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

Monday, June 29, 2015

We're Homeowners

As some of you know, we have been in the process of buying a home for quite some time.  Well, today that process was completed.  We closed on our house and have keys and garage door openers and everything... we are extremely excited!

We are thrilled to be in a house and we look forward to turning it into our home.  Many of you reading this are great people of prayer, so we want to give you a few ways you can pray for us in our new house.

1) Pray that our home would be a place of refuge and comfort.

We Christians often forget to see our need for comfort, relaxation and refuge.  God commands us to rest because we, unlike Him, need it.  We have physical, emotional and mental limitations that we need to recognize.  To live like we don't need refuge and comfort is prideful.  So, pray that our new house becomes a comfortable home.

2) Pray that our new home be useful for the Kingdom.

We don't want to be fooled into thinking this is OUR house when it is His house and we are stewards of it.  We want to find ways to use our home and our neighborhood for God's glory.  Whether this may be inviting others over for food and games or allowing people to stay with us overnight, we want our house to be used for God's glory.

3) Pray that we build friendships with our neighbors.

When I was a kid I felt like I knew all of the neighbors and went into all of their houses.  I don't see that much any more and some of it has to do with me.  I've not been the best neighbor in the house we rented and I don't want to repeat that.  I haven't been a nuisance but I haven't been a friend either.  We've already met one neighbor at the new house, but we want to meet more.  Pray for ways to build relationships and join our new little community.

4) Pray for the family that sold us the house.

They have kids and just moved into a new home as well.  Pray that God blesses them the same ways that we've asked him to bless us.  Pray that God strengthens them as a family through this move.

We have so much to be thankful for today.  Please celebrate with us and pray for us today.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm Turning Into My Dad... Hopefully

My dad isn't perfect.  In fact, he, like me, is full of imperfections.  He's lost the checkbook in the freezer a few times, a while ago he thought it would be a good idea to put the dog on the roof of the shed and was surprised when the dog jumped off, he leaves cups of iced tea with a swallow remaining all over the house at times, but that all makes him more like me I guess.

My wife will often say, "You act just like your dad."  This may be when I say, "Well..." followed by nothing or get excitable about some joke I laughed at and nobody else did.  Those are humorous things that I do and I think to myself, "Oh my gosh, I'm turning into my dad."  But honestly, my dad is someone I'm more than happy turning into.

My parents raised me so well and I want to copy much of what they did when I have kids, and, because I will be a father and not a mother someday, I especially want to father like my father did.  If my wife can say "You act just like your dad" while I pray every night with my children I will feel I've accomplished something great.

My dad wasn't a perfect dad but he helped me understand God's love for me.

Dad prayed with me every night before bed.  I remember those prayers and much of the way I pray today is patterned on those prayers.  We were always so thankful for this beautiful day at the beginning of our prayers and that taught me that every day of life is a gift from God.  We made petitions to God and through that I learned what my dad wanted from God and what I should want too.  We always prayed in Jesus' Name and I learned who gave us the right to go to our Father.

Dad cared for people that many others did not.  I recall the mentally handicapped people that Dad gave his genuine attention.  I remember the "weird people" that were/are drawn to him because they were not threatened or judged by him.  I remember picking up a hitchhiker or two and Dad saying, "Don't tell your mom."  My dad, perfectly and imperfectly, demonstrated that everybody has worth... that God's love extends to those that society's doesn't.

Dad was transparent in front of me.  I watched my dad fail or stumble a few times.  He'd lose his temper or put his foot in his mouth and I got to see it.  I've also gotten to see him grow to be more patient, self-controlled and merciful through the years.  My dad let me see that God works in our lives to grow us and I'm thrilled because I have a lot of room to grow.

Fathers, do your children understand God's love more because of you?  Does the way that you care for your children model God's love for them?  Are you a pattern for spiritual growth for them?  Would you like your children to turn into you someday?  Does your love for their mother model Christ's love for the Church?

I'm not a father yet, but the questions above already keep me up some nights.  Fatherhood is a high calling and we all need God's help to do it right.

Since I'm not yet a father I won't give any advice except this one thing: pray with and for your children.  I've already decided that if I don't pray nightly with my children I've failed.  Pray with your kids and for your kids.  Model for them how to talk to their Father.  Show them what you love and desire.  And pray that God does for them the things that you can't, pray that God helps them understand how much He loves them.

Happy Fathers' Day today!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Conjunction Junction What a Function!

"Conjunction Junction what's your function?"

Many a Saturday morning I sat in front of my TV as School House Rock taught me about conjunctions, the magic number 3, the shot heard 'round the world and how bills became law.  I didn't know that a simple song like "Conjunction Junction" could help me appreciate my Bible more, but it has.  Conjunctions are some of my favorite words in Scripture.  Four years ago I wrote about Great Buts of the Bible and today I want to look at the some amazing verses where the word 'and' makes a world of difference.  Pay close attention to the word 'and' to see the difference that it makes.

Psalm 63:11-12a
"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
AND that you, O Lord, are loving."

1 John 1:9
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful AND just AND will forgive us our sins AND purify us from all unrighteousness."

Psalm 100:5
"For the LORD is good AND His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."

Exodus 34:6
"And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate AND gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love AND faithfulness."

Romans 3:26
"...He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just AND the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

Psalm 46:1
"God is our refuge AND strength,
an ever-present help in trouble."

Daniel 9:9
"The Lord our God is merciful AND forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him."

Psalm 145:8
"The LORD is gracious AND compassionate,
slow to anger AND rich in love."

There are certainly more verses that feature the little word 'and' but the ones above are so great and definitely worth meditating on.  See, God often takes two characteristics that seem opposite, like justice and mercy, and says the word 'and' instead of 'or'.  That to me is dumbfounding.  God takes terms we think are contradictory and is able to be both without contradiction.  

Also, God is infinite.  I think this means that our eternity with Him will be filled with 'ands' as we delve deeper and deeper into who God is.  God is an unending being with unending knowledge about Himself to be learned.  It's as if we will be forever saying "And then He's...".  To coin a phrase (though I'm doubtful it will ever be repeated) God is full of inexhaustible andness.

Pay attention to the little words like 'and' while you search the Scripture today.

Monday, June 8, 2015

God Doesn't Need Your Cash

When you give your offering what is your view of God?  Is God magnified by your writing of a check?  Is He glorified by your giving to a benevolent fund or charity?  Are you edified through your tithes and offerings or are you trying to do God a favor?

If you think you're doing God or the church a favor by giving your tithes and offerings you make less of God, not more of Him.  Our worship must make much of God.  Giving tithes and offerings is a worship to God, they are a sacrifice to Him.  When we give money as an offering our view of God must be magnified, not that God is small and needs to be made bigger but He is enormous and we must magnify our perception of Him to more closely match reality.

Look at God said in Psalm 50:

"I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it." Psalm 50:9-12

A modern version of this passage might look like this:

"I have no need for bills from your wallet
or of coins from your purse,
for all money ever created is mine,
and all the gold in a thousand hills.
I know every bank account's balance,
and the value of every stock on Wall Street is mine.
If I needed a dime I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it."

God doesn't need your cash!

So, why do we give?

I believe that giving is worship.  So, giving is our way of giving glory to God and it is for our own good.  Here are a few reasons we give:

1) Giving is an exercise in trust and obedience.

We give, in part, because God commands that we give.  Obedience to this command is an act of love.  If we can obey in this smaller area of life then we can have greater confidence that we can obey in greater areas.  Also, our giving is an act of trust.  There are times when the budget is tight.  There are times when I'm tempted to say, "God, I'll give next paycheck, but I don't have the money now."  I've been tempted to do that several times, but I haven't yet.  I haven't because I've chosen to trust God to take care of me and to trust that His command to give won't harm me.  And you know what?  He's never failed me and I don't expect Him to ever fail me.

2) Giving demonstrates our love.

Give me a few months of someone's expenditures and I bet you that I can tell you what they love.  We spend money on the things we love.  Of course, you might say that you don't love paying bills, but you love what electricity and water do for you.  Our money follows our loves.  When we give our tithes and offerings we are demonstrating that we love God and His Church.

3) Giving lets us participate in God's victory.

God doesn't need your cash, but He will use it.  Ministries use tithes and offerings to do some important and amazing things for the Kingdom.  God could do it all Himself, but He choses to let us participate with Him.  He's like an older brother that lets his little brother score a touchdown in a football game with the "big kids".  God let's us participate in His victory, so let's participate in as many ways as He grants us.

God doesn't need your cash, but giving is so important.  Your giving glorifies God and edifies yourself.  Do you give?  Do you tithe?

Glorify God with your money today.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Terrible Decision Makers

"Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.  At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas.  So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, 'Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?'"  Matthew 27:15-17

The decision seems obvious, huh?  An innocent man or a notorious prisoner.  The elders and chief priests knew the charges they had against Jesus were false.  They knew, and Pilate knew, that envy was the motivation for the prosecution of Jesus.  Yet, it was the elders and chief priests who persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released.

We are terrible decision makers.  When given an obvious choice we choose the one that will lead to our death much of the time or, at best, the one that is less good for us.

Sometimes we choose death over life.  We hear the Gospel presented and choose not to buy in.  We hear that cigarettes will kill us and then light up.  We know that sin is dangerous but we partake.  We are awful choosers.

We also are bad decision makers because we often ask for less than what we can get.  If someone told you that you were as a sinner and you deserve Hell because of that, what would you ask God for?  Forgiveness?  A chance to make it up to Him?  A less horrible Hell?  Those are things I would think to ask God for if I knew what the stakes were.  Yet, God made the decision for us.  We don't have to ask for forgiveness because God offered it before we asked.  And on top of that God gives us adoption into His family, the right to rule in the New Heaven and New Earth, He gives us complete victory over future sins instead of simply forgiveness from past sins, He wipes away all the bad we should get and gives us all the good we don't deserve.  Thank God that He set up the deal and not us because we would have gotten less... a lot less.

Think of the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor in Matthew 18:21-35.  The man owed an outrageously, un-payable amount of money.  The man didn't ask for total loan forgiveness.  No, he asked for more time to pay back the loan and was offered total forgiveness.  See, we wouldn't ask for the kind of good God can give.  We are bad decision makers and need God to make the decision for us.

In 2 Kings chapters 18 and 19 King Hezekiah was facing an enormous foe.  The super-power of the day, Assyria, was headed to Jerusalem to wipe the king and his people out.  Now, what would you pray for if you were Hezekiah?  I would pray for limited casualties in victory or even in defeat.  I would pray that God would give me a military strategy to defeat the mighty Assyrian army.

Here's what God did, because He had bigger and better plans.

"That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp.  When the people got up the next morning there were all the dead bodies!  So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew."  2 Kings 19:35-36a

Rather than giving Hezekiah limited casualties in a victory, which would have been amazing for little Judah versus huge Assyria, God went and did all the work Himself and no one perished on Judah's side.  God the war Himself in a night.  When God makes the decision and we don't, good things happen.

With all that in mind here was the Gospel verse I found in my reading of Psalms this week.

"He chose our inheritance for us"  Psalm 47:4a

God chose our inheritance for us.  See, we wouldn't choose what God chose for us.  We can't imagine the good God has for us.  We would under ask when He is graciously eager to extravagantly give.  God chose the blessings offered in the Gospel.  Thank God!

On our own we choose Barabbas instead of Jesus.  On our own we choose solutions that won't work instead of the for sure Gospel.  On our own we choose crumbs when Christ is ready with a feast.  Thank God that He choose our inheritance for us today.