Archive for January, 2006

God With Us! – Matthew 1

And there it is – the pivotal point in history when grace and mercy entered the scene on our behalf. What more important event in the history of the earth than the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

I try to imagine what Joseph was going through. Yes, it took a certain kind of man to return to Mary, who “claims” she was impregnated by the spirit of God. Like some of you, I have an enhanced “what if” generator, too. I wonder how it all would have turned out if Joseph was having a particularly bad week and decided that he really didn’t want to believe Mary. What if he decided that the humility and shame that was sure to follow if he were to go ahead and marry Mary was too much to ask? What if he ran away and never looked back?

Well – then I wonder if he had much choice in the matter. A) God is all knowing and He probably wouldn’t have chosen Joseph “the timid” and B) Joseph did have a certain heavenly visitor who told him how it was going to play out and to not be afraid.

If you know me, you’re probably guessing where I’m going (again). Do the words, “It’s not about me” sound familiar?
God has a plan. He had to send His one and only Son to rescue mankind. Was anyone going to stop it? The “duh-ciples” tried many times, but even they, in their familiar bungling manner (that I can relate to so much), could not stop Jesus’ divine appointment on the cross.

He also has a plan for you and me. We have free will, true enough. But, if we are seeking Him – even though we continue to fall down – He will complete in us what He began.

Thank You, Lord!

peace,
e

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Worms Among Us! – Jude

In this chapter, Jude (brother of James) is warning us about “godless people have wormed their way in among” us. And yet, we have a job to do here on earth for the short time we’re here.

I found my encouragement today in verses 20 – 23:

20 But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. 21 Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. 22 Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins.

Build up our faith, Lord, and direct us by the Holy Spirit today. – amen(Tomorrow’s chapter: Matthew 1)

peace,

e

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…a world where everyone is right with God. – 2 Peter 3

I drank that in for a few moments…a world where everyone is right with God.

Can you even imagine that? I’ve heard people describe all the splendor of heaven – the streets of gold so pure you can see through it – a beautiful pearl for gates – colors I have never seen – mansions – but I have a difficult time relating to all that. I know it will be spectacular and breathtaking.

Heaven for me is a place with no more good bye, no more pain, no more tears. These things I can relate to – and long for with everything I have.

We can have abundant life here on earth, but this world is not right with God. So, we have difficult times.

Peter’s encouragement to me in this chapter was in verses 11 – 14:


11
Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! 12 You should look forward to that day and hurry it along – the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.

Are you at peace with God?

peace,

e

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Glorious Ones! – 2 Peter 2

Have you ever heard someone say, “If there’s a God in heaven, how come he let so many people die in the hurricaine?” or “How can a loving God allow so many people to die from that Tsunami?”

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help think of all the disasters this past year, and the war, and all the bombings. How many people died in 2005?

Then, I read in this chapter:

4 For God did not spare even the angels when they sinned; he threw them into hell, in gloomy caves and darkness until the judgment day. 5 And God did not spare the ancient world – except for Noah and his family of seven. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. Then God destroyed the whole world of ungodly people with a vast flood. 6 Later, he turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and swept them off the face of the earth. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people.

It frightens me when Pat Robertson makes some of the statements he makes. However, sometimes he’s only saying out lout (to millions of people on TV, many of which are looking for bold statements they can twist) what I’m sometimes thinking.

The truth is, God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin…period. He has called us to be holy. Sin must be punished. Is it so hard to believe that God would allow the ocean to cause us to wake up by sweeping out a city so filthy it has been called a modern day Sodom & Gamorrah?

I must admit that I grow more and more concerned for the moral decay in our country, and in our world. When I read Pete’s description of those false teachers in this chapter, I couldn’t help thinking about our world today. Read the verses below and see if they don’t describe some of the leaders and politicians and wealthy in the world today:

10 …These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at the glorious ones without so much as trembling.

12 …They laugh at the terrifying powers they know so little about, and they will be destroyed along with them.

13 …They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight. …They revel in deceitfulness while they feast with you.

14 They commit adultery with their eyes, and their lust is never satisfied. They make a game of luring unstable people into sin. They train themselves to be greedy; they are doomed and cursed.

18 They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With lustful desire as their bait, they lure back into sin those who have just escaped from such wicked living.

19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves to sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.

The really good news is that God will protect us – the glorious ones! Did you catch that in verse 10 & 11?

9 So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while punishing the wicked right up until the day of judgment. 10 He is especially hard on those who follow their own evil, lustful desires and who despise authority. These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at the glorious ones without so much as trembling. 11 But the angels, even though they are far greater in power and strength than these false teachers, never speak out disrespectfully against the glorious ones.

Wow. Hold on to your faith, glorious ones! You can see from this chapter alone how much is at stake. And, you can see how much God loves you. Hold on to your faith in these end times. Your reward is not far off…

peace,
e

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Trust His Promises – 2 Peter 1

Ever get the feeling that you can’t succeed as a Christian? Ever get the feeling that you will never make it?

Well, the good news is that it’s not about you!

There are so many self-help books and sermons and ministries and video programs that try to teach us how to grow as a Christian. Unfortunately, many of the focus on what WE must do. Pete gives us a different approach. He says in this chapter that it’s a simple matter of applying the benefits of God’s promises.

Here’s the progression:

verse 2 – May God bless you with special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus
verse 3 – As we know Jesus better, He gives us everything we need
verse 4 – He gives us promises that we’d escape the decadence around us
verse 5 – Apply these promises, then faith produces moral exellence
– Moral excellence leads to knowing God better
verse 6 – Knowing God better leads to self-control
– Self-control leads to patient endurance
– Patient endurance leads to godliness
verse 7 – Godliness leads to love for other Christians
– Finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone

What’s the beginning? God blessing us with His special favor and wonderful peace. What’s the end? Genuine love for everyone.

Sometimes I try to jump in the middle and pray for self-control. I work on it. I make promises. I put tools in place. I try to set up accountability. I fail. Sometimes I try to improve my patience. I pray for patience. I memorize scripture. I listen to how-to CDs. I have others pray for me. I fail.

Today’s encouragement is to TRUST GOD MORE. Don’t pray for guidance. Don’t pray for patience. Don’t pray for peace.

Pray for more trust.

Get to know His promises. Trust in His promises. Get to know Him. Allow Him to change you as you apply these promises in your life.

It goes against everything in us as men, but God has called us to receive his own glory and goodness (verse 3).

peace,
e

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The Flock & The Lion – 1 Peter 5

As I read today’s chapter, I immediately thought of Wildmen and what God has put together.

2 Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example. 4 And when the head Shepherd comes, your reward will be a never-ending share in his glory and honor.

I’m no pastor or elder. I don’t work on the staff at a church. But, I do feel that God has brought me together with the leaders of Wildmen and that my responsibility to those men is much like what Pete is talking about here. Especially since we’ve branched out and started a Wildmen at another location, I feel God is using us (me) to open the hearts and eyes of many men who are seeking to have victory in this life. And, I will admit, there are times when the extra time it takes to prepare and pray and email these men leaves me feeling a bit selfish. There are times when I don’t even want to do it any more.

But, this chapter speaks volumes. I’m to do this not for what I will get out of it, but because I’m eager to serve God. I AM eager to serve God – but it’s easy to loose sight of what that means.

Who has God put you in charge over? Your wife? Your family? The men in your small group? What about those people at your work? What about those people who bring you your coffee at Denny’s? Do you think about being a good example then? I know this chapter is to elders in the church, but are we not called to be prophet, priest & king of our homes? Maybe I’m way off on this, but I know God is speaking to me about serving Him by serving others – and not just those in my obvious Christian circles.

The other thing I want to mention in this chapter is verse 8:

8 Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.

This is always a good reminder for us. Satan, like lions, prowls around for those he’s been able to isolate and injure. When he spots someone out there on their own, perhaps weakened by recent emotional hardships, financial difficulties, harsh words from a loved one, divorce, illness, unforgiveness, bitterness, etc., that’s who he pounces upon – and destroys. We need each other. We need a place to be honest and real. Confession and repentance leading to restoration are key to our survival.

We need You, God! Thank You for the reminder today of how much we need You and how much we need each other.
peace,
e

P.S. – This is the last chapter of 1 Peter. Tomorrow, we start in II Peter. See ya in the Word!

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Follow in His Steps – I Peter 2

Wow (again). I wish I would have read I Peter 1 yesterday because these 2 chapters together is almost too much to handle! Isn’t it amazing how reading God’s Word give you what you need – when you need it?!

Today, I’d like to start at the end of the chapter (skipping over my thoughts on tons of great stuff in this chapter). Look at verse 21:

21 This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps.

Follow in His steps:

22 He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

As I read this morning, I may have realized something about myself. I think I can attribute much of my “suffering” (though nothing compared to what Christ had to go through) to my inability (refusal?) to not let it bother me. I mean, sometimes I think I may in some wierd way enjoy the “attention” of my discomfort. No, I do not enjoy what is happening to me. I do not enjoy the anger or the disappointment. I wish it would all go away. I don’t enjoy feeling rejected or unloved or not good enough. I wish I could somehow turn all that around.

But, I am called to be like Christ. I think I must post these two verses (22, 23) everywhere I go: at work, at home, in the car, on my cell phone.

Jesus, help me to be like You – to follow in Your steps.

peace,
e

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Joy! – I Peter 1

Wow. Was anyone else uplifted by this chapter? God knows it’s exactly what I needed for my usual Monday morning lul. Just look at verse 2:

2 God the Father chose you long ago, and the Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Jesus Christ and are cleansed by his blood.May you have more and more of God’s special favor and wonderful peace.

Peter is writing to Christians (“God’s chosen people”) here…and the good news: we have nothing to do with it. 1) God chose us. 2) The Spirit made us holy. 3) That’s why we obey Jesus Christ. 4) That’s why He cleanses us by His blood. And, 5) We can have more and more of God’s special favor and wonderful peace!

I dont’ know about you, but that’s got me fired up. Praise God! “We” are not even mentioned in there anywhere. We can’t screw it up – do you see that? Satan would love to make us think that we can, but because of Jesus, we have won the victory.

Okay, you ask – if I have won the victory, why does it seem to difficult, this Christian life. Why the heartache, why the depression, why the temptation, why the failures, why the pain?

Peter continues:

6 So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. 7 These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

I will be the first one to admit, gents, that joy is something I have not been associated with much lately…and, “happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy?” well – I long for that. It’s easy for me to let “things” get to me and rob me of my joy. However, today as I read, I am again reminded how little I have to do with “the big picture.” And, that is:

1) God chose me. 2) The Spirit made me holy. 3) That’s why I obey Jesus Christ. 4) That’s why He cleanses me by His blood. And, 5) I can have more and more of God’s special favor and wonderful peace!

Thank You, Lord!

peace!
e

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The Cost – John 21

Today, we end our reading in the book of John. And, we tie up several important stories (at least for me anyway).

We have that second miraculous catch of fish that brings us full circle. Remember when the disciples first met Christ? It was after they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. After they met Jesus and heart Him teach the people on the beach, He asked them to go fishing. Reluctantly, they agreed – only to catch the biggest catch in their careers. Until today, that is – when Jesus did it again at the end of His time here on earth.

Then, we see Jesus forgiving Peter – 3 times. That seems to correspond with the 3 times Peter denied Jesus.

As I read today, verses 18-19 jumped out at me:

18 The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know what kind of death he would die to glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

As Peter would soon find out, there’s a cost to follow Jesus Christ…a significant cost. In Peter’s case, it would require his life. Jesus is saying that while he is young he can move about on his own, but there will come a day when his freedom will be removed. As we know, Peter was martyred.

What’s the cost for you? The familiar question comes to mind: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Lord, while I’m able, please increase my faith. That way, when the time comes I will be ready to follow You no matter what the cost. Keep us flexible and soft-hearted, Lord, to hear You. Keep us teachable and accountable to each other as we grow.

Tomorrow’s reading: We start 1 Peter. See you in the Word!

peace,
e

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I Believe! – John 20

As we begin to wrap up the book of John, my thoughts turn to how it must have been in those times. I started thinking about how cül it must have been to be living, walking and talking with Jesus. How different would it be to have actually seen Jesus heal the sick and raise dead people to life? How would I be changed if I had seen His body there on the cross? Would I need proof, like Thomas had to feel the wounds himself? Would I have run and hid, like Peter, and denied Him to protect myself?

Then, I read in John 20 where Jesus talked to Thomas about this:

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.”

And, I read where Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit:

22 Then he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

And, I realized that what Jesus said in chapter 16 – that it’s better that Jesus left so we can have the Holy Spirit. I got all giddy when I thought about the fact that God has made it possible to live INSIDE OF ME! Guys, we will all be rewarded for our faith in Jesus – because we’ve never seen Him, yet we still believe. And, the best part is, it’s not even about the rewards, they’re just an added perk!

Thank You, Jesus, for all You’ve done and for all You went through to redeem us. I believe in You, Lord!

peace,
e

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