Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 10.31.10

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon on Mark 10.1-16.  I tried to take a really vision-painting tack on this text about marriage and divorce.  As always, you can find the notes in PDF and the sermon audio at

Family Matters to Jesus
Mark 10.1-16

Jesus is much more concerned with what God says is right than what man can get away with. 

  • Throughout the Bible, God relates to His people in covenant.
  • This relational covenant has seasons and its ups and downs.
  • Covenant is designed to be unbreakable (v.6, 9-11).
  • In marriage, my covenant is not only with my spouse, but also with God.

Commitment (v.7)
  • This commitment is not like other earthly commitments that tend to be bound by time and resources.
  • It is necessary to break of parental bonds to form a new family unit.
  • You must make a practice of cleaving first, foremost, finally to your spouse.
  • Remember that this is a commitment to God and spouse.

Why Commitment?
  • Heaven is a real place.
  • God uses trials for our spiritual growth.
  • You can’t fix it all.
  • You don’t know what the future holds.

Context (v.8) 
  • It is in this covenant that intimacy flourishes.
  • Apart from this security, intimacy tends to wither.
  • Intimacy is not less than the physical union, but it is more.

Children (v.13-16)
  • You have a covenant with your children that was established by God when He gave them to you.
  • Kids come into this home and are blessed.
  • Our part:  lead them to Jesus in example, teaching, shepherding, and blessing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NT75 Day 48: 2 Peter

We're 2/3 of the way home!  Keep reading.  If you fall behind, use Sunday to catch up.  You can do it!  Don't be discouraged.  Pick up the Scriptures which are God's testimony of Himself through men who were "carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1.21).  It's worth it!

Ryan Bingham:  "I don't spend a dollar that doesn't benefit my frequent flyer account."

That quote, from the movie Up in the Air, comes from the character played by George Clooney.  It shows his emptiness, his loneliness, and his captivity to hitting the magical 10-million mile mark.  As a side note:  can you imagine 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles?  Sheesh.  And what's so magical about it?

I haven't even seen the movie, just a couple of trailers.  But that's who immediately popped to mind when I ran across 2 Peter 2.19:  for whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.  When a life's organizing principle is centered around frequent flyer miles, physical pleasure, looking right in front of people, knowing the right people, learning and knowing the right things, being able physically or financially to do "the ultimate thing" (however it's defined), or any other such pursuit, that life is no life at all.  It's slavery.

Freedom only comes through Christ.  It doesn't come through the false teachers and their false doctrine.  And that's not just Peter's context, but ours too.  We have false teachers in movies, television, books, peer groups, and more.  Where are you receiving input?  And does that input square with the Scriptures?

The only person to whom we can enslave ourselves and find freedom is Jesus Christ.  Everyone else offers freedom but it's actually bondage.  

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Friday, October 29, 2010

NT75 Day 47: 1 Peter

Just because you suffer doesn't mean you're out of favor with God.

Suffering is no fun.  No one wakes up thinking about how much they're looking forward to the suffering that the day holds.  And suffering comes in multiple forms, like a mutating virus that figures out ways to get around the best of our antibodies.  We save our pennies, see the doctor, take our vitamins, go on dates with our spouses, try to invest in our kids, read our Bibles, pray, attend Sunday School, and even sing along with the songs we don't like in church.

But that doesn't insulate us.  Preachers on TV will have you believe that you do the right thing and it will never go bad for you.  It's called the Gospel of Health, Wealth, and Prosperity.  And the only problem with it is that it's not biblical - it's even anti-biblical.  Peter drops that little atomic-like bomb into the Prosperity Gospel when he says in chapter 4 that suffering, at times, happens according to the will of God.  God even uses it to make us into who He wants us to be (see James 1.2-4, Romans 5.3-5).

So, please save your pennies and see the doctor and go to Sunday School.  But when suffering does come, remember that it doesn't mean your out of favor with God.  In fact, you could be smack in the middle of His will.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NT75 Day 46: Mark 14-16

The beautiful things done to and for Christ will outlast those who do them.

The story in Mark 14 makes me uncomfortable, frankly.  I'm not sure it didn't make others uncomfortable too.  There's Jesus and a woman with perfume.  Yikes.  It's extravagant and lavish and gaudy and unashamed and aromatic.  I wonder how often those words describe my relationship to Christ.

And then the objections roll in.  Jesus isn't worried about any of them.  In fact, He contradicts them.  You'll have the poor always.  The extravagant is not a waste when spent on Christ (not church buildings or programs, but on Him).

The predictive promise rings loud too:  wherever the Gospel is preached, this story of worship will be recounted too.  The beautiful thing lasts and lasts.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NT75 Day 45: Mark 9-13

It doesn't matter how much you bring to Jesus, what matters is that you bring what you have.

Jesus has an encounter with some rich people who came by with their offerings (Luke 12.41-44).  The text tells us that many rich people came bringing large sums.  We don't know their motivation, only their action.  And this comment from Jesus:  they gave out of their abundance.

In the midst of their giving, up comes a woman who contributes two small copper coins.  Again, we don't have a motivation, only a comment.  Jesus says the widow gave more than everyone else because she gave from her poverty everything she had to live on.

As a pastor, I know people give different levels.  I don't know who gives what, but I know people have different jobs and can (and do) give different amounts and do so for different reasons.  But I also know the claim Jesus lays on our lives:

He doesn't want the appropriate portion or percentage, He wants it all.

Because He's Lord, He's not laying claim to and putting His flag in the ground on a portion or percentage of our financial, emotional, sexual, spiritual, physical, or relational lives.  He's the King.  He wants and deserves it all.

You getting that?  Then you're getting His plan.  And a final warning:  He'll settle for nothing less.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NT75 Day 44: Mark 5-8

Jesus is the friend of the outsider.

Throughout today's reading, I kept being assaulted by that fact.  A demon-possessed man.  A woman with severe gynecological issues.  A Gentile woman from the wrong side of the tracks.  A deaf and mute man.  A blind man at Bethsaida.  And they got Him.  They understood Him.  They received Him.

But not so much for the insiders.  His hometown folks missed it.  The religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, certainly missed it (and he had some choice words for them about that).  The disciples missed it. Peter really missed it - it never goes well for you when the Son of God equates you with Satan.

And so I have two reflections.  First, being in the profession I am as a pastor, I know a lot of insiders.  I probably even am one.  Doctrine matters.  Leadership models are discussion fodder.  Books are read.  Blogs are written.  And I know insiders who miss Him, being caught up in control rather than the Creator.  Heck, I might even be that guy from time to time.

Second, it compels me to look for the outsider.  That compulsion is two-fold.  On the one hand, Jesus is at work among them and is actively seeking Him out.  Joining Him in ministry demands I find myself there sometimes.  On the other hand, because they more often get Him than the insiders, I might just learn something from them about Him.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, October 25, 2010

NT75 Day 43: Mark 1-4

Following Jesus in obedience means a strain on personal relationships is inevitable.

That's not a popular statement, admittedly.  But it's nevertheless true.  It was even true in Jesus' life.  In today's reading in chapter three, Jesus own family thought He was crazy and tried to extricate Him from embarrassing (to them) social situations.  They had no idea who He really was and no idea what He was truly doing.  Strain.

Sometimes the strain comes from us not following Jesus or choosing between two options that are both good.  That's not the strain we see in Mark 3.  This strain comes from Jesus doing exactly what the Father desires Him to do exactly how the Father desires Him to do it, saying exactly what the Father wants Him to say.  Strain.

I had a stunning conversation one time with a lady named Joyce.  She is a missionary in southeast Asia, though she was in Africa at the time.  Sitting at our dinner table, we were talking through life and kids and family and following Jesus.  We asked about her kids and how she, as a mom, managed to wrestle through the argument and slog through the decision of putting her kids in a Muslim country for their formative years.  For me, it's one thing to suffer personally (which she did).  It's another to ask my spouse to suffer together with me (which they did).  It's a whole other level for me to ask my kids to suffer, to be on the receiving end of my strain in following Jesus.

Her reply still gets to me:  "I think the most important thing that my kids can see is a mom and dad who are willing to follow Jesus."

And I'll close with this song from the prophetic Keith Green.  It's worth your 4 minutes, I promise.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NT75 Day 41: James

There are scary verses in this book about the rich.  What's more, I really don't want to blunt the fear that it strikes in my heart (or yours, I hope).  Because we're in familial post-op recovery mode, I'll just make a comment or two.

In chapter 1, James warns the rich against the pursuit of their riches.  By pursuing wealth, the rich makes the choice to invest in things that don't last (like flowers that fade and grass that wilts under the sun).  I'll offer that this is still just as dangerous in suburbia as it was in the Dispersion.

In chapter 5, James warns the rich against the use of their riches.  They have laid up treasure in the last days that will not last.  They have used their riches to oppress others rather than bless others.  Self-indulgence is the hallmark and it brings God's condemnation.  Again, suburbia needs to listen and heed (being doers, rather than just hearers of the Word).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

In case you haven't seen, there is a significant outbreak of cholera in the area where we were just working. The death toll has climbed over 130 people with many more in need of hospital care.  Based on what we know thus far, please pray for:

  • Relief supplies to get there ASAP.  Cholera is treatable and curable with the right meds.
  • Protection for those working with the ill, specifically a man named Duncan who is a nurse practitioner from England.  As well, cover the rest of the YWAM staff.
  • Jesus to heal many and glorify Himself, reaching many with the reality of His reign over everything.

Thanks for praying.

NT75 Day 40: Colossians

Day 40!  Way to go!  Keep reading and keep growing.  And don't let the Enemy discourage you.

As I understand the spiritual life, it can be summed up in Paul's pithy statement in Colossians 2.6:  just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.  In other (less inspired words), I walk with Christ in the same way I received Christ - I continue my relationship with Him the same way I began it.

And there's a huge question hanging and waiting to be asked.  I'll go ahead and ask it:  how did I receive Christ?  Answer:  by grace through faith.  So I walk with Christ by grace through faith like I received Christ by grace through faith.  But what does that mean?

Some people equate grace with forgiveness and thus miss this all together.  Grace does have a forgiveness component, but it's more about God's help.  Grace is what God gives us when we can't do something on our own.  Reducing it to forgiveness dishonors God and sets us up where we can trust God for heaven (because forgiveness is ours through faith) but can't trust God to help us raise our kids, not get angry on the highway, love our spouses well, manage money, finish the NT75 Day Challenge, or any other thing that's "normal" in life.  We have to do all of that on our own.  Hopefully it's obvious that God doesn't want that nor do we.  Grace is help.

Instead, we are in the continuous process of opening ourselves up to God and asking Him to help us do what He wants us to do.  We turn to Him daily and throughout the day to get help to manage our calendars and pocketbooks and relationships and conversations and drives home.  It keeps us praying.  It keeps us holding on to His promises.  It keeps us open.  Our being open is crucial to growth.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NT75 Day 39: Philippians

As a pastor, I do funerals and memorial services and graveside services.  That's part of my job and part of my ministry to families.  I don't mind them and actually count the opportunity an honor to stand on God's behalf to speak to families in the grief process.

So I think about death regularly.

Paul faced down some pretty rough situations too and its apparent from his writings that he thought about death too.  He knew it was imminent for him, especially in the late-in-life-written-from-prison book of Philippians.  And so smack in the middle of the first chapter he includes a thought about life that we need to embrace as followers of Jesus.

Dying is gain.

If we pass from this life to the next, we win.

If our bodies give out and we breathe our last, it's a good thing.

I'm obviously not saying we should cherish death or seek it.  That's as ungodly and unbiblical as anything you could do since God is the God of life and the Enemy is the broker of death.  Get over that kind of thinking.

But it does help put death into perspective.  If you've been around people who follow Jesus as they get ready to go into eternity, they talk about their readiness.  How are you "ready" for something so scary?  When you know it's gain.  It's shaping to perspective and courage to the waning.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NT75 Day 38: Ephesians 4-6

I brought this up this past Sunday, but it's worth mentioning again and hearing afresh...

Your enemy is not flesh and blood but spiritual forces, powers, authorities, forces of evil and wickedness.  That means any personal being bearing skin and bones is not on the enemy list.

Spouses are not the enemy.
Kids are not the enemy.
Parents are not the enemy.
Coworkers are not the enemy.
Crazy drivers are not the enemy.
Neighbors with stupid yippy dogs are not the enemy.
Teachers are not the enemy.
Students are not the enemy.
Arabs are not the enemy.
Africans are not the enemy.
Americans are not the enemy.
Democrats are not the enemy.
Republicans are not the enemy.
Homosexuals are not the enemy.
Happily married people are not the enemy.
Predecessors are not the enemy.
Government employees are not the enemy.
Flight attendants are not the enemy.
Jerks at the YMCA are not the enemy.

And I could keep going.  But you get the idea.  You and I have an Enemy.  It's none of the above nor any other flesh and bone.  It's Satan who has an agenda to steal, kill and destroy.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Huge day

Huge day for us as our oldest goes into surgery.  I'll post a blog on the NT75 Challenge later today.  Thanks for covering us in any and all prayers.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NT75 Day 37: Ephesians 1-3

Between the trip to Haiti and the upcoming surgery on our oldest, there are two very different aspects of God I have seen (and need to continue to see).  On the one hand is the humble, seeking God who looks at the poor and downtrodden and helpless and comes with help, provision, compassion, and tenderness.

On the other hand is the God I read about today in this passage:

  • The God who has an immeasurable greatness to His power, a great might that resurrects even the darkest of dark.  
  • The God who is exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named.  
  • The God who has all things under His feet.
Humility.  Power.

Which do you need to see today?  Which do you need to experience today?  Which do you need to submit to today?

Monday, October 18, 2010

NT75 Day 36: 2 Corinthians 10-13

Sufficient grace.

Paul, in the midst of all his trials and life and revelation, needed sufficient grace.  He had seen things people just don't see.  But there was a cost involved since most people with such grand revelations also get grand egos.  So Paul prayed.  He prayed and prayed and prayed.  Three times he asked God specifically to remove it (probably with fasting in a season of prayer is what he meant by "three times").  Three times God didn't answer his prayer.

But on the third time, more revelation:  My grace is sufficient for you.

Paul had a great problem.  God had greater grace.

I'm leaning on that today.  We're facing a long stretch of weeks, starting with surgery for our oldest on Wednesday.  That surgery could yield great progress and we're holding on to the promise that God still heals (through medicine and miracles and medicine that is miraculous).  We're holding on to some specific words that God has given us.  We're being held by a God who never lets go, as we sang with the church yesterday.  We know that God will never, no never, no never forsake us (again, from singing with the saints yesterday).

And we're being held by sufficient grace.  Amen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 10.17.10

Here are the sermon notes from this past Sunday, 10.17.  In this passage, Jesus picks up the seriousness of sin.  I tried helping us all see how serious we must be about it too.  May God grace us with the courage to deal with it as radically as Jesus describes.  As usual, you can find the audio and PDF of these notes at  We should have it up on iTunes too.

Mark 9.38-50

Overall Theme:  Jesus is serious about sin.

  • At its root, judgment is ego-driven.
  • Judgment demeans and excludes. 

3 Reasons not to Judge (v.39-41)
  1. If God is at work through them, He’s probably at work in them.
  2. Direction is often a better spiritual gauge than boundary.
  3. God’s provision comes from all types of places.

Sin is serious to Jesus (v.42).
  • Causing another to stumble is sin because it is unloving to your neighbor.
  • Tests of family:  what you’re willing to do for one another and what you’re not willing to do to one another.
  • This is a powerful reminder that sin never happens in isolation.

Because we follow Jesus, sin is serious to us (v.43-49).
  • The use of hyperbole is designed to get our attention.
  • The enticement to life is designed to prompt our affection.
  • The reminder of hell is designed to keep us serious about sin.

Seriousness about sin is distinctive (v.50)
  • Salt mixed with gypsum can lose its distinctive properties.
  • If your love for God and hatred for sin are not growing, it is perfectly legitimate to ask if you’re following Christ.
  • The distinction of following always plays out in relationships.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

NT75 Day 34: 2 Corinthians 5-9

Contained in today's reading is one of the most explicit explanations of what happened on the cross.

In 5.21, God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin.  Why did He do that?  How did He do that?  Good questions.  The how is by placing our sin onto Jesus.  1 Peter 2 says that Christ bore on sins in His body.  When Christ was hanging there, He was bearing my sin like an animal bore a load.  He carried my sin, though He didn't deserve it.  He carried my sin, though He didn't have to do so.  He carried my sin, though He shouldn't have.

And the why?  Because by doing so, God could impute the right-standing nature of Christ to me (Bible word:  righteousness).  Now, because Christ bore my sin, I stand with Christ and because of Christ as rightly related to God.

Martin Luther called this verse the description of the Great Exchange:  Christ takes my sin and gives me His righteousness.


Friday, October 15, 2010

NT75 Day 33: 2 Corinthians 1-4

Every time I preach it's life and death.

That's not an exaggeration.  At least it's not according to today's reading.  Through the ministry God has given me, it's the aroma of Christ and life to life for some, death to death for others.  I think that means that some will draw near to God and experience life.  Some will turn away from God and get closer to death.  It probably means more than that too.

But the one thing it means for me:  ministry is serious business.  Sure, I want to be funny (when appropriate).  Sure, I want to be a teacher and help people understand.  But I HAVE to be earnest.  Lives are at stake.

That's a good reminder for me today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NT75 Day 32: 1 Corinthians 12-16

Paul concludes his first letter to the Corinthians with the longest treatise on spiritual gifts and then a reflection on the nature of the resurrection.  Inside this reading today is one of the most famous passages of Scripture and I'd like to reflect on its placement.

1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings and other places where love is a general theme.  That's fine with me.  I know some who get torqued about that but I'm not one of them.  It still speaks of love, even if marriage isn't the context of the passage.

Which it isn't.

The context of chapter 13 is chapters 12 and 14.  Spiritual gifts surround 1 Corinthians 13.  So the love chapter has mostly to do with the church's use of spiritual gifts and that should be its first application, not weddings.

The Corinthians were fighting about who was the most spiritual by measuring their spirituality by spiritual gifts.  Paul makes clear that the Spirit distributes the gifts as He sees fit, so His gifting one with one gift and another with another gift is NOT related to their spirituality.  In some circles today, people still use spiritual gifts to measure one another's spirituality.  Bad idea.  Bad bad bad idea.  Speaking in tongues doesn't make you spiritually mature (nor does any other gift).

So if the gift doesn't measure spirituality, what does?  Love.

Are you mature?  Well, if you are patient, kind, not a relational score-keeper, and a truth-rejoicer, then you are on your way.  And that's a much better measure of spiritual maturity.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NT75 Day 31: 1 Corinthians 8-11

What do you do with your freedom?

That's the question Paul wrestles with in these chapters (specifically 8-10).  They wondered about meat sacrificed to idols.  Paul's basic argument goes something like this...

  • There are no real idols, so food sacrificed to them is just food (8.4ff).
  • Behind the idolatry, though, lie demons - so you want to be careful with the spiritual entities that undergird the physical idols (10.20).
  • Don't mess with your own conscience - that's a bad idea because it hardens you against other promptings of the Spirit (8.7).
  • Don't mess with another's conscience because that's unloving (8.11-13).
And here, for me, is the modern day application:  I can focus on my rights and lose righteousness.  I have rights.  But exercising those rights at all times might very well harm others, which is unrighteous.  And it's pretty clear what God would prefer.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NT75 Day 30: 1 Corinthians 5-7

What a gross passage.  Did you feel like you needed to take a shower after reading this?  Immorality abounds.  Division is all over the place.  Believers are suing believers without consulting the church first.  People are perverting married sexuality in ways that are destructive and inviting to temptation.

Right in the middle of it all:  you are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6.19-20).  The Gospel.  Right there.  Beauty in the midst of ugliness.  Hope in the midst of frustration.  A reminder in the midst of forgetting (and living like it was long-forgotten).  Gospel.

And that reminds me today that no matter where I am in the world, where I am spiritually, where I am maritally or relationally, I need the Gospel to be right in the middle of my life.  And so do you.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, October 11, 2010

NT75 Day 29: 1 Corinthians 1-4

Let me give a quick intro into the Corinthian letters for this week.  Corinth was a messed up place, lots of pagan influence, and seepage into the church of Jesus there.  Thus, Paul expresses dismay and often quotes them asking questions before he answers (see, for instance, 1 Cor. 7.1 and other places).  So read and know that there are plenty of historical examples of "no perfect church."

As to today's content, I appreciate how unimpressive Paul is.  He didn't wear A&F or AE.  He didn't have a cool hat.  Faux hawk?  Nope.  Stylish retro glasses?  No.  He was pretty unimpressive and said as much about himself, being with them in "weakness and in fear and much trembling" (2.3).

But he preached Jesus.  And that is impressive to me.  Without lights, microphones, PowerPoint slides, or anything else we consider essential to modern-day preaching, he preached Christ and Him crucified.  He yielded himself to the Spirit, depending on Him to get the work done.

We pray pretty often around our office the recognition that we cannot assemble enough talent in any room to advance the Kingdom.  True for Paul.  True for Trent.

But when I get out of the way, faith rests on the power of God, not the wisdom (or the entertainment) of men.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NT75 Day 27: Acts 24-28

I'm impressed with the power of testimony.  Between yesterday's reading (ch. 22) and today's (ch. 26, specifically) we get a couple of full accounts and a couple of partial accounts of God's work in Paul's life.

Some people worry that their "testimony," the story of how God has worked and is working in their lives, is boring.  They never smoked pot or stole a Mercedes or threw mannequins stolen from JC Penney off the bridge into late-night traffic.  They grew up in church, they loved their parents, and they never really knew life apart from God's activity in their lives.

First of all, that's the way it's supposed to be.  Parents are supposed to raise their kids in the "fear and instruction" of the Lord.  Kids are supposed to grow up and honor their parents, learning from them what it means to walk with God.  Somewhere along the way, God saves them spectacularly though not "visibly" (as He did with Paul).  The salvation is no less spectacular, no less a raising of a dead person to life, no less of a forgiveness of sin, no less a glorious purchase and ransom of a life.  My friend Brian, who didn't grow up in a family who loved God, got to baptize his daughter the other day.  Her testimony:  "Well, I never really knew life apart from Jesus.  Mom and Dad always made that a part of our home.  Now I want to live for Him."  Brian, through tears, commented how different it was from his own testimony since he came to faith in college.  That's the way it's supposed to be.  I'd say to those with testimonies like this to speak of God's faithfulness!

But second, it's not always that way.  Our lives are wrecks apart from God and the restraining influence of parents and other authorities.  Some have proven that and done so in spades.  To them, I encourage you to speak of life's emptiness and God's willingness to love you and fill you.

Either way, speak up.  The world needs to hear.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Friday, October 8, 2010

NT75 Day 26: Acts 19-23

I so appreciated the pastoral touch of Paul today.  I think Paul kind of gets the hard-driving, endurance-having, go-get-'em sort of reputation without the balance of the gentleness he had toward the places and people.  He stopped in places.  He stayed with people.  He encouraged them.  He taught them.  None of this makes him soft.  It makes him prioritized, since he was giving himself to something that lasts forever in the souls of people.

One thing that scared me and made me examine the church's leadership landscape was his discourse to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.  Within that discourse, he prophetically announces that wolves will come in to devour the flock, and "from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them" (v.30).  Did you get that?  From "your own selves."  From the very elders that he is speaking to and encouraging and exhorting.  From those that should be guarding the flock will come the wolves that seek to devour it.  From those who should care for the doctrinal and moral purity of the church will come those that have neither kind of purity and will entice others away.


That's scary stuff and drives me to live out v.32 in my ministry:  committing people to God and to the word of His grace.  More Bible, less opinion.  More Bible, less email.  More Bible, less meetings.  More Bible, less PowerPoint.  You get the idea.  Only the Scriptures can build others up and give an inheritance among those who are sanctified.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NT75 Day 25: Acts 14-18

I saw courage this morning.  I don't mean a small iota of courage, but medal of honor courage.  I saw Daniel in the lions' den courage, the three Hebrew fellas in the fiery furnace courage, the prophet Jeremiah confronting the false idea of Temple courage.

Paul gets stoned in Lystra.  And that's not stoned as in "Dude, I'm stoned..."  That's stoned as in people pick up rocks and throw them at your head.  He's pulled out of the city and left for dead.  And what does he do?  He gets up and goes back into the city (14.19-20).  He spent the night in the exact same city where he was stoned and left for dead.  He went back into the place where great suffering and injustice were perpetrated against him.

And then he did it again (14.21).  And then he did it again!  (16.1)

Three times he went back to Lystra, back to the place of stoning and persecution, back to the place of pain. He did so for the sake of the Gospel in the lives of those who lived there.  He did so because dying is gain. He did so because there are things more important than comfort.  He did so because he drew from a source of life that produced this kind of courage in him.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NT75 Day 24: Acts 9-13

I'm praying this for our church and my family today:

And walking in the fear of the Lord an in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, [the church] multiplied. (Acts 9.31).

I'm sure I've read that verse before, but it leapt off the page to my eyes and right into my heart before the coffee even kicked in.  I want to be a man, husband, father, and pastor who is marked by the fear of the Lord and traffic in it constantly.  I want to see that in my kids, a gleeful terror and frightening gladness in the King of the universe.  I want to see it in the church too, holy fear and awe and fright and respect and reverence.  That would sure make us different from the flippant, inconsequential world and prompt their questions.

And the Spirit's comfort too - the alongside-ness of His nature as He indwells me.  More of His activity and my recognition of it, that's what I mean.  I long for that.  I'm praying for that.

And I'll leave the result to God:  He can multiply what He and when He thinks is best.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NT75 Day 23: Acts 5-8

There were a lot of great stories in this section and lessons to be learned (like:  "Don't lie to God, it's a bad idea.").  Two specific things stood out to me...

Most of the time when you look into heaven (through the Scriptures) you see Jesus seated at the right hand of God, the position of authority.  As Stephen is being stoned and his death is immanent, he looks into heaven and sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  I'll not make a doctrine of this, but I wonder if Jesus was standing to receive one of His servants into heaven.  I wonder if Jesus stands to welcome those for whom He died.  Think I'm crazy?  Maybe.  But it would be reflective of Psalm 116.15 - Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.  And it'd be one more reason not to fear death as a believer.

Also, I saw where the persecution that came upon the church after Stephen was martyred was used by God to push the church into new mission fields.  He had told them that the Word would spread to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1.8).  Persecution pushed them into places and their response wasn't complaint but "preaching the word" (8.4).  So maybe when harder times come my way, I shouldn't gripe so much as look for avenues and opportunities to spread the Gospel.

And since it's Testament Tuesday (created by my awesome wife on her blog), I wanted to tell you of a brief experience and a brief reflection from a couple of days ago.  Two Saturdays ago, I had the opportunity of doing a graveside memorial service for a friend and the family.  He passed away a year ago or so, dedicated his body to science, and we had a memorial service for his ashes.  His widow has been walking faithfully through grief and significant physical pain in the last 12 months.  But she's been walking through it!  She's prayed, shared, loved, cared and walked.  The two stories above reminded me of her - God's preciousness in death and His ongoing desire to use us, even in our pain.

And that kind of life speaks to me.  And I hope it speaks to you - you're never alone and never useless.

That's just me thinking thoughts...

P.S. Want to jump in on Testament Tuesdays? It's easy. Go to my wife's blog, fill out the information at the bottom of the Testament Tuesday post, and then testify to God's work!

Monday, October 4, 2010

NT75 Day 22: Acts 1-4

The book of Acts records the birth of the church and its nascent activities in spreading the Good News of Jesus around the known world.  There are tons of great stories and quotes to spur spiritual growth.  From this morning's readings, I had two questions.

First, did Peter make a mistake?  In Acts 1, he brings up the point that someone should take Judas' office and proceeds to move forward on that with Matthias as the ultimate choice.  But I've also read Acts 9, where God clearly chooses Paul as an apostle, even appearing to him personally.  I read that and wonder if Luke is letting us in on an early leadership mistake.  I'm not saying he is, but I do wonder.  And then I think about how if I get in a hurry I make mistakes (leadership and otherwise) too.

Second, do I think about the events of the original Easter weekend the way the the apostles describe it in these early chapters?  The description seems to go something like this:  evil men killed Jesus, just as God the Father had ordained to happen (see 2.23-24, 3.13-15, 4.27-28).  There is the evil component of the earthly action and the beautiful component of the sovereign plan.  The cross was no surprise and was no Plan B that God swooped in to redeem in the last moment.  He intended to do this.  Sovereignty was at work throughout.  And if it was at work throughout the most wicked, horrible, unjust action known in the history of mankind, it's probably at work in the circumstances of my life too.

But that's just me thinking thoughts (and asking questions)...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NT75 Day 20: Luke 19-24

When you offer something to God, it tends to be sacrifice.  That's right.  That's good.  Because offering something to God isn't like offering something to a beggar.  You give a beggar a few bucks and are in a position or benefaction and power over him.  What's more, you probably don't miss what you give because you don't think about giving sacrificially in those moments.

But God, He's a different story.  When I give to Him (money, time, abilities, and so on), I'm not playing the role of benefactor nor exercising some power over Him.  He's not once looked at me and said, "O!  Thank you for tithing!  I wasn't sure how we were going to make it without your check!  Whew!  Praise Me!"  Never happened.  Never will.

Giving to God is sacrificial by nature because in our giving (again, of time, money, abilities, etc.) we're giving to someone far superior to us to reflect His worth to us.  And when the lady dropped the two small copper coins (21.1-4), she was reflecting God's worth to her.  That's why Jesus praised her.  That's why He set her out as an example.

So what is God worth to you and how will you reflect it in the sacrifice you give?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Friday, October 1, 2010

NT75 Day 19: Luke 14-18

This is probably my favorite run of chapters in the book of Luke.  Strike that - it IS my favorite run of chapters.  I have spent more collective time studying, soaking, and preaching these chapters than any others in the Gospel.

One insight on prayer that I'll offer today from 18.1-8.

The widow refuses to give up on the unjust judge.  The judge finally relents.  Getting the woman off his back becomes an easier and more profitable road than whatever kickbacks he's getting from the injustice.  And God's not unjust, so we can expect more from Him than the judge.

But then this bombshell:  when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?

The first several times I read that, I had no idea what it meant.  Faith on earth?  Huh?  Is Jesus mixed up or is He throwing down some riddle or playing a verbal game?  But then, in a sermon I heard as a college student, it hit me:  the kind of faith that Jesus is wondering about is the kind of faith that perseveres, specifically in prayer.

It's easy to give up on praying for someone, some activity, some circumstance, some situation.  You can offer a few things heavenward but, if the answer doesn't come, life or doubt or apathy can settle in and pare the prayer life down to the bumper sticker on a car I saw the other day:  "God bless everyone, no exceptions."  Nice sentiment.  Not faith.

Faith locks on and grabs hold like a bulldog.  Tenacious.  Fierce.  Jacob wrestles, saying, "I'm not letting go until you bless me."  That's the kind of faith that will persevere in prayer.

Anything you need to stoke the fires of faith and keep praying for?

One key suggestion (for me, anyway) is to keep the Scripture open and let the promises therein be what prompts me to keep praying.  When one isn't working and my faith is waning, I turn to another and try to keep praying.  And on occasion, it happens to me too, I have to say to the Lord:  I believe, but You have to help my unbelief.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...