Tuesday, August 30, 2011

religion: case study

1 Corinthians 4

20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power.

I was invited by one of my students to attend the Islamic ceremony of breaking fast after sunset during Ramadan, and I had the opportunity to attend last night.  It was a very interesting experience.  First of all, I was very impressed with their hospitality and welcome.  Everyone was extremely friendly.  I was also impressed with the level of detail of their religion.  We removed our shoes at the door.  We started by washing our hands, face, arms, and feet.  Immediately after sunset, we ate dates and drank buttermilk.  Then we men went into a large room for prayer (the women have a separate room).  We stood side by side, with our feet shoulder-width apart and almost touching the next guy's.  We stood with our arms crossed, then we would kneel, prostrate, kneel, prostrate, and stand up again.  One person led the prayers, all in Arabic.  After prayer, we went upstairs for dinner (the women ate dinner separately).  It was a delicious Jordanian meal of rice and lamb, chicken, lentil soup, flatbread, and humus.  After dinner, I was invited to go sit with one of the leaders so he could explain to me the basics of Islam.  From my Christian perspective, the belief statements that impressed me were:
  • there is only one God, God Almighty
  • there is Paradise and Hell
  • we all come from Adam
  • Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus were all prophets of God Almighty
  • Mohammad is the last and final prophet
  • Jesus is only human (not God), but he will return (though I am not quite sure why)
  • we don't need Jesus to forgive us, only God forgives
  • we need to believe in the one, true God, and we need to be grateful to Him for all of His blessing/favor upon us
  • all of our deeds, both good and bad, will be recorded, and we will be judged (and it seems like if our good outweighs our bad, then we get to go to Paradise)
  • doing extra good deeds will result in more reward in Paradise
Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to better understand the perspective of Muslims.  Lord, I want to know the true path, and I want to be a person of kindness and peace so that others can see your light.  Lord Jesus, please reveal yourself to these friends of mine, and please use my time and conversation with them to communicate your amazing love for them.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 29, 2011

the mind of Christ

1 Cor. 3

1 Cor. 2:16 ... But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus

So, do I already have the mind of Christ, and I need to use it?  Or, do I need to get the mind of Christ? Maybe it is both.

Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind ...

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ, anyway?  For all three of these passages, the focus is on the corporate body of Christ.  So, having His mind seems to mean having His attitude of selflessness and sacrificial service to building up the Body of Christ.  It means having a perspective of eternity.

Heavenly Father, please help me use the mind of Christ that you have given me.  Please help me grow by having my mind renewed.  I want to see from your perspective and act accordingly.  I love you, Lord.  Please help me live for you and not for myself.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

joy and peace

Romans 15:1-13

 13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am beginning to realize that my life is so empty without the joy and peace of the Lord.  I need to be finding my value and security in Him instead of my work.  I can't let the stresses and responsibilities of my work crowd out the enjoyment of the Lord.  I even need to let the joy and peace and power of the Holy Spirit infuse life into my work.

Heavenly Father, please give me your perspective, and help me enjoy you.  Lord, please help me see you and walk with you so that I can experience your joy and peace.  I love you, Lord.  Please anoint me with the power of the Holy Spirit so that you can overflow yourself into others.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Romans 14:12-23

17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

I've been working too hard recently.  I need to slow down.  I need to focus on goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  I've been too busy to really do that.

Heavenly Father, please deliver me from the stresses that I've allowed to creep into my heart.  Please help me focus on you and seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness.  Please help me live a life walking in the Holy Spirit so that your goodness, peace, and joy will flow through me.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Romans 12:9-21

As I read these verses, especially after the previous eight, it seems to me that it is more about having the character of Christ and practicing a way of life as opposed to a list of things that you need to do:

9 Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. ... 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. ... 17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Heavenly Father, I want to know you and be like you so that these things are second-nature to me.  Lord, I want to be in harmony with your Holy Spirit so that I will know exactly what to do in each circumstance.  Lord, please help me set my mind on the Spirit today, and anoint me to do your work.  I want to spend today with you.  Please help me keep my focus on you, and forgive me for being so easily distracted.  I love you, Lord. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Romans 12:1-8

 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Funny, it doesn't say anything about the way you should feel. 

I feel pretty dry, spiritually, these days.  I feel like I have allowed the anxiety of my work to crowd out the joy of my salvation.  I feel religious. 

But I want to feel alive.  I want to feel the pulse of Christ's spiritual heartbeat in the Church.

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Heavenly Father, I want to give you my body as a living and holy sacrifice, in honor of the Ultimate Sacrifice.  I want to worship you in spirit and in truth.  I want to turn away from the ways of this world and let you transform the way I think.  I want to know your will, and I want to show that it is good, pleasing, and perfect.  I love you, Lord.  Please help me meditate on you all day.  I want to know you, and I want to walk with you.  I want to be integrated into your body.  I love you, and I need you, Lord.  I am nothing apart from you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 12, 2011

righteousness by faith

Romans 9:17-33

30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God's standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

Sadly, even the religion of Christianity can get in the way of people simply trusting God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace.  Lord, please help me not be religious.   I want to genuinely trust you and walk with you in faith.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of  Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

humanity and divinity

Romans 9:1-16

I just mentioned in our home group discussion last night the importance of the humanity and divinity of Jesus.

5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

Verse 16 is humbling, sobering, and reassuring, all at the same time:

 16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.  Lord Jesus, thank you for becoming a human so that we could be saved.  Lord God, thank you for showing me mercy through the person and work of Jesus.  Thank you for giving me faith to believe in Him.  Lord, I want to be investing in your Kingdom every day.  Please help me set my mind on the Spirit today and walk with you so that you can use me and dispense yourself into others.  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the attitude of my heart be pleasing in your sight. You are my Lord, my God, and my Savior.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Romans 8:18-39

22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don't yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Hope - waiting patiently and confidently.  I think that is a good definition.  I think it reinforces the marathon theme or hiking trek theme of the life of a disciple.  We need to keep moving forward steadily, stay hydrated, stay fueled, and stay with our Brothers and Sisters.  We are waiting expectantly for Christ to come get us (if we don't go meet Him first).

I think we will be blown away by how much glory there will be.  Like sunsets and lightning bolts.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your promises of taking care of us.  Thank you for your promises that we will be with you forever.  Lord, please help us see our current experiences in light of eternity, and please give us encouragement to see how the suffering that we are going through is small compared to how great it will be to be with you forever.  I love you, Lord, and I want to focus on living with you instead of being religious.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Spirit of God lives in the Believer!

Romans 8:1-17

 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

I think Romans 8 is one of the most pointed passages in Scripture.  He has adopted us into His family, and He has given us power and zoe life.  We are delivered from sin and death eternally, and practically.  Practically, it is by setting your mind on the Spirit that we experience life and peace.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy.  Thank you for giving us your Spirit to live in us and move us.  Lord, please let me set my mind on the Spirit today so that your life and peace will flow through me into others.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Romans 5:1-11

So, the first couple of verses and the last verse of this half chapter are really cheery:

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. ... 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

I was reflecting on these verses and thinking to myself, "Oh, well, isn't that nice!"  And then I re-read the guts:

 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

I'm still trying to figure out how (practically) to rejoice when we run into problems and trials.  Rejoicing is not typically my first response.  I think it has something to do with the Holy Spirit filling our hearts with his love.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Thank you for giving me faith and your peace so that I can be your friend instead of your enemy.  Holy Spirit, please fill my heart with your love, and teach me to respond to the adversities in life with joy because I have hope in you for salvation.  I love you, Lord, and I want to walk with you today.  Please guide me and lead me to walk with you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Romans 4:13-25

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.

What is faith?

17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, "I have made you the father of many nations." This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. ... 20 Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. ... 24 assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me faith.  Lord, please help me grow in my faith like Abraham, and please teach me to count on your promises.  Lord, please use me to help grow the faith of others.   Lord, you are the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.  I can trust in you, and you will never let me down.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Romans 4:1-12

Visiting with my Brother Mark on the phone this morning, he reminded me of the importance of meditating on the Scriptures throughout the day.  I have got to implement a practical strategy of enjoying the Lord through His Word throughout the day.  It is the enjoyment of the Lord that is the practical salvation from the temptations of this world.

In response to those who insist that a Believer must be baptized in order to be saved, it seems to me that this paragraph explains that it is faith alone:

9Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

I'm certainly not trying to argue that you should not be baptized, but I do think that baptism is not required for justification (if you can actually separate justification from sanctification).

Heavenly Father, thank you for your forgiveness.  Please help me see how bad my sin is so that I can appreciate how amazing your love and mercy are.  Lord, please help me walk with you and enjoy you throughout the day, and deliver me from the stress of trying to be good enough for everyone else.  I only need to see myself as you see me - made in your image, and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.