Archive for the 'Bible' Category

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

God’s people have always been exiles in this world. The Israelites spent a few summers in Egypt. Then more wandering in the wilderness of Sinai. Later, the Babylonians captured the nation of Judah and deported its people to captivity.

The first group deported included the young, elite men who would be trained as leaders. In that group were Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Shadrach, and Azariah. They were given the Babylonian names of Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.

While in exile these young men lived powerful, purposeful, prayer-filled lives. They remained on a diet that helped them find more energy than other workers. They prayed to their God when they were told not to. They were bold to do what was right regardless of the obstacles placed in their path. And they made a difference.

It may be difficult to put yourself in their shoes, but according to 1 Peter 2:11-12 those who follow God today are exiles too. Peter writes: “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the Gentiles that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

You may have days when you just don’t seem to “fit” in this world and that’s a good thing. It’s simply because as a child of God you don’t. You were made to live with him. Until we are home in heaven, you and I are exiles. Until then, we have things to do. We can add some good to this life so that others can get a glimpse of God. We can make a difference.

According to Peter there will be a day God will “visit” us. That’s when the exile will end. And that’s when you and I will “fit.” Until then remember who is to sit on the throne of your life. You will never regret putting God first.

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

God told Jeremiah he had a work for him to do. His assignment? Stand in the rubble of Jerusalem and weep. He was also told the people would not listen to him. That was it. And oddly enough, Jeremiah did it. As the people of Judah were leaving Jerusalem in single file as captives, Jeremiah stood weeping and reminding them that God would bring them back with these words: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

God had something for Jeremiah to do. He wasn’t highly successful by our standards. But Jeremiah faithfully fulfilled the assigned task.

And God has something for you to do too. In the New Testament book of Ephesians the apostle Paul writes to the church, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God created in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

In God’s employment contract for his “chosen” people today, he does not ask us to be successful by the world’s standards but rather to be faithful to him to do good things. God is not so much concerned about your ability as he is your availability.

Just like Jeremiah, God is calling you to play a role in his Grand Story. It may be that God has been moving you to help address the foster care issue. It may be that God is calling you to reach out to a neighbor. Perhaps he is laying on your heart a ministry where there is a need you can’t even see at the moment.

God is calling you to make a difference. You are a part of a mighty rushing river that brings life and healing (Ezekiel 47). And he will equip you to make that difference. Right now. Today. Are you available for his purposes?

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

God’s chosen people wanted a king to lead them and in which to pay tribute. Over the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah there were almost forty kings. Only five of them were good. Of the others a refrain heard throughout the Old Testament goes like this: “They did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

Prophets appeared exhorting the people to turn back to God. God spoke through one prophet—Isaiah—to tell the people of Judah that they would be captured and deported to Babylon but afterward he would bring them back home. The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Then the whole human race will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:23).

In Isaiah 53 the prophet depicts the coming Messiah. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53: 2,3). God did not want the people to miss him. But they did. And still do.

When we displace God or expect him to share the throne of our lives, the outcome will go horribly wrong. But when we put God on the throne in our lives, we put ourselves in the best possible position for godly success. King Hezekiah got it. He did what was right in the Lord’s eyes. He was committed to purity and prayer. The way he lived and led invited God’s blessing. And God showed up in a powerful way. What about you? Does your lifestyle invite the blessing of God? Or something else?

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Every day my cell phone rings multiple times. And every time a call is coming through I have the option to hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. I can answer the phone or I can send it to my voice mail.

God gave the people of the now Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” His call. He sent His messengers called prophets to warn His people of the danger of their continued idolatry and rebellion.

One prophet named Hosea had a unique “ringtone.” Hosea was on the scene in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. God gave Hosea a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her.

The tough assignment was made even more difficult when Gomer left Hosea. She went back to her previous way of life believing that it was her “customers” who were supporting her. In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her even during her times of unfaithfulness.

God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. He buys her back. He brings her back home. And he tells her again that he loves her. That was Hosea’s message.

It’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. You have the power to keep God waiting. Or you can answer his call today.

God is on the phone and he wants to talk to you. What will you do?

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Today’s decisions become tomorrow’s reality. The decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.

Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had exacted harsh labor on the people. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness.

In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.

His circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.

At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. When we suffer the negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.

We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. Your decisions not only affect you and your future but they affect those immediately around you and generations to follow. Most of us underestimate the power of our influence, either for good or evil.

I love the movie Invictus. It tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of the movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.

Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions.

Learn from the mistakes of the people we read about in The Story. God will accomplish his purposes and his glory will be revealed with or without you. Wouldn’t you prefer to partner with God and be used by him because of what you do for him rather than in spite of your selfishness and disobedience?

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it or any of the messages from The Story here:

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

“No regrets” is the aspiration of many in our culture today. Often it’s used expressing a desire to live life to the fullest and experience all life has to offer. It makes sense to us. After all, you only have one life to live, right? While there is some wisdom and appeal to living life with no regrets, we shouldn’t let it become an excuse to pursuing happiness at all cost.

Just ask Solomon. He had it all. He tried it all. He experienced it all. According to our cultural standards, he had no regrets because he pursued everything his heart desired. The only problem – he had regrets. He got to the end of life and in his memoir we know as Ecclesiastes, he wrote this conclusion, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

It’s as if Solomon is saying, “I should have followed the directions. I should have done things Gods way. I thought the purpose of my life was make me happy. But what I found was the purpose of my life was to follow God.”

The truth is, if you really want to live life with no regrets, it doesn’t come from pursuing personal ambition and temporal happiness. It comes from committing your life to following God and his direction. Don’t get to the end of your life before you realize what’s really important.

If you missed this past weekend’s message, I spoke about how Solomon rejected God’s direction when it came to marriage. There are ways our culture does the same thing. We tell the creator of marriage that we know better than he does when it comes to his creation. You can view the message here:

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

When Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

According to wikinews.org, Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for:
1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel.
2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat).
3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a time for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers. Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor’s man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David might have wished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution. He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). You can do what David did. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it.

If you missed this past weekend’s message, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Imagine the scene: a scrawny teenage shepherd boy takes out a 9 foot tall giant with one rock and a sling.

You may not have a literal giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you. It could be low self-esteem or insecurity or child abuse in your past. You have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to learn from David.

He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”

David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challenge Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him.

You may have discovered that after you slay one giant, there likely will be more to follow. Have you ever wondered why David picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his use of the sling. 2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He took on one giant and was ready for even more.

And you can too. Just follow the shepherd-king from Bethlehem. The story of David points us to him.

If you missed this message from last weekend, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

You’ve done it at some point in your life. You know…smashed your face against the office copier glass and hit the “copy” button. Or made silly faces in the photo booth at the mall with a bunch of friends. Or photo-shopped a picture of a friend until they’re almost unrecognizable. We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images.

But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise for God’s people. It was situated at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but holiness was found there.

Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22). Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.

The nation of Israel distorted the image of God by demanding a king “like all the nations around them” (1 Samuel 8:5). King Saul distorted the image of God by his outright disobedience of God’s instructions to completely destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:8-9). And because of his disobedience God rejected him as king.

Just like Eli and his sons, and King Saul, and the nation of Israel, we are representatives of God. We represent Him to others. You may have heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”

If you missed this message from last weekend, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

My daughter, Kimber, recently applied for admission to a local university. After several weeks of waiting, she was relieved to open a letter stating that she had been accepted. We all have a desire to be accepted don’t we? Whether it’s applying for college, interviewing for a job or proposing marriage, we hope the response will be one of acceptance.

Ruth had the same need as we do. She was a Moabite living in Bethlehem who we meet in The Story. She ended up there with her mother-in-law Naomi when her husband died. And she found herself picking up the leftovers after the harvest in a field owned by Boaz.

Boaz discovered she was an outsider—a Moabite—the same people who would oppress his nation for eighteen years. You’d expect fireworks when they met. Instead, Boaz tells Ruth, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

His acceptance of Ruth goes a step further. Ruth finds him asleep on the threshing floor and lies down at his feet. When he awakens, Ruth asks him to “spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a family guardian.” The word for “garment” is the same Hebrew word for “wings” in the blessing Boaz had pronounced over Ruth. God’s acceptance came to Ruth through Boaz.

Your acceptance did too. You see, Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. In Matthew’s genealogy the lineage of Jesus is traced through David. Boaz is there too, along with his mother, Rahab (Matt. 1:5). Yes, that Rahab. The prostitute that lived in Canaan and sheltered the two spies Joshua sent into the land.

The Story reminds us that God has a strategic plan; one that has spanned centuries and focused on your acceptance and redemption through Jesus Christ.

If you missed this message from last weekend, you can view it here:

« Previous PageNext Page »