Great Is His Faithfulness

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...

“Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem” by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26
Recently our student ministry held our annual discipleship weekend. We had an amazing time worshiping together, but it our time together in small groups always leave the greatest impact. Our speaker taught about our place in the world, and our influence on those around us. During one of our services he taught from the book of Jeremiah (Chapter 29, check it out!). In chapter 29 of Jeremiah’s writings we learn that God informs the people they will spend 70 years of bondage in Babylon. He is going to leave them there and they are to continue their lives. Jeremiah writes that it is God’s will that they people live among the Babylonians.

This news was no doubt devastating to the children of Israel, who believed God would save them from such a fate. The prophet’s message was most assuredly one that was not well received. In fact, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to assure them there would be false prophets who would try to tell them differently. But it was God’s will they live in bondage because of their rebellion. This is a lesson for the believer to take to heart. When we choose to rebel against God, his response is to give us over to what we want. He allows us to run away. We have moral free will. If I chose to follow the temptations of this world instead of the promises of God, he will allow me to live in the world and face the world’s consequences.

In our small group that evening, I shared from the book of Lamentations. This is another writing of Jeremiah’s… I remember the first time I read the book of Lamentations to a group of believers. I did not tell them it was from the Bible, only that it was a writing about God. When you read Jeremiah’s frustration and anger toward what God has allowed… well, let’s just say the group I read it to were not happy with the writer. They felt he must have been an atheist who was mocking God. They were all very surprised when I had them turn to the book of Lamentations and asked one of them to read the scripture I had just read.
Jeremiah had witnessed the sacking of Jerusalem and the fall of his beloved nation. He was left in total despair and his feelings of anguish are apparent in his writing.
But in the writing of Lamentations we can find great assurance of God’s mercy and faithfulness! The world would say Jeremiah had been abandoned by God, but he realized Israel had long abandoned God. God was working these terrible circumstances to bring Israel back to him. It was not that God had abandoned them. God was showing them what life without him would be like. God was providing them the opportunity to experience life separate from him. Jeremiah’s words in the scripture I quoted above are words to keep close to our hearts in our trials and difficult times. When we feel that God has abandoned us we should remind ourselves, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

You Can Call Upon The Lord

 

I love you, O Lord , my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord , who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalms 18:1-3

 

 

What a great excerpt of scripture to keep in our hearts. Can you imagine how differently we would perceive our daily lives if we viewed them through the lens of these verses? How might our attitudes change? How might we appear to the world around us? What would they think? Would it draw them to us? Would it draw them to Christ?

 

This is believed to have been written by David at the time the Lord rescued him from Saul and all of David’s enemies. It is the beginning of an ancient song David penned as a result of God’s grace on his life.

 

I believe we can all look back over our lives at the most difficult times, the times God has brought us through, and praise him for his faithfulness as our strength, as our deliverer, our fortress, our refuge, our shield, and our place of safety. To those who acknowledge the Lord’s involvement in our lives… he is overwhelming! He strengthens us through our weakness, he give us sound footing when our world crumbles, he protects us when the enemy is at the door, he whisks us away from danger, he is constant when everything else is changing, he is our shelter from the storms, his defenses are impenetrable, and for all of this he is more than worthy of our praise.

 

I pray your days have been blessed by this wisdom from God’s Word.

 

Persecuted Church of China

More often we talk about China’s abortion rate, and we forget about the Christians who are facing real persecution. In China, Christianity is regulated by the state and only state sponsored home churches are allowed to meet. This of course means the government has the opportunity to regulate these churches activities. The secret churches risk everything to meet together for Christian fellowship.

Please join me today, as we pray for those in China facing increased persecution. May they stay faithful to their Lord, and may he bless them for their faithfulness.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/february-web-only/how-china-plans-to-wipe-out-house-churches.html

Who Wants To Watch Sheep?

who let you in?

who let you in? (Photo credit: van Ort)

So I know it has been a while since my last blog update. In fact, my last post was on December 27th! That was almost a month away. My last semester at my local community college ended for me just before Christmas, and because all of the programs I am considering for my bachelor’s degree are cohorts they do not begin until next fall. For the past month, I have had a lot of free time on my hands.

I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek. With a full-time job, a family of four and everything else I keep myself busy with my life has continued to be full of activity through my break. I have been able to enjoy some time with my wife and girls. I have done some reading, and my pursuit of knowing God through his word has not slowed. I just haven’t shared anything with you.

And now we get on with it.

 

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Psalms 27:14

 

 I have spent much time lately thinking about what I feel God is calling me to do with my life. I accepted his call into ministry many years ago, but have struggled to “break” my way in. I work with students at my church, and I believe they are not only my passion but my calling. I love spending time with middle school age students (yes, God has blessed me with the ability to over look the smell). I remember middle school being a tough time in my childhood, and I desperately wanted someone to give me the attention acceptance I was looking for. I hate to hear stories about students who feel alone and are falling way, and I can not help but find that kid sitting by himself and introduce him to my pose’ of boys.

Every week I look forward to spending time with these young men and women. Aside from time with my family, it is one of the highlights of my week. But I often struggle with my desires to be involved in their lives and my responsibilities at home and at work. It often seems there are not enough hours in my day to do all that I want to accomplish. I know… you have never felt like that. Maybe not the middle school part (I do understand they smell, it just doesn’t bother me), but you struggle to find time to be a good husband/wife, father/mother, employee, mentor, or student. It is tough. This struggle has often brought me to a place of brokenness.

I have had one of those times lately, and my reading of God’s word led me to Moses.

 

The Book of the Exodus tells about the Hebrew children after they find themselves enslaved by the Egyptians. If you read your Bible regularly you might be familiar of the story of Moses. But in the small chance that you stumbled upon this blog and are unfamiliar, allow me to give you the short version. The Hebrew grew in number and the Egyptians became fearful of a revolt. So the Pharaoh (king) restricted the number of children the Hebrew families could have (not unlike China is doing today). Only the Pharaoh wanted all newborn boys to be slain. Many families attempted to hid their children. One such family was the family of Moses.

However the risk became grave and his mother decided to place him in a basket and let it flow down the river. She prayed that the child would find a safe home. The little guy drifted right to the Pharaoh’s daughter’s bathing area. She took him into her home and allowed his birth mother to nurse him. Moses, as she named him, grew in the Pharaoh’s palace.

After Moses had grown, he felt compassion for his people. He hated to see them mistreated by the Egyptians. And one day he saw an Egyptian going too far, and Moses in his anger killed the Egyptian. Moses knew that his high stature would not spare him from his fate, so he fled Egypt.

Moses came to a family of shepherds and they accepted him into their family. He would go on to marry a woman from the shepherd family. So Moses found himself not in the palace of Pharaoh, but in the fields of Reuel.

 

This week I was thinking about Moses time as a shepherd of Reuel’s flock. How meaningless his life must have seemed. Moses did not know that God had called him to free the Egyptians. He was not in the desert waiting further instruction. As he stared over the fields and watched the animals graze, he must have been very, very bored. I can not imagine spending four years as a shepherd… And Moses spent forty! I wonder how much patience he gained while herding the sheep of Reuel? I wonder if that is why God directed his life in that direction…

Of course I realize I am projecting my emotions on the matter on to Moses. Moses may have been perfectly at peace in the fields with the sheep. We of course know this prepared him for his time in the wilderness with the Israelites. I pray that I can stay positive about my little time in the desert as I wait on the Lord’s calling to be made known.

I mean, it could be worse… He could have me in a field watching sheep.

Christmas, Powered by the Holy Spirit

dove-object-black2

dove-object-black2 (Photo credit: knowhimonline)

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

We are considering taking down our Christmas decorations today or tomorrow, all of the gifts are open and lying around the house, and leftovers are chilling in the fridge. Today is December 27th and Christmas is over. It is always a whirl wind, that began in November. Every year we try to keep the meaning of the celebration in our hearts, but our attention is often loss to our societies Christmas traditions.

The opening to Matthew’s Gospel gets to the point quickly. Jesus was not just another teacher of the law, he wasn’t a charismatic speaker (in fact, many of his sermons ran people off), nor was he just a prophet who performed many miracles. Matthew informs us that Jesus came to earth not by the consummation of Mary and Joseph’s marriage, but by the work of the Holy Spirit

Christmas lights 2010

Christmas lights 2010 Source wikipedia.org

This may have seemed odd to those around Mary and Joseph. I would imagine few believed them; after all, it took a visit from an angel for Joseph to believe. But Jesus’ miraculous conception is just as important to his ministry’s work as his eventual death on the cross. Had Jesus been born the son of Joseph and not of God, his death would not have been the sacrifice that redeemed mankind from our rebellion. Jesus’ conception MUST be the direct work of God or he would have been born into the same debt if rebellion we all are. His very flesh would have been tainted by the blemishes caused by sin.

Jesus’ carnal body was the result of God’s work. In fact, the entire process of salvation has and must be orchestrated by God. We in our sinful state are so far from God that without his intervention we would stay lost in our sins. But God’s love for us is so great he sent his Son to earth by the consummation of humanity and the Holy Spirit to be light in the darkness. Jesus came to light the way for mankind’s hearts to God. He came so that we might know God as our father.

Christmas may be over, but for those of us who are disciples of Jesus celebrate God’s plan of salvation all year. Without the miracle of his birth his death on the cross would not have resulted in his resurrection, and without the resurrection of Jesus we would still be lost in our sins.

It Is Said…

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Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’ ”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the L ord your God and serve only him.’ ”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the L ord your God.’ ”

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Luke 4:1-13

In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent forty days being tempted in the wilderness. Luke says that the Spirit leads Jesus to this confrontation beyond the Jordan River.

There are a few things that intrigue me about this passage of scripture. But what I wonder most are the three Hebrew texts that Jesus quotes during his temptation.

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” Luke 4:4 ESV

And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” Luke 4:8 ESV

The first thing I learn from this account is that Jesus’ response to temptation is found in scripture. He doesn’t try to argue with the devil, he exposes the deceiver’s lies with truth. Jesus had been fasting for FORTY days in preparation of the next three years Satan says why don’t you make bread from these rocks. Often when we set out to follow God we are faced with opposition and temptation. Satan was trying to step in the way of Jesus’ ministry. Then he offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would only bow and worship him. Lastly, Satan instructs Jesus to challenge God’s authority and test him by throwing himself from the top of Jerusalem’s temple.

In this very strange journey from the desert, to the top of the world, to the top of the Temple; Jesus does not waver in his devotion to God the Father.

When I am tempted, I do not always turn to scripture first. But it was the response of the Son of God. He tries no vain attempts to argue with Satan. He simples states truth. Next time you find yourself tempted instead of relying on your own abilities looked to God’s Word for strength.

Santa, I Can’t Decide

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I love the story of St. Nicholas. In fact my daughter has watched the Veggietales movie that tells the story like a million times. We have watched the movie all year. The story of St. Nicholas is a great tale to share with your children. A true Christian hero who selflessly seeks to help those in his community who are in need.

We love St. Nicholas, but we are still undecided on Santa Clause. My wife and I have discussed whether we will tell our daughters that Santa Clause uses magic to sneak into our house at night to leave presents as long as they are good all year. I grew up with my parents doing the whole Santa thing. But as an adult I have some issues with playing Santa.

Quick disclaimer, I am in no way saying you should not allow Santa to visit your house on the night before December 25th. I am only sharing my views on the pros and cons of having the jolly elf pay my children a visit.

I will start with the pros:

1. It is fun. Come on we all know that we continue the Santa tradition because it is fun for us. We enjoy magic and hope our children will embrace the belief in something unexplainable. My wife has many cherished memories of her parents telling her about Santa, and she hates to miss out on that with our girls.

2. Conformity… Although I could strongly argue against this one. It will be easier to teach our girls what every other parent is teaching their children. If we choose not to do Santa, I do not look forward to the phone calls from other parents when my angels blow the magic for someone else’s little one.

3. If you tell the story of St. Nicholas to your children you will be telling them about someone who unselfishly gives to the children of the world. I do see some value in the story of Santa Clause.

That is all I have. Do you have any pros to add to the list?

Now the cons:

1. I have to lie to my children. This is something I never want to do. I cringe at the thought of lying to my girls. Even if it is for fun. I want them to always trust what their daddy says.

2. We lose a great opportunity to teach our girls how much we love them. Most families experience great sacrifices to celebrate Christmas with a traditional Christmas morning opening gifts. I believe it is important that our girls learn that we work hard all year and Christmas is a celebration of giving. Gifts cost something. Santa doesn’t teach that, he owns a sweat shop full of elves who crank out toys each year…

3. Materialism. I am afraid Santa has been used to over commercialize Christmas. I know some of you are rolling your eyes, but think about it for a moment. Our children fill out lists of items to receive from some benefactor they only see at the mall. To them there is no cost involved. Wouldn’t I be teaching my girls to covet?

4. He overshadows Jesus. A child does not fully understand the importance of Jesus gift, but can easily grasp a man dropping off gifts one night of the year. Admit it, it is hard to compete with that.

What do you think? Any other reasons why I shouldn’t teach my girls that Santa Clause will sneak in our house and leave them presents?

Again, I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t celebrate Christmas with Santa Clause. What ever we decide I know we will still include the books, the stories, and the movies that include him. I am just unsure if we will tell the. As if they are the truth. My daughter loves and enjoys Mickey Mouse, but we do t pretend that he is real…

Disney

Don’t forget to teach your children what this Christmas and every Christmas after is all about. We give gifts to celebrate the greatest of all gifts. We love our family and friends because of the love that has been given to us. Don’t forget to celebrate the birth of our savior. Enjoy the lights, enjoy the gatherings, and the gifts, but do not forget about Jesus. Whether it includes Santa Clause or not, Merry Christmas!

Who Should Tend to the Poor?

President Barack Obama signs legislation in th...

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.

Proverbs 14:31

The re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has led to much discussion on how welfare may or may not have been a contributing factor in his re-election. And with the warnings of a “Fiscal Cliff” being reported every half hour (unless you pay attention to the cable news networks. Then you see it every thirty seconds), welfare cuts seem to be inevitable.

Both sides have strong arguments about federal welfare programs. Many in our country find themselves unable to support themselves (look up the number of single mothers whose incomes fall below the poverty line), and the aid they receive from Uncle Sam provides the resources they need to care for their children. However, our country is facing a financial crisis. One that may place our federal government in the same situation these families find themselves in.

One side argues that we can not turn our back on the poor no matter the cost. They see America as a beacon of hope, and if we cannot care for our own that hope may be lost. The other side is often painted as uncaring and unsympathetic. I do not believe that to be the case. They simply see the fact that if you make five hundred dollars a week, your expenses for a week cannot be six hundred. You cannot support yourself or anyone else if expense is greater than income.

At this point maybe you are wondering which side of this disagreement I am on. I can tell you I have no clue how the federal government should work this out. I do not know if there is a solution that will fix the situation Washington is in. Maybe we should stop looking to Washington to sort things out.

The church exists to help the poor, disfranchised, the hated, and the forgotten. Jesus left us with the task of loving those who society would rather forget. We are the ones responsible for caring for them. At some point in our history Christians in America decided that the federal government should take care of those in need, and it has contributed to the bankruptcy of the US. We stopped caring for the needs of those around us and focused on our own.

Five Loaves and Two Fish

Today I hear a lot of Christians on both sides argue over how to handle the situation. But everyone seems to be waiting for Washington to devise a solution (which is ironic for those who consider themselves conservative and want less federal involvement in their lives). We need to stop waiting on the Feds to solve the issue. Church we need to step up, perform the work The Lord Jesus has given us, and then so many will not be dependent on federal assistance.

If you want to really help those in need help them directly and stop paying the government to do it. We can do a better job if we apply ourselves.

If you want the government to stop wasting your money on failed programs, start taking care of those in your area. I agree with you that government wastes more than it spends. Lets show them how to accomplish something.

It is time the church starts a revolution. One that accomplishes not the work of our forefathers, but the work of our Holy Father.

So, what are some of your ideas for assisting those in need?

5 Signs You Glorify Self, Paul Tripp

I want to share this great blog by Paul Tripp about self-glorification. It is true that we sometimes struggle with the temptation to get caught up in our little “celebrity” within our churches when we lead from the front.

“May he use it to expose our hearts and to redirect our ministry.”

5 Signs You Glorify Self

Freed Slaves

Chain Link

Chain Link (Photo credit: small world)

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.

                                                            Romans 1:1  

Paul begins his greeting to the Church in Rome with his credentials. In this description he includes the label “bondservant”. The significance of the word is that it describes a slave who has paid off his debts, his required servitude is complete, and they choose to stay a servant of his master rather than being free. Of course a bondservant enjoys a new level of freedom that was not available previously.  

Paul uses this word to describe his credentials as a follower of Christ we can learn a great deal about the attitude necessary for a disciple of Jesus. Paul understood himself to be a volunteer servant for God. Like a bondservant, he understands that his “master” can provide a better life than he can achieve on his own. Because of this, his love for God is greater than his love for self. 

It is important that we understand our service for God to be that of a bondservant. We are free to go, but why would we!? The life that Jesus offers is one filled with purpose and love. This may look different for each of us. God will not force me to do anything; only offer my participation in his plan. He doesn’t need me to complete his will, but he graciously includes me despite my unworthiness of such a calling. Only God knows what the abundant life will look like for me. Only he knows where my fulfillment will come from.  

Paul chose to view his life as that of a freed slave who chooses to continue serving his master. God offers us this position as well. We may choose to be a slave of sin, or we may choose to be freed from sin and the servant of our creator. Paul’s choices led him down a difficult path that ultimately led to his execution. But I believe Paul’s life was fulfilled in his desire to spread the Gospel and reach those who seemed unreachable. He considered serving God in prison more fulfilling than living life free without meaning. 

I pray that I would seek God’s direction in my life, and freely give my liberty to him so that I may live a fulfilled life, to count his work as greater than my life.

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