Monday, December 23, 2013

Unique, One and All

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well.  (Ps. 139:14)

We are all unique, every single one of us.  Even identical twins are not completely identical.  If you searched through the approximately seven billion on the Earth today and all of the people who have ever lived, you would not find another person just like you.  It is in this uniqueness we can find something special.

Our uniqueness is a testament to our God who created us.  Using Himself as a template He created man in such a way that in the fullness of time, each individual who ever walks the Earth will be a completely and totally unique.  Because each of us is unique, His love for each of us is also unique.  Sure there are commonalities in how His love is expressed in the world, but it is in the differences, our uniqueness that our relationship with Him becomes something bigger and better.

Does this surprise you?  If so, why?  Are all of your relationships exactly the same?  I’m going step out on a limb and say that they aren’t.  Regardless of whom the other person is, co-worker, friend, family member, etc., we experience each of the relationships differently.  If that is true in the relationships we have with others, why would God be any different? (Remember, created in His image.)

Ready for the next one?  Because you are unique, no one who has ever lived can worship God like you can.  No one!  This is more than going to church and singing a few songs on Sunday.  This is living life in such a way that you become the best version of who God created you to be. Finding your purpose in life, pursuing it with all your heart and bring God glory through your actions.

We also have a unique name.  This name is mentioned in Revelations 2:17b, “And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”  We can only speculate as to what this name could be but God knows the true you, the person you were created to become.  In this He has a unique name for each of us that will be special and will encompass all of who we are and were created to be. And though we don’t know it now, we will immediately recognize it when we hear it for the first time.

Our uniqueness is one way in which we are fearfully and wonderfully made, embrace it as the gift from God that it is and open yourself up to all God wants to do in you and through you.  He has a purpose for all of us that is as unique as we are.  Seek out that purpose and thank God for your uniqueness.  Praise Him in thought and deed as only you can.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wise Men from the East

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Mt 2: 1-2)

Christmas is just around the corner.  It is a time of stores full of shoppers, festive lights, snow, tasty treats, and Christmas music on the radio.  One of those songs most of us are familiar with is We Three Kings.  This Christmas Carol tells us of travelling kings bearing gifts for the baby Jesus.  This is based on the story in Matthew chapter 2, but who were these men? 

Besides being mentioned in song, a Nativity Scene would be incomplete without the three kings with their gift boxes.  Traditionally they are given the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar and they are bearing the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Most of us are familiar with the tradition surrounding these men but let’s take a look at parts of the story that maybe you have not heard or thought of before.

These men were not actually kings; scripture tells us they were wise men (Mt 2:1).  It is commonly held that these men were Magi, magicians and astrologers, and most bible scholars believe they were from Persia.  But why would Magi from Persia be looking for Jesus, and how would they know?

I touched on this in my previous post, LIVE by Example, and it relates to the time of Daniel and his presence in Babylon approximately 500 years prior.  Daniel, along with three others, was taken into the king’s service because of the wisdom and knowledge he displayed.  In his time there Daniel repeatedly demonstrated the use of this wisdom and knowledge, along with an unwavering faith in God. (Dan 1-6)  This would have provided persuasive evidence of the authenticity of Daniel’s faith so it is not surprising that his peers took notice of the prophecies Daniel wrote, especially concerning the timing of the arrival of the Messiah (Dan 9:25).

Since Daniel enjoyed credibility with his peers in Babylon, it is easy to see him taking the opportunity to share at least some stories and prophecies from Hebrew Scripture.  One such story may have been one concerning another Babylonian seer named Balaam. (Num. 22-24)  Though he had been instructed to pronounce a curse on Israel, Balaam pronounced a blessing instead.  This included a prophecy concerning both a king and a star rising out of Israel (Num. 24:17).  Combine this with Daniel’s timetable and they would have known when to look and the sign to look for regarding the arrival of the Jewish king.

Tradition holds that there were three wise men but their number is not listed in scripture other than to say there was more than one.  Tradition also shows three men travelling on three camels, showing up at the stable where Christ was born.  In all reality there would have been an entire caravan of people travelling with the Magi.  The caravan would have consisted of the Magi themselves, however many there actually were; servants of the Magi and other “staff” (entourage, students, assistants, what have you); possibly merchants and other travelers headed in the same direction; and most likely some type of security or soldiers (travel would have been very dangerous and a caravan would be seen as a source of supplies needed for survival). 

They also arrived much later than the night Jesus was born.  It would have taken time to gather supplies, put the caravan together, and travel the several hundred miles from Babylon to Bethlehem.  Matthew 2:11 tells us they arrived at a house to find a “young Child with His mother Mary.”  This is also supported by Herod's response in Mt 2:16.  I would imagine this large caravan arriving in the small town of Bethlehem would cause a bit of a stir among the locals as well.

Something else we don’t think much about is the gifts the Magi brought Jesus.  Each was valuable in its own right (each worthy for a king), but each also had a symbolic significance as well.  Gold, aside from its obvious value, represents Christ’s kingship.  Frankincense is an aromatic resin praised for its fragrance and is often burned as incense, this represents His priesthood.  Myrrh is also an aromatic resin, commonly used in embalming, represents Christ’s substitutionary death.

It should also be noted that aside from the gifts, the Magi, “fell down and worshipped Him.” (Mt 2:11)  There is significance in the fact that they were from a pagan culture and they are listed as some of the first people to worship Jesus.  And this is years before Jesus started His ministry and at this time very few people knew who He was.

I hope this gives you something to think about when you read the story of Christmas, and even a new way of looking at the stories in the bible. Look beyond what we normally think the story says and find some nugget you have not seen before.  Look at what happened and not just what has become tradition surrounding the story.

I pray you and your families have a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

LIVE by Example

Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.  (Dan 6:3)

In my previous post I talked about the impact Jesus has had on the world.  How He lived that example.  There are a number of other people in the bible we can learn from, here are a few:
·         Joseph didn’t give up despite being sold into slavery by his bothers, being sent to prison after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and being forgotten by the butler until Pharaoh had a dream. (Gen 37-41)
·         Peter, James, John and the other apostles sat at the feet of Jesus before being instrumental in the growth of the early church. (The 4 Gospels and the Book of Acts)
·         Paul, even with all the difficulties he faced, shared the gospel with the gentiles of his day. (Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles)
·         Gideon led a small army. (Judges 6-8)
·         Noah built a boat. (Gen 6-8)
·         Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, for 40 years in the wilderness, and to the Promised Land. (Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
·         Nehemiah went home to rebuild a wall. (Book of Nehemiah) 

We know more about some of them than others, some had humble beginnings, and others had positions of influence before they heard God’s call.  All of them displayed faith in what they accomplished for God and gave us examples of how to live our lives.  They also made an impact on those around them and even an impact on the world.

There is one person in particular I would like to highlight as an example and the power a good example can have on the world.  That is the prophet Daniel.

After taking over the nation of Israel, King Nebuchadnezzar had several young men taken to serve in his palace.  Daniel was among these men.  These men were to be indoctrinated and trained in Babylonian affairs of state.

Daniel stood out early on when he made the decision not to defile himself and requested a different diet than was supplied by the king for himself and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who we know by their Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach and, Abed-Nego. (Dan 1:8-12)

Daniel is later able to not only interpret a dream of Nebuchadnezzar; he is able to tell the king what the dream was, which none of the kings other astrologers, magicians, or sorcerers were able to figure out, even under the threat of death for failing to do so.  After Daniel did this, Nebuchadnezzar told him, “Truly Your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and the revealer of secrets, since you could reveal the secret.” (Dan 2:47)

Nebuchadnezzar again praises God after Shadrach, Meshach and, Abed-Nego are saved from the fiery furnace. (Dan 3:28-29)  How’s that for influence?  When the king (a pagan king at that) of a country that took over your own, and took you to serve in his court, is praising your God.

Daniel served under several leaders over his lifetime.  First Nebuchadnezzar, then his son Belshazzar mentioned in Daniel 5.  Daniel then served under Darius the Mede when he took over Babylon.  Throughout this time Daniel was blessed by God and continually distinguished himself amongst the other governors and satraps. (Dan 6: 3)

Jealousy from his peers led them to plot against Daniel by manipulating the king which resulted in Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den. (Dan 6:1-17)  After seeing that Daniel survived the night in the lion’s den, Darius had those that had accused Daniel, and their families, thrown into the lion’s den and then honored God (Dan 6:24-27) even decreeing that “men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.” (vs. 26)

We can see how Daniel had an impact on those around him and set a great example for us by not compromising himself and serving God.  Now, are you ready to take it to another level?

Do you know where the wise men who delivered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus in Matthew 2 came from?  It is commonly held that they came from Persia and their knowledge of Hebrew scripture talking of a coming King can be traced back to the time of Daniel in Babylon.

I had heard about the wise men coming because of knowledge they had gained due to Daniel being in Babylon.  But it wasn’t until I received the following text from a friend talking about the wise men that really got me thinking.

“Imagine this… Live your life in such a way that 500 years after you die the weight of your vision motivates the descendants of your peers to travel hundreds of miles to see… THE KING OF KINGS.”

Talk about having an impact!  Living such a strong example that it leads others to act, several generations removed. That will blow your mind when you really think about it.

As we serve God, we will impact people’s lives.  In some cases we will witness the affect our actions have, in others we won’t.  But it really doesn’t matter if we see the results or not.  Allowing God to use us is more important than keeping score.  Let God take care of those details because you never know how and where He is going to use what you do to impact others.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

One Solitary Life

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

I came across this several years ago and found it again while doing some research.  It is called One Solitary Life and was taken from a sermon by Dr. James Allen Francis in 1926.

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty  

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself  

He was only thirty three  

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth  

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend  

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

 Definitely a different way to look at Jesus.  When we think about people that have impacted the world I think it is safe to say this is not usually what we look for in what they did or didn’t do.  In today’s society we look too much toward athletes, movie stars, musicians and the like but one has to ask, do they really make that much of an impact?  Yes, they are popular for a time due to their accomplishments in their field, but it doesn’t last.

Don’t believe me?  Without looking on the internet, list the top five most popular athletes, movie stars, and musicians from 10 years ago.  How many can you come up with?  Most of us might be able to come up with a couple.  Those that are big fans in a particular area might be able to come up with more, but not by much.  Too easy?  How about 20 years ago?  30?  Gets harder the further back you go doesn’t it?

True, some of these people have used their influence in a positive way to help with various charities and other organizations but I think most would agree it is not the majority.  Even with those that do, most of that influence gets diluted or even completely washed away by time.  Ultimately very few have a very far reaching effect on people’s lives, much less the world.

Why does Jesus have influence today, almost 2,000 years after He walked the Earth?  I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some of this influence is definitely because of who He is, the Son of God.  But I think it is much more than that.

Jesus taught us how to love one another and how to serve each other.  He demonstrated obedience to God’s will in His life and, through His death, fulfilled His purpose for coming to dwell with us.  Jesus showed us there is a better way to live our lives.  He also showed us we could have a relationship with Him.  And He did this not by just telling us how to do it, Jesus lived it.  Everywhere He went, in everything He did.

Jesus has had more impact on mankind for good than any other person.  Jesus changes lives because it is not just about serving God and those around us, it is about relationships that make us better people.

Jesus lived servant leadership and we are called to following His footsteps.  Allow Jesus to come in and change your life.  Live the life you were meant to live and have an impact.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Bondservant of Christ

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle… (Rom 1:1a)

As part of his greeting to the Romans, we see Paul refer to himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ.  What did Paul mean by this? You don’t see the term bondservant used very often in scripture and in some translations they just use the word servant.  Is there a difference between being a servant and being a bondservant? 

A servant is a person who performs duties for others; this may be domestic duties, acting as a personal assistant, or something as simple as rendering assistance when someone needs a helping hand.  We are definitely called to serve others.  Jesus told us this much in Mark 9:35, “Sitting down, Jesus called the twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and servant to all.””  Jesus also provided multiple examples for us to follow in serving others.  One prominent example is when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet in John 13:1-20. 

How about a bondservant?  In order to understand the difference we need to look at the word Paul used in the Greek to express what he wanted to convey here.  The word Paul used and is actually used in many places in the New Testament is doulos.

The translation of doulos from the Greek is slave.  Some theologians even say it was actually the most wretched expression for slave in the ancient Greek language. Describing a servant so totally sold into slavery that he had no destiny of his own, that he was perpetually obligated to do the bidding of his owner.  And this is the word Paul used in Romans 1:1.

Does it seem strange that Paul would refer to himself as a slave?  People generally don’t take it lightly when you talk about slavery today.  Especially in reference to themselves.  That wasn’t the case in the early church.  They were called Christians but they referred to themselves as slaves of Christ (1 Cor 7:22, Gal 1:10, Eph 6:6, and Col 4:12).  Peter and Jude also make the same reference to themselves (2 Ptr 1:1 and Jude 1).  John MacArthur, in his book Slave, summed up our relationship with Christ this way, “He is the Master and Owner.  We are His possession.  He is King, the Lord, and the Son of God.  We are His subjects and His subordinates.  In a word, we are His slaves.”[1]   This is how the early church saw it.

Although doulos is used about 124 times in the original text, it is not translated well in modern bible translations.  Current translations consistently substitute doulos with the word ‘servant’.  Ironically, there are at least half a dozen words that can be used for servant in the Greek; doulos is not one of them.  It does not matter if you are looking at the New Testament or in secular Greek literature, doulos always means slave.

So, what is the difference between a servant and a slave?  Put simply, a servant is hired, a slave is owned.  We have been told we are to serve, and Jesus set the example for us.  Most of us have no problem there.  But being a slave of Jesus Christ takes things to a whole new level.  True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to our lives, it is about devoting ourselves completely to Him and Him alone.  We are to submit our whole being to His will.  Seeking to please Him above all else.  Dying to self and following our Master’s call, no matter the cost.

This is not just blind devotion or following for the sake of following.  Looking back into the Old Testament you can see a perspective that, I believe, takes it to a higher level and is fundamental for our beliefs.  Go back to Ex21: 5-6, here we see a slave who willingly commits himself to serve a master he loves and respects.

One other thing that is important to note. Slavery in the Roman Empire was different than what we normally think of when we think of slavery today.  Today we usually think of people in chains, abuse, poor living conditions, and other such circumstances.  It is estimated that approximately one-fifth of the population of the Roman Empire was a slave.  Initially most of these slaves we taken in military conquest, eventually most slaves inherited their place in Roman society by being born into slavery.

Slaves worked in a variety of positions with varying levels of responsibility depending on their training and their master’s needs.  On the street it may have been difficult to distinguish between slaves and non-slaves.  There wasn’t any difference in dress or even the responsibilities in what you might find a slave or a free person doing on a daily basis.  Slaves could even be held in high regard due to the position held by their master in society. 

Not to say it was all wine and roses for slaves, they were considered property, not a person.  They had no legal rights, basically no legal status whatsoever.  If their master was abusive or cruel, they would have lived a life of pain and misery.  However, if their master was gracious, they could be provided some level of social and economic protection, they would not have to worry about their next meal or even where they would sleep.  In return for their good service they were taken care of.

So it’s more than just a master and slave.  It is a Master who paid the full and complete price for us and His slaves who totally devote their entire being to Him, not because they have to, but because they want to.  As part of the relationship the Master provides for the needs of the slaves, looking out for them and taking care of them.

[1]MacArthur, J. (2010). Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (1). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let you requests be known to God.”  Philippians 4:6

Have you ever paid attention to how much God likes to give when you read the different passages in the bible?  There are several examples to choose from, here are a few:

In John 2:1-10 we find Jesus, some of His disciples, and Mary, His mother, are at a wedding celebration in Cana.  Wedding celebrations in that time could last up to a week and at this particular celebration they ran out of wine.  At this time, in this culture it would reflect badly on the groom for this to happen.

In a nutshell, Mary takes the time to point out the fact that the wine is now gone to Jesus.  His response is that His time has not yet come.  Undeterred, Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.  Jesus has the servants fill six stone water pots with water and take some to the master of the feast.  After tasting the water turned into wine (which he did not know was the case) the master of the feast then complements the groom for bringing out the good stuff late in the celebration.

This is normally credited as Jesus’ first miracle, turning the water into wine.  But it is so much more than that.  Above I pointed out that the wine was good enough to elicit a compliment from the master of the feast.  That in itself is a step above average, but Jesus doesn’t stop there.  There were 6 stone pots that were filled with water, in verse 6 we are told they are between 20 and 30 gallons each.   That’s between 120 and 180 gallons of wine!  Talk about an extravagant wedding present!

How about when Jesus fed the 5000 in John 6:1-14.  The 5000 just refers to the men present, scholars tell us that totals including the women and children put the number of people there at closer to 20,000.  Jesus starts with five barley loaves and two fish.  When all is said and done Jesus has His disciples collect all the fragments, and they fill 12 baskets.  This is the leftovers!  How’s that for a little church picnic?

How about one that makes feeding the 5000 look small in comparison?  Exodus 16 tells us about how God provided for the Israelites after they had left Egypt.  Every morning God provided manna for the nation of Israel. Scholars estimate that at this time there were approximately 3,000,000 Israelites at the time.  In order to feed that many people it has been calculated that there would need to be approximately 4,500 tons daily.  On the sixth day they were told to collect a double portion since there would not be any manna on the Sabbath (v 26) so that would be 9,000 tons on that day. 

Over the 40 years they were in the desert over 67,000,000 tons of manna appeared supernaturally! On top of that in verse 21 it tells us that when the sun became hot it melted, implying that there was still some on the ground after they had gathered manna, each to their need, each day.   Again we see God being extravagant, and this is when they were complaining! (v2)

Manna is not the only food God provided for them, in verse 13 we are told of quail coming into camp in the evening.  If they averaged one quail per person that would total 3,000,000 quail each night.  Try and wrap your head around that many quail coming to the city where you live each evening.  And this in the wilderness, not necessarily where you might find quail, especially in those numbers.  Also, in chapter 17, we see God providing water for them when He had Moses strike the rock.  The amount of water needed for 3,000,000 people, and their livestock, totals about 15,000,000 gallons.  DAILY!  That is more than 22 Olympic sized swimming pools!

As I am writing this I can’t help but be overcome with awe when I think about the shear enormity of providing food daily for 3,000,000 people, and God did it, extravagantly!  And these are just a few examples given to us in the bible.

After reading about these times God was extravagant you may ask, “Why isn’t God being extravagant in my life?”  I think there are a few reasons.  First, and simply put, we don’t ask. Or, we don’t ask God for all He can and wants to give to us.  In other words we think too small.   When Paul wrote to the Philippians about making requests to God (Phil. 4:6), the words he used in Greek meant we are to earnestly beseech or to be passionate in our requests.  In other words Paul is telling us we can and need to be bold when we take our requests to God.

As I look at my prayers I can honestly say I don’t think big enough when I pray.  Nor am I as bold as I should be.  We all need to think bigger and be bolder when we pray. Much bigger and much bolder. After all, we really are called to win the world for Christ.  Not a small task.

Another reason I believe we don’t see God working extravagantly in our life is that we try to dictate to God what we think we need when we pray.  Or we expect God to answer our prayers a certain way.  When God answers our prayers in the way we need them answered verses how we want it done it can look like He is not being extravagant, we may even feel like we have been slighted.  It is important to remember God is much wiser than we are and He know what we actually need and if you really look at how He answers your prayers you will see what has truly happened in your life. 

Finally, Jesus told us not to store up treasure here on Earth but in Heaven (Mt 6: 19-21).  I think we tend to forget about this because we tend to be a little shortsighted.  We want the immediate gratification.  From an eternal perspective the treasures we have stored in Heaven are much more important than anything we might get while here on Earth, they will last for all eternity. 

Without any frame of reference it is hard to see what we have stored up in Heaven until we get there and honestly when we get there I think it really is going to be one of the last things we think about.  After all, we will be in the presence of our God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

There are times when we do need to pray about specific things we need in our lives.  By all means, do so.  Just don’t get so focused on the details you forget to look at the big picture.  God is extravagant and He wants to give us so much.  Boldly ask God for all He has for you and allow Him to work in your life. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Healing Your Heart

I have come that they may have life, and that they have it more abundantly.  (John 10:10b)

Has God ever surprised you by doing something for you that you didn’t even realize you needed? 

In a previous post I mentioned the fact that there was a fire on the north side of the city where I live in which over 500 homes we destroyed.  And that we had a fire last year a fire destroyed almost 400 homes.  They are still picking up the pieces from this year’s fire, getting things cleaned up, repairing what can be fixed, figuring out the best way to go about rebuilding what was lost.  The area affected by the fire last year is on the road to recovery, homes being rebuilt, grasses and such growing, people’s lives returning to normal.

I remember how I felt both last year and again this year while the fires were burning.  It is a different feeling when a disaster happens where you live as opposed to something you see or hear on the news.  It affects the whole community, whether you are directly affected or not. 

Every year in August the local Home Builders Association sponsors what is called the Parade of Homes.  The Parade consists of about 35 homes ranging from smaller track homes through larger custom built homes.  You can tour through these homes; see some of the latest in construction styles, decorating, etc.

A few of the homes in the Parade this year had been destroyed in last year’s fire and have since been rebuilt.  While looking at these homes the last thing I expected was an encounter with God.

Jesus told us that He came to give us abundant life.  Abundance means to be overly plentiful or overflowing and since God is good, this abundance can’t be anything other than good.  If we need something, God wants to provide. If we are hurting, God wants to help heal us.  Even if we don’t even realize we need anything, God knows and will provide what we need.

David tells us about God answering prayers for healing in Psalm 30:2, “O Lord my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.”  Along with many others I have been praying for those affected by both of the fires.  Prayers for strength, healing, and restoration.  Little did I know I was also praying for myself.  I had not realized there was a small part of my heart that needed healing, but God knew.  

Emotions were high on the opening day when I toured the homes that had been destroyed last year.  A couple had small displays of things that were recovered from the ashes of the previous home, in another they were showing a video with images of before and after the fire and during the rebuilding of the house.  As I toured the houses I felt a heaviness in my heart being lifted.  Even with the heaviness lifting I didn’t realize what had happened until I started thinking about over the next couple days. 

Isn’t God amazing?  You never know exactly when or how He is going to do something and sometimes He catches you by surprise and meets you where you least expect it.  I have looked back to when this happened a few weeks ago and can’t help but feel the wonder as I contemplate a God who loves me so much He wants to meet me where I am and help make me whole. Not only does he want to make me whole, He does it with style!

Open yourself to receive what God wants to give you.  Let Him step in and fill the voids, to heal the hurts and the pain.  Even the things that are buried deep and you want to forget.  God wants to make you whole and give you an amazing life.  You won’t know how or when He will respond but from time to time He will show up where you least expect it and say, “Watch this!  This is just for you!”

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Which Way Do I Go Now?

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.  (Pvb 3:6)

Generally people don’t like the unknown.  The unknown can be frightening and the future is full of unknowns.  This can make it hard to make the right decisions on which direction to take in life.  We wait too long and miss a great opportunity.  We jump the gun and commit ourselves to something we should have let go by.  We make a decision, then we second guess ourselves and pull back or hesitate. 

Setting goals and coming up with a life plan give us a direction in which we can use to guide us in making decisions.  Unfortunately this doesn’t mean everything is going to work the way we want it to.  We can still make the wrong decisions or do the wrong things.  So what do we do?

Ask God!  James tells us we can ask God and He will answer, generously.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  (James 1:5)   So ask.  God will answer.

God has a plan for all of us.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)  Since God calls us to be active in our walk with Him we can’t just sit around waiting for Him to reveal all the details to us.  We need to seek it passionately through prayer, reading our bibles, guidance from mature Christians and paying attention to what is going on around us.

As you start asking God about these plans you will find that it isn’t just some sort of script for you to follow.  It’s a journey with things for us to do along the way.  Another aspect of the journey is that God will not necessarily reveal all the details to us when we ask.  Why not?  We may need to learn something, to complete a specific task before moving on, or to maybe it’s to make sure we keep coming back to Him for guidance.  Whatever the reason, God will reveal His will in the proper time.  In the meantime He will always reveal everything you need to live for Him today.

In committing everything we do to God, doing it all for Him, we will be successful in accomplishing what God has planned for us in our life.  Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Pvb 16:3)  How’s that for a promise?

A common concern that people have in seeking God’s plan for their life is often along the lines of thinking God is going to send them to some isolated tribe or group of people in Africa or the jungles of South America.  Does God send people to these places?  Absolutely!  Does God send everybody?  No.  If He did, all the Christian of the world would be in these locations working with the people there.  God needs us in our home town just as much as He needs us to travel to various parts of the world for Him.

If God does want you to do work for Him in another part of the world and you are truly seeking His guidance in your life, when the opportunity presents itself you will know it is the right thing to do.  That is what happened to me.  I had never really given much thought to going on any sort of mission trip, had even avoided talking to people I knew were looking for people to go on trips, but when I was asked by a friend and mentor about going on a trip with him I knew it was something God wanted me to do.  I can’t tell you how glad I am I went on the trip, it changed my life and my heart.  I have even been back a second time.  Something else to remember, not all these trips are life commitments, most trips people make are just a few days to a couple weeks in length.

God has both general and specific plans for our lives and wants us to fulfill our purpose in life.  Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)  Allow Him to work in your life and complete that good work.

So what do you do while you are waiting for an answer to your prayers?  I think Jesus gave us a great example; For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)  Start by serving others, putting their needs ahead of your own.  That’s part of what serving God is all about.  God will reveal the rest to you.

There will always be a sense of mystery in following God’s plans for our lives, but we can be certain He will guide us as long as we rely on Him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Great I AM

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelite and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.' "  (Exodus 3:13-14)

There is one name of God in particular that has been a bit more difficult to translate than others, a bit of a puzzle if you will.  That name is Yahweh.  The Hebrews considered this name to be so holy they would not pronounce it for fear that they would profane the holiness of the name.  It is even said they have forgotten how to actually pronounce it.  When they wrote it they would only use the consonants, YHWH.  Since they did not speak the name or include the vowels, scholars have had to use a number of references to try and figure out what vowels to use. 

Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew verb which means “to be.”  The essence of “to be” is to have life.  With that in mind, the name implies that God is absolutely self-existent.  He is the One who in Himself possess life and permanent existence.  Most scholars agree that Yahweh, or Jehovah, as it is sometimes translated, would be God’s proper name. 

In most English translations of the bible when you see LORD in all capitals it is a reference to the name Yahweh.  There are a couple instances in which we see it translated differently.  Rather than a reference to God, in these cases it is used when God or Jesus identifies Himself using His proper name.  Here the translation is “I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM.” 

I find this fascinating.  The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is identifying Himself and in doing so just simply says “I AM.”  Granted, the English language is not the most expressive language, but think about it.  Rather than something outlandishly verbose, yet completely holy, descriptive, and complex, God chose something unassuming yet all encompassing.  Something that when translated from the original Hebrew would be elegantly simple but would carry completeness that is hard to wrap your mind around.

God does this when He is speaking to Moses at the burning bush.  In Exodus Chapter 3 God is commissioning Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring out His people out of Egypt.  Moses asked God who he should tell the children of Israel sent him (vs. 13).  God answers in verse 14: And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “This you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 

Jesus also used the term “I AM” to identify Himself.  While teaching in John 8:58 Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”  This is Jesus declaring Himself to be Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.  The Hebrews knew and understood this and were going to stone Him for blasphemy.  

Scholars tell us that Jesus identified Himself in this fashion while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  When the troops arrive to arrest Him, Jesus asks them who they are looking for and Jesus responded “I am He” (John 18:5).  Then something amazing happens!  Look at verse 6: Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. It is said that Jesus used His proper name to identify himself, He didn’t just say, “That’s me.”  He responded with “I AM” and with that identification there was a release of power as He fully acknowledged who He was.

Amazingly simple, yet powerful and complete. 

These are just a few examples.  As you read your bible, look for the times in which “I AM” is used.  In your walk with God, ask Him to reveal to you the subtle intricacies of what His name means.  What a great way to get to know Him better, by learning about His proper name.  Yahweh, the Great I AM.

We are very blessed at my church with several great singers and songwriters.  One of these songs is The Great I AM by Jared Anderson.  If you have the means, I highly recommend getting it.  It will touch your heart, I know it does mine.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Names of God

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed when I come to the children of Israel and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” Ex. 3:13

What’s in a name?  Some have said it is the most important and sweetest sound to a person’s ear.  Sons are named after their fathers and people honor those that have had an impact in their life by naming one of their children after that person.  In some cultures a new name is given to signify a child is now an adult. 

Today we use names as a means of identification but to the people in biblical times names meant so much more.  For them the very existence of a thing was tied to its name.  Especially a divine name, this was critically important to them.  And it should be for us as well.

So why is should it be important to us?  Why should we study the names of God?  There are several reasons.  First, we are commanded to honor His name.  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in Vain.” (Ex 20:7)  There is more to this than avoiding using God’s name in a slang or profane way.  The name of God has to do with His character, and when we live in a covenant relationship with Him, we become accountable for reflecting his character.

Another reason to study the names of God is because of the inherent greatness of His name.  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth…” (Ps. 8:1)  By understanding the names of God we can understand how to praise and worship Him more effectively. 

Third, God’s name provides protection to all believers.  “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Pvb. 18:10)  As our understanding of God grows, we will find ourselves running to His name to find safety and strength.

Finally, in the various English versions of the bible simply translate His name as “God” or “Lord”, but there are a number of other names used throughout the scriptures, both in the Greek and Hebrew.  These names reveal many different aspects of God’s character or His relationship with us; they contain a wealth of truth about the God we serve.

Let’s look at a few of the names of God:

Elohim – Powerful God – This speaks to the idea that God is the Supreme Being and to His triune nature.

El-Shaddai – Almighty God – This speaks to God’s control of everything.

El-Elyon – God Most High – This speaks to God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy.

El-Olam – The Everlasting God – This speaks to God’s unchangeableness.

Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord Will Provide – This speaks to God’s provision for all our needs.

Jehovah-Rophe – The Lord Heals – This speaks to God healing us, both physically and spiritually.

Jehovah-Shalom – The Lord is Peace – This speaks to God being a source of peace in our life.

Jehovah-Sabboth – The Lord of Hosts – This speaks to God defeating evil.

Jehovah-Rohi – The Lord Is My Shepherd – This speaks to God’s relationship with us as a source of comfort and strength.

Part of how God shows us His love is by being all these things for us and more, so much more.  Here are just a few verses:
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Rom 8:37-39)
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”  (Mt 6:26)
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3:16)

As you continue your walk with God, ask Him to reveal new things about His names (the above list is not a complete list) and Himself to you.  You will see there is so much to learn and the more we learn the more we grow closer to Him.  What better way to be an example to those around you than by growing closer to God.