Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nov 1 - 1 Corinthians 2:9

No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared

for those who love him.

1 Corinthians 2:9

 

What is heaven like? I once heard that describing heaven to a person is like trying to describe Disneyland to a dog.

 

“Fido, there’s these giant tea cups, and you climb in and go round and round.” (My Fido – actually named Lucy – would look at me for a few seconds and when she realized that I wasn’t going to feed her, would go promptly back to sleep.)

 

Similarly, many humans fall asleep (or grow bored and inattentive) when people talk about the things of God. Why? Because they simply can’t “conceive[ of] what God has prepared” for them.

 

Well, what God has prepared for us – including heaven – has certainly gotten my attention. Why? Because death has gotten my attention. As a pastor I’ve done a gross number of funerals.

 

“A gross,” by the way, is the number 144 and that’s probably about how many funerals I’ve done in my career. Meaning … Death has definitely gotten my attention. In 2016, I did a dozen funerals. 2017 held fewer (but bigger) funerals. And as today is the day that the church commemorates the faithful departed – All Saints’ Day – my mind is on lots of friends I’ve lost and lots of friends that still grieve.

 

“But,” said the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

 

Question: Do you grieve with or without hope? Wait! In the moment (and often for the first year) grieving people get their breath knocked out by a significant death. Don’t judge your faith (or anyone else’s) when the grieving relative can’t even breathe! Grief is normal. It just shows that you loved.

 

But … it’s wise to contemplate life and death before a major grief kicks you in the teeth. And it inevitably will.

 

I have an advantage. I deal with death all of the time. And I can say with confidence that every funeral has helped me be even more confident about heaven. Why? Because I keep seeing God show up! I’m becoming more and more like the Saint that Paul yearns for us to become. He says, “we do not want you to … grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so … God will bring with him those who have died.”

 

Is that your hope?!

 

Well, that’s part one of my hope. Part two is that I’d like to meet him even sooner. That’s the Apostle’s hope too. In fact, this passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 continues: “[Then] the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven … 17 then we who are alive … will be caught up in the clouds … to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is increasingly

confident that any day

is a good day to meet the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.[i] 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.[j] 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 

 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nov Prayers - Need All Saints Names/How can we pray?

 

Sunday is All Saints Sunday.

 

Monthly Prayer List:

How can we pray for you, your family, our world?

 

And who have you lost in the last year

that we can remember before God in faith?

Need these ASAP to include in bulletin listing.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Oct 30 - Romans 6:6-8

We know that our old self

was crucified with [Christ]

so that the body of sin

might be destroyed, and

we might no longer

be enslaved to sin.

For whoever has died

is freed from sin.

But if we have died

with Christ, we believe that

we will also live with him.

Romans 6:6-8

Tomorrow is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of 95 points of debate on the Wittenberg Church door. It was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It was also the beginning of the Lutheran church - a name that Luther himself did not like!

To celebrate who we are at Spirit of Joy, let me give you the very quick history of Lutherans in North America. Our roots are immigrant roots. The first wave of immigration – largely German – settled along the East coast in the 1700s (where, of course, all of the colonies were at the time). In general, this became the Lutheran Church in America. 

In the mid-1800s, two separate waves of immigration occurred. One wave – again German – sailed up the Mississippi River, settled in Missouri, and became the Missouri Synod. The second wave, more Scandinavian, settled across the upper Midwest. In general, this became the American Lutheran Church. 

This is a little over generalized. All over parts of the United States, little clusters of congregations – largely ethnic - began to unite. The 20th century saw these groups and ethnicities stretch from their original locales and spread across the nation, and as they did more and more groups of Lutherans banded together in unity. Indeed, that was the theme of Lutheranism in the 20th century.

The 21st Century could be seen as tearing apart that unity ... or it could be seen as churches uniting around different themes. For example, rather than uniting around a historic ethnic denomination, Spirit of Joy has banded with hundreds of churches focused on the word of God and the authority of scripture. 

Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) "strive[s] to be a light to the world, not a reflection of it. We view God’s word as the #1 authority when it comes to our faith and how we practice it. While we understand that science, personal experience, tradition and other factors contribute to the conversations that we have, we do not believe that they have equal influence to what’s written in the Scriptures."

Our verses for today - which happen to be what Dave Roberts preached on yesterday - reflect a foundational pillar in our Lutheran understanding of life ... and of the freedom that God wants to give. "In Romans 6, Paul explains that those who follow Jesus receive God’s grace and are freed from being burdened by their sin. In LCMC, we celebrate this freedom."


That is first the freedom of a Christian. It is also the freedom of a congregation. With our denomination stretching across seventeen nations, "we understand that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to ministry because different communities often have different needs, backgrounds and cultures.  Rather than micromanaging what they do, we give our members the freedom to be creative in how they do ministry ..."

For me, it's been a great joy to be Lutheran in this free, grace-filled, word-focused context. Our association of churches includes “Mission,” prominently in our title. And rather than spending ten to twenty percent of church budget to support a large denomination (that certainly does some good things), our association of churches says, “Give us just a few thousand dollars … then go devote mission dollars to your own neighborhoods.” This has absolutely empowered our church! And over these last nine years of members, it’s become fun to sit again with pastors. We simply focus on the main things – like Word and Grace and Truth.

Tomorrow is Reformation Day, and today, I just want to celebrate being Lutheran!

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who loves unity

around Word, Grace,

and Truth –

thanks Martin for

pointing the path

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Oct 28/29 - Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast to the

confession of our hope

without wavering, for he who

has promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

I was the starting first baseman on a team heading into the Little League championship game. But just before the game, I started playing on the monkey bars. I must have been showing off to someone because I went down and back and down again across the hand-over-hand bars. 

And I held fast. 

I was proud of myself until I let go. And then I looked down at my hands. Massive blisters - as big as a small pancake - covered each palm. 

I don't even remember whether we won the championship that day ... but I definitely remember playing with my hands wrapped in medical tape. 

There are things we ought to "hold fast" to ... and things that we shouldn't! As today's verse suggests, faith is one of the things that deserves a firm grip and unwavering attention. 

But why?

I suppose I could answer that in a number of ways. But try this one: In a slippery world, we should hold fast to the only one who'll never let us go. Indeed, hold fast to God because God holds fast to you. That’s basically what today’s verse says. It tells us that the Lord "has promised [to be] faithful." Indeed, that's how he holds us fast. 

The next question then … How do we hold him fast? Today’s verse tells us again: Through faith - "the confession of our hope."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who doesn't think

he could go down and back

and down again on the

hand-over-hand bars

anymore

(Good thing for my hands!)


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Oct 27 - Philippians 2:4

Let each of you look

not to your own interests,

but to the interests of others.

 

How do we spell "joy"? You've heard this, right? Jesus-Others-You. 

 

Today's verse obviously focuses on the latter half of this formula - others before you. 

 

But it's easier to say and harder to do, isn't it?

 

In one sense, most of us would rather serve than be served. And that's our best self. That's who we are when we're being intentional. But most hours of most days most of us are thinking mostly of ourselves. Not purely selfishly ... just reflexively. 

 

So how do we reorient our thinking and start spelling JOY instead of YOJ. The secret? Look at the next verse! "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus." 

 

We don't get JOY by doing life our way, but by doing life in Jesus' way ... and it comes by prioritizing our relationship with the Father and by selflessly thinking more of others. 

 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who knows that one

of the most powerful passages

we can memorize starts

with Philippians 2:5 ...

Let the same mind be in you

that is in Christ Jesus, who

though he was in the form of God

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself and became

obedient to the point of death

- even death on a cross.

 

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Oct 26 - Proverbs 16:3

Commit to the Lord 

whatever you do,

and he will establish

your plans.

Proverbs 16:3

 

Have you ever noticed that some people's lives seem easy and others are an absolute mess? How come?

 

Wait a minute ... let's take this one step further ... Have you ever noticed that some atheist's lives are wildly successful, while all some Christians seem to find is a series of mess? 

 

How come? You'd think it would be the other way around. God ought to bless his children, right? I mean, doesn't today's verse essentially guarantee that? "Commit to the Lord whatever you do," says the book of Proverbs, "and He will establish your plans." He'll make it happen. A guarantee, right?

 

Well, God does bless his children. He gives us wisdom (and the Spirit to flame it into action). Wisdom is one of the major portions of the Bible. Why? Because God set up the world to work in a certain way. If we sow, we tend to reap. If we work as hard as an ant, we'll tend to build and prosper (Prov 6:6). If we work hard, earn money, and pay up-front for what we buy, we'll tend to not be enslaved (to a lender - Prov 22:7) If we raise children in the way they should go, they'll tend to not turn away from it (Prov 22:6). And if we commit to the Lord whatever we do, he'll tend to bless our plans and ventures (Prov 16:3). 

 

Did you notice the key words? 

 

"Tend to." 

 

Proverbs is wisdom - not guarantees. 

 

If we sow seeds, it increases the likelihood that we'll reap. Now locusts could surely come, devouring. Hail could pummel our crops. Wicked people, as Jesus said in a parable, could even sow weeds among our wheat. All of those are possibilities in a broken world. (That's why wisdom is wisdom and not a guarantee.) Nevertheless, those who plant tend to have much more growing in their fields than those who chose not to work the field well! 


And that explains – generally – why some tend to succeed in our world when others tend to fail. It's because they choose (and have consistently chosen) to follow wisdom ... whether they know God or not. 

 

Wisdom comes from God.

 

In fact, you can choose not to belief in God and still absolutely prosper from the principles of sowing and reaping.

 

Conversely, you can authentically love God and make an absolute mess of your life. (The Bible, in fact, even is full of stories of godly people doing foolish things. King David, for example, was said to be "a man after God's own heart"; nevertheless, he let his heart be murderously swayed by a beautiful woman. He blew past several obvious stop signs - wisdom - and chose to follow his flesh. And the results were disastrous.)

 

I know scores and scores of faithful Christians whose lives are upside down because they're forsaking wisdom. Too many have compromised morally, sexually, or financially. They've chased the temporary rather than the permanent. Some of these compromises happened this week. But some happened a generation ago; and too many dug a pit and set a pattern that their family still hasn't crawled out of. 

 

Let this sink in …

 

Some atheists work hard, follow rules, invest wisely, and for them life tends to be easy. They're following God's ways ... without following God. 

Too many Christians, though, are "following" God (believing) ... without following his ways.

And both have consequences. The wise atheist will find blessings on earth - but not eternally. The foolish Christian will find blessing in heaven - but their life is likely to be a painful mess. 

 

Is there a solution? 

 

Duh!

 

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your life will tend to be wonderfully blessed. 


In Christ's Love,

a guy who had wise

(and faithful) parents.

(Thank you!)

Then my wife and I

worked hard to raise

our kids that way too.

And it's a joy to see

them, as young parents,

already exhibiting

wisdom and faith.

 

 

 

 

Oct 25 - 2 Timothy 3:15

 

All Scripture is God-breathed 

and is useful for teaching, 

rebuking, correcting and 

training in righteousness. 

2 Timothy 3:15

 

Do you know how I grew up reading the Scriptures? Do you know what I was essentially taught in Seminary? 

 

Well, there's a philosophy that essentially goes like this ...

 

·         Since we all know that humans - like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, John, and King David - wrote the books of the Bible …

·         Therefore, the proper way to view Scripture is: godly people writing godly words from their own time, place, context, and perspective. 

·         But we live in a different time, place, and context …

·         Therefore, we godly people today need to seek what God is saying to our generation.

 

Now, that might sound wise. It may sound deep. And it does for many. But do you see the hole?

 

Yesterday, we drew a series boxes. They described the primary worldviews operative in our culture today. One of two primary worldviews sees God as transcendent. He is above the box. He created the box. And He is active within the box.

 

The traditional view of Scripture fits this worldview. The God who is above the box revealed himself (through the Word) to those within the box. 

 

·         Jesus himself is "the Word." (In other words, the God of heaven stepped into the box and revealed himself – see John 1:1-14). 

·         Furthermore, the Holy Scriptures are also God's revealed Word (God revealed - breathed - his Truth, his Light, his Word into the world). 

 

This worldview acknowledges that, yes, humans (like Amos, Hosea, Matthew, Mark, and Luke) definitely "put pen to paper," but it was God who was speaking in and through them. And even more gloriously ... our Lord continues to speak in and through the pages of these revelations!

 

And Scripture reveals timeless truth … because the God who speaks never changes. We change. He doesn’t. Our values shift, our cultures vary, our priorities change … but God never does. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

 

And all of that is the traditional view of Scripture. 

 

The second (more modern) view of Scripture doesn't really look to a transcendent God. It says that God doesn’t really speak - at least not timelessly, authoritatively, or unchangingly. Rather, revelation is ultimately subjective. It is personal. Back in Bible times, it was a handful of human writers who determined what was godly in the past ... but now it's up to who to determine what's godly now? Us? Modern humans? But what happens when your "truth" disagrees with my "truth"? Is truth really subjective?

 

But … this second, more modern view of Scripture and revelation forgets something big: Sin. Every generation does, indeed, have to figure out how God is speaking to us now. But ... what we really need to figure out is how culture's confusion – plus our wants and desires and wanton sin – keep us from hearing God's timeless truths. 

 

Our culture is lost. And it’s time to admit that the true compass isn't ourselves. It’s not our times. It’s not our culture. It’s not the current Zeitgeist – “the spirit of the times.” Rather … the compass is God. He is eternal and unchanging. His Truth doesn't vary with time and places. Indeed, God transcends cultures. Therefore, he gave us his Word. Why? Eternal and unchanging, he wanted us to know the True North. 

 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who was lost

until he found True North

(I'll tell you more about 

that on another day)

 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Oct 24 - Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning God created

the heavens and the earth. Now

the earth was formless and empty,

darkness was over the

surface of the deep,

and the Spirit of God was

hovering over the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

 

In The Truth Project, teacher Dell Tackett simply diagrams the two primary worldviews operative in our culture today. He draws a simple box and calls it "The Cosmic Cube." Actually, he draws two (or soon three) boxes, representing the two overarching philosophical perspectives operative in our world today. 

 

 

Just outside the first box (the one on the right), he writes "nothing," saying that many believe that everything that exists - matter, energy, people, etc. - is inside the box. And there is nothing (including God) outside the box. This worldview could be expressed, as an old astronomer once said, as, "The universe is all that is, all that ever was, or all that ever will be." In other words, there is nothing outside the box ... including God. 

 

Then Dr. Tackett turns to the second box (the one on the left). Outside the box, he writes the word, "God." "God not only exists outside the box," proclaims this worldview, "but God created the box!" Then, he starts drawing an arrow. It originates God himself, then breaks into box! The message - the second worldview - is that …

 

1.    Not only does God exist outside the box, but …

2.    God created the box, and …

3.    God is still active within the box." 

 

Now, a third worldview could be added (center box). Deism says God created, but is not active within the box. He’s the watchmaker. He created the watch (the world), wound it up, and let it run without any interaction or influence. We could call this an “inactive god”, and an inactive god is really not far from an non-existent God, which becomes the first step of many toward agnosticism or atheism. (Now, that philosophy is definitely worth a whole discussion. but that'll have to wait for another day!)

 

It's also critical to note that not all conceptions of reality view their god as existing outside of the box (see the box on the right again). Paganism looks for power in Mother Earth and living things. The New Age movement believes that things like rocks and stars have spiritual energy. The famous influencer of culture, Oprah Winfrey, began teaching that "god is a feeling." All of these “gods” may carry the title of a deity, but ultimately they are attempts to define reality from inside the box. 

 

But God is transcendent!

 

That's the Christian worldview. 

 

1) Not only does God exist outside the box, but 2) God created the box and 3) is still active within the box. Thus, Christians have always confessed something like Martin Luther's explanation of the First Article of the Creed. See if you can't find all three of these truths - 1) transcendent, 2) creator, and 3) active sustainer in these historic words ...  

 

"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." What does this mean? I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who likes to

think outside the box

(which means I like

to think about our

transcendent God!)

 

 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oct 23 - Acts 20:32

The Apostle Paul said,

"Now I commit you to God

and to the word of his grace,

which can build you up and

give you an inheritance among

all those who are sanctified."

Acts 20:32

For me, two words define being Lutheran: Word and Grace.

Martin Luther grew up at a time when God was painted as an angry God. Biographers say that church leaders heated up the fires of hell. Why? By worrying parishioners with threats of hell and loved ones rotting in purgatory, selling the forgiveness of sin (indulgences) became a source of great revenue. In Luther's age it funded many great cathedrals.

Luther himself was haunted by God's wrath. One day when he was walking to his hometown after a season in college, a blast of lightning struck terrifyingly close. He cried out in fear, "Saint Anne help me, and I will become a monk." (Luther's father was a miner, and Saint Anne was the patron saint of miner.)

Now, if you or I had cried such a thing, we would find a way to go back on that "promise"! But Luther couldn't. He'd been taught to be terrified of God.

As a young Monk, it didn't get any better. Luther would spend hours every day confessing every piddly little sin; then he would lay awake all night, wondering what he had forgotten to confess.

Finally Luther's Father Confessor got fed up! He said to Luther, "Why don't you go out and do something worth confessing!" Actually, faithful Father Staupitz did something that would change the world. He sent Luther out to do something practical. He sent him out to teach the Scriptures.

In those days, access to the Scriptures was relatively rare - Bibles still had to be copied by hand. So as Luther begin to focus fully on the Word of God, as he turned most fully to Romans and the theology of St. Paul, he "discovered" a new, foreign, and powerful word: Grace.

And Luther was set free!

"We are justified by God's grace ... effective through faith ... apart from works prescribed by the law" - Romans 3:23ff.

The young monk who once spent hundreds of  sleepless nights cowering in fear, suddenly was transformed into the bold reformer who stood up to the threat of execution. He boldly proclaimed God's grace. And he championed the authority of God's Word - over human traditions.

Word and Grace. If we are to be authentically Lutheran - indeed, if we are going to be authentically Christian – we too need to champion those precious two things.

God's Grace speaks of a love that is extravagant and undeserved. And God's Word - not human traditions, not human philosophies, not cultural norms – is where we find God's Truth. The Bible is not a godly word by godly people, written to their time and place and context - and thus, able to be reinterpreted by us "godly" in our time and place. No, it is literally God's Word - given by God to explain the Truth, the world, and His ways. Yes, it was written by human hands – like those of David, Isaiah, Matthew, and Paul - but it was fully under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!

Thus, Word and Grace define what it means to be a Lutheran, because if it wasn't for Martin Luther's "rediscovery" of God's Word, we might still labor under the crushing weight of human traditions and we might never have known of God's amazing Grace. Or, as St. Paul said, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who loves

two sets of two words:

1) Mary 2) Louise and

1) Word and 2) Grace



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oct 20 - Joel 2:32

Everyone who calls on 

the name of the Lord 

shall be saved.

    Joel 2:32

 

You know I don't do this often, but if you want to understand this verse, watch this: https://youtu.be/uwf24QKtnHs

 

 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oct 19 - Isaiah 51:6

The Lord says …

The heavens will vanish like smoke,

the earth will wear out like a garment,

and those who live on it will die like gnats;

but my salvation will be forever.

Isaiah 51:6

Striking image. We'll die like gnats?! I suspect that means that our lifespan will be short. (I hope that it doesn't mean that we'll get swatted!)

 

The typical lifespan of a gnat is about a week - though it doesn't seem like that at our house right now. We transported some fruit flies into the house on some green chiles, and they've been with us for weeks. 

 

We must be on the fourth or fifteenth generation of gnats by now. But that's how life on earth must seem from the perspective of heaven. As the old funeral prayer goes: "O Lord, the generations rise and fall before you …" “Like gnats,” I suppose we could add.

 

Indeed, as my hair turns grayer and the years go faster, I'm beginning to understand how the fourth generation can flip so very quickly to the fifteenth generation. But no matter how long we get, that's our time on earth - a breath of a gnat. 

 

But ... how long is our time in God's forever?!

 

Imagine it like this: Imagine a very strong (and very long living) gnat. Imagine that he picks up a grain of sand on the Atlantic coast. Then he flies it to the Pacific coast and drops it off. Then this weary gnat flies back to the Atlantic and picks up another grain of sand. Back-and-forth he goes until the entire Atlantic seaboard is empty of grains of sand. How long would that take?! Well, that's just the beginning of forever!

 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is glad

that fruit flies only

live for a week

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Oct 18 - 2 Samuel 12:9

Why have you despised

the word of the Lord, to

do what is evil in his sight?

2 Samuel 12:9

To do what is evil, we must indeed reject (despise) God's word. 

In fact, this is one of three primary reasons that people turn away from God, turning so far as to say they're atheists. 

First, people reject God because they want to do something that they know that God's law forbids. But they find they can't live with this divide in their souls -- believing one way, acting another. They must change their beliefs or their behaviors. Too many change their beliefs. 

Indeed, if your teen ever comes to you and says, I don't believe in God anymore, I advise parent to not immediately look at their beliefs, but to look at their behaviors. Very often - and very sadly - they're trying to find a way to justify new actions. And sin is so seductive that it's often easier to change your beliefs than your behaviors. "Why have you [rejected] the word of the Lord, to do what is [tempting] in his sight?" asks today's verse. 


A second reason that people abandon the faith is that they've been hurt by life. They've had losses. They've suffered betrayals and abuse. Thus, they start crying, "How could a good God allow this to happen?" 


Now, we all have moments like this! 


The shock of grief, pain of trauma, and moments of questioning doubt are not signs of unbelief! 

Nevertheless ... we must be on guard against those feelings lingering like a slowly growing cancer. If we keep nurturing (fermenting) such pain, griefs, doubts, and betrayals - and if we don't seek to return to God and church and a truthful theology which explains the problem of evil - we're likely to turn from God to cynicism, doubt, and despair. 


The final primary reason that people turn away from God is that they've been misled. They've been taught lies. They've been seduced by worldly
values

A parent's primary responsibility is not to fill their children's calendar with the right classes, the right activities, the right sports, and the right teams. The parent's primary goal is not to make our kids "well-rounded" and to get them into the right college. Rather, it is to ground their lives on God's truth. Why? Because they will be seduced. They will be. The primary question in life is: Will they stand or will they fall? Too many nowadays are falling. Don't let your children be pawns. Your primary responsibility is to ground their lives on God's truth. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who sees fragile faith

and remarkably resilient faith

and prays for you and your kids

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Oct 14-15 - Deuteronomy 30:14

The word

is very near to you;

it is in your mouth

and in your heart

for you to observe.

Deuteronomy 30:14

“The word is … in your mouth.” Is that true for you?

One of our best Bible teachers at our church insists on memorizing Scripture. It drives her friends nuts! She persists. They resist. But she is right … and even if her friends aren’t actively memorizing, by going through the Scripture more and more and more deeply, “the word is [increasingly] very near.” Indeed, even if the word may not be literally “in [their] mouth” (at least in terms of being on the tip of their tongue), it is absolutely being woven deeper and deeper “in [their] heart.” Thanks be to God!

As this one powerfully effective Bible-teaching friend insists and persists in the memorization of Scripture, I want to celebrate two other teachers at our church. They are teaching a class on “Learning Scripture through Song.” Brilliant!

You’d be surprised how many verses you have already memorized

·       Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my _______. Psalm 119:105

·       Create in me, a clean _____, O God, and renew a right ______ within me. Psalm 51:10

·       Seek ye first the ________ of God, and his righteousness. Matt 6:33

·       Bless the Lord, O my _________. Psalm 31:1

·       As the deer panteth for the ______, so my soul longeth after thee. Psalm 42:1

·       Arise, shine, for your ______ has come. Isaiah 60:1

·       I will enter his gates with _____________. Psalm 100:4

There’s lots more. You know Scripture. At worship each week, it’s being woven in your heart. When you listen to Christian radio, it’s in your hearts … and tickling your soul. And when you sing, it is, as today’s verse prescribes, in your mouth too.

So … this weekend, I hope you sing his praise … and learn scripture at the same time. (And if you don’t have a Sunday School class, try this one … or any of our other great offerings. Sew the word deeper in your heart.)

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who sings the answers …

path, heart, spirit, kingdom,

soul, water, light, thanksgiving

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Oct 13 - Isaiah 61:10

My whole being

shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with

the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with

the robe of righteousness.

Isaiah 61:10

 

Isaiah 61:10 is a short course in the Gospel. But a big question follows at the end …

 

  1. In Romans 3, the Apostle Paul reminds us that “no one is righteous; no not one.” “We all sin and fall short,” continues the chapter. We are not righteous. On our own merits, none of us deserves salvation. That’s step one in comprehending the Gospel – our unworthiness.

 

  1. Step two is learning, accepting, believing that Jesus – the Savior – took our sins upon himself when he died for us on the cross. Indeed, when took away our sins, he “covered [us] with the robe of [His] righteousness.” We’re still not righteous on our own, but instead of approaching the Father in beggar’s rags, we are covered by the blood of Christ and can approach the Father “covered … with the robe of [His] righteousness.”

 

  1. And if we believe this – step three – that’s when we are “clothed … with the garments of salvation.” Indeed, from the moment we first believe, that’s when our eternal life begins!

 

  1. Therefore – step four – “[our] whole being [ought to] exult in [our] God.”

 

Today’s verse, then, is the Gospel in one sentence!

 

Quick question, though: Isaiah the prophet was exulting in these robes of righteousness and garments of salvation hundreds of years before Christ was ever born.

 

How?!?!

 

Because salvation has always been about God’s grace and our faith. One of the oft repeated lines of Scripture is that “Abraham believed and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Christ came as the eternal guarantee of God’s love and the clear path to our salvation, but salvation for sinners has always been a by-product of our faith clinging to God’s amazing grace – whether that’s for Abraham, Isaiah, Jerusalem [as perhaps is implied in this verse in context], or you and me.

 

Thus, if you have faith, let us “exult” in the God of our “salvation.”

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who spells “exult”

T-H-A-N-K  Y-O-U

 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Oct 12 - Colossians 1:27

The Apostle Paul wrote:

God chose to make known

how great among the Gentiles are

the riches of the glory of this mystery,

which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

It is he whom we proclaim.

Colossians 1:27

 

I love mysteries. A riddle. A puzzle. A mental challenge. So did the Apostle Paul. In fact, “mystery” is a favorite word of his. In his letter to the Ephesians, for example, he hints at a great “mystery” in his opening words (1:9). Nevertheless, he waits until chapter 3 to unveil the secret.

 

What is this “mystery” that “in former generations was not made known to humankind”? “That … the Gentiles have become fellow heirs [with the Jews], members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”! (The Apostle Peter reiterates this wonder, saying, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” – 1 Pet 2:10.)

 

Today, in Colossians, Paul reiterates this message … and adds to it! He says, “how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery.”

 

Yes, it’s a gift and a wonder that Gentiles have been grafted onto the family tree, that they too can be people of God. But its bigger than that!

 

Read it. What is “the glory of this mystery”? It is “Christ in you”!

 

When Jesus says in John 15 that he is the vine and we are the branches, he is saying that we are grafted in to something that is living. Think what happens in a literal gardening graft. A branch is cut from a previous plant. (Cut plants are dead … or at least dying. They are dead, they just don’t know it yet.) Nevertheless, before all their life leaks out, they are grafted onto a fully living plant. And the life of the living plant begins to flow in and through the dead and dying branch, restoring it to life.

 

The mystery that Paul is talking about is that the Gentiles were dead. They were detached from God – his kingdom and his covenants. For maybe ninety years of life, one can pull off the illusion of life – just like a cut flower can look pretty in a vase for a few days – nevertheless, that flower will inevitably droop and wither and decay. Our lives are like cut flowers … unless and until we are attached to a living vine.

 

And Paul says, “the glory of this mystery [is that] Christ [is] in you.” When you submit your life to him, he lives in you. You are grafted in and his power flows through you. His forgiveness regenerates your dying heart. His grace sets your feet to dancing.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a poison ivy vine who has

been grafted onto The Grape Vine

and somehow (mysteriously)

I’m bearing good fruit