WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, November 18, 2018

High and Lifted Up - 11/18/18

Warning Preachy...

1 Samuel 2:1- Hannah Prayed: My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is lifted up by the LORD. My mouth boasts over my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.  

~ have you ever been overjoyed: maybe at the birth of a child, at your wedding, or maybe when God had directly answered your prayer like he did with Hannah. Hannah's heart was overjoyed and she sang out in Praise to God because of it.

She says that her horn is lifted up by the Lord.  There are a couple meanings here: first as the horn is a common representation of strength signifying that she is made strong by the Lord, but as it is attached to a female who just became a mother for the first time by miraculous means, it may be just as likely directly meaning the head dressing of women that signified the difference between a mother and a non-mother.  However, I accept the first as a simple significance of strength.  In either case, Hannah can now boast to Peninnah because God has given her a son and she acknowledges that it was the Lord who saved her from her shame.

1 Samuel 2:2There is no one holy like the LORD. There is no one besides you! And there is no rock like our God.

~ No one is "Holy" like the Lord. What does it mean that God is Holy?

The idea of Holy has to do with separation: no one is Holy like the Lord.  Of all the deities of men, none is "holy" (separated) from sin.  In fact, other world religions aren't concerned with being separated from sin as our God is.  The followers of other world religions seek to better themselves in order to be acceptable to their deity, but the Christian God knew that there was nothing that you and I could do to separate yourself from sin, so he gave His one and only son to destroy sin and death allowing us to be separated us from it by His grace.  When we are in faith in Jesus, we will still struggle against sin but it's affect to us are canceled and we are made righteous in the sight of God; by Jesus we are given the grace of becoming Holy as well.

It is because of this grace that we struggle and combat the present sin in our lives as we live on this earth.  Not sure who said it but someone once said that we tend to think that we are physical beings having a spiritual experience but in Jesus we are actually spiritual beings having a physical experience.

1 Samuel 2:3Do not boast so proudly, or let arrogant words come out of your mouth, for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and actions are weighed by him.  

~ our normal way of comparing ourselves is against other people.  We determine if we win or lose against another person, or how well we do in school against our fellow students, and when it comes to being Holy we compare ourselves to other people, people like mass murderers, but in reality our spirituality is measured against God alone.  When we compare ourselves to God we recognize our desperate need for Jesus alone.
1 Samuel 2:4-10The bows of the warriors are broken, but the feeble are clothed with strength. 5 ¶ Those who are full hire themselves out for food, but those who are starving hunger no more. The woman who is childless gives birth to seven, but the woman with many sons pines away. 6 ¶ The LORD brings death and gives life; he sends some down to Sheol, and he raises others up. 7 ¶ The LORD brings poverty and gives wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 ¶ He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the trash heap. He seats them with noblemen and gives them a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; he has set the world on them. 9 ¶ He guards the steps of his faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness, for a person does not prevail by his own strength. 10 ¶ Those who oppose the LORD will be shattered; he will thunder in the heavens against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give power to his king; he will lift up the horn of his anointed.

~ Hannah's prayer is prophetic as she makes mention of the future Messiah who was expected to come to Israel.  As she does, she recognizes her own salvation to be just a smaller microcosm of the salvation that is to come to us all through Jesus.

Just as Hannah's Horn is lifted up, her shame was alleviated and she was given strength and deliverance.  When Jesus came he was put to shame and nailed to a Roman cross where the sins of the world were placed upon him.  But on the third day he was lifted up and declared victorious over sin and death: King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Through this Jesus who has been lifted up, you and I are redeemed and like Hannah are spared our shame.  For we are people who are not Holy separated from sin but through Jesus was are granted forgiveness and deemed righteous as we trust in Him. When you and I have understood the reality of the salvation that is given us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we too will rejoice and sing with Hannah concerning our own salvation.

If you are not bursting out in praise for our God, I invite you to get to know Him and the great salvation deliverance you can have from your shame that he has for you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Who Do You Trust? - 11/07/2018


Mark 12:38-40

38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

Question, who were the people Jesus had the biggest issue with?

Answer, it seems the teachers of the Jewish Law. (Mark 12:38-40)

In this section Jesus didn't just come up with a rebuke of the Jewish leaders out of a vacuum, but it was in response to the direct happenings going on since chapter 11-- his entry into Jerusalem.
In chapter 11 Jesus road into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey thus proclaiming himself to be King of the Jews.  In response the leaders of the Jewish Law began to test Jesus; challenging his authority as King.  If you'll recall, they asked him questions about divorce, marriage in heaven, and paying taxes to Caesar.  Each time Jesus outwitted them which only discredited their own authority.  And finally, in Mark 12:38-40, Jesus tells his disciples to beware of the teachings of the teachers of the Law because they will be most severely punished.

So here's another question, what was the main problem with the Teachers of the Law?  While there were plenty of problems the main one, in my thinking, is that they did not recognize the authority of Jesus or consider him their King.  They simply would not accept his authority in their lives or in their government.

What about us?  Do we accept the authority of Jesus in our lives?  Do we accept him in our government?  

At first blush we all will answer "yes" to both questions, but do we really?  Accepting the authority of Jesus as King means that we will trust him in our everyday lives (even when it's difficult) and in our government (again, even when it's difficult). 
This morning, many people are disappointed with the American mid-term election results just as many are happy with them, but in the end, do we accept the authority of Jesus as King either way?  Do we trust that he is King and in control no matter the circumstances?

Sometimes I have to remind myself that things will be alright despite my health complications, my financial struggles, my social issues, or my government.  I have to remind myself of this because I believe that Jesus is ultimately the King of my life and my world in whom I will trust.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Offer to God - 10/22/18


Hebrews 13:15

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name."

The epistle (letter) of Hebrews was originally thought to have been written by the Apostle Paul because of the ending but scholars have concluded that the majority of the original Greek grammar and structure was not like the writing of Paul at all, so now it is commonly accepted that the authorship of the letter is unknown.  While author identity is in many ways important for understanding and translation, what's really important is understanding that the truth of what's written is given by God.

The letter of Hebrews is written to Jews and is combating an immediate threat among those called Christian at that time and in that place.  Chapters 1 & 2 are directly arguing again some form of angel worship and seemingly dismantling the idea that Jesus is an angel or any form of angel.  I don't know what the people of the time thought of angel worship but I know it is prevalent today in many ways as people are constantly trusting in their "guardian angel" or their deceased loved one who has become their "guardian angel" after their death.  Through chapters 1 & 2 the Hebrews writer points out that Jesus is not an angel and that he is much more superior to them because of his Cross and Resurrection.  

Chapter 3 begin with a call to those who "who share in the heavenly calling" to "fix your thoughts on Jesus the apostle and high priest whom we confess."

Chapters 3-10 are filled with much that we Gentiles should learn but it is largely instructional to the Jews who know what a High Priest is and have a good understanding of Jewish Scriptural History.  For the writer uses their Scripture to show that Jesus is their Jewish Messiah and has becoming their High Priest who is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us.

Chapter 11 is the famous faith chapter as it points out how only faith in Jewish history was accepted by God and how now only faith is accepted by God.  

Chapter 12 talks about enduring hardships in their faith leading into the final chapter 13 with two things that I want to point out.

First, 13:9 the writer says "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings."  And second, 13:15 "...offer to God a sacrifice of praise."

The idea the writer is making here is not about strange teachings as in Ripley's Believe it or Not sort of strange, but rather strange here comes from two Greek words (translated diverse and foreign) which are used in relation to the topic of the Christian orthodoxy that he has spent 12 chapters explaining to them: not to believe that Jesus is an angel (for that idea is certainly foreign lay strange).

In today's culture we Americans believe many strange teachings about Jesus, and I include myself in this accusation; it's impossible to not have influenced by them.  The devil whose job it is to destroy our faith and cause us to not have faith in Jesus is sly so we need to be aware.  Books and books have been written against such teachings but I simplify it reducing everything to this: if our attention is distracted from faith in Jesus alone then we need to address whatever is distracting us.  And this is most easily seen in the writer's next call for us to offer the sacrifice of praise to God.

In 13:15 we are called to, "through Jesus," to continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God.

Here's a test.  Go to Church someplace, anyplace, and during the worship, focus singularly on God through Jesus Christ.  On His attributes alone, on His goodness alone, on Him and His goodness alone.  Don't focus on what He has done for you, don't focus on what you want Him to do for you, and don't focus on whether you like the style of music, the music leader, or the people around you.  Just focus on God for who God is and worship him!

My guess is that you cannot do it for 15 minutes, I know I can't.  Try as I might I always seem to find myself thinking about myself, my situations (good or bad), and my loved ones.  Heck, I even find myself thinking about the football game after church, lunch, or what might be in the mail on Sunday.  I am so easily distracted that I rarely get a chance to focus just on God when I worship.

Maybe I am alone in this but I'm going to bet that I am not.

So what am I to Do?
Romans 7:24

"What a wretched man I am, who will save me from this body of death?" 

Well, as Paul identifies in Romans 7, we are not going to be able to succeed though we try (as we must) but we do have one who saves us despite our own inabilities and shortcomings.  He refers to Jesus, the same one the Hebrew writer spent 13 chapters convincing us to know and have faith in.  

It is Jesus who died on the cross defeating sin and death thus saving us, it is Jesus who was dead for three days in the grave that resurrected back to physical feed me and feel me life, it is Jesus through whom we now are called to continually offer praise from our lips to God, and It is Jesus who is now seated at the right hand of the father making intercession for us.

Do we believe it?  With even a little bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed?  For if you do/will, then you are not alone as you navigate your life's journey.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Three Things – 10/03/2018


I was thinking today about things that changed my life.  I came up with three things and I know there were more but these were the three that first came to my mind…

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

First, I recognized the strangle hold that pornography had on me…

 In 2004 I moved to New Jersey for work.  I wasn’t a Christian at that time but the move felt to me like the opportunity for a brand new life.  As I packed things to take with me the one thing that I certainly was not packing was my years of collected porn mags and videos.  At that time I realized that my porn habit was more of an obsession that a normal bad-habit.  I realized that having grown up on the stuff, wrong understanding of women had formed in my brain and so I bequeathed my whole “collection” to my best friend (sorry Scott) and was leaving for Jersey with no intention of obtaining anymore of the stuff.

It took years for me to see that my exposure to porn really was a form of sexual-abuse.  I actually thought, at the time, that women all meant “yes” when they said “no” and secretly desired to be abused and sexually mastered by men.  It took me quite a while to realize that the majority of women were not like the women who were ‘acting’ interested in me in the movies.  I had a tough time realizing that pornography was a pure fantasy-land for men and it had terrible effects on countless men and women.  Even as a non-Christian I recognized that there was something wrong.

To this day, porn is the one thing from my past life that still beckons me.  I was addicted to many things but this is the one thing from my past that I actively have to fight against.  While I don’t like it, it is a thorn in my flesh that keeps me humble while it allows me to understand others with addictions of their own.

1 Corinthians 15:16-17

16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!

Second, I took seriously a desire to know the truth…

When I was new in New Jersey I was not getting into porn nor was I hanging out at the local booby-bars so this left me with tons of time to just look at the ocean and think.  In my time of thinking I wondered what was really true about God and life.  I remember praying a simple prayer: “God, if you actually exist, I want to know who you are.”  I did not really care who God was, I just wanted to know who he was.  In fact, I expected God to be a form of Buddhism or something: anything but Christian because I didn’t want my mom to be right.

I started looking into world religions and I realized that all of them made their claims of being true; but only one of them claimed to be true because of a dead man rising back to life from the dead.  I was struck with the resurrection because if a dead man actually came back to life from the dead then I needed to seriously listen to that guy.  And the fact that the Bible instructed me to ignore the Christian claims if in fact Jesus did not rise from the dead - this was a big one for me: because all other world religions claim to be true just because they say so.

I was stuck because the Christian claim was different and now my life has been significantly improved because of it.

Thirdly, I learned to manage and budget my money…

How we use our money is the clearest outside indicator of what we really believe. ... If someone is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, the evidence will be found in that person's everyday life - including his or her use of money.  ~Larry Burkett

Getting rid of porn and accepting the truth of Jesus were huge impacts on my life, but after that was learning how to budget; and it has been no-less significant to my life.

Before I learned to budget, I lived pay-check to pay-check.  I paid my bills but just barely.  Car insurance was the tough one with its every six-month payment that I never really had and scrambled to come up with.  I was maxed out on my credit cards, I had a car payment, and if there was any money extra it was always used to feed myself, buy cigarettes and beer, and go to Atlantic City.  I was taught a good work ethic from my parents but money management was not something that I had ever really learned.  I actually believed that the only way to be out of debt in this world was to die and not exist anymore.

At that time I started listening to a daily radio show by Larry Burkett called Money Matters.  It was a radio show that talked about the Christian principles of handling money.  Larry stressed the necessity of the budget for responsibly managing money and even though it was a foreign concept to me I realized that he was correct.  Then he talked about how to get debt-free which was a concept that I did not believe possible in our culture, but he talked a lot about how to do it and so I tried it; that was in 1994.  By the end of 1995 I became debt-free and I never looked back.  Today I have a little minor debt but something that will be gone within the fiscal calendar year and because I budget I always have a month’s expenses in the bank with a good cushion for surprises.

These are among the top three things that completely impacted my life.  I know there are more and maybe even some other things that were more influential that I don’t even know about, but these are the ones that came to mind immediately.  I share them because I know that I am not the only one who had been negatively impacted by pornography, or not taking the idea of the truth of life seriously, or even never having learned how to properly manage my finances and I thought it might help you to consider your own situation. 

My prayer is that you too might find peace in your life by learning things that you may not have thought of before.

Monday, September 17, 2018

For Christ’s Sake – 09/16/2018


There are a few movements in this passage so instead of me putting the scriptures in, please follow the link and have another window open so you can read the sections as we go.

Movement 1: 8:27-30

Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is and Peter answers for them (correctly I might add) that he is the Christ – the Messiah of God.

Movement 2: 8:31-33

Jesus then teaches his disciples that it is necessary for him to suffer, be rejected, killed, and raised from the dead.  At this point Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him but Jesus looks at the disciples and then rebukes Peter; calling him Satan and commanding him to get behind him.

The Merge…

What just happened?  Why did it go from a very high point of Peter rightly identifying Jesus as the Christ to a very low point of Jesus calling Peter Satan?

What happened here was that the disciples correctly identified Jesus as God’s Christ: the Jews had been waiting a thousand years for the Christ of God to come.  In much the same way the Church of Jesus is waiting for him to return just as the Jews had been waiting for the Christ to come to Israel.  And just as the church has a very detailed orthodox theology and doctrine of what exactly will and will not happen and when Jesus returns, so also the Jews had a very detailed theology of what the Christ would and wouldn’t be when he arrived.  And according to Jewish theology, the Christ would not be is a suffering servant who was rejected by the bigshots of Judaism and then prematurely die.  And so Peter had to take Jesus aside and remind him of the “good biblical teaching” that the Israelites had developed over the previous thousand years or so.

“Get behind me Satan, for you don’t have the mind of God but the mind of men.”  Jesus erupted.

The Greek word[2] that is translated “the mind” is actually used twice in this verse and is better translated as “understanding”.  For Peter, in this instance, did not have the “understanding” of God when it came to the Christ but rather he had the “understanding” of the men of Israel and their best study of the scriptures and their interpretations of the Christ.  I can only imagine that if Jack VanImpe, Tim Lahaye, and Jerry Jenkins told Jesus what was going to happen when he returned, they too might be called Satan and told to sit at the back of the class.

We are all like Peter too.  We may have rightly identified Jesus as our redeemer who died on the cross for us and resurrected from the dead on the third day, but then we adopt very specific and detailed biblically derived opinions and theologies based on our best studies.  Too often I have caught myself explaining to God how he is supposed to act in a situation or what he is supposed to do.  I am afraid that I am too often sitting with Peter behind our Lord.

Movement 3: 8:34 – 9:1

Jesus then calls everyone together and explains to them how suffering and sacrifice is the only way to be his disciple.  The Jews had a very health-and-wealth theology about the Christ but now Jesus is kicking that understanding of Israel being restored and put again in a place of political power again out of their minds.  

This must have been a huge shock to them for everything they had ever learned about the coming of the Christ was about how good it would be for Israel to not be under the rule of Rome or any other foreign governments.  They had a very utopian ideal in their thinking and Jesus here was kicking it to the curb.

In this section of Mark’s Gospel you and I learn WHO Jesus is and WHAT he expects from us: personal sacrifice for others for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel message.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

I think about the success of some Christian ministries in the American arena and I wonder if they would know such success if they preached this message of self-sacrifice.  Somehow I doubt it; but this is the message that Jesus preached. 

Certainly faith in Jesus brings grants us forgiveness of sin and gives us life-eternal with the Father in heaven when we die, but that is a future event.  Jesus is here pointing out the now of being and living as a Christian: we are to willingly surrender our earthly lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel in the service of others.  It’s a Kingdom mentality.

And honestly, the calling to follow Jesus is a noble calling indeed but one that most of us find difficult to accept.

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+8%3A27-9%3A1&version=NIV
[2] froe,w (frowe-eh-owe)Mind or understanding

Friday, September 7, 2018

NOW – 09/09/2018


A Greek born girl is healed as well as a Jewish born deaf mute; Jesus heals them both.

In Mark we see that Jesus, as a Jew, pointed out that he could not have (maybe should not have) healed the Greek girl because the Jew is preferred in Judaism.  Certainly the Jews preferred their own kinsmen and easily discriminated between themselves and everyone else.  And Jesus points this out to the woman by (possibly sarcastically) reminding her that she is no better than a dog in the eyes of the Jews.  But she replies to Jesus with words of great faith and he readily accepts her words by granting the healing that she sought.   

Jesus also healed a Jewish man who was a deaf mute and by healing them both demonstrates that there is no preferences for or discrimination between persons.

We humans have an ugly way of judging, for ourselves, who is worthy of our Lord's blessings according to our own biases when the only thing that matters to our Lord is faith.  We even might believe at times that Jesus cannot forgive and love our own selves because of something that we may have done rather than simply allowing our faith in what HE has done to be the determining factor.

We need to stop being the judges of the world but fully accept the righteous judgement of Jesus.

We are taught not to Judge according to our own preferences which is by discrimination (v. 2:4) and favoritism (v. 2:9). 

James talks about allowing our faith to be effective in our lives with demonstrations of deeds of faith.  He talks about true faith expressing itself as “believing”. 

I hear all the time that people "believe" in God, and even Jesus, but their belief in Jesus is like one's belief in any historical person.  However, the belief that James is calling us to is a genuine faith that is present and active.  A present and active faith is not an easy believism based on some nebulous past.  The belief of true faith is a belief in the present and active NOW.

NOW, we believe and have faith that we are presently redeemed.

NOW, we allow the Holy Spirit to invade our world through us.

NOW, we believe and know the peace that passes all understanding.

NOW, we live our lives on earth as it is in heaven. 

Our present and active belief is not a one-time event so that we can go to heaven when we die but it is an active present reality that allows us to live heaven here on earth NOW.

Our lives and churches thrive now because Jesus is alive now and so we believe and have faith now.  Unfortunately, too many of us are not living life on earth (as it is in heaven now) because we have allowed the evil one to convince us that since we are "saved" we need only sit back and wait for the return of our Lord.

NOW friends, is the time to begin living out our faith for all eternity.
2 Corinthians 6:2
For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
(As I wrote this I kept thinking that this song was appropriate.  Because He Lives [3].)

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+7%3A24-37&version=NIV
[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A1-19&version=NIV
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M-zwE33zHA