Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I want it "all"

Matthew 7:33  "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

I think this verse can be easily twisted into something it is not.  Our world and society is a constant chase for material wealth.  This verse can be twisted in such a way that it would seem to say, "Seek God and He will reward you with all you want in this world."

Some might label this as "prosperity gospel", but it can be much more subtle than a blatant message of "if I do X, God will give me Y".  When we use the word "all" (as in "all these things will be given to you"), there has to be some sort of reference point to give the word meaning.  Otherwise, we are left to ask "all of what?"  In the absence of this context, we might choose to define it the way we want it to be defined or based on an assumption. 

The verses preceding verse 33 above give us the context for Jesus' use of the word "all".  In verse 31, He references what He considers to be our three basic needs: 1) what shall we eat, 2) what shall we drink, and 3) what shall we wear.  This gives us context when He uses the word "all" two verses later. 

Is His definition of "all" different than your definition?  His "all" means your most basic needs as a human, not in any way including things that can only be classified as "wants".  If we are seeking God because of what we want and our belief that He will give it to us, we need to deeply and carefully examine our definition of "all" and make sure it lines up with His definition.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sowing seeds

Mark 4:14  "The farmer sows the word."

This verse stands out to me right now as Sara and I are trying to teach and mold Aaron.  I want desperately to teach him to be a good boy and, later on, a good man.  I use the word "good" in the sense of being a Godly man, one who has values and knows what those values are, and puts those values into practice in his daily life.

Sara and I work diligently to set boundaries for him and to teach him right from wrong.  I have to admit I get frustrated with him when he doesn't seem to listen or absorb what I am trying to teach him.  (You think this is how God feels about us?) But then, out of nowhere, he will repeat something I said to him much earlier, and I realize how much he really is absorbing and learning.  I probably have no idea how much he is taking in right now, and how careful I need to be to make sure he is taking in the right things. 

I truly am a farmer scattering seeds in the soil.  Some of those seeds will sprout immediately and I will see reward for the effort.  Some may sprout later, when I am least expecting it or possibly had given up hope. 

Lord, please give me the right seeds to sow in my childrens' hearts and the patience to wait for You to sprout those seeds in Your perfect timing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who are you following this week?

Mark 3:11  "Whenever the evil spirits saw Him, they fell down before Him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God.'"

Even the evil spirits recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  What, then, is to differentiate us from them?

We have to do two things to differentiate ourselves from the evil spirits:

1) Follow Him
2) Obey Him

A simple belief and acknowledgement of God is not enough.  To follow and obey Him means to submit ourselves to His Lordship and to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. 

Belief in, and acknowledgement of, who He is is an important first step, but we can't stop there.  The evil spirits acknowledged Him, but then went right back to work struggling against Him is this world.  Don't we do the same thing?  We show up at church on Sunday and acknowledge who He is.  Then we get up on Monday morning and start another week of pursuing what we want.  We spend our week following and obeying ourselves, those in a role of authority over us, the world, etc.

How would your week look different if the only one you followed and obeyed was God?

Are your simple actions backed by enormous faith?

Mark 5:28  "Because she thought, 'If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.'"

The woman in the crowd made her way to Jesus, believing that by simply touching His clothes she would be healed.  She touched His clothes, and she was healed.

Obviously, the act of touching someone's clothes does not bring about healing.  Therefore, her faith did not rest in the result of taking that particular physical action.  Her healing did, however, require action on her part.  She couldn't just sit back, hear stories about how Jesus was healing others, and wish it would happen for her.  She had to take action, but the action in and of itself was not what she placed her faith in.

Her faith was in the healing power of Jesus.  She believed He had more than enough power to heal her.  She didn't require His personal attention or some elaborate healing ceremony.  A simple touch of His clothes would transfer enough of His healing power to her to do the job.  Because her action was backed by enormous faith, it was completely sufficient.

Nothing about saying a phrase as simple as, "Jesus, I ask you to come into my heart and to be Lord of my life" should save us from our sin nature and separation from God.  But if the action (saying those words or something very similar to it) is backed by enormous faith in Jesus' more-than-adequate power to heal us and save us, the action is more than sufficient to do the job. 

It is the level of our faith, not the magnitude of our action, that saves us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Be careful who you DON'T associate with

Mark 2:15  "While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' were eating with him and the disciples, for there were many who followed him."

Why are we taught to be so careful about who we associate ourselves with?  There is no doubt that the world has some misguided people who are involved in selfish, harmful behavior.  Most of us would do well to avoid falling into the same traps these people have fallen into.  We should still well clear of activities that are sinful. 

Does that mean we should avoid those people?  At the most basic level, aren't these people children of God just like we are?  Don't we sometimes learn a small tidbit of information about them, their family life (or lack thereof), violence they endured as a child, circumstances they were in that were not of their own choosing, etc., that totally changes our perception of them? 

What are we afraid of by associating with these people?  I think we are scared that their commitment to evil is stronger than our commitment to good.  We are afraid that they will have the power to pull us to their side instead of the other way around.  Why wouldn't we be afraid of this?  They are simply displaying the sin nature that is present in all of us.  This is the same sin nature we are trying desperately to contain. 

Have faith in God and the power of the Holy Spirit to steer us clear of the behaviors we want to avoid, but don't turn that into an imperative to avoid the person.  Jesus said, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

Would you leave your nets if Jesus asked you?

Mark 1:18  "At once they left their nets and followed him."

This verse describes Simon and Andrew's response to Jesus' call to follow him.  The immediacy of their physical response is impressive and a model for us to follow.  When God calls us to something, especially when He calls us to Himself, our response should be immediate and fully committed. 

Obviously, this is easier said than done.  We have our own plans and schedules that we are hesitant to disrupt.  We often pause and examine whether this is really what we hear God asking us to do.  Then maybe we decide to wait for a second request.  We say, "if this is God's will for my life, He will not let this go.  He will ask me again, and then I will know this is real."

What is really going on here is not prudent confirmation on our part.  This is questioning, or even outright rebellion, against God and His instructions.  This response isn't surprising- we have been caught in this pattern of sin since the days of Adam and Eve. 

Let us strive to respond like Simon and Andrew, and ask God to give us the courage and faith in Him to do so.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How do you respond to the Lord's calling?

Luke 1:38  “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered.  ‘May it be to me as you have said.’  Then the angel left her.”

The verse above is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel upon learning that the Holy Spirit would conceive in her a son who would be the long-awaited Messiah.  Notice there is no expression of doubt, question, or hesitation.  She simply says, “may it be as you have said.” 
Contrast this with another angel revelation told in Luke 1.  An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah to tell him that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant with a son who would be a prophet paving the way for the Messiah.  Zechariah was a priest, and he and his wife had devoted themselves to holiness and obedience to the Lord throughout their lives.  Although he was more “qualified” than Mary to respond to the Lord’s calling, Zechariah expressed doubts in what the angel was telling him would happen.  After all, he and Elizabeth had waited many years for a child.  Now they were well past typical child-bearing age.  They had resigned themselves to the fact that they would have no children.  What the angel was suggesting to him made no sense.  He expressed doubt in his ability to perform in line with what the angel was proclaiming.
Therein lies the problem.  Zechariah was focused on his ability to perform.  He interpreted what the angel said as being a plan that God wanted Zechariah to carry out in his own strength and power.  The plan, in Zechariah’s mind, was dependent on his own human ability to pull it off.  Mary, on the other hand, should have had much deeper concerns and doubts about the plan Gabriel was suggesting to her.  At least Zechariah and Elizabeth were married.  How on earth was Mary to become pregnant as an engaged virgin?  Was Gabriel suggesting that she commit a major sin violation in order to become pregnant and fulfill the prophecy?  All of these doubts and questions could rightfully have been swirling around in her mind.  But did she utter one word of doubt or question?  No.  She simply responded, “may it be as you have said.”
May we all have the ability to focus on what God can (and will) do, not on what we can do, in responding to His call.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my very own blog!  Many of you will be coming here via a link from my wife's blog (  While her blog has been extremely successful in keeping friends and family in touch with our family's life, mine will be a little different.  God put it on my heart several months ago to share some of my reflections and thoughts from my daily Bible study/quiet time.  I currently journal my thoughts and observations, so this will just be a way of keeping that journal online. 

I say "daily", but like many of you, I can't say that quiet time happens every single day.  There may be times when, for some reason, I don't think what I wrote about that day is appropriate to put out here. For whatever this is worth, though, I will make an honest effort to keep this updated on a regular basis.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this blog is, to tell you the truth.  I don't know what purpose it will serve for others.  It may simply be a way of compiling my thoughts in something other than a physical journal.  Sara has published two blog books (one for each of Aaron's first two years of life) that are priceless.  A scrapbook, but better.  Not only do we have pictures, but we have her comments and observations that give context to the visual images.  Maybe I'll create blog books from here to give to Aaron and Abby?  The purpose and ultimate use of this blog is not for me to decide on and create.  That's God's job.  He simply put it on my heart to do this, and so I am doing it.  He will handle the rest. 

Let's all sit back and see where He takes this thing...