Friday, August 31, 2007

It's all about Jesus Christ!

First, I praise God for my High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who also happens to be my once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice!  Wow!  This just blows my mind:
Hebrews 8:
6 But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. ...
10 But this is the new covenant I will make
      with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
   I will put my laws in their minds,
      and I will write them on their hearts.
   I will be their God,
      and they will be my people.
Hebrews 9:
11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.   13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people's bodies from ceremonial impurity. 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. 15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. ... 22 ... For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. ...
26 ... But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.  27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
Wooohoooo!!!  Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  Wow, that is RICH! 
This ties in with what I've been learning the last couple of weeks:  Christ doesn't just want us to know about Him; He wants us to know Him, and He will change our lives!  My life is constantly changing because of Who He is, so I want not only my speech and my actions to reflect Christ's love, but I want my heart to be close to God.  He is changing me from the inside!  This is not an adherence to a set of religious constraints; this is a metamorphosis!  He died for me so that I can live for Him.  He abolished my slavery to sin so that I can freely follow Christ!  God doesn't just care what I say and do, He is concerned with who I am - my character.
Second, I praise God for giving me such a godly and capable wife!
Proverbs 31:
10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
      She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
      and she will greatly enrich his life. ...
17 She is energetic and strong,
      a hard worker. ...
28 ... Her husband praises her:
29 "There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!"
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for sending Jesus Christ to die for my sins and give me eternal life.  Thank you for changing me and molding me.  Lord, I pray that you will continue to mold my mind and my heart with your precepts so that I will understand and obey you.  I confess you as my God, I want to be part of your people.  I love you, Lord; please grow my love for you.  Lord, help me share this love with those around me that they may know how great You are!  Lord, thank you for blessing me with such a wonderful partner who also seeks your face.  Lord, I am so encouraged by her love for you and her compassion for people.  I pray that you will continue to humble me and wash me with your Word.  Help me be the husband and friend you want me to be.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, my High Priest and atoning sacrifice, the One Who has redeemed me from destruction and given me abundant life in the Spirit of the Almighty God!  Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

God keeps His promises

I listen to a Christian radio station, and one of the regular commercials is from a local ministry that always has a brief, encouraging note from Scripture, and they always end the commercial with, "... and remember, God keeps His promises."
Before I began my reading this morning, I prayed that God would reveal something about Himself to me.  I love this passage at the end of Hebrews 6 about God's faithfulness:
13 For example, there was God's promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:

 14 "I will certainly bless you,
      and I will multiply your descendants beyond number."

 15 Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

 16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Wow!  I can trust God because He never lies, His word is always true, His Son Jesus has proven the way!
Heavenly Father, thank you for your promises that are always true.  Lord, I thank you for reaching out to humanity with the Cross at Calvary.  I pray that you will give me boldness to preach your Truth that never changes. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


My wife is a kindergarten teacher, and Monday was her first day.  She had a great day and told me about several distinct personalities in her classroom: one little girl has been quite spoiled and pampered, so it will take some work to discipline her; one little boy has a cute smile; several of the girls are chatty, so that will take some work; and another little boy is perhaps slightly autistic, which requires a sincere, devoted effort from his teacher.  But perhaps the most intriguing child is a little boy that is almost blind; he can not see much beyond three feet.
The children were assigned their lockers on Monday, and after most of the other students had stored their backpacks, the little boy approached my wife and said, "I can't find my locker."  You see, the student's names were labeled at the top of the locker, which he couldn't see.  Later that day, as the children were playing at recess, the boy came up and asked, "Can you help me find my friend Colton?"  He simply couldn't see to find his friend as they were playing.  My wife is moved with compassion for this child as she begins to appreciate his challenges.
Yesterday, the teaching emphasis was, "What makes you special?," in an effort to formalize each student's personal identity in his or her own mind; this helps kindergartners understand their role in society and why it is necessary to come to school and learn how to read, write, and count.  She asked the students this question, "What makes you special?," and several children responded, but she was amazed at the simplicity and profound depth of this precious boy's reply, "I'm special because Jesus made me special."
7 ... there was given me a thorn in my flesh ... 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, " My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12)
Indeed, I am humbled by this boy's statement.  How easily I become distracted with the business of life that I forget this sweet and simple truth:  Jesus made me unique for His purposes and for His glory, and I can have a vibrant and abundant life with Him.


At approximately 2:00 AM this morning, my wife and I were rudely and abruptly awakened by a cockroach crawling across my wife's face!  Fortunately, we found it on the floor and smashed it with a shoe.  We got back in bed, and we were almost asleep when BAM! It happened again!  That creepy little bugger had limped back up in the sheets!  Well, needless to say, we were quite startled and frazzled and paranoid about every little itch or tingle we felt.  About an hour passed, and neither of us could go back to sleep.  I was thinking, is it absurd to think that this little complication was an attack by the Enemy to irritate us, make us bitter, and steal our peace by causing us to fear?  I began to pray out loud that we know that God is sovereign, and that Jesus is our rest - He is our Sabbath.  I prayed that we would sleep well, and that God would protect us from the enemy's attacks and give us the peace that passes all understanding - casting out all fear.  Wouldn't you know it, within a few minutes we went to sleep, and we didn't wake up bitter or angry.  In fact, we had quite a few chuckles about it this morning.  (By the way, I did leave a terse but reasonable voice message regarding pest management services with the apartment manager.)
What made me record this little anecdote is the powerful correlation to the Scripture passages in my daily reading.  In Hebrews 3, the author talks about God's rest and develops through chapter 4 the notion that His rest is not strictly a physical rest, but a spiritual rest:
8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.   12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ... 14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
How sweet is that!  When we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can go humbly and boldly before the throne of the Almighty God, our Father, and receive mercy and grace that is personally and chronologically relevant!  Of course, this reminds me of a recent memory passage (Matthew 11:28-30):
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Heavenly Father, thank you for the redeeming work of your Son, who is our compassionate High Priest.  Lord, I thank you that you give rest to any who come to you.  I pray that you will help me seek you first, and know that you will work out my life for your glory.  I pray this in Jesus's powerful name.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

simple and logical

I really appreciated the simple and logical reason why Jesus did what He did (Hebrews 2 ):
14 Because God's children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.  16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
Another powerful statement occurs a few verses before.  The "L" in the TULIP of Calvanism suggests that Christ died for only a subset of humanity.  However, I think Hebrews 2:9 at least suggests that Christ's work could be applied to everyone in the world (of course, I sadly acknowledge that wide is the gate to destruction and narrow is the way of the righteous):
9 What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position "a little lower than the angels"; and because he suffered death for us, he is now "crowned with glory and honor." Yes, by God's grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.
This gives me hope to share the Gospel with everyone, because He tasted death for everyone.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the death of your Son which takes away the sin of the people.  Lord, I praise you for your powerful work and your perfect plan.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you will use me and my life to bring many people to a saving knowledge and faith in the Son of God, Who is our compassionate High Priest and atoning sacrifice.  I pray this in His name.  Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2007

good deeds

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
Titus 3:1 Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. 2 They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.  3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.   4 But—"When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life." 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.
Heavenly Father, please help me be committed to doing good deeds to glorify you.  I pray in Jesus's name.  Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

goals and objectives

From my reading of Scripture (and various theological books I've read recently), I think I have observed a list of goals and objectives (certainly not exhaustive):
GOAL:  glorify God
 - objective:  love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength
       - task:  give praises and thanks to the Father (enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise)
       - task:  keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the Son (deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him)
       - task:  obey the Holy Spirit's leading in your life  (set your mind on the Spirit, not on flesh)
 - objective:  Love your neighbor as yourself
       - task:  love your Brothers and Sisters in Christ with acts of kindness and mercy
       - task:  love the lost with the above and by preaching the Gospel
Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and your grace through sending your Son into the world that I might live through Him.  Lord, I praise you for your perfect plan of redemption, and I thank you for including me in your Kingdom.  God, I want to glorify you in everything I do.  Lord, help me.  I need your grace.  I pray this in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2007

lifestyle (purity, prayer, righteousness)

I find it interesting that the focus of these passages is not on knowing what is right, but living, doing, and working righteousness.  The Pharisees and religious leaders knew the law, and yet they missed the point of it - to glorify God with our lives.  Paul instructs Timothy to live a life that glorifies God.
Luke 11:42 "What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. ... 52 "What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering."
2 Timothy 2:3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. ... 15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. ...   22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
2 Timothy 3:14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
I also just came to the realization that the disciples wanted to learn how to pray as a result of Jesus's personal example.  Furthermore, when He gave them a prototype prayer, the paramount objective is to bring/give glory to God.
 Luke 11:1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."   2 Jesus said, "This is how you should pray:

   "Father, may your name be kept holy.
      May your Kingdom come soon.
    3 Give us each day the food we need,
    4 and forgive us our sins,
      as we forgive those who sin against us.
   And don't let us yield to temptation."

Heavenly Father, I pray that your name will be glorified, and that you will use my life to glorify yourself.  Lord, I pray that you will use me to build your kingdom.  Holy Spirit, please teach me your Word, not so that I will just know it, but that I will live it - to the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Lord, may I be diligent, hard working, faithful, loving, and peaceful.  Lord, please purify and sanctify me as I suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.  I pray in the name of the One True God, Jehovah, and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

central focus

Luke 10:41 But the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."
I was really touched by the story of Martha getting overwhelmed with cooking dinner and getting upset that Mary wasn't helping her.  Jesus told her that she had found the only thing that really matters.  I want to be enthralled by Jesus; I want to seek Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  I want to keep my eyes focused on Jesus for He is the foundation, initiator, sustainer, and protector of my faith.
A practical compliment to this core principle is detailed in 1 Timothy 6 and 2 Timothy 2:
6:11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.
1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.  12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.   13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.
It is through Jesus that I know the Father, and I can commune with the Singular-Trinitarian GOD as the Holy Spirit lives within me!
Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing yourself to me through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, thank you for revealing the Father to me.  Holy Spirit, thank you for living in me and changing me into a new person.  I praise you for your incredible identity, and I thank you for your grace and mercy towards me.  Lord, may I be loving and compassionate toward the people around me.  Lord, I ask you to teach me to run from wickedness and cling to you as you give me righteousness, a godly life, faith, love, perseverance, gentleness.  I pray this in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

teaching (part 2)

This is incredible!  Well, actually, it is credible and amazing!  You see, God is working in my heart and life in a very visible way!  I am humbled and encouraged.  I've been praying with a Brother about how we fit into the Body of Christ (what our role is in the Church), and I feel like God is leading me to grow in my faith (which I've also been praying for). 
Last night, one of our Bible Life administrators/ministers asked me to consider substitute teaching a class for a couple of weeks until they resume their regular curriculum.  I told him that I would pray about it and discuss it with my wife.  Well, I talked to my wife (who knows how little extra time I have), and she wanted to make sure that I wasn't just adding another "good" thing to my plate.  I realize that accepting this responsibility may require that I reevaluate my schedule.  We prayed about it, and I specifically asked God to clearly confirm His leading to me somehow.  Well, I got my answer:
1 Timothy 4
1 Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. 3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. 4 Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 5 For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.  
6 If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. 7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. 
11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.  
14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.
I don't know if it gets any clearer!  You see, the timing here is awesome.  God prompted me along in His timing so that all of these "serendipitous" events would line up just before I read 1 Timothy 4.  Furthermore, I see this as a leading of God for the following reasons:
1.  It will humble me because I will observe that I can do nothing good on my own; it is ultimately the Holy Spirit that moves people's hearts.
2.  It will cause me to draw near to God because I need Him and I want to know Him more to be able to share Him with others.
3.  It will cause me to grow in my faith because I will be forced to study Scripture more thoroughly and articulate the context and message.
4.  It will benefit the Church because there is a need for a teacher in our local church, and God has given me the ability, desire, opportunity, and prompting to help this need.
5.  It will produce eternal fruit - the refinement of my life and others into a closer resemblance of Christ.
I'm sure I could think of other reasons, but I need to get some work done today.
Heavenly Father, thank you for being real in my life.  Thank you for speaking to me personally through your Scriptures.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow in my faith.  Lord, please humble me so that I follow you precisely and give you all the glory for anything good.  Spirit, please teach me so that I can teach others, and I pray that you will bless the teaching of your WORD.  Lord, please glorify yourself in my life, and refine me into the image of Jesus Christ.  I pray this in His powerful name. Amen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Yesterday I discussed my desire to teach and how I feel the Lord is leading me to grow in my faith through teaching.  This morning, I discovered why - leadership.
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a trustworthy saying: "If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position." 2So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.
God's purpose for us is to continue growing in our faith in Christ, and to lead others to begin (evangelism) and grow (discipleship) in their relationship with Christ because WE ARE HIS BODY!  This is why I am so pumped about our new evangelism and discipleship program at our church; we are implementing a systematic practice of sharing the Gospel and training Christians to be DISCIPLES OF CHRIST!
On a side note, I've questioned before whether or not it is appropriate to pray for a person's salvation.  I mean, if God has already chosen the elect, then it seems kind of futile to pray for someone to put their faith in Christ.  However, here I find scriptural support to pray for someone's salvation (and a powerful explanation of evangelism!):
1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that reveals You to me and that teaches me how to live.  Thank you that the Word came to earth in the person and life of the God-Man, Jesus the Christ.  Lord, thank you for continuing to work in my life to mold me more in to the image of Christ so that I may glorify YAHWEH, the one true God.  Thank you for involving me in your redemptive plan to save people from eternal separation from you.  Dear merciful Father, I beg you to have mercy on my friends Eric and Jim.  Lord, please open their eyes to the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the only one who can reconcile sinful man to a holy God.  Lord, I pray that you will grow me into the evangelist, teacher, and leader you want me to be.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2007


My family has a Christian heritage (this is not what makes me a Christian, mind you, but it challenges me to follow their example of seeking Christ).  My grandfather set an example of humble, consistent teaching; he taught Sunday School for 52 years.  My parents have taught several age groups of Sunday School for many years.  One of my former disciplers challenged me to consider teaching the Bible.  Hence, I've been considering volunteering to substitute teach Bible Life group (our local church's equivalent of Sunday School) for some time, but I haven't been very proactive about it.   
This week our church hired a new staff member to administer and facilitate the creation and operation of a systematic discipleship program at our church.  "Coincidentally," our church staff member overseeing the young married department of which I am a part decided to switch Bible Life study material to a web-based resource.  His assistant sent a notification email last week to all current teachers and potential teachers in our department, and it really got me thinking and praying about it.  I have started reading the book, Teaching to Change Lives, by Dr. Howard Hendricks, and it is very encouraging and engaging.  Reading the beginning of this book has me excited about being a teacher that God uses to lead others to a closer walk with Jesus Christ.
Moreover, after the Bible Life lesson yesterday, the director of our Bible Life group asked me if I had ever considered teaching. I told him that I had, and that it was something presently on my mind.  A few minutes later, in a separate conversation with a few couples in our Bible Life group, someone else made a "random" comment about me teaching Bible Life.  Well, basically, I feel that God has confirmed His leading me to teach.
Not surprisingly, a couple of verses caught my attention from 1 Timothy 1 this morning in reference to this teaching context:
3 When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don't let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don't help people live a life of faith in God.   5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.
I make these these scriptures from 2 Thessalonians my prayer for me as a teacher and those I teach:
1:11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.
3:1 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord's message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. 5 May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

quiet time

As I was walking from the bus this morning, I noticed the beautiful sunrise.  I took about 10 minutes to simply stand there and watch the sunrise unfold as a clouds moved in from the tropical storm.  I just praised God over and over, and it was such a refreshing time.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the beautiful sunrise this morning, and thank you for letting me feel your presence in my life.  Lord, I pray that you will continue to bless me and give me refreshing times as I seek your face.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

purity part 2

I listened to the second part of John Maxwell's address, and it was both encouraging and challenging.  I took away two important points:
  1) theological - sexual impurity denies the Lordship of Christ
  2) practical - it is imperative that I set an example in purity for my children, and it is necessary that I communicate to them (at an appropriate age) my commitment to purity.
These points are not inconsistent with Paul's challenges in Colossians 2 and 3.  Too much to quote entirely, here I provide only a sample:
2:6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. ... 13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. ... 20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world.
3:1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.  5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don't be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.   12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.   16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming me from my empty way of life and for nailing the law to the Cross.  Spirit, please lead me to live a pure and blameless life that glorifies you and that I will hot allow the world to corrupt me.  Lord, I pray that you will transform me by renewing my mind - filling my mind with scripture, hymns, and other godly things.  Father, I pray that I will live my life as a representative of the Lord Jesus, and I give you thanks through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

life of purity

Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are some of my favorite books of the Bible.  They are so great because the contain both structured theological teaching and practical instructions for Christian living.  One facet of this lifestyle was made conspicuous in Philippians when I listened to  a challenging address by John Maxwell regarding sexual purity.
1:9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. ... 20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
2:12 ... Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.  14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
3:8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!  12 I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ... 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It is a mystery how Christ works out His life in mine.  It is by grace through faith that I am saved, and it is His daily grace that enables me to live for Him.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for saving me and calling me to live a holy life that glorifies you.  I thank you for setting me apart from the world and its destruction.  Lord, I pray that my life will be a demonstration of the purity you desire.  I pray that my life will be a sacrifice that pleases you.  Jesus, I place my thoughts, will, and heart in your command.  Lord, lead me on, and I will run after you.  I pray this in Jesus's Name.  Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

life in the Spirit

Ephesians 2 and 3 are just RICH with good stuff!  First of all, I am biased towards Ephesians 2:1-10 because that is one of my memory passages (it's kind of like I own it now because it's inside my head).  Here's the boiled down summary:
Once we were dead and doomed forever because of our sins, but Christ died for us to satisfy God's wrath against us.  Not only that, but now we live this incredible life in Christ and have the promise of living forever with Him.  It's critical to realize that we did nothing to earn it; God is so incredibly kind to us!  He wants us to live lives of goodness that show how great He is.
Paul's prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 is so good I just have to quote it:
14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.   20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your wonderful kindness towards us.  Jesus, thank you for bearing the Father's wrath toward our sin.  Holy Spirit, thank you for living in me to accomplish your good work.  Lord, I pray that I will submit my will to yours, and that today you will reign in my heart, mind, soul, and body.  I give you my life as a sacrifice, that Christ may live in me today.  I pray this in the name of the Lamb who was slain for the sin of the world - Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Paul's conclusions and introductions

Paul boils down some complex theology into simple summary statements in some of his conclusions and introductions (e.g., Galatians and Ephesians, respectively).  It is especially refreshing, when caught up in the minutia of daily life, to reflect on God's eternal magnificence, sovereignty, and grace, which have profound ramifications for personal application:
Galatians 6:4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.  ...  7 Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. 
Galatians 6:12 Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don't want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save . 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don't keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.   14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn't matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God's peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.  17 From now on, don't let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.  18 Dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
An introspective response:  "Do I 'bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus'?  I am ashamed to say it, but I know nothing of the suffering of Christ.
Ephesians 1:6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.  9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
Heavenly Father, I praise you for your perfect plan.  I praise you because you are eternal.  Lord, I praise you for your rich kindness and grace, and I thank you for purchasing our freedom with the blood of your Son and forgiving our sins.  Lord, thank you that this is not strictly objective and abstract, but subjective in that you fill us with your Holy Spirit and change our minds and motives with your wisdom and understanding.  Thank you for this glorious inheritance of sonship in Grace.  Lord, I praise you for your sovereignty, which assures me that you will make everything work out according to your plan.  Lord, may I represent you today and the rest of my life.  Lord, may I humbly accept the scars that will prove my allegiance to Christ, for I pledge my life to my Redeemer, and I will gladly preach the Good News that the "cross of Christ alone can save"!  I pray this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, my King who will reign forever!  Amen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Gospel everywhere

Before I began systematically reading the New Testament less than a year ago, I believed that I was supposed to share the Gospel but I questioned the method I had been taught in my evangelical church.  However, since reading the NT several times this past year, I realize that we are indeed supposed to be bold about sharing the Gospel because the NT is stuffed-full with repeated explanations of the Gospel.  It is the central focus of the NT, and it should be the central focus of my life.  With great boldness and sincere love, I must preach the Gospel over and over and over, with whatever Biblical analogies are helpful for a person to understand the simple complexity of the Gospel message.
Galatians 4 and 5 document this inextricable duality: preaching the Gospel and living a life that proves it.
Galatians 4:3 And that's the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.   4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, "Abba, Father."
Galatians 5:1 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law. ... 16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. ...  22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross to pay the death penalty of my sin.  Lord, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to dwell in my life and make me into a person that emulates Jesus Christ.  Lord, please help me to obey the spirit and to crucify my fleshly passions; I want to please you with the pattern of my life.  May my life be full of the fruit of the Spirit and preaching the Gospel.  I pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.