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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ronald Reagan Thanksgiving Proclamation

In his first Thanksgiving proclamation, President Ronald Reagan wrote: 

"America has much for which to be thankful. The unequaled freedom enjoyed by our citizens has provided a harvest of plenty to this Nation throughout its history. In keeping with America's heritage, one day each year is set aside for giving thanks to God for all of His blessings. . . .

"As we celebrate Thanksgiving . . . we should reflect on the full meaning of this day as we enjoy the fellowship that is so much a part of the holiday festivities. Searching our hearts, we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done. Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance.

"Let us recommit ourselves to that devotion to God and family that has played such an important role in making this a great Nation, and which will be needed as a source of strength if we are to remain a great people.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Capernaum Irony

And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭23‬ NIV)

It's ironic that the people of Capernaum are so far from Christ. This is the town from which Jesus based his ministry in Galilee. He taught from Peter's boat in this town. He brought about the miraculous catch here that got Peter, Andrew, James and John's attention. He healed Peter's mother and the paralytic lowered through the roof here.

Status holds little importance in God's economy. He's not about status or position. He's about authentic relationship rooted in trust.

The people of Capernaum apparently didn't trust him even though they witnessed incredible miracles.

Do you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Live Unshakable Forever

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. (‭Psalm‬ ‭125‬:‭1‬ NIV)


This is a very encouraging word for those who actually believe it.

"Those" refers to people who "trust in the Lord." They trust his word and his ways. They live like it by following his words and his ways. And they lead others to do the same.

"Those who trust in the Lord" are unshakable "like Mount Zion." So, while we live in a world that shakes all the time, we are not shaken by these things when we trust in the Lord.

Not only are we unshakable--we will "endure forever." 


So what do I do?

I decide whether or not I think God's words here are trustworthy. If they are, then I live boldly like they are and live unshaken forever with him.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Does Jesus Value Animals as Much as People?

How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭12‬:‭12‬ NIV)

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭26‬ NIV)


Jesus clearly valued animals--he  values all that he created.

His work on the cross will not only redeem humanity--it will redeem all of creation. He'll create a new heaven and a new EARTH (Rev 21-22). So Jesus values all of his creation including animals.

However, I think it is also clear that Jesus values humanity over all the rest of his creation.

Of course, the irony is that we are least deserving of his value and love. But then isn't that his point?

Grace is getting what you don't deserve.
Mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

He's given us his incredible grace and mercy. That's the point of the cross. That's what God's love looks like.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Using the Lord's Prayer Practically

“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭9-13‬ NIV)

Here's a basic way to apply this passage practically.

LOL:
        L-Learn/Listen to the prayer
        O-Obey/pray/live the prayer
        L-Lead others to do the same thing

This is the essence of disciple-making. It's what we should be doing with every passage of scripture with grace and truth. Lord, find us faithful and fruitful. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Help Your Heavenly Chef

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭13‬ MSG)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭13‬ NIV)


I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this verse in the Message paraphrase. I want to camp on one phrase he uses that I think amplifies this passage well.

"You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth."

You've probably heard that salt doesn't flavor food. What salt actually does is accentuate the flavor already in the food. It brings it out and makes it much bigger--tastier.

In the same way, we (Christ-followers) are to be the salt of the earth. We don't make anything on earth God-flavored. But we can bring out God's already-present flavor by letting him work in and through us. Basically, we let him shake us out of his heavenly salt shaker (The Church?) all over this world.

So our role isn't to be God. It's to make his already awesome God-flavors in our world more...tasty. We get to salt the earth for our heavenly chef.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to live fully in the moment with eternity in mind

Live in the present. Be all here. Don't worry about tomorrow. Today has enough trouble all by itself.

Live in light of eternity. Keeping the future in mind gives us what we need to live with healthy perspective. 



Well, which is it?



It's both.



We obsess about tomorrow. And often it leads to worry. We worry about Friday's test or Wednesday morning's high-level meeting. We worry about becoming a parent for the first time or about that second job interview. We often let things in the near future rob us of fully living in the moment. As a result, we often miss those moments consumed with anxiety and stress.


Jesus told his disciples, 



But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV)

We also forget that life is short. Sure, 80+ years sounds like a long time. Long, that is, until you think about how long eternity is. Billions of billions of years...plus. Then life starts to feel insignificant. 


But, if we consider this idea long enough, we start to see the wisdom in considering how our life will impact eternity. And we adjust how we live accordingly. Wisdom is powerful.

The half brother of Jesus writes,

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14 NIV)

The interesting thing is that it's in light of both of these perspectives that we should live. In fact, we really can't live in the moment very well until we live in light of eternity.  

Jesus gave us the remedy for how to live in the hear-and-now, as well as, in light of eternity. He said, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well." (Matthew 6:33 NIV) In other words, keep Jesus and his agenda your agenda and you'll live fully in the moment with eternity firmly in mind.

Francis Chan does a great job with this idea visually in a message he shares when he speaks about this. I encourage you to listen to it.


Francis Chan - Living in light of Eternity - YouTube

www.youtube.com/watch?v=X57-bAS91iw

Jul 11, 2011 - Uploaded by joshuatrinity
Francis Chan uses a Rope to get the message of how important it is to live in light of Eternity.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it this week?


Friday, November 14, 2014

18 Words for 18 Years

I recently wrote these for my young friend, Noah. I'm hoping they might encourage someone else too.

Noah,

Here are 18 words (of wisdom is debatable but here goes) for your 18th birthday:

In on particular order...

1. Be thankful in all things.
2. Smile. You have a great one!
3. Keep asking great questions.
4. "Keep your eyes on the clouds and the crowds." -Greg Stier
5. Be refreshing.
6. Eat well. (Physically and spiritually)
7. Exercise regularly. (Physically and spiritually)
8. Be creative.
9. Play often.
10. Read, read, read.
11. Take walks and pray aloud.
12. Run, Forest, Run!
13. Be fully alive.
14. Word.
15. We're better together.
16. Family matters.
17. Don't be afraid. God is with you.
18. Jesus is Lord.

Happy Birthday, Noah!
Darien

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What is a missional community (Todd Engstrom)

I thought Todd did a great job here of giving a general definition of missional community while also drilling down in how they define and do it. I thought his comment about how most church leaders wouldn't disagree about the mission but might about the how was spot-on. It's the issue and it's where our egos struggle.

I'd like to get your reactions to this article. Do you agree? Disagree? Are we doing any of this as a church? Individuals? 

Taking responsibility for lost-ness

I thought about an interesting parallel between taking responsibility for lost-ness in our neighborhoods spiritually and lost-ness for the children in our neighborhood physically. 

For example, if I see a child who is lost, I take responsibility and ask the child where their parents are. 


In the same way, I see my neighbors as people who are potentially lost and far from God but close to me. Therefore, I take responsibility by reaching out to them and rescuing them in Christ.


Do you see your neighbors this way? Why or why not?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Would You Betray Jesus?

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” (Mark 14:19 NIV)


This verse comes right after Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me--one who is eating with me."

This is a chilling verse. Spoken to those who were among his closest friends. They were literally living with him on the road. Doing life together. Praying and eating and sleeping together. Ministering to the least, the last and the lost of their world...together.

"One of you will betray me." These words haunt us.

I find the reaction of the Disciples curious and convicting. I think we can learn some things from their reaction. 

First, Mark writes, "They were saddened." I would think Mark would have written "Shocked" or "Angry." After all, one of these men, who'd been living together with Jesus for THREE YEARS was going to betray him. 

After all they'd witnessed this seems incomprehensible. And if you know you aren't going to betray him, then anger or shock seems to be a more reasonable, if not expected, response. In fact, I wonder why none of them were motivated to try and prevent it. 

Instead of being moved to act, they all seem paralyzed...by sadness. Which leads to my second thought...

...I wonder if they were saddened because they realized they themselves were capable of such betrayal. Perhaps each of them had considered betraying Jesus already. Not that they would have followed through but if they'd even considered it at some point, sadness would seem a more appropriate reaction.

It's hard enough to imagine Judas Iscariot wanting to betray Jesus. After all, he saw the miracles, the crowds, and heard the teachings. 

But then to imagine that even one of the other Disciples would betray Jesus seems sacrilegious. But is it really so hard to imagine? After all, didn't Peter betray him later this very night?


So what?

Haven't I been tempted to betray Jesus before? In fact, haven't I betrayed Jesus before? Yes. Yes, I have.

Have you ever been tempted to? Maybe someone says to you, "You're one of those Jesus people, aren't you?" You imagine hate or pity or scorn behind their words. Aren't you, at that moment, tempted to bail? "No, no I'm not one of those," you say. "I believe in God, well, yeah, but, well, Jesus has some good things to say, right?"

I'd like to think I wouldn't betray Jesus for anything. And I believe I wouldn't, honestly. But I also believe I am still capable of betraying him because I have. 

The disciples were saddened because, I think, they were wondering if they would be the one to betray Jesus. It saddens me to think I am still capable of this. 

But it also encourages me.

This reminds me that Jesus loves me as I am and will help me do what my heart wants to do but my flesh resists--live faithfully for Jesus. (Even when tempted to betray him by hell itself)

Pride says I'm not capable of this kind of betrayal. But, if I'm honest (which humility requires), I will recognize that I'm vulnerable. Hopefully this will lead me to humbly take pre-emptive measures. 

- Like suiting up with the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18)

- Like praying continually. (1 Thess 5:1)

- Like learning scripture that you can use to repel the enemy. (Matt 4, Luke 4)

Remember, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) 

Let's humble ourselves before The Lord right now and allow him to strengthen us so we'll faithfully "stand firm" in the face of our temptation to betray Jesus.


What is God saying to you?


What are you going to do about it?


Monday, November 10, 2014

Walking With God: A Word Picture

A word picture of walking with God:

Following in the footsteps of Jesus.Walking in step with His Spirit. 

If you're looking for a simple way to know and follow God, here it is.


Hebrews 12:2a
Galatians 5:16


Start Your Day Well

How does a Christ-follower NOT start their day this way:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (‭Mark‬ ‭1‬:‭35‬ NIV)

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Fearful Contol-freak?

Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:14 NLT)


There is great opposition to the rebuilding of the wall. Everyone is afraid for their family and feels out of control. But Nehemiah reminds them of why they don't have to be in control or afraid. He says two things to encourage them:

1. God is great.* "Remember The Lord who is great." When we believe that God is great, we realize that we don't have to be in control. After all, he already is. He can do whatever he wants to.

2. God is glorious.* "The Lord, who is great and glorious." God is glorious, therefore we don't have to fear others. If God is for me, who can really be against me, right? 

Nehemiah knew they weren't really in control. But he was okay with that because he knew that God was--he sent them! 

Nehemiah heard the scary words of the enemy. He was tempted to worry too much about what they said and did. But ultimately he rested in God's glory caring more about what God thought than what others thought.

They were attempting a very risky endeavor. There were all kinds of reasons for them to give up. So he reminded them to not believe the lies that they had to be in control or concerned about what his enemies thought. He led them to keep their eyes on The Lord trusting him to be their strength and courage.

We don't have to be fearful control-freaks. God's got our back. He's with us. He's great and he's glorious. It's time we lived like we believed that.

What about you? What is God saying to you?

What are you doing going to do about it?

*Credit Tim Chester and Steve Timmis for teaching me about the 4 G's in their book Everyday Church.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

2 Parts of the Key

He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. (‭Mark‬ ‭4‬:‭34‬ NIV)


This  verse seems to speak to God's amazing grace and mercy--for us.


Mark writes (presumably passing along what Peter had witnessed while with Jesus) that Jesus "didn't say anything to them without using parables." 


Parables are stories told in a way that their meaning is not obvious. Even those who were motivated to follow Jesus didn't discern the meaning without outside help. In other words, instead of telling parables to make it easier to understand his teachings, Jesus told parables to obscure his meaning. 


Why in the world would Jesus want to obscure the truth? Great question. Not sure I know myself. There are several possible reasons. I am going to focus on one I think is plausible.


I think Jesus obscured the meaning so that he could put it out there for everyone and anyone in the world (past, present and future) to have access to it but only a few to understand it. 


It's kind of like a key in two parts--and you need both parts to work.


First part: The parable of truth. This part of the key is essential. It comes from God and yet only works when connected to the second part. This truth is public and available. But that's not enough. It must be understood.


Second part: A person of faith open to the work of God in their life. God brings faith and understanding to the person hearing or reading the parable. 


In the above case, Jesus is explaining the parable to the disciples in private (after teaching it to the crowd). They hear it along with everyone else. Most people in the crowd (including the Twelve) do not understand it and leave either pondering it or blowing it off. 


Meanwhile, the disciples ask Jesus to explain it to them when they are alone. God (through Jesus here) brings understanding to them (with the possible exception of Judas Iscariot) opening their eyes--the second part of the key. 


Truth + God = Understanding + Faith


Taking one more pass at this, I'll say it this way. While God is making his truth available to all (verbally or in writing), he doesn't owe it to anyone to make it understandable because none of us deserve it. As a holy judge, he knows no one should have access to this truth that will set them free. 


But God is also gracious, merciful and compassionate--he wants to make it understandable. He wants us to understand and respond in faith. He loves to show love to those who don't deserve it. And the way that he does this is to open their eyes so that they can see and understand the truth that sets them free. 


So, earlier in this chatper, Jesus explains the parable of the sower so that they will see that the only ones who will bear fruit are those who hear the word AND put it into practice with such faith that they will stay faithful EVEN WHEN tempted by persecution, trials, worry, or wealth. His true followers will bear fruit 30, 60 or even 100 times more than what they received.


None of us deserve Jesus' explanation of his truth. We are all blind to it and that's what we deserve because of sin. 


But God in his great grace and mercy chooses to open some of our eyes to the good news that his kingdom is near--and then invites us to be a part of it.


I praise God for his amazing mercy and grace. 



What is God saying to you right now?


What are you going to do about it?


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Is There A Doctor in the House?

"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NIV)


Jesus didn't minister to everybody. He didn't even minister to everybody he came into contact with. He focused his limited time and resources (Yes, he was limited at this time) on certain people.

Who did he focus on? He answers that question in this verse:

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous (those who think they're right with God), but sinners (those who know they're not right with God).

We wouldn't criticize Jesus for this because we know that he would only spend time doing what his Father told him to do. And this, apparently, was to focus on people who know they are sinners bypassing those who think they're basically good people.


I see at least two takeaways here:

1. God won't help me until I humble myself and admit my need for him. 

Now he probably has to help me to even see that. But I must respond when he opens my eyes and ears to the truth that I'm sick with sin and need rescuing. If not, then God moves on, it appears.

2. God wants me to focus my ministry as well. 

I am to focus on those who recognize their sickness as well. They must humble themselves before God. Jesus showed compassion towards those who were broken over their sin--those who acknowledged their need for someone outside of themselves. Those unwilling to acknowledge this will likely not accept the help even if you give it to them. 

So, whether I am a full-time pastor or a full-time brick layer, I discern who The Lord wants me to minister to with this in mind: do they think they are sick or well? Do they think they are good or sinful and in need of outside help? 

Now I would add this caveat: 

Sometimes God wants us to share the Law (Think Ten Commandments) to make them aware of their need for a Savior. The purpose of the Law is to show people they're guilty before a holy God--they're sinners with no hope apart from God's intervention. So, sometimes it happens that God will use us to break their heart before he uses us to heal their heart. In other words, sometimes God will use us to show them they're sick and in need of a doctor and then introduce them to the Doctor--Christ Jesus.


What is God saying to you right now?


What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

"All"


It's time we Christ-followers lived like we believed the word "All" in Romans 8:28.



28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -The Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28 NIV

Mission. Focus. Life.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24 NIV)


Paul knows that his future involves prison and hardships. And boy do they come! 

But Paul says in this verse that he considers his life "nothing." And he lives like it too.

He continues, "My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task The Lord Jesus has given me." He is very focused. 

Paul then defines his life aim: "The task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."

So let's summarize what Paul's life is all about:

1. Mission over Life. Despite prison and the hardships that await, Paul considers his life "nothing" compared to advancing the mission. 

2. Singular Focus. His only aim in life is to "finish the race and complete the task" Jesus gave him. 

3. God's grace out. The only task worthy of his life is to radiate and testify to the "Good news of God's grace."

And Paul didn't just talk about this. He lived it. Daily.


Imagine if we all lived this way... 


We would be less concerned about what happened to us, what other people thought about us, and whatever else life offered us. 

We would live more fruitful lives because we would live more focused lives.

We would live more joy-filled lives because we'd be busy sharing, showing and enjoying the grace of God.


So what do we do with this?

I think we should re-prioritize our attitudes and lives in at least three ways:

1. See the mission as life. Said another way, we love God by loving people. Mission is life. When we see ALL OF OUR LIFE as part of living the mission, we are most closely aligned with God.

2. Focus is key to living on mission effectively. Light is pretty harmless--that is until we focus it so much it becomes a laser beam. Then it can cut steel.

3.  Grace is the fruit and the message. The mission is and relies on us living the very message we share. Word AND deed. Together these are a potent combination.


What is God saying to you?


What are you going to do about it?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Dare to Believe



Just like an apple is a potential apple orchard, in Christ, you and I are a potential network of churches. And by churches I don't mean so much buildings and bank accounts. What I mean is gatherings of families on mission together.

God launches his Jesus-movements through a person who truly believes God can and will use them. God invites each of us to join him in his holy search and rescue mission. We "get to" do this!

Would you join me daring to believe in what God can and will do through us?