Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankfulness Found in Doing the Dishes

Like most people I know, doing the dishes is not high on my "favorite things" list. This morning on my drive in to work I was reflecting on my poor attitude about doing the dishes this morning. I realized that instead of making me moan and groan to myself, doing the dishes could be a way to rejoice for all the blessings I have.
Here's what I came up with to be thankful for connected with dishes...

1. Having dishes (especially the amount of dishes we had) implies a place to store them; I'm thankful for having a home.
2. Having dirty dishes means that we have plenty of food to eat; I'm thankful for the physical plenty that we have.
3. Having dirty dishes every day means we are never without food; I'm thankful for regular meals.
4. Having a growing pile of dirty dishes, even when I'm not there, means that there are other people in my family; I'm thankful for my wife and daughter.
5. Being able to do dishes requires water. Many people in the world would have to walk miles to just go get some water. I'm thankful for the city water service and for our pipes that deliver water by just lifting a knob.
6. Having hot water to really get the dishes clean requires a water heater. Many people all over the world would have to go collect wood to make a fire to heat the water. I'm thankful for our water heater.
7. Having a hot water heater that runs on gas instead of wood means that we are connected to a outside gas line. I'm thankful for not having to worry about anything more than paying our gas bill to heat our water.
8. Being able to stand at the sink to do dishes requires a certain level of physical health. I'm thankful that for the moment I am physically strong and able enough to do the dishes.
9. Having the time to do the dishes requires a life situation that affords me that time. I'm thankful for a job which allows me the time to do the dishes.

That's nine things, and I'm sure there's more, to be thankful for in a menial household chore. What if I looked at all of life this way? It would sure help my attitude and outlook on life.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Glimpses in a Loud and Scary Thing

About a month ago I was out mowing our lawn for only the 4th time this year (one of the benefits of one of the worst droughts in a while). As I was mowing, Rebecca brought Annabelle out to sit on the porch to "watch daddy". As I mowed back and forth across her line-of-sight; her reaction to the noise of the lawnmower got me thinking. Initially she was afraid, but since she was with her mommy, she didn't break down into tears. She began to smile and wave at me as she got more and more used to the noise of the mower.

At first the mower was a loud, scary thing for her. But after she watched it go back and forth in the hands of her daddy her fear began to subside. It made me think of my relationship with the Lord. Sometimes in life I encounter "loud, scary" things. It might be a situation at work or with a family member. It might be a tragedy that strikes close to home. It might be one of those events that you read about in the headlines. Whatever it is, it seems loud and scary to me. But just as  the lawnmower turned and did my bidding that evening, so do all the loud and scary things in my life turn and do the bidding of my Heavenly Father.

It reminds me of these verses in Luke 12:6-7, "“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” He knows. He cares. He is in control of all the circumstances of my life.

It's interesting that in the two verses prior to these, Luke 12:4-5, Jesus says, "““I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” He knows. He knows my heart and my actions. He cares. He cares about how I treat others, and what I do. This picture of God seems different, more intimidating, less nice. Here Jesus is speaking of God casting people into hell. He is a God to be feared.

It is true that God takes human sin very seriously. But the most interesting thing is that these words are on the lips of Jesus. Jesus who is God, God in flesh. He came to earth to take the penalty for human sin so that people don't have to if they believe in Him. He is the ultimate expression of God's love. Ultimately I can trust the love of God not because he takes care of all the "loud, scary" things in my life. But I can trust the love of God because He came to earth as a man and took the full penalty for human sin on Himself.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Friday, July 13, 2012

Glimpses of Christ-esque Love

The night before he died on the cross Jesus said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13) The part that says "as I have loved you" sticks in my mind. Jesus came from the paradise of heaven to the pain of an earthly existence. Jesus gave up more than you or I could possibly imagine to come in human form to this planet. Then Jesus died a horrific physical death on the cross, while experiencing God's full wrath toward sin. That's how Jesus loved. He loved sacrificially; he loved completely.

I recently came across a story which reminds me of Jesus-esque love. It's the story of Ian and Larissa, and their extra-ordinary marriage. I pray that this glimpse of Jesus-esque love blesses you as it blessed me.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

He Won't Let Go: A Glimpse of God's Heart for His People

Yesterday I heard the song "I Won't Let Go" performed by Rascal Flatts, one of my favorite groups. Here's some of the lyrics...

Verse 1
It’s like a storm
That cuts a path
It breaks your will
It feels like that
You think you're lost
But you're not lost
On your own
You're not alone

I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won't let go

Verse 2
It hurts my heart
To see you cry
I know it’s dark
This part of life
Oh, it finds us all
But we’re too small
To stop the rain
Oh, but when it rains

The song originally struck me as a beautiful expression of commitment in marriage. But as I listened my eyes were opened to a broader, even more wonderful meaning. This song expresses Jesus' heart towards those who follow Him; it expresses His heart towards me. He will never let me go, or to change the words of the song a bit, "he won't let go."

Part of Hebrews 13:5 comes to mind, "God has said, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."" In Psalm 34:15 David tells of the same wonderful truth, "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry." What a comforting reminder of God's care and concern for those who follow Him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GRO in Responsibility

I recently gave a lesson during Family Experience to our young families about the topic of responsibility. Responsibility according to Webster is “the quality or state of being responsible.” There are three categories of responsibility. 

First, there is taking responsibility for something which went wrong, whether accidental or purposeful. Saying, I did that, and I need to deal with the consequences. I call this “oops-responsibility.” (O)  Oops-responsibility admits when something has gone wrong and takes the necessary steps to make the situation right.

There is a second type of responsibility, which I call “required-responsibility”. Required-responsibility (R) takes seriously those things which it must do. For a child these would be cleaning up their room or taking out the trash. For an adult this could include paying the bills, going to work, or fixing the car. 

There is a third type of responsibility-“grace-responsibility.” Grace-responsibility takes responsibility for things that it doesn’t have to. (G) One of the ways we see grace lived out in Scripture is by one party taking responsibility for another party to which they have no obligation. The parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates this beautifully. Luke 10:29-37 records the story. 

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (NIV)

The Samaritan showed mercy on the wounded man. He extended grace to him. How did he extend grace to him? He extended grace to him by taking responsibility for his care even though he didn’t have to. This is “grace-responsibility”, but this isn’t the greatest example. The greatest example of “grace responsibility” is found in the Lord Jesus. Philippians 2:5-8 shows us this.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (NIV)

Jesus stepped out of heaven in order to take responsibility for the sins of all humanity. This is the ultimate expression of grace-responsibility. Jesus certainly didn’t have to take responsibility for my sin or anyone else's, but He did and in doing so, in practicing grace-responsibility He extended grace to all who believe. How about you and me, will we live life only taking responsibility for things we do wrong, or things we have to do? Or will we sometimes extend grace to others by practicing grace-responsibility like Jesus? When we do that, a world which knows nothing of grace will see it modeled in our lives.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Glimpses of the Holy Spirit's Work 2

I have a friend who has recently started attending New Covenant. She has more enthusiasm and energy than many people I know. She is also full of great questions about the Bible. Her enthusiastic desire to know and understand more about her faith is so refreshing because it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is working inside of her. It is a glimpse of His power at work in her heart, so I rejoice!

She recently handed me a list of questions. This is my second post in working through answers to some of her questions about Christianity. These questions deal largely with the Gospel.

Why does sin have to be reconciled?

We see in Scripture that God takes sin very seriously. In Genesis 2:15-17 God tells Adam that if he disobeys and eats from the one tree which was forbidden, then he would die. Here we see, at the very beginning of Scripture, the principle which is expressed in Romans 6:23, “for the wages of sin is death”.

Sin has to be reconciled in order for people to be able to relate to God. No person can stand before God (who is holy) without being judged for their sins. Their sins are an offense against God. David speaks of this in Psalm 51, in human terms he had sinned against Bathsheba, her husband Uriah (who he had killed), and their family. But he says “against you, you only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). So sin is an offense against God.

But why can’t God just “let it go.” God cannot just brush sin under the rug because He is just and righteous. As a righteous and just judge He has to punish sin.

Why did God send a part of himself to suffer on earth?

This question is closely related to the question about why sin has to be reconciled. Once we understand that sin there are natural consequences for sin, we are in a place to understand why Jesus had to come to earth. Remember, God must judge sin. So either He has to judge each person and sentence them to death for their own sin, or there needs to be someone to take their place. Jesus was 100% God so his shoulders are big enough to shoulder the punishment for all of humanity. He was also 100% human so He was a fit substitute for other humans.

John 3:16 tells us that the reason that Jesus came to suffer on earth was because “God so loved the world.” So this whole endeavor was motivated by God’s love for humanity, and His desire to save people from the natural consequences of their sin.

How does Jesus’ crucifixion give us a “pass” on our sins? Yes, it is the ultimate sacrifice for which we are eternally grateful, but why does it save us?

When Jesus died on the cross He took the punishment for all the sin of the world. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” In other words, Jesus, the righteous one, died “in place of” or “instead of” the unrighteous, that would be us (all of mankind).

We see this in Jesus’ words on the cross. Matthew 27:46 says, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God the Father judged Jesus for the sins of the world. Instead of you or I having to pay for our own sins, Jesus paid the penalty for them on the cross. So Jesus' death on the cross gives us a "pass" on our sin because out penalty has already been paid by Jesus.

It is also important to understand that Jesus' death on the cross paid the penalty for sin. However, this does not mean that every person will be saved. The Bible clearly shows that a person must believe that Jesus died for their sins and that He is their only hope of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."

Some people don’t believe in hell…I don’t know if I do or not…should I?

It is difficult, if we take the Bible seriously, to get around the concept of eternal punishment in hell. Revelation 20:11-15 says,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The concept of hell is not a pleasant one, but it does come out of the pages of the Bible. From a logical perspective hell is one of God's two answers to the sin of mankind. The good news is that He also has another answer, the Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Glimpses of the Holy Spirit's work 1

I have a friend who has recently started attending New Covenant. She has more enthusiasm and energy than many people I know. She is also full of great questions about the Bible. Her enthusiastic desire to know and understand more about her faith is so refreshing because it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is working inside of her. It is a glimpse of His power at work in her heart, so I rejoice!

She recently handed me a list of questions. I am working through them and wanted to share what I believe the Lord has laid on my heart in response.  Please feel free to add thoughts or questions to the discussion.

Question #1: "Obviously there is evil in the world. Why does God bring evil into this world for his greater purpose? Or perhaps is the evil and bad in this world a test from God to see if we will trust him without knowing the “reason why” for everything?

I am not comfortable saying that God brings evil into the world. In my view God allowed for the possibility of evil the moment that He created beings who were free to make choices for themselves. This opened up the door for evil. We see this in Genesis 1-3. God created Adam and Eve and everything else and it was “good”. But in Genesis 3 Adam and Eve fell, and it was at that point that all evil entered the world. I would also say that Satan was the agent through whom evil first entered the world.

Does God allow evil? Yes, to accomplish His larger purposes. Does He cause it? No, in the sense that He is not the one perpetrating it. We see this with Job. God allowed Satan to bring evil onto Job. But it wasn’t God who directly brought the evil into Job’s life. Why does God allow evil? I’m not sure we can answer that question entirely. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things (even evil things) together for the good of those who love Him. So God uses evil for good purposes. Ultimately I believe the reason that God allows evil is to bring Himself glory through it.

Question #2: Where did Satan come from?

Satan is a powerful angel who held a privileged position before God. (Isa 14:12, Ezekiel 28:12-15) At one time he was called Lucifer, and he walked in the very presence of God. But he sinned, and was cast down from his position. (Ezekiel 28:15-16, Revelation 12:7-9). Isaiah 14:13-14 describes his sin as saying in his heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” (emphasis added) Satan is identified in Revelation 12:9 as “the ancient serpent who leads the whole world astray.” Satan was the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempted Adam and Eve to sin. He will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) Other references to Satan/demons (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1-13,Romans 16:20, Ephesians 6:10-18,