

I believe 'world' does not mean planet earth.  Obviously, Jesus' is not from planet earth originally; but I don't believe that is what He is referring to, because Jesus made planet earth.  I believe, Jesus is referring to the culture of the world, the way of the world, when He says the word 'world' here.

So, we are in the culture of the world, but not of the culture of the world.  What in the world (excuse the pun) does that mean?

In the world but not of the world means that we are called to be in the world influencing it.  We are called to not be influenced by the world.

Let me steal a metaphor from my friend Harold that he stole, or should I say borrowed, from a chaplain:

A ship in the ocean is a good thing.  In fact, the purpose of a ship is to be in the ocean.  But when the ocean starts getting into the ship disaster ensues.

We are commissioned by Christ to go into the world.

"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.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Matthew 28:18-20

We are also commissioned to be set apart or in other words sanctified.

"Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth." John 17:17

So be in the world but not of the world.  In fact, use this Christianese phrase, as long as you use it correctly.  Be ships in the ocean spreading the Gospel, but keep the ocean out of your ship today.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jesus is Savior AND Lord

Take time to read this article

It is exactly what we discussed with the youth last night.

Let me know what you think today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Story of Extreme Forgiveness

I'm stealing this from my friend Rachel, who stole it from Samaritan's Purse.

Take time to read this story today.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Faith, the Cubs and Opening Day

Here's a post I wrote two years ago that I think is appropriate for today:

Faith, the Cubs and Opening Day

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

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

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

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

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

Paul writes this to the church in Corinth:

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

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

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