Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Feeling a Bit Puffy Lately?

But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.
1 Corinthians 8:2-3

We all like being the one who knows more, right? Even as little kids, when we knew something that our friends (or even our parents) didn't know it made us feel good. The truth is that many of us are still like this as adults and it contributes to our conflicts. We care much less about our relationships with the people who disagree with us than we do about proving that we are right...that we know more than they do. Knowledge is a good thing, but it can puff up. This is the difference between simply being smart and being a smart aleck.
Today's passage reminds us that no matter how smart we are, none of us know yet as we ought to know. You can be the smartest person on the planet and still be humbled by the truth that you do not yet know all that you will know one day in heaven. Nor do you know anything now in the way you will know it there. You see knowledge is always understood within a specific context, or worldview. You can know a fact, but misunderstand its importance when you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. Only once all is revealed from heaven's vantage point will we fully and finally grasp God's plan in all its glory. Only then can we see how all the little factoids we have picked up along the way fit into His grand masterpiece.
Yet, all of this is surpassed by something else: love. Whoever loves God is known by God. What a promise! What a blessing. How many of our problems are based on the fact that we are striving for knowledge of God or of His creation at the expense of drawing nearer to Him in love? Even knowledge of God can puff up. For that reason, it goes unnoticed from God's vantage point. But love for God puts a person on His radar. We can be sure that a man or woman or child who is deeply in love with God does not go unnoticed. In a world of ungrateful rebels, souls that are lifted up in true heartfelt affection stand out in sharp contrast. So I wonder...have you been seeking after knowledge of God more than love of Him? Has your knowledge of God or of anything else caused you to get a bit puffy in your interactions with Him or with others? If so, choose to focus on love today. Love for God and love for others. And as you do, know that you will not go unnoticed by God.
For further reading...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Just Out of Reach

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
Proverbs 23:4-5

Do not toil to acquire wealth. There are many things you might work hard for in life. You might labor to feed your family or get a degree or even to be able to help out the less fortunate. But this passage doesn't speak against any of those things, only toiling to get wealth. Be discerning enough to desist. It takes discernment not to let greed get the better of you. The next verse tells us why.

When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Wealth is like that rabbit that is dangled in front of the dogs at the race track. It hangs there all limp. It appears to be within your grasp. Soon the world will be your oyster. And then, off it flies. Faster than you ever could have imagined. And no matter how fast you run. You simply can't catch it. Only wealth is much more elusive than that rabbit. The Bible says that it flies away like a strong eagle up toward the heavens out of your reach. The truth is that no one really knows the secret to wealth. Though it lights on some favored few in this world, this is due more to God's providence than to personal achievement.

So why exhaust yourself laboring for something that is out of your reach? You shouldn't. Working your fingers to the bone so you can one day be rich is a fool's errand fueled by greed. That's not to say that hard work isn't rewarded in this world. It is, and indeed it was part of God's original good creation. But we were never meant to work to enhance our own glory. (The tower of Babel teaches that point rather clearly.) So work hard, but do it for the Lord. Work hard for your family. Work hard to acquire wisdom. Work hard at sharing the good news of Jesus. But have the discernment not to waste your life chasing something you can never catch by your own power. Instead "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
For further reading...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What does God want from me?

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Isaiah 29:13

What does God want from you?

No, really. Take a moment and answer the question. What does God want from you?

I'm convinced that many "Christians" think that all God wants from them is to believe in Jesus. As long as they believe then they can go on living their lives however they want. But God wants so much more than lip service from you. He wants your heart. God has called us not to mere belief, but to discipleship.

Discipleship, as I understand it, is a way of life that helps you become more and more like Jesus. It is a 100% commitment to giving all of yourself to God and none of yourself to this world. God has commanded us, "Be holy because I am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).

Yet, many Christians are not holy today. We are no longer set apart from and different from the world. We no longer strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from sin. In fact, we love the things of the world. We rush home to watch TV shows that are filled with things the Bible commands us not to do. They turn sin into a punch line and we not only eat it up ourselves but we feed it to our children as well. We gossip, slander, and are jealous of what others have. We lust and engage in sex outside of marriage. We are arrogant and greedy. We are gluttons and liars. We use the Lord's name in empty ways. We  run after sin every chance we get, but struggle to spend five minutes in God's Word.

How often this is true of me! How often I just go through the motions. I parrot all the right words in all the right ways, but my heart is far from the Lord. We wonder why the church in America is in decline. More and more recently God has been showing me why my own ministry is not stronger. There is a lack of holiness in my life. There is a real lack of holiness in America. Choose this day whom you will serve (Josh 24:15), but count the cost first (Luke 14:25-33). God is not looking for any half-hearted lies. He wants your all. Will you give it to Him?

If so, what do you need to cut out of your life today?

For further reading...
  • Mark 7:1-23- See what Jesus had to say about this passage. 
  • Luke 14:25-33- Jesus says that if you don't give up everything, you can't be His disciple.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Too Important to Outsource

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9
I outsource a lot of things in my life. I don't make any of my own clothes or grow any of my own food. There are plenty of people who are more skilled than me at that, so I stick to what I am good at and pay them for their services. But there are certain things in life that are just too important to outsource. It doesn't matter how good anyone else is at it. It's important that you do it yourself. Here's an example for ya. Dating your wife. It doesn't matter how skilled a "professional dater" might be. It's not something you outsource (Jones p.81-82). Here's another example. Teaching our children about Jesus. It doesn't matter what degree someone else holds or how well they relate to teens or children, at the end of the day making sure that your child understands the truth of the Bible is just too important to outsource. It's just one of those things you need to do yourself.
The Scripture above backs this up. You won't find youth pastors or children's ministers in the Bible anywhere. God's plan for passing the faith down to the next generation is godly parents. Now, I believe that youth and children's pastors have an important role to play in supporting and equipping parents as they minister to their kids, but we are not the primary faith trainers of your children. You are.
The problem is that for the most part we have done a lousy job of helping you minister to your kids. We haven't reminded you that it was your job. We haven't equipped you to do it or offered to help you when you were struggling. For my part, I want to do better. So here's a simply format you can follow to have a family devotional time this week.
How to Have Family Devotionals*
  1. Read the Bible together- Go through a few verses or a chapter. Whatever works for your family. It doesn’t have to be a prepared Bible lesson. God’s Word is powerful! Just read it together and listen to it. (Helpful Hint- Have everyone use the same Bible translation for family devotion time to avoid confusion.)
  2. Talk about it- Ask some questions to help spark a discussion. (Helpful Hint- Pick just a few of these questions that are appropriate for your kids. If they are struggling, help them out.)
    • Who are the main character(s)?
    • What happens in the passage?  Can you summarize it?
    • Any questions? What are you curious about?
    • What happened before or after this passage?
    • Which words, phrases, or themes seem important to you?
    • What did this mean to people back then? What does this mean for us now?
    • Does this remind you of any other passages of Scripture?
    • Are there examples to follow or avoid (things to do or not do)?
    • Is there a promise to celebrate?
    • Is there a sin to avoid?
    • What does it say about God?
    • What does it say about people?
    • What does it say about me?
    • Do I need to confess something to God?
    • Do I need to thank God for something?
    • What do I need to tell someone or do for someone because of this passage?
    • Helpful Hint- Bring in what the Lord has been teaching you as much as possible! It’s important for your kids to see that you are constantly growing closer to the Lord as well. And don’t be afraid to confess your sin (when appropriate) to your children. It will help teach them humility.
  3. Sing together- Not everyone is a musician, but don’t let that stop you.  Music is an amazing learning tool and it has a profound ability to guide us into true worship. Pick a well known song or hymn and sing it a cappella. Use your bad singing as an opportunity to teach your kids that worship is about the heart not the sound. Be sure to create a safe place to worship by letting your family know that making fun of anyone’s singing is not acceptable.
  4. Pray together- Praying at bedtime and meals is great, but don’t let that be the only time you pray together as a family. Take a moment to share prayer requests and go around the table letting each family member pray for the person to their left as best as they are able.
*Developed using adapted elements from Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones (p167) and in Trained in the Fear of God by Stinson and Jones (chapter 11 written by Peter R. Schemm Jr.) as well as a talk sheet developed by Patrick Hamilton for use in the study of John.
Jones, Timothy Paul. Family Ministry Field Guide. (Wesleyan Publishing House: Indianapolis, 2011) p. 81-82.
For further study this week...
  • Lead your family in a devotional time on Genesis 1.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.
Nehemiah 3:5

Serving the Lord is not always glamorous. In fact, it rarely is. Don't let the TV preachers fool you. It's not about sequined jackets or puffy hairdos. The Bible talks about feeding widows, caring for orphans, healing lepers, protecting the foreigner and the stranger, and showing hospitality to those who need a place to stay. Jesus Himself walked the dusty roads of Palestine for three and a half years, healing and loving on the dregs of his society. He "put his shoulder to the work" of the cross, carrying it to the place of His crucifixion (John 19:17). He did not think it below Him to take your sin and your punishment upon Himself but "took on the nature of a servant" and "humbled himself" even to the point of  "death on a cross" (Philippians 2:7-8).

The Apostle Paul also gives us an example to follow. The great missionary financed his journeys at times by working as a tent maker during the day and preaching when he could (Acts 18:3-4, I Thess 2:9, II Thess 3:7-10). Paul never thought of himself as too good to do the Lord's work. Paul saw himself as he truly was...a vile sinner saved by grace. Redeemed out of slavery to sin, Paul had become a slave of God...a willing servant who "put his shoulder to the work" willingly with a grateful heart. He once wrote of the church as a great body in which the different members are asked to do different jobs. Just like the human body cannot be all mouth or all foot, the church cannot be all prophet or all teacher. Paul notes that "the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it" (I Cor 12:23-24).

Jesus Himself said to His disciples, "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10). So maybe God has been asking you to do something that you thought was below you or maybe it was just something you didn't want to do. Refusing to obey God is never a good idea. (See the story of Jonah for a refresher on how that works out!) So choose today to do whatever God has called you to do and whatever the Bible commands you to do with a cheerful heart as a thanks offering unto your Lord Himself. 

For further reading...