Tuesday, November 23, 2010

for His glory and our benefit

Ezekiel 20-21, Hebrews 5

I think the following passage is one of the most concise summaries of the Old Testament and God's interaction with the nation of Israel.  I also think it contains two very important concepts: 1) that God cares about the communication of His character, and 2) that He cares about our welfare.

20:4 "Son of man, bring charges against them and condemn them. Make them realize how detestable the sins of their ancestors really were. 5 Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: When I chose Israel—when I revealed myself to the descendants of Jacob in Egypt—I took a solemn oath that I, the Lord, would be their God. 6 I took a solemn oath that day that I would bring them out of Egypt to a land I had discovered and explored for them—a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the best of all lands anywhere. 7 Then I said to them, 'Each of you, get rid of the vile images you are so obsessed with. Do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt, for I am the Lord your God.'

 8 "But they rebelled against me and would not listen. They did not get rid of the vile images they were obsessed with, or forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I threatened to pour out my fury on them to satisfy my anger while they were still in Egypt. 9 But I didn't do it, for I acted to protect the honor of my name. I would not allow shame to be brought on my name among the surrounding nations who saw me reveal myself by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. 10 So I brought them out of Egypt and led them into the wilderness. 11 There I gave them my decrees and regulations so they could find life by keeping them. 12 And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy.

It is especially interesting to me that God instituted the Sabbath days of rest as a sign of His covenant and their holiness objective.  I wonder, as Christians not bound by the law, is the observance of a "weekly day of rest" still a sign of our covenant and holiness with God?

Heavenly Father, I need you. I am so weak and easily distracted like the Israelites.  I am sure that there is plenty of spiritual garbage in my life that makes you sick that I am not even aware of yet because you are being patient with me.  Lord, please turn my heart to you, and don't let me harden my heart like the Israelites did.  Lord, please help me stay connected to you and your life through Jesus Christ, my High Priest.  I ask in the name of Jesus and for the honor of your name.  Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

undivided heart

Ezekiel 11-13

11:19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20 so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.

Heavenly Father, I feel like my heart is pulled in so many directions.  Lord, please give me a singleness of heart and mind to desire you and seek you only.  Lord, please take away my hard heart and give me a heart that wants to know you and walk with you all the time, every day.  Lord, please help me live a life that demonstrates that I am yours and you are mine.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Lord is Jealous for us

Ezekiel 8-10

(1) Idolatry, (2) sketches and (3) incense to other gods, (4) mourning for another god, (5) bowing and worshiping the sun... these are acts that the Israelites committed that provoked God's jealousy to allow them to be taken into captivity. 

I wonder what similar acts I commit in my heart and life. 

(1) Is there an idol in my heart (God's temple)?  What is the true focus of my heart, and is it purely and entirely devoted to Christ?  (2) What do I read/write/watch?  (3) Do I try to please anyone other than God with things that I do or say? (4) Do I get anxious about worldly things and obsess about climbing the social ladder or achieving the American dream?  (5) Do I focus more on pleasing creation or the Creator?

Heavenly Father, please purify my heart.  Lord, I want to serve you and desire you only. Lord, please deliver me from idolatry.  I want to trust you and know you deeper every day.  Please refresh me with a close relationship with you.  I'm asking in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God hates sin

Ezekiel 5-7

 6:8 "But I will let a few of my people escape destruction, and they will be scattered among the nations of the world. 9 Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for their idols. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their detestable sins. 10 They will know that I alone am the Lord and that I was serious when I said I would bring this calamity on them.

I am really getting tired of reading judgment after judgment (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and now Ezekiel).  But I realize that there are several very important principles here.  First, God hates sin.  It hurts Him, and it literally hurt Jesus.  Second, God punishes sin (back to Jesus again).  Third, God is patient with us, even though we don't deserve His patience or mercy (back to Jesus again).  Finally, our appropriate response is a heart change to repent and turn to Him in loving obedience.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me of my sin.  Please forgive me of pride, lust, apathy, ungratefulness, and selfishness.  Lord, please purify my heart and turn the attention of my heart to you and your Kingdom.  Lord Jesus, I want to seek first your Kingdom and Righteousness.  Please show me what that looks like in the way that I spend my time, energy, and finances.  I love you, Lord, and I want to grow closer to you today.  Please reveal yourself to me and help me search for you with all of my heart.  Father, please answer these requests because Jesus is my Brother.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ecuador follow up

Ezekiel 3-4, Hebrews 2

Last Thursday night in Ecuador, we had some good spiritual discussion with Scott (one of the team members who is a high school and college friend of Steve, one of our pastors at Paseo).  Later that evening, Scott was still responding and asking questions.  He asked me how long I had been a Christian.  I shared my story of how the Lord gave me faith at the age of seven.  I shared the ABCs of salvation (Admit, Believe, Commit), and at about 2:00am Friday morning, Steve led Scott in a prayer to the Lord for forgiveness and committing his live to Christ's control!  What a blessing to be a part!  I have had several great follow-up conversations with Scott already about discipleship (prayer, reading the Word, small group connection, etc.).

On Saturday night, it was my turn to lead the devotional time for our team.  Steve had asked us to read through Max Lucado's book, "Out Live Your Life", before the trip, and he assigned me to lead discussion from the final chapter.  In fact, this chapter helped me understand an important theological concept with respect to compassionate ministry.  Based on Matthew 25:34-40, when we serve people in loving obedience to the Holy Spirit, we are actually loving Christ Himself.

Interacting with the local church in El Recreo, I am impressed with their close sense of community, which I imagine to be similar to the early church.  I am excited about their long-term strategy to plant churches, train missionaries, and share the Gospel globally.

With respect to academic research, I saw several aspects of rainwater harvesting and gardening that I would like to pursue further.  As a Christian, I am drawn to pursue research in fields that help people.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to go to Ecuador and give people clean water in the name of Jesus Christ.  Lord, please use our work as a catalyst for people to grow in faith in Christ.  Lord, please give me continued direction, and show me how to bless people locally.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ecuador update

Yesterday we had one of the most amazing visits! We went to an elderly couple's home who have been Christians for decades. Their faces radiated with the love and spirit of Christ! After we showed them how to use and maintain the filter, Giovanni asked how we could pray for them. Sister Ruth felt awkward because they haven't been to church in a while because they can't walk that far. Giovanni replied, "Sister, we are the Church. We are the body of Christ. This is Church."

As we were leaving, I noticed that Brother Carlos had several paintings in his living room. I asked him for permission to take this picture of his painting. (John 7:38 - one of my "life verses"!)

The Lord has blessed me so much through this trip!

Today we went to the poorest part of town that doesn't have addresses. The families were so grateful for the water filters.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to be here in Ecuador. We are pretty tired, so please make the love of Christ shine through our faces and that we will speak His words. Please make us salt and light in this community and by your love transform parents, children, families, and neighborhoods. Please give people good health as a result of these filters so they will be able to go to school and keep good jobs. Lord, please empower the local church to be able to establish a network of discipleship relationships as a result of our work this week. Lord, please bless preparations for tomorrow night's celebration of clean water. Lord, it's all by your grace; please show yourself because of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Headed to Ecuador

Jeremiah 37-39, 1Thes.

Our team (Steve, Scott, Brandon, Britney, Travis, Roberta, and I) is
assembled at the airport in Miami. We should arrive in Ecuador this
evening. I am excited about working with this team. They are good

We've all been reading "Out Live Your Life" by Max Lucado in
preparation for our group Bible studies while we are there. It is a
very good book, and very challenging.

A few of things that I need to devote special efforts to growing are
more faithful and devoted prayer, more clear attention
conscienciousness to people, and more intentional investment in my

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for continuing to grow me. Please use me for your glory. I
can do nothing good on my own. It is only you who are good. May your
love flow through me. Please do this on behalf of Jesus.

Friday, November 5, 2010

too busy

Jeremiah 34-36

I have been too busy this week.  In part due to preparation for the trip to Ecuador.  In part because I don't know how to find a balance.  They say that the first semester is hard, but dang!  Discovering who I am as a professor is hard!

My previous blog was on Monday, Beau's birthday.  If Beau is going to be a holy man of God, then he is going to need a good role model, which means I have got to be more disciplined about being a disciple of Christ myself.

Heavenly Father, you are so kind and generous and loving.  Lord, please help me focus on you instead of me.  Lord, please draw me into you and teach me how to rest in you and trust you.  Lord, please give me wisdom to know how much I can handle and how much you have asked of me so that I can do what you want me to and honor you and not worry about pleasing people.  Lord, please give me a fresh perspective on life through this trip to Ecuador.  I need you, and of course, you know this better than I.  I love you, Lord, and I trust you.  May my life be given in service to bring you honor.  Please answer these requests because I am identified as one of your children by faith in your Son, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

he will be a holy man of God, a warrior with beautiful feet

Jeremiah 24-26, Ephesians 1-6

Happy birthday, Beau!

I started this blog over a year ago - the day after we saw the sonogram and discovered that the Lord had blessed us with a son.  I have thought a lot about what I wanted to say that day, and I have realized that you can never say enough to completely express everything you want to communicate.  (I'm still a recovering perfectionist.)

 Psalm 127:3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
      they are a reward from him.
 4 Children born to a young man
      are like arrows in a warrior's hands.

As I think about Beau's wonderful life, I realize that I am a steward, and God is his owner.  By the Lord's grace, I will do all that I can to propel him to eternal life.  While I would like to think that I can push him or pull him to seek the Lord, I realize that really I need to be an agent of God as He fosters an internal desire with Beau to seek Christ.  This internal "spiritual gravity" is what will ultimately guide him.  My goal is to aim this "arrow" in the direction that the Lord desires for his life, and I trust that the Lord will control his trajectory.  I pray that the Lord will use me to teach Beau the two greatest commands at an early age - that He will be devoted to loving God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength and that his love for people would be genuine, obvious, and generous.

I pray that the Lord will use this "arrow" to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to strike a heavy blow to the kingdom of darkness.  I pray that Beau will be used to extend Christ's ministry:

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

I pray that he will I pray that Beau will be a fisher of men, like His Savior.  I pray that He will boldly proclaim the wonderful Message of Mercy and Grace through Faith in Christ:

Romans 10:13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Heavenly Father, we continue to dedicate this boy to you.  Over and over, we give him back to you.  Daily, we want to take him for our own, but he is yours.  Lord, please grow him and use him for your glory.  Lord, please lead him to love you and follow you from an early age.  Lord, it's all grace; thank you for the opportunity to love Beau and walk with Him.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.