Friday, January 19, 2007

Matthew 28:16-20

Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Joel Warne, the author of the "How to Eat Your Bible" bible program has an incredible picture of what the life of a follower of Christ should look like. In his analogy, Scripture is likened to grass and we followers are likened to dairy cows. OK, maybe you don't like being called a cow but stick with this and think about it. Grass, cow fuel, is green, lush and very nutritious. Cows ingest the grass which nurtures their physical being allowing them to be healthy and grow. But that is not all that cows do. The result of this nutritious substance within the cows is milk, which in turn is a very important nutrient for people.

Just as cows consume grass, when we "consume" God's word, there is benefit to us. But it is not enough to just have His truth within us. We must follow the commands in the text above. Cows then give their milk to those around them, resulting in the spreading of the good news. But what happens when cows do not give milk? There is incredible pain and suffering. Cows need to give their milk. It is a most vital thing.

So it is with us. God designed us to share his truth. This message was not created to be hidden within our hearts and lives. So be a cow and go give in His name today!



Thursday, January 18, 2007

It Is Well With My Soul

The beloved hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" was written in 1873 by Horatio Spafford after two tragic events in his life. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed much of the vast wealth of Spafford. Shortly after, his four daughters were killed when their ship collided with another ship in the Atlantic. Spafford's wife, Anna, was the only surviving family member, sending Spafford a telegram stating "Saved Alone". The devastation in his life was horrendous. While traveling across the Atlantic sometime later, Spafford was moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to pen the text that we know as this great hymn. That inspiration came as they sailed near the site of the accident.

Philip Bliss put these wonderful words to music just three years after they were written. But the story of tragedy associated with this hymn continues as Bliss dies in a train accident shortly after completing the hymn.

Take a closer look at the text of the hymn below. You know it well and have sung it many times. It is all about the trials of life and something else. I remember a funeral for a co-worker which included this hymn. Afterwards, while speaking with other co-workers, someone mentioned that horrible song that spoke of the terrible things that happen in life. I thought maybe I had missed something but upon further investigation, she was speaking of "It Is Well with My Soul". Apparently she had missed all of the comfort that is delicately woven into the text. Woven in but missed by someone who did not share these beliefs.

What comfort can be found in these great words for those who are God's people! I pray that the text would be a blessing to you today.

It Is Well with My Soul. Text by Horatio Spafford. Music by Philip Bliss
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.



Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Genesis 3:6

Genesis 3:6 (English Standard Version) English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[
a] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:6 Or to give insight

Don’t you wish that sin was ugly and unattractive? If sin was unappealing, who would be interested? If sin looked like Brussels sprouts, we would stay away in droves! Why is it that so many things that appear to be attractive can be dangerous? Our eyes deceive us and our sinful nature desires what is not the best for us.

Remember TV advertising for cigarettes in the 60’s? Who did not want to be the Marlboro Man riding off into the sunset looking so cool with that cigarette balanced between his lips? Yet we knew that tobacco use was dangerous as cigarettes were called coffin nails. If you have an issue with eating, why does that extra slice of pizza look so good? Sex, within the boundaries established by God, is a good and wonderful thing. But when experienced outside of those guidelines, has devastating results.

We fall for those “get rich quick” schemes even though we all know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree (even though God had said not too) because the fruit was delightful to the eyes. But their eyes deceived them and they were persuaded by bad advice.

What about your eyes? Do you filter things through the Word of God to help block out those appealing things that separate us from Him? Of course, not all attractive things keep us from fellowship with God but we do need to strive to control our desires for those things that do.



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Colossians 3:15

Colossians 3:15 (English Standard Version) English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

What is this “peace of Christ” and how does one find it? I don’t know about you but I am amazed at the pace in which our lives move. My family has been trying to spend an evening with some friends but they have so many activities that it has taken us months to finally make it happen. Even though my life is fairly low key, I find it difficult to spend time just enjoying God’s creation.

Michael Card wrote a song called “In Stillness and Simplicity” which really addresses the benefits of slowing down.

In stillness and simplicity, in the silence of the heart I see. The mystery of eternity who lives inside of me. In stillness and simplicity, I hear the Spirit’s silent plea that You, oh Lord, are close to me, in stillness and simplicity.

You’re the Word who must be heard by those who listen quietly. Is the reason we’re not still to hear You speak because we don’t believe You will.

In stillness and simplicity, I lose myself in finding Thee. Oh Lord, You mean so much to me in stillness and simplicity. So, seek the One who dwells in you, the kingdom that’s within is true. That innermost reality, in stillness and simplicity.

It is raining today. I think I will grab a cup of coffee, go watch some rain fall and see what God has to say. Won't you join me?



Monday, January 15, 2007

Luke 23:39-43

Luke 23:39-43 (English Standard Version) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

39One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him

I remember the first person that I ever fired. Joe was a reliable worker, punctual and friendly with everyone he met. We even managed to have some discussions around matters of faith in Christ. Needless to say, I was very disappointed when he did something that left me no option but to let him go. As we had that conversation, he apologized for what he had done and I forgave him for that break in trust. He headed back behind the counter and I had to stop him.

“Where are you going, Joe?” I asked. “Back to work.” he replied. “But you don’t work here anymore.” I stated.

How could that be, he wanted to know. I had just forgiven him so he should still have his job, was his reasoning. I explained to Joe that there was still a penalty for his actions. At that point, Joe began accusing me of being a false Christian because I had accepted his apology but still fired him.
I did not immediately remember the text from Luke where Christ forgives a thief of his offenses but yet does not remove the punishment of his actions. Christ could very well have called legions of angels to come down and rescue them all from death but as many things, there are consequences for our actions. In the case of the thief, death was the penalty for his sin. In Christ’s case, death was the penalty for OUR sin.

Does this seem unfair? There are many examples in scripture where God has a deep and meaningful relationship with people but yet there is a horrible price to be paid for their sinfulness. Numbers 20:10-13 details the sin of Moses and his punishment of not leading the people into the Promised Land. In 2 Samuel chapter 12, Nathan confronts David over his adultery with Bathsheba. In verses 13 and 14 we see God forgiving David. “The Lord has put away your sin” is the news from the prophet Nathan. But he continues with the consequence, “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”

Our society today places great focus on public confessions. We think how great a person is because they have “fessed up”. Let him off the hook. The public embarrassment is enough and there should be no further penalty.

There is an interesting balance here. Without civil laws and rules (which God has ordained) there would be chaos in the world. There are many examples (especially in Exodus and Leviticus) where restitution is demanded to correct a wrong. Another way of thinking of this is that it is the consequence. As Christians, we are to forgive when someone has wronged us, but there are also penalties and restitutions that must be made. We should not expect to skate away without repercussion for our wrongs.



Friday, January 12, 2007

II Timothy 2:22b

II Timothy 2:22b “Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”

Philippians 4: 9 “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.”

A man I used to work with told the story of his five-year-old son’s experience in a soccer league. When the other boys were running down the field, with the ball going all over the place, the man’s son just stood in the middle of the field, looking around. He waved at his parents and inspected the grass and gazed up at the sky and generally had a good time, but he had no interest in playing the game.

Sometimes it feels as though this is how I approach the Christian life. Life is pretty good. I have friends I love and a church home. At church, I hug the people I know, and I enjoy when we get to sing some of my favorite praise songs, and I speak up in our adult Sunday School class. But I wonder if perhaps I’m missing the point of the “game.”

“Keep putting into practice…” “Pursue…” These are active words, determined, but the way I live my life seems to be passive, being tossed by the waves. They’re good waves, for the most part, but waves nonetheless. I’ve lost some of that determined pursuit of God that I once had, and I need to get it back.

It’s not too late for New Year’s resolutions, or as a Christian friend said, “New Week’s resolutions.” She gives herself one week at a time to work out her faith, and I think I can handle that too. One week to pursue God. And then another…

How is your pursuit coming along? What else do you need to put into practice--or keep putting into practice? Take action this week, and may the God of peace be with you.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

I John 5:3

I John 5:3 “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

This past Sunday, the sermon was on Christian growth, and this verse was included in the sermon notes. Our minister added that the only part of the Bible you truly believe is the part you obey.

A single friend of mine signed up one time for one of those online matching services. She said she is a Christian whose faith is very important to her, and she was looking for a man who is a Christian whose faith is very important to him.

They found several matches for her, and almost all of them had profiles that talked about Jesus and how important he is in the men’s lives. But their profiles ended by saying they’re looking for a woman “for intimacy.”

I suppose that for a lot of people, the Bible’s commands to save physical intimacy for marriage sounds downright burdensome, but the burdens that come from disobeying these commands are even greater: Disease, pregnancy, child support payments, broken hearts, and even the risk of a knock at the door twenty years later by someone who says, “I’m your child.”

We show our love for God when we obey the hard commands, not when we obey the easy ones. For me, the command not to lie is easy--I never lied well as a child, so I’m not even tempted to do it as an adult. The harder ones for me are parting with big chunks of cash (that would be tithing) and carving out time to spend with the Lord, when I don’t even have time to get to the grocery store most days. So these are the areas in my life that I need to examine continually.

What are the commands you struggle to obey? If the blessings of obeying the Lord in these areas aren’t enough to persuade you to obey, try looking at the burdens of disobedience. Better yet, work on cultivating your love relationship with Him so that your love will grow and obedience will follow.