Archive | April, 2014

1 Simple Way to Glorify God

April 30, 2014

Comments Off on 1 Simple Way to Glorify God


Let your light so shine ...

Let your light so shine …

John 1:1-14 is one gorgeous passage.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

One awesome thing about being in Christ is that we also get be a light to others. Christ told us to use that light to glorify God and not hide it. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify the father which is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

Think about that today as you go about your business. Whatever it is you do, do it to glorify God.



Continue reading...

Our Cycle of Foolishness

April 29, 2014

Comments Off on Our Cycle of Foolishness

On the Road to Emmaus - ~1310 - Duccio (1260–1318)

On the Road to Emmaus – ~1310 – Duccio (1260–1318)

They were a little reluctant to believe.

And why not? The prophesy of the Messiah rising from the dead was something they knew would happen, but were they supposed to believe it was happening right before them?

Jesus called the two on the road to Emmaus foolish for doubting. (Luke 24:25) They had been taught this stuff all their life. They knew he was out there teaching and doing miracles. They knew this was all supposed to happen just like it did.

Even for his disciples, it was a lot to take in.

Sometimes we are reluctant like that. We read and study the Bible, learn what God can do for us, receive his blessings – and then doubt.

  • We are reluctant to pray for what we really need.
  • We are amazed when the prayers are answered.
  • We are reluctant to pray the next time we are in need.

And so the cycle goes.

A little faith goes a long way. (Luke 17:6) Take what you have by nurturing it through study (Romans 10:17) and use it to do great things for the Lord. (Hebrews 11:6)


Continue reading...

Darkness Needs Darkness

April 28, 2014

Comments Off on Darkness Needs Darkness

There is no goodness in the dark

There is no goodness in the dark

People who live good lives respect the Lord,
but those who live evil lives don’t. – Proverbs 14:2 NCV

Here, in one sentence, is the reason for the urgency to remove God from public view. With godly behavior being systematically removed from T.V., radio and other influences in our lives, the foul behavior seems less offensive and starts to seem normal.

Take a look at what John says:

…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. – John 3:19-20

According to the worldly people, their behavior and belief comes from education and enlightenment.

According to the Scriptures, it comes from evil.

Continue reading...

Why Jesus Prayed Anyway

April 25, 2014

Comments Off on Why Jesus Prayed Anyway

Christ in the Garden - Caravaggio (1571-1619)

Christ in the Garden – ~1600 – Caravaggio (1571-1619)

The first thing he thought to do was pray.

Really hard.

As the time approached for Jesus to be captured, he took time out to be with God. (Luke 22:39-46)

And why would the Son of God need to pray?

  • It was comforting.
  • It let God know he comes first.
  • It let God know what Jesus thought he needed.

Jesus knew he had to go through the crucifixion, but he asked God to reconsider anyway. He left us this excellent example to show us that even when God isn’t going to change the course of events, he still has much to offer.

  • He can offer us the strength to face challenges
  • He can offer us the wisdom to complete the task
  • He can offer us a peace only he can offer

Make it a habit to talk to God often through reverent prayer. It might be beneficial to have been a regular customer on the judgment day!

Continue reading...

The First Priority of Leaders

April 24, 2014

Comments Off on The First Priority of Leaders

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles - ~1310 - Duccio (1260–1318)

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles – ~1310 – Duccio (1260–1318)

Power and position.

People have a natural disposition toward being the one in charge.

The apostles were no different. While they still had a misunderstanding of what Christ’s kingdom was going to look like, they were jockeying for high office within it. (Luke 22:24-30)

Christ doesn’t want leaders like that.

Leaders serve.

Leaders put themselves last.

Leaders suffer difficulty.

Leaders in the church have plenty of opportunity to fail. They are usually challenged every time they make a decision. Every decision makes someone angry.

It is no wonder that Paul said they deserve a double portion of honor! (1 Timothy 5:17)

Leadership done right in the Lord’s church is not about the position. It is about the souls they preside over. The Bible compares them to the shepherd protecting his flock.

When we seek to be Christian leaders, let’s be those that seek to wield the power as servants. Leaders that influence others toward salvation…

… Leaders that put the Lord and others first.

Continue reading...

Avoid Being Caught Short at the Judgment

April 23, 2014

Comments Off on Avoid Being Caught Short at the Judgment

We are what we think about

We are what we think about




In Luke 21, as Jesus is foretelling Jerusalem’s destruction and his return, he suddenly warns against these symptoms of lifestyle and what to do about them – Be careful of what weighs down your heart. (Luke 21:34)

At some point, our time will run out and all we will have is the stuff we are made of to offer up in the judgment. That offering will be the direct result of what we put in our heart.

God made our heart (or mind, or soul) in such a way that it returns exactly what we put in it. Fed one way, it returns the things Jesus warns about in Luke 21:34. Fed another way, we would be godly people able to avoid the “trap” of death.

In summary, we actually become what we think about.

Look at what the Proverb writer says:

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

He is showing us that we have control over what we think about. Some may be out of practice, but we have the ability to feed our minds with good. When we do that, our decisions and conversations and attitude will begin to reflect godly things. The kind of things we want to present to Christ when he returns. (Luke 21:36)

Paul gave us a number of lifestyle directions in just about every letter he wrote. One of my favorite being Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8 KJV

If Jesus comes right now, will your heart be full of what is in the Luke 21:34 warning or the Philippians 4:8 exhortation?

Continue reading...

3 Ways to a Giving Heart

April 22, 2014

Comments Off on 3 Ways to a Giving Heart

The Widow's Mite - João Zeferino da Costa 1840-1916

The Widow’s Mite – João Zeferino da Costa 1840-1916

Jesus talked a lot about money. (In fact the whole Bible does throughout the Old and New Testaments)

I think it is interesting that the account of the widow’s mite is the last recorded teaching Jesus made in public. (Luke 21:1-4) The timeline from this point leads quickly to his crucifixion.

Why would the widow’s giving be Jesus’ last words on how to please God?

Because her gift told us much about the proper attitude of a Christian. I can think of at least three reasons for us to give like her:

  • It demonstrated trust in God – When we budget our giving, it needs to be at the top of the list. How can we say we trust God to provide when we pay our cable bill first and give him what is left over?
  • It was sacrificial – The kind of heart God wants us to have is one willing to sacrifice for him. Our giving is not a sacrifice unless we actually sacrifice something.
  • Presumably, it was cheerful – Since Jesus new her heart and still praised her gift, we can assume she gave in a cheerful manner. Who wants a gift that was only presented out of duty?

The kind of giving we see these days is nothing like the widow’s giving. The giving we see by philanthropists is often a spectacle. It certainly doesn’t cause any harm to the finances of the giver.

They should enjoy the praise of men while they can, because God will not give them any credit for it! (Matthew 6:2)

Those of us with more modest means have the ability to give so much more than they. It all starts with showing God a little trust.

Continue reading...

Cherry Picking God’s Word

April 21, 2014

Comments Off on Cherry Picking God’s Word

We have a bad habit.

Without thinking about it, we have gotten good at hearing only what we want to hear.

Here’s a picture I drew as a joke:

Our habit of listening and repeating looks something like this

Jesus once quoted Psalm 110:1 to the Sadducees to make the same point. (Luke 20:41-44, Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37) How can the Christ be both David’s son and his Lord? Christ was calling them out because they were choosing ignorance of the scriptures for their own convenience.

In all three accounts, Jesus follows up the discussion with a warning about the Scribes. They had gotten a little too used to their lifestyle so they were ignoring God’s word and hoping it would go away.

Christians and non-Christians alike have carried that tradition all the way until now. If we spent more time with the Bible, we would not have so many various “truths.” By doing a better job of reasoning what the Scriptures say, we could all eventually come to the same conclusions.

Jesus never made any bones about it: we are responsible for all of God’s word. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Sometimes we have to relearn what we were once taught.

But … so many debates could be eliminated with everyone taking an honest approach to the Bible!

Challenge: Pick one typical day in your life and consider whether each action you take would harmonize with God’s word. If you don’t know, make a Bible study out of it.

Continue reading...

How to get Jesus’ Attention

April 18, 2014

Comments Off on How to get Jesus’ Attention

Zacchaeus (Kristus og Zakæus) - 1913 - Niels Larsen Stevns 1864-1941

Zacchaeus (Kristus og Zakæus) – 1913 – Niels Larsen Stevns 1864-1941

Jesus will look straight at you.

Just when you think he isn’t paying attention…
…that he will never have time for you…
…that you have gone too far…

…he will be there for you.

Unexpected Pleasure

Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He was very rich. He was likely very dignified. He was certainly very hated. (Luke 19:1-10)

He probably went his whole career believing that he would not benefit from the Messiah’s coming. The Pharisees had specifically excluded the publicans from association with them – so that was that.

Then, why would Zacchaeus go out of his way to see Jesus?

Maybe he heard about the publican named Matthew that was traveling with Jesus. Maybe the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector had made its way to him. (Luke 18:9-14)

Whatever it was, it caused him to seek Jesus.

Zacchaeus did exactly what Jesus taught us to do: Ask. Seek. Knock. (Matthew 7:7-12) Not only does he teach us to do that, but he means for us to keep doing it. The language in those verses is more like “keep on asking, seeking, and knocking”  – Even when the outcomes doesn’t look promising.

Climbing into that sycamore tree wasn’t very dignified. It might have been rather comical seeing that short man in business clothes scramble up a tree.

But it was the right attitude.

And Jesus saw him.

Expected Pleasure

Luke ends the account with Jesus saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Just like Zacchaeus, we are not doomed unless we doom ourselves. Like Zacchaeus, we are only lost until we can be united with Christ.

And like Zacchaeus, that will happen when we take action to seek him and follow him and obey him.

If you feel like a Zacchaeus, go out of your way to find him today!

Continue reading...

Jesus Wants You to Have this Attitude

April 17, 2014

1 Comment

Pharisäer und Zöllner - Fresko (F3), Basilika Ottobeuren

Pharisäer und Zöllner – Fresko (F3), Basilika Ottobeuren

How is your attitude?

Attitudes seem like they can fluctuate from day to day. That is more likely a reflection of mood than attitude.

Attitude is more of a long term disposition than a short term measure of how we feel. Our attitude controls whether we always find the negative in a situation or if we are able to find something to learn from it.

Pilots describe their aircraft’s position in the sky as its attitude. If it isn’t oriented just right relative to the horizon, then it will not fly efficiently. It might get to where it is going, but it will have used more fuel and suffered more wear and tear than normal.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) is the portrait of attitude.

“Lord, Look at me!’


“Lord, I can’t bear for you to see me”

One has accomplished everything he can…


…one is growing by leaps and bounds.

Paul reminds us that no one is righteous (Romans 3:10) and everyone has sinned. (Romans 3:23) Yet many have an attitude that causes them to be like the Pharisee and totally miss that point. Even though his attitude makes his sin even more visible to us, he is totally blind to it himself!

Challenge: In Philippians 4:4-13, Paul lists a numbers of things that will change our attitude. Pick one of the things there that might need some improvement. What is it doing to your attitude and what could you accomplish if you changed it?

Continue reading...

How to Make the Bible Easy to Understand

April 15, 2014

Comments Off on How to Make the Bible Easy to Understand

Make a connection with an actual Bible and put its contents to memory!

Make a connection with an actual Bible and put its contents to memory!

In our world of search engines, we have the ability to search the entire Bible in seconds.

In our world of smartphones, we can do it anywhere and any time.

I know it is a little bit “old school” – but give me a chance on this:

Bible memory work is still a very valuable part of our growth and maturity in the faith.

Sometimes it seems a little “old school” to even carry a Bible to church. The Scriptures used during the service are often projected on a screen making it seem unnecessary to open one at any point in the service.

In order to get to know the scriptures – to get to the point where we know where we stand, we need to get better connected with what it says. I cannot think of any way better to get to know what it says than to memorize the Bible.

Here’s a few thoughts on why. Memorization will …

  • Clarify the text – When you memorize, the nuances of the text start to appear. The Bible is FULL of great truths that we miss through skimming and mere devotional reading.
  • Grow our faith – If faith comes from hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17) then committing it to memory can’t help but make stronger Christians
  • Clean our mind – Our mind returns what we plant in it. Fill it with the good stuff (Philippians 4:8)
  • Make us ready – We are to be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) What better way to be make a convincing response than to be able to quote the scriptures?

All of the cool devices in the world would have a hard time providing these benefits. They make great supplemental study tools but …

They don’t connect us to or help us fall in love with God’s word!


  • Take an inventory of Bible scriptures you either know or once knew by heart (There are more than you think!)
  • Try to think of passages that you know where to find if you need them, but don’t really have memorized.
  • Work on memorizing everything on the two lists.
  • By the time you have done this, you will have discovered more passages you want to add to the list. Memorize those too!
Continue reading...

How to Be Worthy Servants

April 14, 2014

Comments Off on How to Be Worthy Servants

The Parable of the Unworthy Servant is a strong statement about our attitude toward serving God.

The Parable of the Unworthy Servant is a strong statement about our attitude toward serving God.

“…we have only done what was our duty.”

The Unworthy Servant passage makes me stop every time. (Luke 7:7-10)

The World

When it comes to passages to be worried about, this one is near the top of my list.

By the worldly benchmark, we are taught to finish a project, finish it to specs, and finish it within budget. The ones who do this well are promoted and given bonuses and praise.

We are programed to strive to reach the top and enjoy the rewards we have merited.

The Kingdom of God

That is not how the spiritual realm works though. We are told to be perfect, (Matthew 5:48) yet all have sinned and fallen short of perfect. (Romans 3:23)

When the subject comes up, I like to tell people that the Bible only teaches about one way to retire from God’s work. That is because our work is never done to perfection. The more mature among us have instructions to teach others and be leaders. There is no retirement age during our earthly stay!

We never reach the point where we merit indebtedness from God.

The Passage! How do I apply the Passage??

I have seen it taught that Luke (17:7-10) means we cannot get to heaven by doing only what God commands. That cannot be right, though. This is one of the first measures of love we show God. (John 14:15)

The passage is a warning not to get too cozy in our righteousness. Assuming we could get to the point of perfection, it would not a time to take it easy and expect godly accolades.

The point Jesus was driving home is that we are to remain humble servants, looking for what the Master needs from us next.

Question: What is your current goal in your service to God? What are you doing to reach it?




Continue reading...

Paying the Price

April 11, 2014

Comments Off on Paying the Price

The cost of following Jesus is high. Do you have enough in you to do it right?

The cost of following Jesus is high. Do you have enough in you to do it right?

This stings:

An old friend of mine posted something critical of Christians on Facebook the other day.

We can read the “count the cost” passages (Luke 14:25-33) over and over, but it still hurts when something like that happens. Is that what he has really thought of me all this time?

The post was a political one that set up a straw man attack on Christians. Even though it was not a personal attack, an attack on the group I am most proud to be associated with still feels personal.

This is the kind of thing we’ll continue to have to deal with. All we can really do about is “shake the dust off our feet” and move one. Sure, we will lose the occasional “friend” over it, but it is all part of the transition from counting the cost to paying the price.

Paying the full price is what Christ requires. (Luke 14:33)

Continue reading...

This is One Hard Lesson

April 10, 2014

Comments Off on This is One Hard Lesson

...many will seek to enter ... Luke 13:24

…many will seek to enter … Luke 13:24

Jesus taught some hard lessons.

We probably need to hear more about those hard lessons. Jesus told us that getting into heaven is as easy as squeezing through a narrow door. In fact he told us to “strive” to get through.

Luke 13:22-30 should at the same time encourage us to keep working toward our goal and to stay concerned over being able to enter that narrow door.

Why strive? Because on the other side:

  • we have citizenship (Philippians 3:20)
  • we have treasure laid up (Matthew 6:20)
  • we have hope there (Hebrews 6:19)
  • we will see the Lord (John 14:1-3)

Whatever trials, or temptations, or effort, or needs we have to struggle with, it will all be worth it in the end.

But that’s the side of the story we always hear.

What about the tough lessons? What about the danger of failing? Jesus’ point here was that despite the teachings above, many are not going to enter at all!

Many are going to do nothing thinking they are already safe – waiting all the way until they hear the door close before they investigate. (Luke 13:25) But he says he won’t even acknowledge them at that point.


There’s more too:

  • some are even waiting until the door shuts on purpose. Procrastination is dangerous (2 Corinthians 6:2)
  • some are being too casual – remember Jesus said “strive” (Luke 13:24)
  • some are trying to bring old baggage with them, never fully repenting
  • some are simply too proud (1 Peter 5:6)

So many will be caught short because they have listened to the “easy” lessons. Jesus will not recognize them because they listened to outsiders.

That sounds like me, what do I do?

It is said that there are two perfect times to plant a tree: twenty years ago and today.

Now is the time to be on our way to the “narrow gate.” If you haven’t started yet, get started now!

Question: What are some ways you can move from your current place toward spiritual maturity?

Continue reading...

Why Starting Small is Best

April 9, 2014

Comments Off on Why Starting Small is Best


The parable of the Mustard Seed - An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Mark 4:30-32 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England.

The parable of the Mustard Seed – An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Mark 4:30-32 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England.

It’s okay to start small.

There are very few overnight successes. When we do think we have witnessed an overnight success, it usually turns out that there were years of sacrifice and preparation.

Small is exactly the place we’re supposed to start a project, and the Kingdom of God is no exception. Jesus told us as much in The Parable of the Mustard Seed. (Luke 13:18-19) Small is often discouraging – and that is what Satan wants it to be.

But …

…in a small group, a better foundation can be laid for growth through training.

…in a small group, stronger bonds can be formed between the members.

…in a small group, agreements are easier to reach without compromises.

Explosive growth in the Lord’s church would be difficult to sustain without preparing a large number of sound elders, deacons, teachers and preachers. What would your congregation do if 300 people of varying denominational backgrounds started attending within a month of each other?

It would be exciting at first, but then reality would set in as we realized the infrastructure to support and teach them is not ready. Use the time you have being small to prepare to suddenly be big.

What if the mustard seed sower planted it in the little bed next to his house rather than out in the field?

The next time you are tempted to be discouraged about attendance or participation of the church. think about how Jesus started with 12 good men and changed the world.

Continue reading...