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Showing posts from December, 2010

Reality, Results, and Rewards

31-32  Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you."   33  Surprised, they said, "But we're descendants of Abraham. We've never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, 'The truth will free you'?"   34-35  Jesus said, "I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can't come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. (John 8:31-35) The reality test of discipleship :  Living out what Jesus tells us.  All the world is into the fad of reality shows.  At every turn of the day, new ideas for reality shows spring up - everything from being marooned on an island t

The Power of Two

18-20 "Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." (Matthew 18:18-20) The portion of the passage that caught my eye this morning was the fact that God points out the power of "two".  We have heard the slogan over the airwaves of the "Power of One" - pointing out that dogged determination and the efforts of just one person can make a difference in society.  This is quite true and should not be discounted.  But...there is something even more powerful when two are standing together! When two of you - there is a point when we can no longer stand alone.  At that point, we need to reach out to others.  In a society that values the strength and abili

Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder

26  Dear child, I want your full attention;    please do what I show you.  (Proverbs 24:26) As a child, my mother would often say to me, "Listen to me!"  It was never said in anger or in a moment of disappointment.  Rather, these words were spoken in a "sing-song" manner, but were very specific - they were intended to get me to REALLY listen to what she was saying.  Why?  Because she knew what she was talking about!  She had walked through much already, learned many lessons, and had the advantage of experience on her side.  She wanted me to pay attention to the things she'd already learned so I did not have to make the same mistakes!  That's love! She was asking for my "full attention" just as God stands everyday asking for our full attention.  He is asking us to tune up our ears, focus our minds, and direct our heart toward his voice.  Why?  Because he knows what lays ahead, how it will affect us, and what we need to make it through!  That'

The road to forgiveness

27  “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,   28  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.   29  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.   30  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.   31 Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:27-30) Jesus is speaking these words - the setting or timing of when they were spoken is important to understand.  First, he is under attack from those who should be shouting in joy at his works.  The Pharisees see him "mixing with" common sinners and criticize him terribly, publicly ridiculing him for the company he keeps.  Second, he is criticized for his timing.  He heals on the Sabbath - seen as a "work" by those of Rabbinical teaching.  Their hearts are so "into" the rule-keeping that they fail to s

Simpleton or Wise?

11   Simpletons only learn the hard way,      but the wise learn by listening.   (Proverbs 21:11) Yesterday, I spent a little time speaking of the value of listening - developing the skills that make us good listeners.  Listening is really a two-way street.  We have open ears to hear the message - but we also ask clarifying questions so as to get the full meaning of what is being shared.  That is how God intends for us to be with our spiritual "ears" - listening with the intention of getting the full meaning of what he is sharing. Our passage today deals with the difference between being a "simpleton" and being a wise learner.  We rarely use the word "simpleton" anymore - in fact, I cannot remember hearing it used in the past several years.  A simpleton is a fool, a knucklehead, a ninny - he does not seek to understand - we call him ignorant.  I grew up with the idea that a fool was some kind of ninny that just did not get what was going on.  I think we

Listen - then speak

13  Answering before listening    is both stupid and rude. (Proverbs 18:13) When I was in Bible College, one of the classes we took was designed to give us the skills to "listen" - really, seriously, listen.  I thought it was a long semester learning the skills of biblical counseling - beginning with the skills of listening and ending with the skills of listening.  What was that all about?  Well, it is really evident in our passage today - answering before listening is both stupid and rude.  People were going to want to confide in us, hard things would be shared, and answers would be sought - but...we needed to hear them out before offering the advice! In fact, a failure to listen long enough or allow the time to build the trust that would be required to really share the issues could result in a wrong perception of the issues and a faulty answer to the problem.  That would benefit no one.  The entire eighteenth chapter of Proverbs is about words - how a fool speaks in ramb

Who do you say I am?

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Matthew 16:24-26) Jesus has spent endless days answering the accusations of the Pharisees - men who just plain did not accept him as Messiah.  They were so consumed by all their rules - Jesus was consumed with the fact that access to God is not with keeping rules, but in knowing Christ.  They pushed away from him - he pulled those who were open to his teaching near. Jesus has just finished asking his disciples who they REALLY think he is.  They answer with the "pat" answers, the easy answers - well, people say you might be   John the

The right tool produces the right cut

1-3  "I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. (John 15:1-3) An age-old question:  Why does a tree or vine need to be pruned?  Doesn't it hurt it?  Won't it die if we do all that cutting?  I remember watching Dad take out the pruning sheers, oiling them a little, sharpening the blades, and then cutting the bushes, vines and trees until they barely resembled what they were.  In the end, they looked "naked" - cut back almost to the point of what I considered to be "death". What I did not understand was that proper pruning produces even more growth and prolongs the life of the tree or bush.  In fact, Dad would point out that an un-pruned tree could actually be a hazard - branches breaking off in windstorms or causing damage to roofs and surrounding st

Invitation into sanctuary

3-5  You've always given me breathing room,       a place to get away from it all,    A lifetime pass to your safe-house,       an open invitation as your guest.    You've always taken me seriously, God,       made me welcome among those who know and love you.  (Psalm 61:3-5) David had an intimate relationship with God - evident in how frankly he speaks with God and how "free" he is in the presence of God.  There is much to be said about having a deep, beyond the mundane, relationship with God.  Look at what David tells us here - God is the one who welcomes, we are the ones who come into that place invited. David acknowledges that God gives him space - breathing room - a place of sanctuary.  Have you ever had a really good friend that you can just be yourself around?  You can kick off your shoes, let down your guard, and be your real self - no pretense, no masks, just you.  God desires that kind of relationship with us - extending to us the invitation to come i

Enter to learn

1  Watch your step when you enter God's house.  Enter to learn. That's far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice, doing more harm than good.  (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Solomon was charged with the responsibility of giving God's people a place of permanent worship - he built the Temple in Jerusalem - the first "physically permanent" structure for the presence of God.  Up until that time, God's presence had been enclosed in a tent-like structure we know as the Tabernacle.  It was "portable" and served Israel well during the time they moved throughout the wilderness, were on the move while taking the land of Canaan, etc.  David had longed to build God a "permanent" house for his glory to indwell, but it was passed to his son, Solomon.  Solomon gives us some words of "wisdom" about coming into the "house of God".   It is a warning to those who would choose to worship at the throne of God.  He reminds us that we are not to e

A Three-Stranded Cord

12  By yourself you're unprotected.    With a friend you can face the worst.    Can you round up a third?    A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) The Book of Ecclesiastes is not usually the first book I turn to when trying to find uplifting, encouraging words to fill my thoughts.  As a matter of fact, Solomon spent a great deal of time "bemoaning" the fate or futility of whatever he considered.  He has a lot of "negative" things to say about life - and he pours out his heart in the many verses contained within the book.  Interwoven every so often is a nougat of truth that will pop out like the one above - illuminating a truth that speaks volumes. By yourself you're unprotected!  We are not meant to stand alone - though we may try, we will fail.  There is a principle taught from the very beginning of time that we need each other.  From the creation story forward, man was not meant to be alone.  God even said, "It is no

Keeping right perspective

1-4  Joshua was up early and on his way from Shittim with all the People of Israel with him. He arrived at the Jordan and camped before crossing over. After three days, leaders went through the camp and gave out orders to the people: "When you see the Covenant-Chest of  God , your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile—be sure now to keep your distance!—and you'll see clearly the route to take. You've never been on this road before." (Joshua 3:1-4) Israel is about to take Jericho - a huge city fortified with walls and a large army. This was a city surrounded by palm trees, rich soil, and natural springs.  As a result, the land was coveted for its resources.  It is a good place for Israel to begin their invasion of Canaan - giving them water, food, and position for the next stages of their attacks. As the invasion begins, Joshua commissioned the leaders to give the ins

Be Strong! Be Courageous!

And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed. Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged.  God , your God, is with you every step you take. (Joshua 1:8-9) Joshua was the leader of Israel right after Moses passed away.  Moses passed the torch to him to get the Israelites out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land.  He was commissioned with a huge purpose - cross the Jordan.  It was the time for Israel to finally take what God had delivered them from Egypt to inherit.  The promise to Joshua - "I'll give you every square inch of land you set your feet on".  If that was not enough to get Joshua motivated to move into the land, God promised to be with him just like he had been with Moses. The "success" Joshua enjoyed in ta

In the beginning

1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.  (Genesis 1:1-2) I awoke this morning thinking about God's creation - all he has formed, all that exists, and all that no longer exists.  Things, people, and trends - all have a tendency to come and all will go.  As I reflected on the "Genesis Story" - the record of creation - I marveled at the awesome order in which God put things together.  Consider this: Light and Darkness - the first to be created.  Why?  Well, it is pretty obvious - without light, the rest could not be appreciated.  That is the way it is in our lives - without the light of Christ shining bright in our hearts, there is no fullness of appreciation of what he has done. Sky and Sea - has it ever occurred to you what a miracle it is that the oceans stay where they are - separated from

Invitation to occupy

When GOD, your God, ushers you into the land he promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you’re going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn’t build, well-furnished houses you didn’t buy, come upon wells you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive orchards you didn’t plant.   When you take it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don’t forget how you got there – GOD brought you out of slavery in Egypt.   Deeply respect GOD, your God.   Serve and worship him exclusively.   Carefully keep the commands of GOD, your God, all the requirements and regulation she gave you.   Do what is right, do what is good in GOD’S sight so you’ll live a good life and be able to march in and take this pleasant land that GOD so solemnly promised through your ancestors, throwing out your enemies left and right – exactly as GOD said.    (Deut. 6: 10-12, 14-19) As Israel was called to enter into the Promised Land, they were told to not do so in their own effort,

Invitation to let God lead

  10-12  The land you are entering to take up ownership isn't like Egypt, the land you left, where you had to plant your own seed and water it yourselves as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are about to cross the river and take for your own is a land of mountains and valleys; it drinks water that rains from the sky. It's a land that  God , your God, personally tends—he's the gardener—he alone keeps his eye on it all year long. (Deuteronomy 11:10-12) The nation of Israel is just about to cross over into the land God had promised to them years before.  Their ancestors had this very day in mind - now it was becoming a reality.  The leader of the nation at the time was Moses.  He was speaking to Israel, as the Lord gave him the words to speak, of how it was that they were to enter the land, what it was they were to do with the land, but more importantly, how it was that they were to live once they arrived in the land. Then he shares with them this little passage we hav