Archive | September, 2013

Achieving Importance in God’s Kingdom

September 13, 2013

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Even the Lord’s church is full of folks that look for position and importance above his brothers. It started before day one of the church with the apostles bickering among themselves about who was the greatest among them. (Luke 9:46, Matthew 18:1, Mark 9:34) Humans, by design, are full of ambition. This is a good thing – up to the point of where vanity is not kept in check.

Jesus used the innocence of children as a model of who will have importance in his Kingdom. Children still have the qualities we are all born with, but allow life and experience to choke out. These are qualities like:

The place of importance in God's Kingdom is reserved for those with childlike qualities

The place of importance in God’s Kingdom is reserved for those with childlike qualities

  • humility
  • freedom from prejudice
  • being teachable
  • being lovable
  • trustfulness
  • faithfulness
  • avoiding anxiety
  • innocence

Jesus laid out his standard for importance in his eyes in Mark 9:35. If you plan to be ranked higher with him, then you will put others first. A Christian life is one of service. It is a service done in a humble manner, (Matthew 18:4) which is to say that it is service without expectation of reward or appreciation. (cf. Matthew 6:16-18)

The foundational commandments are to love God and to love others. (Luke 10:27) The definition of love contains all of the childlike qualities above. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) The place of importance in God’s kingdom belongs to those that love well.

Daily Bible reading for September 13

Psalm 42-43
2 Samuel 3
Ezekiel 2-3
Luke 9:1-50

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Where is Your Faith?

September 12, 2013

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Worry, Fear, Panic. Just a few of the symptoms of one that doesn’t trust. If we lack faith in something, then we do not expect to be able rely on it.

How do you supposed Jesus felt when he had to ask his disciples where their faith was? (Luke 8:25) Jesus had demonstrated his power to them time and time again, but they still feared the storm. (Luke 8:22-24)

Faith in God is how to avoid worry.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, 1632.

Every day will bring new challenges. This might be especially true for those trying to be faithful to God. When we allow those challenges to consume our attention, we will eventually overthink the situation. Fear and worry can use that to get a foothold.

To get a head start on the day, we have to expect the unexpected. Sure, that’s a little cliché, but preparing ourselves to handle anything that life throws at us is how we deal with it. Here are a few things we can do get that head start:

  • Bible reading – an excellent way to build faith (Romans 10:17)
  • Prayer – The prayers of a righteous person gets results (James 5:16)
  • Review our priorities – Seek God’s kingdom first (Luke 12:31) and select our treasure wisely (Luke 12:34)

Faith in God is the first step (and often the only step) needed to avoid worry and fear.

Daily Bible reading for September 12

Psalm 41
2 Samuel 2
Ezekiel 1
Luke 8:22-56

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7 Reasons Jesus Taught With Parables

September 11, 2013

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When Jesus spoke in parables, he had a number of reasons for doing so. I’m not sure I fully understand them all, especially Luke 8:10, which seems very cryptic to me. It almost seems to say to me that those with a hard heart will miss the point, but those eager to learn will get it. If anyone has a better explanation of that verse, please let me hear it!

Here are some notes that I have collected in the margins of my Bible as to why the Lord used parables to teach:

  • Prophecy Isaiah 6:9-10
  • Confound the spies and Pharisees
  • Challenged His disciples to greater spiritual discernment
  • The Hebrew people were familiar with the method
  • Easy to remember
  • Interesting
  • The teachings were unsuitable for use against him in court

Daily Bible reading for September 11

Psalm 40
2 Samuel 1
Daniel 12
Luke 8:4-21

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Making a Judgment

September 10, 2013

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Jesus took Simon the Pharisee to school. (Luke 6:36-50) I wonder if Simon really fully understood what happened in his own house.

Making judgments is a daily requirement to avoid sinful situations, We have to be careful whose standard we judge by.

Making judgments is a daily requirement to avoid sinful situations, but we have to be careful whose standard we judge by.

  • When the sinful woman came in, Simon saw a lost cause – Jesus saw a precious soul (Luke 7:39)
  • Simon felt superior to Jesus – Jesus was the master teacher (Luke 7:40)
  • Simon slighted Jesus a common courtesy – Jesus responded to the love of a sinner (Luke 7:44-46)
  • Simon remained judgmental – Jesus passed the final judgment (Luke 7:48-49)

The passages that warn us about judging others (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37) are among the most misused in the Bible. Most people quote those verses as a way to avoid having their sins pointed out to them. If they were to keep reading, they would see that it is a warning against unrighteous judgment. We are to be careful of the measuring stick we hold up to others, we might just have that same ruler used against us!

Simon illustrates that perfectly for us. He thought he was sizing Jesus up to pass judgment on his authenticity as a prophet. Instead, he found himself weight in the balance and left wanting.

Since Jesus recognized her love for him, we know the sinful woman went away living in obedience. At the end of the day, our love for the Christ is how we stay obedient. (John 14:15)

…and those who see themselves as superior to others? Let’s hope they see the danger before it’s too late.

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Look For the Centurions

September 9, 2013

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Jesus healing the servant of a Centurion - Paolo Veronese (1528–1588)

Jesus healing the servant of a Centurion – Paolo Veronese (1528–1588)

In Luke 7:1-10, the centurion’s servant is healed. Jesus marveled at his faith compared to what he was finding among the Jews.

The centurion had good references (Luke 7:4) from the Jewish elders even though he was a Gentile. He was also an officer in the hated army of Rome. He built the synagogue for the Jews and as far as we can tell, he believed in Jesus as soon as he knew about him.

It might be human nature to size people up based on external factors, but it is not God’s nature to do so. (cf. Acts 10:34, James 2:1) As today’s call to action, try to reach out to someone that others might have written off because of who they are.

We might find a centurion.

We might even be impressed like Jesus was. (Luke 7:9)

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Enough Love For All

September 8, 2013

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…even sinners love those who love them. – Luke 6:32

Today when you attend worship, say hello to someone you’ve never spoken to. Try to step outside your comfort zone for a little while.

It’s good practice for acting like a Christian among those in the world. Jesus expects his disciples to demonstrate a quality of love, helpfulness, and compassion that exceeds everything that is above and beyond what people tend to do.

When you have mastered this among your fellow church folks, and are able to avoid “fellowship” with only selected friends, you are ready to show worldly people a Christ-like love for all.

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The Debris of Sin

September 7, 2013

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After reading Numbers, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Romans and James with a group from church last night, (Yes! 7 hours of reading!) I am left with one impression:

A lot like a shard of glass, consequences of our sins can arise at any time.

A lot like a shard of glass, consequences of our sins can arise at any time.

The Lord is very forgiving of sin, but he leaves it to us to clean up the mess we make when we do.

The children of Israel found this out when they ignored one of the conditions for inhabiting the Promised Land. They were to drive out all of the inhabitants. (Numbers 33:55) God even warned them that if anyone was left, those inhabitants would become like thorns in their sides. They failed to obey and we can look at the life of David to see that it still held true even through his days and beyond.

God expects us to obey his word. He also expects us to act on his behalf when the time comes – a lot like when Mordecai told Esther at one crucial point in the Jews history: “…who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Yes, we can sin and be forgiven. We might even be able to take advantage of God’s grace a little bit. In the long run, the unintended consequences may cause us to perish.

Daily Bible reading for September 7

Psalm 36
1 Samuel 27
Daniel 8
Luke 5:1-6:16

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Biblepalooza – A Mental Refill

September 6, 2013

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Be careful what you think,
because your thoughts run your life.

Don’t use your mouth to tell lies;
don’t ever say things that are not true.

Keep your eyes focused on what is right,
and look straight ahead to what is good.

Be careful what you do,
and always do what is right.

Don’t turn off the road of goodness;
keep away from evil paths. – Proverbs 4:23-27 NCV

I’ve told you about Biblepalooza before. I have been mentally preparing for it this week as tonight’s session will be a long one. I can’t say enough good about sitting for several hours and letting my mind be washed in God’s word.

In the passage above, Solomon cautions us in how we think, act and do. Our Biblepalooza sessions are one way to practice that – It’s like a mental refill of things to think about!

The Things We Think About

Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret in the World was thought to be rather groundbreaking when it was released in 1961. His basic message was “we are what we think about.” Whatever we put into our minds returns in abundance through our actions. Spending time with God’s word is exactly how to become what God wants us to be. If we are what we think about, then thinking about God is how we do justice to being created in his image.

Paul reminds us to fill our minds with whatever is good, true and honorable – so many suggestions for what to think about! (Philippians 4:8) What better way to obey such a command than to spend it reading the Bible?

Tonight I will spend several hours in a room with my brothers and sisters. The only sounds will be the words of God.

Look for a way to do something similar. Even if it isn’t a formal event like our Biblepalooza, find excuses to read your Bible.

Start small if you have to. But start.

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A Faith Lesson from Daniel

September 5, 2013

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As Daniel noted the new decree that no one should be worshiped except the king, he went straight to his room and prayed. (Daniel 6:10)

Daniel’s attitude is a model for all Christians, no matter how God and his followers are attacked.

  • He was not defiant – we see that he didn’t make a big deal out the fact he was going to worship his God. He just went about it as was his habit.
  • He was not a coward – we do not see Daniel hiding his worship either. In fact, the folks that set him up to commit a “crime” easily caught him in the act of worshiping.
  • He continued as always – It is difficult to fight for the right to practice something when we failed to exercise that right before it was threatened.
  • His window was open toward Jerusalem – We send mixed messages when we claim to put God first but “open our windows” toward money, fashions, government or any other type of secular concern.
  • He was faithful – Daniel didn’t have any concern for what his enemies thought, what the government legislated or his personal safety. Trusting God always works out in the long run

By the end of Daniel 6, God was recognized by the kingdom and the freedom to worship not only was preserved, but was enhanced.

Through Daniel’s example of faith, we see that God’s plan will prevail without our having to force it. We just need to …

  • keep living faithful lives
  • worship regularly without apology but without an air of defiance
  • teach others when we can
  • be an influence that makes others notice

… and let God use us to complete his work.


Daniel in the Lions’ Den circa 1614/1616 – Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 – 1640 )

Daily Bible reading for September 5

Psalm 34
1 Samuel 25
Daniel 6
Luke 3:23-4:13

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How to Make God Glad

September 4, 2013

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Have you ever heard your mother or your wife start moving pots and pans in the kitchen and you knew exactly what she was about to make? Maybe it is the distinct sound of a mixing bowl or a cookie sheet. Whatever it happens to be, those sounds make your heart jump because you know something good is coming.

I wonder if that’s something like the psalmist was thinking when he said “praise befits the upright” (Psalm 33:1) …

I think about a God whose heart is glad when his children come together in fellowship. How must he feel when he hears the sounds of Christians encouraging each other? Does his attention snap right to us when the congregation begins a song of praise?

Like Noah's sacrifice, what can we do today that God would consider a fragrant smell?

Like Noah’s sacrifice, what can we do today that God would consider a fragrant smell?

  • Noah’s sacrifice caused the Lord to make a promise (Genesis 8:20-22)
  • Paul tells us our sacrifices are a credit to us (Philippians 4:14-18)
  • Brotherly love is a sacrifice that gets God’s attention (Ephesians 5:1-2)

As we conduct ourselves today, what can we do to make God feel the same way we feel when the pots and pans rattle? What could give him the pleasure we know from the smell of hot cookies right out of the oven?

Making God feel that way – to make God Glad – is the attitude with which we should be giving our praise, our offerings and our worship.

Daily Bible reading for September 4

Psalm 33
1 Samuel 23-24
Daniel 5
Luke 3:1-22

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To Hide From a Sin

September 3, 2013

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Have you ever tried to hide from a sin? Maybe it was against God or another person, but the feeling would be the same either way.

Hiding from a sin doesn't do us much good.

Hiding from a sin doesn’t do us much good.

David really nailed it in Psalm 32:3 about how it feels to have something like that on our conscience. A good dose of guilt is a little like a gift from God. It helps us to remember that we need God and we need to be in good standing with him. In Hebrews 12:5-13, we see that it is a sign of a Father’s love to be disciplined and our course corrected.

Those whose conscience are seared shut and hearts hardened will find themselves separated from God. This begins through ignorance of the word – the word that reveals God’s love and desire to forgive us. (1 Timothy 4:1-2, Ephesians 4:17-19)

Of course, those of us that know God’s willingness to forgive, and know his love for us often hide anyway. David said to quit acting like a donkey! (Psalm 32:9) Many of us will allow ourselves to be dragged along, too stubborn to be teachable or able to be lead.

We are fortunate enough to have Christ has our redeemer and shepherd. Through him God has extended his grace to us and we need not try to hide our sins. It is through him that we have freedom. (John 8:31-32)

Daily Bible reading for September 3

Psalm 32
1 Samuel 21-22
Daniel 4
Luke 2:22-52

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Encouragement for Troubled Christians

September 2, 2013

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This morning on Facebook, I read a general comment from one of my friends about the inconsistency of the American Christian (used here as a follower of Christ, regardless of denomination.) He made some observations that I believe were right on the mark.

Where has the troubled Christian in America failed?

Where has the troubled Christian in America failed?

  • There is a lot of talk about violation of rights and even “persecution” of Christians in an attempt to make followers of the false religions feel better.
  • There is a lot of confusion as to what the Lord’s kingdom is all about.
  • They have forgotten that being persecuted for Jesus’ sake is a blessing. (Matthew 5:11-12)

If I had to pull one reason out of the air as to why this has come about, it would be because the American Christian’s Bible is left in the corner untouched. If the American Christian were as familiar with their Bible as were the people that came to this “new world”, the events of today would unfold far differently.

  • They would have better responses to a non-believer’s challenges.
  • They would not have allowed non-believers and false teachers convince them the Bible says things that aren’t in there.
  • They would be energized and motivated by the attacks of the lost.
  • They would be able to defend it with confidence.

Jesus, Peter, Paul and James said that Christians can expect to be reviled in any number of ways and can expect blessing and reward from it. (Matthew 5:10-12, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4) The book of Revelation is all about encouragement of the Christians facing some tough times. Knowing this, the American Christian has a choice to make:

  • He can capitulate or ignore the problem and be lost with the rest
  • He can be invigorated by the trials as the passages above suggest and work harder to get the word out.

A fully developed and fed faith gives us the hope to continue. It helps us understand what being a member of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom entails. It enables us to keep planting the seeds.

We weren’t promised an easy path to our reward, but it is a path we need to be proud to follow.

Daily Bible reading for September 2

Psalm 31
1 Samuel 20
Daniel 3
Luke 2:1-21

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Take a Rest Day

September 1, 2013

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It is difficult to fit everything we need to do in our lives these days. From the looks of it, the more modern conveniences we have, the busier we get. In a 24 hour connected world, we have become a people that never truly rest.

Just yesterday, my boss and I were in contact most of the day working on some side projects. This is supposed to be a three day holiday weekend!

As we prepare for worship today, our challenge is to tune out the world. We are passing up our rest, but stay in the right mindset for worship! Our temptation is to let the world in through our gadgets and devices. There are some important events going on in worship that are supposed to have our full attention, but the beeps, buzzes and flashes have trained us to stop what we are doing – Even at the expense of worship to our Lord.

It is now acceptable to bring my smartphone into worship and have it out because “my Bible is on it.” But what else is on it that might pull my attention away from the worship – if even for a second?

Our task – our urgent task – is to snap out of the trance like state that the smartphone addiction has brought upon us. This is true not only for Sunday, but so much of the world is passing by every day while we sit in front of our devices. Friendships, family, our mates. So many flesh and blood experiences are being passed over for the digital.

Let’s try to do it old school today. Even if only for the sake of Sunday rest.

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