Posts Tagged ‘ Bible ’

What Love Do You Have?

Today I offer part two of the devotional time from the recent trip to the Desperation Youth Conference. Again, it has been adapted for the blog.

This devotion is taken from 1 Kings 3.

Have you read that?

Good.

Seeking Wisdom

Many Bibles title that chapter “Solomon Asks for Wisdom” or something like that.

I now invite you to read the entire book of Proverbs. (You can also head over to Proverbial Thought for some excellent commentary!) If you do not read it all right now, I understand.

Solomon made the right choice. Wisdom is the ultimate thing you can get. If Proverbs 8 is compared to John 1, we understand that Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God.
Wisdom helps us understand what God is doing in our life: Wisdom guides us to God; Wisdom helps us understand when the Holy Spirit is working in us or God is working in our circumstances

The usual theme for this passage is Solomon’s wisdom shining through.
It is a good example. Imitate Solomon in this regard!
But this is not the theme of our lesson today.

These two women are prostitutes. This helps explain why they were living together, they both had children, and there are no fathers mentioned.
In a previous devotion we discussed crazy things: Things that happen to us, things that we hear about hapening to others, and things God calls us to do. Imagine being labeled a prostitute, kind of like being called a slut in school or the workplace. Everyone knows you have this reputation. Would you be willing to go before anybody, let alone a king, to fight for your rights if everyone thinks you are practically worthless?
These women going before Solomon would be like school bullies going before the principal saying one stole the other’s stolen lunch money. Society did not look very highly on them! This is a crazy or even silly situation (at face value).

The real point of this devotion, however, is this:
What is your most favorite thing or person?

Would you … could you give that thing or that person up? Would you be willing to let your worst enemy take it? Would you be willing to let your girlfriend/boyfriend go to another person? Would you give up your child?

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:37-39

One of my favorite definitions of hate is that it means you love something more than another thing.

And the Wisdom that leads us to God, is Christ Himself. If you claim to love Jesus Christ, are you willing to give up your life for Him? Do you love Him enough to give up your life?

Just like prostitute who cried out to let her baby live with the other woman if it would spare his life, are you willing to say “Lord Jesus, take my life and do with it as you will!”?

Proverbial Thoughts and Thinking

I have had a really busy month with travelling around, homework, a wedding, and all manner of other things!

You know what … I am on vacation!

So, for today, you can head on over to my contribution at Proverbial Thought (http://proverbialthought.com).

The topic today is about the importance of Bible study and knowing the Word of God. Another passage that goes well with this is 2 Corinthians 10:5. The only way to take every thought captive to be firmly rooted in the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer.

I think it is time we all work on building the callouses on our knees as we read our Bibles!

Bad Teacher

First of all, do not forget to get some wisdom from Proverbial Thought!

Today’s post is not about a movie starring Cameron Diaz. Rather, true to this blog, today’s post is about theology.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience(and a sincere faith.Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 1:5-7

To tell you the truth, this passage scares me.

I am a big believer in God speaking through dreams (but not all dreams). I am big believer in God speaking through visions. I believe prophecy still happens.

I have had dreams and visions in which I speak to a large audience (perhaps blogging will be that realization?). I have had others (both Christians and non-Christians) say or speak over me (either specifically as prophetic or “in passing”) that they see me one day leading ministries and/or a congregation (or congregations) or speaking to large groups.

This scares me simply because I know my past and how I have treated theology and teaching. What if God eventually calls me to be a pastor/priest over First Church of Hometown, USA?

I hate to break it to you (tongue-in-cheek), but there are many teachers and preachers today who simply should not be. These are men and women who replace love of God and/or people with a love of money, power, influence, or popularity. These are men and women who either do not have or have lost a pure heart and good conscience. These are men and women may or may not have a sincere faith, but the question becomes where that sincerity or where that faith truly lies.

I may step on some toes and perhaps offend here, but here are some examples of things people teach and confidently affirm without really knowing what they are talking about:

  • God wants you happy and financially rich in this life. There is never a biblical guarantee that all godly people will have both or either of these in this life. In fact, there are promises of the opposite for the believer in Christ.
  • There is no Trinity. Quite frankly, Christianity falls apart without the Trinity. My Catholic brother Richard has begun covering this over at CatholicBoyRichard.
  • Women have no place in ministry. Let me just say that people who believe this are complete idiots. They may be very intelligent, but they really stupid.
  • Jesus sinned. The faith falls apart if this is true. I cannot express enough how important this is and how false and straight from the pits of Hell this is.
  • God hates ... This one is taken specifically from Westboro Baptist Church, the people who say “God hates fags” along with many other people. It is this kind of “christian” (not just those who blatantly call for the destruction of others, but also those who promote hatred through favoritism, indifference, and bigotry [misunderstanding mixed with fear]) who gives the Church the bad name we seem to see and hear about today.

There is a long, long list, and I know I have been guilty of at least all of these at one time or another. Paul listed a few others to Timothy:

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith.The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
1 Timothy 1:3-11

How can we – how can I – know we are staying true to good teaching? How can we know our teachers and preachers are staying true to good teaching?

The simple answer:

We must continue studying together. We must not give up on the traditions from Church history (and before some complain, where do you think our Bible and even most of our liturgy, keeping in mind I currently attend and serve in a non-denominational church, came from? Why do we know many of the facts we know about the early Church? From what did Christianity arise?). We must always strive to express the love of God to all people.

Traveling Mercies

For most of the month of June (already started!), my wife and I are traveling around Illinois and Wisconsin to visit family and friends.

This has reminded me of a few things.

  • Youth trips in high school, when we would pray before setting out on each trip.
  • Driving around with the youth leader and praying as we got in the car.
  • Big family trips which would start out with a prayer.
  • Going to Morocco and praying with the church before we set out.
  • A particular message the pastor shared about seven years ago.

A new church was going to be launched out of our church. He led up to the announcement by sharing about Ezra taking Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. I am sure you can see the connection: Ezra went out to rebuild the Temple; some of us were going out to build a new congregation.

Something he said really stuck with me, however. It came from Ezra 8:21-23:

There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

 The first part that stuck with me was the call to a fast.

We need to remember that God is the one in control, but He wants to hear from us. He desires to hear us ask Him for things.

The second part that stuck with me was that even in our shame and pride, God listens.

Ezra pointedly says “I was ashamed to ask the king . . . because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him.” This pride was not one of a personal nature. Oh, no! This was pride in the promises of God, of which Ezra knew to be true.

Therefore, Ezra prayed, and “he answered our prayer.”

The final part that stuck with me was that this was a “biblical institution of praying for traveling mercies!”

This one may not be the most holy, per se, but that is a direct quote from Pastor Scott. “And here we see the biblical institution of praying for traveling mercies!”

This reminds me that God wants us to ask Him for anything and everything. To be fair, though, we need to remember that His answer is yes when we pray according to His will (see John 14:12-14, and really all of John 14-16). (He may say yes to things “outside of His will,” but that is a matter for another day!)

So, on this fine day, I remind you to take prayer seriously, believe that God will answer, and do not be afraid to ask for His protection on your journeys.

Also, please pray for us as we travel!

Imitating Christ’s Humility

I know this is a little later in the day than I have been posting these, but here is my follow-up from last week’s post!

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

There are not only denominational differences, regional differences, and even congregational differences, but it is very difficult to even find one or two other people who believe exactly the way we do as individuals on every little thing (theologically, biblically, socially, and habitually).

We need to stop assuming we are right about everything, or at least more right than everyone else. Unless someone is flat-out heretical and/or blasphemous, we can still get along with our differences.

Therefore, how can we fulfill what Paul (and God!) has commanded us here? How can we be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose?” With another quote:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Matthew 22:37-39

Seek out and love God, then seek out and love on people. Show God’s love. Indiscriminately.

I have friends who are Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, charismatic, fundamentalist, “free-thinking” (I honestly still have no idea what that is really supposed to mean!), non-denominational, denominational, institutional, etcetera …

We get along for one important reason: We love God so much that our differences seem like nothing.

We each reach out to others in God’s love for one important reason: We know that God loves us first.

I dare you to try it.

Responses to Christmas: The Least of These

This last part might be a bit fanciful, but one of the joys of Christmas is having some fun.

When Jesus was born, we read: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Immediately following His birth, we read: “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

Eight days after He entered our world, we read: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.'” (Luke 2:22-24)

A while later, we read: “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 1:1)

What is connection in all of these?

Those are barely mentioned, if at all, in each segment of the story: the animals!

Think about it:

  1. Animals had to give up their place to eat for the night.
  2. Animals were left alone for the night.
  3. Animals had to die for the Lord!
  4. Animals had to help carry worshipers and gifts for the Savior of the world.

When Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in the manger, a feeding trough for animals, this meant that for at least that night and into the morning the animals gave up their dining table.

When the shepherds left their herd for the night, as I mentioned the other day, the sheep lost their security system for a while.

When Jesus was dedicated, two pigeons gave up their lives!

When the Wise Men journeyed from the East, it was their camels and horses who bore the brunt of the excursion and lose any comfort during the trip (though I am sure the Wise Men would have mentioned a thing or two about riding animals through desert and mountain paths).

Would you give up your dining table for a poor baby? Would you like knowing you were unprotected for the night? Would like to carry someone else’s belongings for hundreds of miles (or several dozen … no one really knows exactly how far they travelled)? Would you die for someone?

My take on these under-mentioned characters is this: they were unwilling participants … actually, more like unawares … in this story of our Lord’s birth, yet they can still teach us something.

There are times when God will call us to go hungry for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to give up our lives for the glorification of Jesus Christ.

I can almost guarantee you that these things happen frequently throughout our lives without us even realizing it.

Think of Chinese believers who are worshiping together in someone’s home, when authorities come in and break up the meeting.

Think of Asian/Arab believers who are going to church, and they get beat up as they walk for simply believing in Jesus.

Think of African believers who sit in prison for reading the Bible at home.

Think of the missionaries who die entering a town, yet their children are able to share the gospel with hundreds or thousands through their tragedy.

Think of that time you saw a man on the side of the street, begging for money, and you gave him or fast food sandwich to help him survive a couple more days.

We are all called to serve. We do not always get an angel or a star to warn us and guide us before our service starts.

Merry Christmas, and peace and joy from our Lord to you!

Responses to Christmas: Strangers to God

I hope you have enjoyed this week as we have reviewed how Mary and Joseph, the Innkeeper, some shepherds, and Simeon and Anna all responded to the birth of Christ. Today we look at some people who had similar knowledge but responded vastly differently:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

The first things we must ask ourselves are why the people of Jerusalem were disturbed at this news. It was because the leadership was disturbed. Why should that disturb them? For starters, Herod was disturbed. King Herod was a power-hungry man who looked for fame and control wherever he could. He played nice with Roman emperors and generals to get into his position of authority over Judea. He built several large structures, including the Temple in Jerusalem, to grow in fame. Yet he was also threatened by any potential threat to his power (whether real or imaginary) to the point that he even had most of his family killed to prevent them from trying to take away his power from him. He had rabbis killed who disagreed with him. It is not a far stretch to figure out why he was disturbed at this baby’s birth and therefore had all boys in Bethlehem killed. It is also not hard to figure out why the people would be disturbed by his being disturbed.

We could also consider that the Jewish leadership could be disturbed by this news, as well. When Jesus was walking around during His ministry, approximately 30 years after his birth, it was the religious leaders who gave Him the hardest time. They had also accumulated some prestige of their own, and a Messiah, a coming king, might just throw that sense of power out the window for them.

The Magi, or Wise Men, on the other hand, had no first-hand knowledge of the coming Messiah. As far as we know, they were just scholars who had read the Hebrew writings (essentially the Bible) and studied the environment (they were like astronomers more than astrologers, though a blending was definitely there) to figure out Who and what was coming into the world. If they truly thought this was just another king coming on the scene, they would not have done much else than note the occurrence. However, it seems pretty likely that they knew this King was going to change things in the world.

Think about it: They travelled a great distance to find a baby; they were overjoyed at finding this child; they made, essentially, financial sacrifices; and they worshiped Jesus. They may not have completely understood what was happening (when do any of us really?), but they knew enough to worship Him.

Have you noticed a theme with people directly involved with the baby Jesus? They were all filled with joy! Those who sought to ignore or even remove the child had no joy. They may have had times of happiness, but not lasting joy.

What about you? Do you find joy when thinking about the birth of Jesus Christ? Or are you more likely to be offended, disturbed, or uncaring during this season of the year? Do you go out of your way seek peace, seek understanding, seek joy, or give honor? Or are you more likely find ways to make sure no one else is happy? Does Jesus bring you joy or deepen your annoyance/hatred? A follow-up question to that is “Why?”

It is interesting to note that the Magi were not what we in the West traditionally call “Believers,” yet God rescued them from Herod’s punishment and getting blood on their hands by revealing to Herod the location of the child. They may not have been worshiping Jesus in the sense that others whom we have looked at have done it, but they still knew enough to give Him honor.

Do you give Jesus honor? Both Herod and the Magi believed Jesus was King of the Jews, but they responded much differently to that belief.