Monthly Archives: September 2014

Priorities

The men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus because they had faith Jesus could heal him. When the crowd was so large they couldn’t get inside to where Jesus was, they cut a hole in the ceiling and lowered their friend right in front of Jesus. (Matt 9, Mark 2, Luke 5)

What did Jesus do? He forgave the crippled man’s sins. In this act, we see where Jesus places his priorities.

It reminded me of the prayer boards in many Sunday School rooms, and prayer lines active in many churches. They are full of requests for God’s intervention for every ailment known to man:

Pray for Susie’s sinus problems. Bill’s cancer, Clyde’s cough, June’s surgery, Donna’s new job.

God wants us to bring our requests to him and I am not criticizing anyone for praying for another. It’s our responsibility and our privilege to bring our requests to the Lord. But if our priorities were the same as Jesus, wouldn’t our prayer boards be at least equally filled with requests for the salvation of souls:

Pray for Sandy as she has lunch with her cousin on Tuesday, pray for the cousin that her heart would be open and she would be willing to listen. For Chuck as he goes fishing with his coworker. For Laura as she witnesses to her husband.

Oh, Jesus healed the crippled man. And he still answers our prayers for physical needs. But physical healing is still a temporary fix. A repentant heart is a healing that is eternal.

Let’s pray. Pray for the health and physical healing of our loved ones. Jesus reveals himself through those answered prayers. But let’s not neglect the more important thing: the salvation of souls.

Father, I pray for those in my life who are facing physical challenges, emotional problems, relationship difficulties. Reveal yourself in their healing and may Jesus be praised. But I would pray for those who don’t know you. I pray for broken hearts when faced with the reality of sin, I pray for the softening of hardened hearts, for ears that will listen. May your Holy Spirit have free reign in the hearts of…. and …. today and may they come to the Savior to receive the healing that will last eternally. Show me what role I can play in their salvation, and may you find me faithful for Jesus’ sake.

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Stay Or Go?

The people wanted Jesus to stay. They were amazed at his teaching, and their diseases were being healed. They probably would have made him king. People from all over, from many nations, were flocking to Jesus. His reputation was spreading like wildfire. (Mark 1, Luke 4, Matthew 4)

So why didn’t Jesus stay? Why didn’t he set up shop right there in Capernaum, preach what he wanted to preach, heal everyone who came to him? It sure would have been easier than the course he chose: the dusty roads, the danger, hot, sandy deserts, and rough seas.

What is God saying to us today through Jesus’ example? Maybe he’s calling you to go to a foreign country to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Maybe he’s nudging you to walk across the street and share him with your neighbor. I’m pretty sure he’s not calling you to sit in your recliner and wait for someone to knock on your door.

I think it’s also a message for our churches. Maybe we are wrong to focus our energy on making our churches attractive to sinners when God, by example, personally went to where the sinners were. Jesus went out and spoke to Samaritan women, lepers, and tax collectors. He didn’t wait for them to come to him, or orchestrate a rocking worship service to attract non-believers. There were no shortcuts in the course Jesus took.

So, dear one, are you going to stay where you are? Or are you going to get out there and befriend someone who needs the Savior, rub shoulders with sinners, reveal Jesus through your life choices and the words you speak?

Dear Jesus, thank you for your example to us today. May you find us who know you as our Savior walking where you walked, sharing the Gospel with neighbors and friends. May we never be satisfied with sitting on the sidelines, watching others do your will. May each of us obey your call, whether across the ocean or across the street, to lead a soul to their Savior. And thank you for promising to walk with us on our journey.

Jesus Gets Me

The birth of Jesus is undoubtedly the second most important event in history, the first being his death on the cross. (Read about his birth in Matthew 1 and Luke 2).

Jesus. God in the flesh. He chose to come into this world as a human, from the fertilized egg inside his mother, to the screaming little baby boy emerging from her body at birth. Did God choose this route to becoming human so he would know how it feels, so that he could experience things to better understand us?

Not a bit. He chose this so that we would believe he gets us. We can go to him and tell him about our financial woes, knowing he gets what it is to grow up poor. We can be assured he knows what physical pain is, what rejection is, what anger and temptation are. He gets me like no one ever could.

The truth is, he could always understand us humans from Adam on. The difference is, after Jesus, we can identify with him.

All of creation, everything about life is about God, created by him and for his pleasure. This one act, Jesus in the flesh, is about us. God loves us that much. And him becoming one of us proves that.

Dearest Jesus, thank you for becoming human and living this life here on earth for 33 years. Thank you for the times you faced the same temptations I face, for the fatigue your body felt, the pain you endured at the hands of those who killed you. Thank you for the times you laughed and cried, for the friendships you developed and for the pain their betrayal caused you.  Thank you for loving me so much you wanted to assure me that you do get me. And ultimately, thank you for dying for me, for offering forgiveness for my sin, and for wanting to be in my life today and forever. I love you.

 

Nothing Is Impossible For God

Nothing is impossible for God. (Mark 1:37) To me, that’s a given. He’s God. He can cause a virgin to be pregnant, and her older cousin to have a baby. He can heal diseases, and soften the hardest heart. He can move mountains if he wants, or dry up the Red Sea.

I know some people claim this verse as a promise. I don’t see it like that. If you read this verse in the context it was written, I don’t think you’ll see it as a promise, either. I just don’t see that God promises to give us what we want if we conjure up the right kind of faith, or “claim” a verse.

The fact that God “can” doesn’t mean that he will. The question isn’t, “what’s in it for me?”, but rather, is what I want able to be used to draw someone to the Savior.

My dad fully believed God was going to heal my mom of her cancer, right up to the second she took her last breath. Her death shocked him.

Could God have healed her? Of course. Nothing is impossible for God. But God, being God, took her to be where he is.

Dad thought Mom’s healing would be an amazing testimony of God’s greatness. Think of the people who would be touched by that miracle! Instead, God chose to reveal himself through the mourning of her family, and our steadfast trust in our Savior in all circumstances.

It would have been easy to praise God for healing Mom. But God did the impossible. He gave us the desire to praise him in our loss.

Yes. Nothing is impossible for God.

Hard Work and Laughter

The rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem is one of my favorite Old Testament accounts. (Nehemiah 3-6) The Jews worked together, each taking a section, and the wall went up in 52 days. I hope they had fun.

When I was a teenager, my family would take part in the semi-annual church clean-up. Like many churches, the members of the fellowship would get together on a Saturday to paint and repair, spring clean and plant flowers around our church property. There were jobs for all of us to do, no matter what age we were. I remember laughter and teasing, a covered dish lunch, the smell of Endust and newly cut grass. We had fun.

Was it like that for the Jews as they worked shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem? Did they make it a game, a contest to see who could carry the largest boulder? Did they joke with each other? Did they stop for lunch together?

The Bible tells us bullies tried to intimidate them into stopping their work. Did the Jews talk about Sanballat and Tobiah as they took a break from their work in the hot sun over a cool drink of water? Did they encourage one another to ignore the threats? I know they determined to protect each other.

I think this is a picture of what our churches should look like. People working shoulder to shoulder to share Jesus in the neighborhood, encouraging one another, supporting one another.

And having fun doing it.

Does the neighborhood surrounding your church property see a group of people who love one another and who enjoy serving God together? I hope they see a pick-up soccer game in the parking lot once in a while. I hope they hear laughter and occasionally smell the fragrance of hamburgs on the grill. I hope they see a building cared for and loved by the people who call it their church home. And I hope they are drawn to your fellowship because of it.

The Jews rebuilt that wall in 52 days. Pretty amazing. God has amazing things for our church fellowships to do, too. May he find us faithful doing his work with joy.

Why we do what we do.

God asked the Jews an important question:

During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourself? (Zechariah 7:5&6)

It’s an honest question I think each of us need to consider for ourselves.

If I attend church services for a “worship experience”, who is the focus? Does God need the experience? Or do I? If I read my Bible, is it so I can feel good about my faithfulness?

I knew a woman who felt she had to take part in a communion service every Sunday because if she didn’t, she would have a terrible week.

If I blog, is it to be complimented on my post? I have to confess I like to see icons of people who “like” what I say. Is that what motivates me to hit “publish” each time?

If you listen to people like Joel Osteen you will likely begin to believe worship is about you, that following God is about you, that life is about you. Is it? Is it really?

Or is it about God?

Zechariah has a lot to say to us today. And he says something in 8:23 that I believe sums up why we worship, why we live lives set apart from the world, why we are kinder, more loving and forgiving, more honest than our unsaved neighbor. He talks about people from every nation going to Jerusalem to worship God. He says ten people will cling to the sleeve of one Jew and say:

Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.

That’s our commission as Christians. All that we do, all that we say and are, is surrendered to God for one reason. Not so that we are blessed. But so that others are lead to the Savior.

That should be why we do what we do.

Heavenly Father, I want my worship to be pleasing to you, whether sitting in a pew on Sunday, or reading my Bible in my home, whether singing hymns in my car, or praying while talking to my neighbor over coffee. Forgive me for the tendency to make it about me. May the result of my worship of you in spirit and in truth cause people to want to get to know my Savior. I want my motivation to be you. I want my focus to be you. I want my life to be pleasing to you alone. 

Building the Temple

The people threw a celebration when the foundation of the Temple was finished. (Ezra 3:10-13) There was a lot of work ahead of them. But that first, and important piece was finally in place. And they stopped to worship God there.

A couple of things come to mind as I read Ezra 3, and as I apply this account to my life. Scripture tells me I am God’s Temple. (I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) He lives on earth in me. 

The New Testament talks a lot about foundations. Jesus told a parable about building houses on sand, compared to building on solid rock. (Matthew 7:24-27). In Luke 14:28-30 Jesus speaks about how important it is to finish building on the foundation. Paul names the Foundation in I Corinthians 3:11. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is the sure foundation and he grounds me, supports me. If I build my life on him, he can take it. But the Temple wouldn’t have been worth much if the people we read about in Ezra had just left the structure as a foundation. If they had continued to celebrate and rejoice and worship God over the foundation, the Temple would not have been able to be completed or to be used as it was intended.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I, as the Temple of the Living God, have a solid foundation in the person of Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. I went to him and confessed my sin and asked him to forgive me… and he did. That’s cause to celebrate!

But it doesn’t have to end there. There is work to be done. I want to grow in my relationship with him, build on my salvation by studying his Word, surrounding myself with Christians who will hold me accountable, and by praying. 

If I attend church on Sunday for a “worship experience” and come away from there feeling spiritual, I’m celebrating on the foundation. If I don’t study my Bible or pray, don’t talk about Jesus to others, live a life that looks no different than my unsaved neighbor, this Temple isn’t being built. I’m living on the foundation without a useful structure through which God can work.

Dear Foundation, I thank you for being that solid rock beneath my feet. I thank you for forgiving my sins and the privilege of having you living in me. I want to sing your praises, celebrate having you in my life. But I pray that I, like the example we read about in Ezra, will be motivated to build my life on the Foundation you have provided. Give me discernment to know the Truth of Scripture, give me opportunity to share Christ with others, let me be strong enough to resist temptation and rise above the world’s influence. May I be a Temple you deserve, holy and useful for your kingdom, built on the Foundation of my Savior, Jesus Christ.