Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Verse for the Week

Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord. ~ Ezekiel 13:22-23 (ESV)

In this verse, there is a message to the prophets. A prophet is one who is charged with delivering the Word of God to the people. These particular prophets were not doing their job. In fact, they were undermining God's desire for the people. They were discouraging the righteous and emboldening the wicked, which is the opposite of what God had spoken.

Neither you nor I may be a prophet, but let's not miss an important point here. Just as streams and springs converge to make a river, we all contribute some impetus to the general course of what goes on around us. Do we support the right and oppose the wrong, or vice versa? Do we throw our weight behind the good, or the bad? Do we build up, or tear down? Is a righteous person grieved by our discourse? Does the wicked find an ally in us?

Should God direct people to us, or away from us?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Verse for the Week - Every Knee Shall Bow

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. ~ Rev. 20:11-12 (ESV)

Comedian George Carlin died yesterday from heart failure. Known for his biting satire, Carlin seemed to become ever more vitriolic as he aged. Never one to avoid controvesy, he frequently addressed religious issues in a mocking and blasphemous way. Now, he is in the hands of the Almighty and will be required to give an account of his life, as will we all one day. Thinking of Carlin's life has caused me to reflect on the choices we all must make while here on earth and the reckoning we will one day face.

Ultimately, there is one thing for which we must give an account - What did we do with Jesus?

...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

Monday, June 9, 2008


But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~ Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)

The author of Hebrews was pastorally remonstrating his congregation for their lack of maturity. They had been Christians long enough that they should be able to teach others, but they themselves were still in need of remedial education. The telltale sign of spiritual maturity, he notes, is discernment. Blogger Tim Challies defines discerment as "the skill of understanding and applying God's Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong." The benefit of maturity via discernment is stability in life. Church fads come and go and self-proclaimed prophets rise and fall, but the spiritually mature person can distinguish between what to accept and what to avoid by testing everything by the word of God.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Verse for the Week

He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." ~ Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV)

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of officiating at the wedding of a young woman in our church. The bride and groom were resplendent in their attire and practically beaming with love for one another. And yet, they are embarking upon a journey which neither can fully understand or prepare for at its inception. How do they navigate these uncertain waters? Ancient mariners used the stars to gage their changing position against the fixed lights of the heavens. Our newly-weds can do the same. Not look at the stars, but look to the fixed marks of Heaven to steer by. God created them male and female, so they should note that there will be differences - good attributes to relish and others to mitigate against. They have become one flesh, and just as your right leg and left leg can't take different paths, neither can they, or the one body will be torn in two. But most important, God has joined them. They specifically sought out a Christian wedding ceremony and made vows to one another in the sight of God and in the presence of earthly witnesses. Hopefully, that will be the North Star that guides them for a lifetime.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Quote for the Week

Hence I cannot be silent - nor, indeed, is it expedient - about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven. ~ The Confession of Patrick

Patrick was not born in Ireland, but rather he was kidnapped from Britain by Irish raiders and sold into slavery. While enduring the harshness of his captivity, Patrick's heart was moved by God to consider his own sin and he turned with his whole heart to God for salvation. After being a slave for six years, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain. He entered the church and was eventually appointed as a bishop and returned to Ireland as a missionary to preach to his former captors.

Shamrocks, leprechauns and green beer - are these the fitting legacies of St. Patrick? I think not.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Verse for the Week

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. - Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. - Matthew 18:15 (ESV)

You've experienced a wounded relationship before, I'm sure, and found nothing pleasant in it. Jesus gives us some good instruction for healing those wounds. Notice who is to take the initiative - we are. Whether we are the one who is wrong or are the one who has been wronged, Jesus expects us to make the first move. Notice also that we are to go first to the other person involved, not a third person. This short circuits embarrassment and gossip by keeping the circle of those affected at a minimum, initially.

Are you willing to acknowledge your own wrong doing? Are you willing to give someone a chance to apologize before you air his or her shortcomings publicly? Just think how much emotional turmoil could be avoided by practicing a little humility in our dealings with others.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Verse for the Week

Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. ~ 1 Chron. 16:23 (ESV)

Our verse is in honor of last week's Grammy Awards. I find that these sorts of events provide me with an open door into Bizarre World. I mean, c'mon, who thought that it would be a good idea to have hardcore rapper Ludacriz introduce the "gospel" section of the show? And Mr. Humble, Kayne West, was such a picture of grace and class while accepting his award that you could almost forget that on his latest album all the songs are tagged for explicit lyrics. Not to mention the sexually suggestive banter between Kid Rock and a woman who recieved an award during the first Grammy show. I can't recall her name, but if this is the 50th anniversary and she was, say, 20 years old then, she would be 70 now - old enough to be Kid's grandmother.

Well, someone came and confiscated my soapbox, so I'll have to wrap up my tirade now. But first I would like to thank... oh, nevermind.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Verse for the Week

And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' ~ Luke 15:31-32 (ESV)

One of Jesus' better known parables tells the story of the prodigal son. The younger of two sons asks for his share of the inheritance from his still-living father, only to party it away with fair-weather friends in a foreign country. A famine strikes and the prodigal is reduced to slopping hogs and is soon hungry enough to join them at the trough. Then he comes to his senses, realizes that his father's workers have plenty to eat, and decides to go home, confess his sin and work as a hired hand. As he approaches home, his father sees him coming and runs out to meet him. The lost son has returned. A celebration ensues and everyone is happy. Well, not everyone.

The eldest son enters the picture again. At the time of the dividing of the inheritance, the story tells us that the father "divided his property between them". So the elder son had also received his share of the inheritance. But now he is angry. He stayed and worked the fields, doing all that his father asked him to, but with no reward or thanks. Now his irresponsible brother comes home after wasting all his money and there's a party thrown for him. Is he justified in his anger?

Not really. His father's words to him, given in our verse above, show the true picture. "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." The elder brother, though living in his father's household and sharing in all the blessedness of it, was as oblivious to the grace of his position as was the younger brother. At least the younger brother, via hardship, had finally come to his senses. The elder brother daily shared in his father's love, but didn't see it or appreciate it. How short-sighted. How tragic.

Jesus told this parable to some strictly religious Jews who were unhappy that Jesus was willing to associate with the sinners who were coming to him. They were the elder brother in the story, unable to see or to share in the grace of the father, and angry when he accepted those who did.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Verse for the Week

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
~ Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)

The words of Isaiah were claimed by Jesus and wherever his name is exalted, freedom follows.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Verse for the Week

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." ~ Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV)

And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." ~ John 1:32-34 (ESV)

Yesterday was the day in the church calendar set aside to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus. This is an important event for us because it marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on earth. Jesus’ message to the people was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” He could say this because he himself came from heaven. God the Father set his seal of approval on Jesus and spoke from heaven. This event is recorded in Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and all of the accounts match closely. In the Gospel of John, however, we get the story from the point of view of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist came from out of the wilderness and his message was the same as Jesus’ message, although he preached it first – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” John was told by God the Father to baptize the people who turned to the Lord and repented. He was also told that, while baptizing, the Son of God would be revealed to him. The Father revealed the Son to Israel through his baptism. He used baptism as a mark of identification for Jesus. As Christians, we still practice baptism as the symbol of identification with Christ. It is the outward sign of an inward change.

Baptism didn’t make Jesus the Son of God, but revealed him as the Son of God. So baptism doesn’t give us faith in Christ, but reveals to those around us that we have put our faith in Christ. But baptism in water is also a picture of a much deeper identification with Christ. Water baptism is symbolic of our deep union with Christ through faith. A union so deep that Christ’s death becomes our death and his life becomes our life. The old way of life for us was buried with Christ. The power of the resurrection gives us the power to live new lives, lives of devotion to God rather than devoted to sin.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Verse for the Week

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:23-25 (ESV)

Jesus did not need the assistance of a psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, poet laureate or bartender to understand the inner workings of the human mind. He knew people, inside and out. Nor did he need to gain the approval or affirmation of the masses to carry out his task since he did not suffer from low self esteem or insecurity. Instead, from his position of strength, he came to alleviate the deepest need of humanity - estrangement from God the Father.