Friday, December 25, 2015

Harvest and Christmas

I got to help my dad finish harvesting cotton a few days ago.  I want to be more devoted to helping my Father finish the Harvest.

This week, I've had good spiritual converstions with my mom, dad, and brother about vocation, shepherding, and pastoring.

We had a birthday party for Jesus this morning.  After opening presents, the boys were fighting over toys and not sharing.  I tried to not let that change my attitude.  I think I should have that perspective year-round.

I taught Beau how to drive this morning.  I thought he did pretty well.  It is encouraging to me to empower him with knowledge and skills.  I want to be more intentional about empowering my children.  And spiritually, I want to invest more time in empowering disciples.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the time to take a break.  Thank you for the opportunity to spend time with family, work, and rest.  Lord Jesus, help me invest in promoting your Kingdom.  Please keep me from investing my time and effort in fruitless activities.  Holy Spirit, please empower me and guide me in bringing Heaven to earth by abiding in your presence and operating in your authority and power.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Good Shepherd

John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Yesterday, Rebekah preached about Jesus being the Good Shepherd.  She pointed out that sheep don't have very good vision or stability, and they tend to get scared.  One of the main points that she made was how we need to reflect on how God has taken care of us so that we continue to follow His shepherding and we continue to believe that He is good.

I think I have had the wrong perspective of tenure, perceiving it more of an end-point as opposed to a hurdle along the way.  As I have recently begun to change my perspective around the tenure process, I think this tenure hurdle has induced in me a critical evaluation of my mission and vision for the rest of my career.  I tend to want to cling to the big grants that the Lord has brought through in the last 12 months (USDA, USAID, NSF ERC, etc.) instead of believing that the Lord will continue to provide.  But if He is really a Good Shepherd, He will continue to lead me along the path that He has for me, and He will continue to provide for what I need.  I must believe that His heart for me is good, and that goodness includes generosity.

As we took communion yesterday, Rebekah reminded us that the elements are evidence of His goodness, because He gave His own life for us.  He loves us so much, and we need to consistently remember that He is good.

Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us your goodness by giving us Christ Jesus.  Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Good Shepherd.  I want to trust you to guide me, protect me, and provide for me.  Holy Spirit, help me grow in listening to your voice.  I want to mature in constantly talking with you and being aware of your presence.  I want to believe you to do good things in my life and the lives of others.  I want to praise you for the good things that you do for us.  I want to know that you are good because I know you, not just because you do good things.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

intimacy and awe

I think that most of the times that I read this passage, I am impressed with the awesomeness of Christ.  

Rev 1:12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

But today, I was impressed with the intimacy with which He communes with the churches. Later in the chapter, Jesus explains that "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."  The Greek word for "angels" could be translated as "messengers", which may figuratively represent the pastor of the church.  I was impressed with the intimacy of this scene - Jesus is standing among the churches, and He is holding the messengers in His hand.  He is abiding with the churches because He loves the churches.  

I also think it is significant that His feet are bronze, like the bronze serpent that was lifted up on a pole.  The Son of God who commands the armies of angels took on human flesh - He became human - to absolve us from the wrath of God.  

Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

And now we have nothing to fear.  We trust the Living One.  Our life is consumed in His life.  His life is cascading through our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the intimate love that you have shown us through Christ.  Lord Jesus, thank you for the intimate care that you show your body, the Church.  Holy Spirit, fill me with the Living One.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

love God by obeying God: love one another

If you want to love God, then you should obey God's command, and His command is to love one another:

John 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

The Apostle John reiterated this essential doctrine in his letters:

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ... 5:2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome ...

2 John 1:4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth,just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love.  I love you because you first loved me, and I want to obey you.  Please anoint me with your Holy Spirit and pour your agape love through me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Good News of Love!

As I was reading this morning, I was impressed with the Good News that we get to celebrate this Christmas season! 

1 John 4:10-16 NIV
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

May our hearts overflow with joy as we think about His great love and kindness towards! Not only has He given us Christ as an atoning sacrifice, but He has given us His Spirit to live in us!

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and givin us Christ and the Holy Spirit!  I praise you because you are love.  May your life and love pour through me.  I love you!  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Unlimited atonement

In a previous entry, I questioned the doctrine of limited atonement (the "L" in TULIP).  But after reading 1 John 2, I believe that a doctrine of unlimited atonement is explicitly clear:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)
The question may remain, if Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for the whole world, then why is the whole world not saved?  I think this question is answered in the previous chapter:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9 NIV)
It seems to me that while atonement has been accomplished for all, justification is conditional: if you believe, confess, and walk in the Light.  This condition stated in 1 John 1 is consistent with what Paul taught in Romans 10:
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame."  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13 NIV)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the atoning work of Jesus! Thank you for atoning for the sins of the whole world! Thank you for bringing me to faith in Jesus.  Lord, please use me to lead others to understand and believe in Jesus, to confess their sin, receive His forgiveness, and walk in the Light.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.