Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Thanksgiving Thought

For Black Friday my family and I went hiking up in the mountains.  If I'm going to be trampled , I'd much rather be trampled by elk in the mountains than people in a clothing store!

As we were hiking, there were several times when I'd realize I was only looking down at my feet and the path in front of me, which was kind of a lame view.  Whenever I'd realize that, I'd look up around me at the view, which was spectacular.  We were surrounded by snow-capped mountains, aspens, evergreen trees, snow, different kinds of plants that had survived the winter...we walked through a herd of deer, came upon a herd of elk, and the scene was made that much more picturesque by the rays of the sun bathing the landscape in a golden light, as the sun sank behind the mountains.  I'm a sucker for beauty like that.  Even though I've grown up in Colorado, I haven't lost all wonder at the beauty of the scenery around me.

Yet, sometimes, I DO grow used to it.  I drive parallel and towards the mountains every day, and it can easily escape my attention.  I see them, but often don't NOTICE them.  Even when hiking, I've noticed people have a tendency to look only at the path in front of them, rather than the view.  Some of that is necessary, or you'll slip and fall off a cliff.  But I think it's good to stop every once in a while and look at the view.

All this made me think of life.  Especially in our American culture, we're just focused on getting things done and on the next step we're taking.  We're looking down at our feet, at the path, the next place we're going.  So much so that we sometimes fail to recognize the glory of the place in which we're located.  With Thanksgiving-y thoughts going through my minds, I resolved to stop for a minute and notice what was around me.  I believe it's essential to do as we go through life.

Each season of life is different.  While we're always moving towards a new season, it is so important to stop and appreciate the season we're in.  That's where true contentment and thankfulness comes in.  We appreciate where we're at.  I often look back at certain times and remember how awesome it was, even though there were problems and complications, that season had certain aspects that will never be experienced again!  I want to live in the moment, appreciated each time of life, whether college, working, singleness, childhood, teenage years, whatever...I want to appreciate for what it is at at that time.

Stop a moment and think about the people that are in your life right NOW, the location you're in right NOW, the activities you're involved with right NOW, and look around at the scenery of your life.  Then, thank God for it.

Me being introspective.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lovest Thou Me More Than These?

I tend to derive my worth from how much of an impact I perceive I'm making in people's lives.  We all want to feel like we're accomplishing something--that we're making a difference.  I also tend to let my perception of impact dictate my emotions.  Recently, I was discouraged because there was a high time when it seemed like I was impacting a lot of people, but suddenly that high dropped.  I felt like I wasn't seeing fruit in the lives of many of those I thought I'd been impacting.  But in church on Sunday, God changed my perspective a little.

First of all, I realize that we can't always measure impact.  Seeds are planted and people are affected by the work of God in their lives through people years and years after the fact, and many times we may not even see the effect we have.  But there's still a problem with wanting only to have an impact in the world.

We were singing a song:
More than anything,
More than anything,
I love You, Jesus, more than anything.
More than worldly wealth,
More than life itself,
I love You, Jesus, more than anything.

As we sang, suddenly the words of Jesus came into my head: "Lovest thou me more than these?"

The words come from the epilogue of the gospel of John.  Here's the context.

John 21:10-22 KJV
(10)  Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
(11)  Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
(12)  Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
(13)  Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
(14)  This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
(15)  So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
(16)  He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
(17)  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
(18)  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
(19)  This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
(20)  Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
(21)  Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
(22)  Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

The disciples had returned to fishing after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  But Jesus hadn't called them simply to fish--He had called them to follow Him, and become fishers of men.  I've heard preaching on this passage before...some believe when Jesus asked if Peter loved him more than "these" he was referring to the fish, and some to the other disciples.  Either way, I was convicted.  

Our love for Jesus has to be more than anything.  I realized our reaching out and loving people needs to stem first from our love for Him.  It can't be the reverse.  I can get so focused on what kind of impact I'm making, but really it doesn't matter.  Jesus should be the most important thing in my life.  I realized I want to feel like I'm having impact because it means that I'M doing something, I'M doing something cool for God, I'M making a difference.  But it isn't about doing something cool for's about God.  It's about having a relationship with Jesus.

If we love Him, it doesn't matter what He asks us to do.  It doesn't matter if it seems like what we're doing isn't making any difference (if success is measured in terms of impact, Jeremiah sure had a floundering ministry, and Ezekiel was told straight out that people wouldn't listen to him).  It doesn't matter what anybody else is doing.  All that matters is if HE asked us to do it, and if He did, we do it out of our love for Him for the rest of our lives.  It's not about what WE are doing.  It's about what HE is doing.  Don't go back to fishing...don't compare yourself to John.  Simply follow Jesus, and feed His lambs and His sheep.

I shared what I had been convicted of with the church family I was with and someone brought up an old hymn, But I Love Jesus Best of All.  It's important to keep priority on Jesus. My mom read me a portion of a story about this televangelist who was very successful in a worldly sense who raised $17 million a year just to keep all of the many ministries he started going.  But he didn't know Jesus, and admitted that later in life when everything else failed.  "What does it profit if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?"

It's just a reminder...Jesus at the center of it all.  At the center of everything we do for Him. :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Under Drake's Flag-an exciting new drama!

I am blown away.  I just finished listening to "The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty: Under Drake's Flag."

A friend of mine, Aaron Fullan, whom I met attending the first Lamplighter Guild for Creative Disciplines in 2011, is working for a company called Heirloom Audio Productions, which just produced it's premiere of an exciting new series of dramatizations based off G. A. Henty's amazing historical fiction novels.

It's natural to be skeptical when encountering anything new.  Who knows what the quality of the sound, acting, content, and message will be?  But I had no need to fear!  Using actors, writers, and sound designers who have worked with programs like Adventures in Odyssey, Radio Theater, Lamplighter Theater, and much more, the Heirloom Audio team has produced a captivating, edge-of-your-seat drama that will keep listeners engaged, entertained, and impacted.  The production of the entire story is phenomenal.

G. A. Henty wrote action-packed adventure stories that weave in historical occurrences from all different locations and time periods.  Under Drake's Flag centers on the 1500s during the time of Sir Francis Drake.  These dramas will be invaluable tools for parents and teachers desiring to communicate the treasures of history to students who think it's boring in an engaging and memorable way.

Not only does it communicate history in an exciting fashion, but key character qualities are emphasized and taught through the stories and characters.  Overcoming fear through faith and courage is a key element of this drama.  The main thing that stood out to me, though, is the theme of becoming a man.  In a culture where manhood is undervalued and underdeveloped, stories like these are essential for communicating the truths that boys need to know as they become men!  The main character, Ned, grows up without a father, but he learns what it means to be a man through the influence of men like Sir Francis Drake, but most of all through the trials and tests placed before him by his Heavenly Father.

I definitely recommend looking into this exciting new audio drama series!  Don't just take my word for it...listen to this 60-second promo, then go to and download a copy for yourself!  You won't be disappointed...the story carries you along into inspiration to not live your life passively and cowardly, but passionately and courageously!

In fact, this drama will inspire you to pray along with the words of a prayer penned by Sir Francis Drake himself:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little, When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ. - See more at:

Monday, September 30, 2013

SEEST Thou This Woman?

One thing we all have to deal with no matter who or where we are is relationship. Relationships. With other people.  Which isn't one thing, I guess, it's a lot of things, but it all falls under one sub-heading. :)

We are relational beings.  That's why even when people are stranded on islands in literature they inevitably end up talking to coconuts or making friends with cannibals.  But sometimes relationships can be RIDICULOUSLY difficult...especially if you're friends with a cannibal.  Relationships are so complex and intertwined that it can be very hard to know how to handle them.  There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, because every single relationship we have is different.  However, there are certain principles that will NEVER change whether it's a:

  • romantic relationship
  • a relationship with your parents
  • or children
  • or siblings 
  • or other obnoxious family members 
  • with coworkers who drive you up the wall
  • a boss who's hard to please
  • people in church
  • even the people we pass on the street. 
The biggest thing I've learned is that to know how to treat people we have to get an accurate picture of how God sees them.

I'm going to throw this out there: right now the gospel of Luke is probably my favorite book in the Bible!  That'll probably change when we begin studying another book in our Bible study once we're done with this one, but there is such a richness and depth in studying and comparing the gospels and Luke is what I've been focusing on.  When you dig deep into the gospels, understanding where the writers are coming from, and who their original audience is, we can learn so much about what they were trying to communicate about our Savior, the Son of God!  As we've studied Luke, I've begun to develop a picture of how He views people and how He wants us to do the same thing.
First off, let me give you somethings to guide you when YOU study Luke so that you understand where I'm coming from:

Some Major Themes:
- The Kingdom of God is not what you'd expect.
- Jesus reaches and accepts those who are generally looked down upon or rejected.
I see these two things over and over again as I study Luke, and the two constantly overlap and connect with each other.

These themes also make sense knowing a little about Luke.
Luke was not one of the original disciples.
He was a physician.
He was a companion of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
Most likely, he was a Gentile, because of his name and the fact that Paul doesn't include him in the list of the circumcision in Colossians.  If so, he was the only Gentile writer of the Bible.

It makes sense that Luke would be giving a picture of Jesus' kingdom which focuses on accepting those who aren't generally accepted, just as he himself was accepted by Jesus when he wasn't part of the Jewish nation.

As we read through Luke we see a focus on women, children, Samaritans, tax collectors, diseased, Gentiles (like the centurion and Legion), widows, etc.  Even in just a comparison of the birth stories between Matthew and Luke, we can see the writers' different focuses.


  • Tells the story from Joseph's perspective
  • Starts out with a Hebrew genealogy tracing from Abraham (the father of the Jews) to Jesus
  • Visitors to Jesus are the magi or wise men bearing precious gifts
  • Herod the king is jealous of this newborn king and orders the slaughter of the innocents

  • Tells the story from Mary's perspective
  • Ends with a genealogy that tracks backwards from Jesus all the way back to Adam (the father of all mankind)
  • Visitors first told of Jesus' birth are lowly, uneducated shepherds
  • Mary and Joseph are portrayed as poor, but recognized and told by influential people like Elisabeth, Zechariah, Anna, Simeon, and the angel Gabriel, that Jesus is the one who is coming to bring about the kingdom of God in which all will be saved.

Do you see a pattern?  Matthew focuses on Jesus as the Jewish messiah who fulfills the prophecies and has come as the King of the Jews, and what that kingdom represents to His followers!  Luke focuses on Jesus as the accessible savior of all mankind!

Okay, so you may be saying, That's interesting, but what does that have to do with me?  I'll focus in on a story about Jesus and how he treats people that's unique to Luke and then tell you what he says about how we're supposed to treat people.

In Luke 7, we find this very interesting story:
Luke 7:36-50 KJV
(36)  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.
(37)  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
(38)  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
One thing Luke is also very fond of is contrasting those who should get it but don't, with those who shouldn't get it, but do.  We have a classic example here.  Here's a Pharisee who knows the law inside and out and should understand the character of God, inviting Jesus in, and here's a woman who Luke only classifies as a sinner, (which makes me think her sin was very in-your-face and obvious) and shouldn't know anything about God, who also comes and begins weeping with conviction and washing Jesus' feet with tears, and wiping them with the hairs of her head, because she doesn't know any better, kissing his feet, and anointing them with ointment.  The stage has been set.  These two characters are already a stark contrast.  The clean, lofty Pharisee with the dirty, lowly sinner woman.
(39)  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
This is a very significant part of the story.  When the Pharisee looks at the woman, he sees one of his theological classifications.  (We all have them.)  And as he looks, he thinks that if Jesus were a prophet he would know who she is...he would know that she is a sinner!  In reality, Jesus knew who she was better than even Simon, as we'll see, but let's look at his response to Simon.
(40)  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
I love the way Jesus answers him first of all.  The Pharisee only speaks WITHIN himself and Jesus answers what he was thinking, kind of proving that He has more than prophetic abilities to know about people.  But I also love the way Jesus answers him.  Sometimes we can get excited when Jesus bashes the Pharisees and say, "Yeah, that's what I want to do!"  But even though Simon's thinking is wrong in this verse Jesus answers him gently, and tries to reach his heart with a story.  Also, Luke has just been referring to him as 'a certain Pharisee', but Jesus addresses the certain Pharisee by name.  This shows me that he cares about this Pharisee's soul.
(41)  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
(42)  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
(43)  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Jesus uses a story to reach his check this out.
(44)  And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
(45)  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
(46)  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
(47)  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
I love this!  First of all, look at verse 44...Jesus turns TO the woman.  He's looking at the woman at this point, but he's still talking to Simon.  And he asks this question...I always glossed over this before, but it jumped out at me when I read a book by Michael Card on this subject.  Jesus asks, "SEEST thou this woman?"  You were looking at this woman, Simon, you placed her in a theological category in your mind, but do you really SEE her?  Do you see her for who she is?  And in turn, do you see Me for who I am?  She gets it.  You didn't even treat me with common courtesy and dignity.  But this repentant woman who needs forgiveness of sin loves me MUCH.  It wasn't that Simon didn't have many sins to be was that he perceived his debt as small, while she realized how great her sin was, so she loved much.  It was a difference in perspective.  And Jesus turns to this woman and sees her for who she is, a woman with a name, and responds like this:
(48)  And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
(49)  And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
(50)  And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Jesus looked at the woman and saw her for who she was and wanted Simon to get that perspective too.  The end result of the way that Jesus sees her is that her faith saves her and she is forgiven of her sins!  The question this immediately prompts is do we see her the way Jesus did?  How do we see people?  Do we see them the way Jesus did or do we automatically put people into preconceived categorized boxes we have constructed for them?
Our problem is that we always seem to think certain people are exceptions.  If they treat us in a certain way and they know better, then we don't need to show them all the love and mercy that God shows us.  But look at the way Jesus describes the way people in the kingdom of God are supposed to act:
Luke 6:32-36 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.  (33)  And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.  (34)  And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  (35)  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.  (36)  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. KJV
The whole passage is absolutely crucial to read to understand how He wants us to think of and treat people, from who He considers blessed and who He pronounces woe on versus our natural expectation of who is blessed, all the way to His warning against hypocritically pointing out other people's small faults in the face of your own.  So you should definitely go study up on that passage ;).  But these verses highlight that He expects us to treat people His way that we naturally don't want to.  Our enemies, sinners, those from whom we will probably receive nothing.  Why does He expect us to do this?  What justification is there for possibly living this incredibly difficult life?  Because then we will be the children of the Highest.  For HE is kind to the UNTHANKFUL and to the EVIL the very two reasons I most often hear people cite as justification for why it's okay for them to treat certain people poorly.  The standard of our mercy, should be our Father who is also merciful to US. How do we learn how we treat people?  Jesus, the image of the invisible God.  If we look at Him, we see the Father, so as we study the way He lives His life, we will learn how to treat people.  As you look at your every context with any kind of people...ask God to give you His heart for them.  Ask to see them the way that He sees them.  He will show you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Seeking God's Kingdom

This was the last meditation commentary I wrote at the college I was attending, Verity Institute, before I left, meaning that it is also the last of my med-com series.  If it waxes a little sentimental with references about Verity, you'll simply have to forgive me.  I hope these medcoms have been helpful to someone!

Command 14—Seek God’s Kingdom
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life . . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  —Matthew 6:24-33
•“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” —Philippians 3:7-8
Name of God
•Adonai (אֲדוֹנָיִ): Lord and Master
–”And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.”    Joshua 24:21

            Seek God’s Kingdom.  What an appropriate medcom to end on, after the time spent here at Verity.  These three words should be the encapsulating phrase that sets the stage and provides the framework for everything everyone leaving Verity (and those who are staying here incidentally) does.  It is especially meaningful to me, as I leave.  I am among the ranks of young people whose futures are opening up before them.  This is one of the most exciting and adventurous times of our lives.  Decisions that will be made in the next few years will be the determining factors that set the course for the rest of our lives.  Career, further education, marriage, location, church, ministry, friends, family, life and love are all opening up and are things that must be decided on.  The overarching theme, however, are those three words.  Seek God’s Kingdom.  Romans chapter 15 is a very interesting chapter to me.  The ending especially is not something that is preached on a ton.  Paul is writing to the Romans, and outlining his travel plans for the future, which may not be something we think we would get a lot out of, especially after we read the book of Acts and realize that a lot of what he was planning did not actually happen!  His intention was to bring money to the church at Jerusalem then travel to Rome on his way to Spain to preach the gospel.  Instead, when he went to Jerusalem, he was arrested and appealed to Caesar, and ended up going to Rome on a prison ship.  Why is this travel itinerary gone bad even in the Bible?  This is a question I was wondering as I studied the chapter, but as I thought through it, I actually began to get a lot of encouragement out of it.  Paul’s whole focus was the gospel.  He was actively seeking God’s kingdom and knew that his calling was to preach Christ wherever He had not yet been named.  Paul did not have a blueprint from God about exactly what to do, though.  He was just seeking God’s kingdom.  I do not believe it was wrong for him to make plans for the future that lined up with his calling, but Paul also understood that he was a servant.  Wherever his Master took him was where he was going to go, and he was going to put his all in wherever he was at.  There are numerous times in the book of Acts when Paul was planning on going one place but the Holy Ghost led him to go to another.   It can be tempting to get bent out of shape when our plans fall through, but if we are genuinely seeking God’s kingdom, with an understanding that Adonai is our Master and King, there is no reason to get upset.  If the King wants us to drop what we are doing and go somewhere else, we will, because we are serving Him.  We cannot serve both our plans and God’s plans, though.  Our plans must be submitted to His.  All the things that we have gained, we count loss for Christ so that we can win Him.   This is actually a comforting thought!  Wherever we are, we just have to focus on God’s kingdom and what He wants us to do in that moment, at that place.  If we are shipwrecked on an island on our way somewhere, we just focus on winning that entire island for Christ!  My time here at Verity was amazing, and God used it in incredible ways.  Now, as I leave, wherever I go, my focus is going to be on serving Him, and seeking His kingdom.  Seek God’s Kingdom.  Those three words will define the rest of my entire life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stewardship and Responsibility

Thriftiness vs. Extravagance
Thriftiness is multiplying my resources through wise investments so I have more to give back to God.
“And so he that had received the five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliverest unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” —Matthew 25:20-21
“I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” —Acts 20:35
Name of God •Our Reward:
–“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” –Genesis 15:1

            When we are given resources as Christians, it is our responsibility to use them wisely.  We are stewards of the gifts God has given us.  The apostle Paul described his role as an apostle as a minister of God, and a steward of the mysteries of God, then in 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”  To be a steward of God, we must be found faithful and responsible.   As we receive the ‘talents’ God has given us, we must evaluate what we are doing with them.  This certainly applies to our material, financial resources.  God owns everything, all the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the gold and silver, and thus, does not require anything material from us.  But He expects us to use the resources He has given us wisely.  Clearly, He has given us more than just money, though.  There are many blessings He has given us such as gifts, revelations, and knowledge.  As Paul said, we also are stewards of ‘the mysteries of God.’   In fact, the Bible says that God is our exceeding great reward.  The things we have been given from Him must be wisely used in this life to reflect His glory, and to be a good servant and faithful steward.  He has entrusted us with certain things that He expects us to use in accordance with His principles.  We are to invest in His kingdom by investing in other people, and influencing them to follow our great King!  What God has blessed us with, we in turn, can turn and bless others with “the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  Philippians 2:1-2 frames this principle nicely for me.  Philippians 2:1-2 “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  These verses highlight our responsibilities to fellow believers in light of and on the basis of what we have already received from God.  If we have received from Christ comfort of love, fellowship of the spirit, any bowels and mercies, then it is our responsibility as faithful stewards of the beautiful gifts He has given us, to accurately represent our Master, to confer those gifts on others, having the same mind, and the result will be the greatest reward of all: which is fellowship with God Himself.  HE is our exceeding great reward!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Responsibility to Lay Up Treasures

Lay Up Treasures
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  —Matthew 6:19-21
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:
for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
—II Corinthians 4:18
Name of God: El-Olam: The Eternal God

            Responsibility is a word that can quickly frustrate and overwhelm and burden a person.  It can be very easy to get caught up with all the things we have to do in our lives.  We have monetary responsibilities, especially as men, who are expected Biblically to take care of their families.  We have relational responsibilities to care for our families, our friends, the ones God has given us to disciple, and the lost.  We have responsibilities at church, at school, at work, and at home.  Responsibility is a huge umbrella that covers almost every single facet of our lives.  As a guy who is thinking a lot about the future, I can certainly relate to this.  My thoughts often go to where I will be in five years or so, perhaps with a wife, children, a home, a career, a ministry, a goldfish.  All of those things require responsibility from me then and now to prepare.  I want to start becoming the best possible husband and father I can be right now, as well as the best servant of God that I can possibly be.  As I finish up school and focus on assignments and deadlines and people and family, all of the responsibilities weigh heavily.  When we begin to get overwhelmed about all the things we have to do here on earth, it is important to take a step back, and examine things through an eternal lens.  This can be ridiculously difficult.  It is a nice thought, but often we simply feel that we do not have enough time to dwell on that kind of thing. It is so important to keep things in perspective, however.  Part of laying up treasures in heaven is fulfilling responsibilities here on earth.  Having a kingdom-minded focus of responsibility and laying up treasures in heaven will not negate most of the earthly responsibilities we have to fulfill.  However, it does help to prioritize things in a different way.  Which responsibilities are laying up treasure, and which are not?  When we look at things in light of eternity, our lives suddenly come into focus with sometimes entirely different meaning.  Let us take a step back and look at the eternal things in our lives today, to compartmentalize internal things properly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Faith and Responsibility

•“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” –Colossians 3:23-24
•“For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”
    -II Corinthians 10:18
Name of God
•Author and Perfector of Our Faith:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:2
            It seems that everything in the Christian life is something God does.  We could not do it on our own, so God came and did it.  He gives us one responsibility though.  We are not saved by works lest any man should boast.  We are saved by grace, but how? Through faith.
            Faith involves trusting God, more than simply believing.  It is like taking a car to the mechanic.  The mechanic does all the work on the car.  The mechanic is the one with all the knowledge, all the tools, all the experience, and all the ability, however, there is still a responsibility on the part of the person bringing it in, and that is to trust the mechanic with the car.  The customer actually has to turn the car over to the mechanic.  That is what faith is like.  Jesus does all the work, He’s the author and perfecter of this whole system of faith, but we have to actually turn our lives over to Him.  The problem is that we keep trying to take the car of our lives back to fix it ourselves.  When we finally realize that we are making a bigger mess of it than it was before, we say we are going to turn it back over to the Mechanic, so that He can fix it.  He begins working on it then we grab it back again and try it by ourselves again.  The question really comes down to whether we trust Him and have faith in Him or not.

            It is perceived to be very difficult sometimes to know what it means to trust God and have faith in Him, and knowing when to yield to Him.  In reality, it is very simple, and the concept ties into the last post.  We know that we need to walk in the spirit, and the way we do that is by yielding to Him every day by practicing the secret disciplines of prayer and Bible reading.  We show God we trust Him by doing the simple things that He says works.  Demonstrating real faith really is our responsibility and it is not that much to ask from the author and finisher of the whole system.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Responsibility to Practice Secret Disciplines

Practice Secret Disciplines
Scripture Memory
“. . . That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. . . . when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . . . appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” —Matthew 6:1-18
Name of God
•El Roi: The God Who Sees
“And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?”   --Genesis 16:13

            In a healthy human relationship, each party has certain responsibilities to fulfill.  If nothing else, each must work to maintain the relationship to some extent, even if it is only by responding to the other person’s attempts to keep the relationship alive by responding to invitations to eat or phone calls or texts, or even just by answering questions and engaging in conversations.  “It takes two to tango,” as the old saying goes, and this is just the nature of a relationship.  The same is true with our relationship with God.  People get caught up in humans ‘not doing anything’ for salvation, because of what the Bible talks about in relation to not earning our salvation by works.  The fact that we do not earn our salvation by works does not change the fact, however, that God does expect certain things of us and gives us certain responsibilities to maintain this relationship with our Savior.  Nor is it possible to be saved or have a relationship any other way.  God has already done all the work, in the sense that without His grace, and the lengths He has already gone to (coming to earth as a man and dying on the cross for us, not to mention His relentless pursuit of us by His Holy Spirit, and the ways He interacts in people’s lives daily), the relationship would not have even been possible.  Now that we are restored to right relationship however, we have a responsibility to respond to Him.  Without that response, there will be no relationship.  The most valued response to God has to do with what we call “practicing secret disciplines.”  This makes a lot of sense when we think about it.  It is secret in the sense that other people are not seeing it, but it is not secret in regard to El Roi, the God who sees.  He loves private communication that is done solely out of love for Him, and has no other motive.  Those are the disciplines He delights most in, because the motivation is solely Him.  Of course, this does not mean that it is not still a discipline and a responsibility on our parts to fulfill.  In every relationship, there are things we do solely for the relationship that sometimes we do not feel like doing, but know must be done, so we do them anyway.  That is where the discipline part comes in.  But when we do make those sacrifices, just because we love God, He delights and revels in it.  The responsibility necessary in maintaining one’s own end of the relationship can only be fulfilled by that person.  One person cannot hold up both ends.  (Romans 12:18)  But as much as it depends on you, fulfill that relationship.  God has already done as much and more than depends on Him.  Now all we have to do is respond by praying, fasting, reading the Bible diligently, etc.  Are we willing to do it?
Full of Faith=Faithful

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sincerity and Responsibility

Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
Sincerity is being as genuine on the inside as we appear to be on the outside.
Scripture Memory
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” —I Peter 5:8-10
Name of God
•Go’el- God is our Redeemer
“For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” -Isaiah 54:5

            Sincerity is one of the most important concepts to me in my Christian life.  So many dilemmas with people and problems are avoided by the simple trait of sincerity.  But while it may be simple, that does not always mean it is easy to come by.  It can be easy to begin going through the motions of going to church and living for God and putting on a front of Christianity because of our perceived responsibilities of discipling people and maintaining our own reputation for the glory of God.  Oftentimes we develop a perspective that we must be on God’s PR committee, because we want to accurately represent Christianity.  The key, though, is to represent it accurately.  The biggest reasons I have heard from people leaving church or walking away from God, interestingly enough, does not usually have to do with logic or beliefs or hatred towards God or His Word; rather, the reasons people give many times have to do with people.  Critics of the church often cite hypocrisy as the main flaw of the church, and they are not necessarily wrong.  Hypocrisy is present.  God has redeemed us, but we do not always live that way.  Sometimes our emotions get in the way, and the logical part of living for God does not seem to make sense.  However, when this happens, people seem to get very caught up in the façade of presenting a pretty, pious picture of perfection.  My pastor cites a turning point in his life as a time when he was consistently praying, “God, I just want to be real,” and I have since adopted that as my constant prayer, and even as my spiritual heartbeat.  I want to be real.  I want God’s redemption to be an actual reality in my life, not just an act I am putting on.  If people come to God because of me, I want it to be because they see that He is real and really working in my life, not that I appear to have it all together on the outside.  We tend to get caught up in the responsibility of presenting a perfect image.  In reality, though, the most important responsibility in our entire Christian life is to be sincere and love without dissimulation, living a life sincerely, and honestly, and without hypocrisy before God.  Transparency is a key concept that goes right along with sincerity.  We know that we are not perfect, and make mistakes, and rather than attempting to justify the things that we do wrong, minimizing them, or covering them up as if they never happened, it is important to be real with people and admit that we are flawed.  People already realize that humans aren't perfect, and a sincere person doing their best to please God, but owning up to the things they do wrong is relatable.  When we present an flawless image, people instinctively realize it isn't real and immediately begin looking for the flaws.  Let's glorify God by living a redeemed life that reflects His glory, being real about who we are and where we're at.  Acknowledging that things aren't perfect in our lives is part of sincerity.  God loves a broken and contrite spirit.  With that mentality, we realize that our responsibility is to just live sincerely in a way that seeks after Him.  Living a life for Him, with an attitude that sincerely wants Him, loves Him, and desires to obey Him, and is not just spouting words.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Responsibility to Be Perfect

This is my last MedComm series!  At college I had to write something called a mediation commentary each week.  Each term had a different character theme like design, authority, or in this case, responsibility.  Each week, we were also given a command from Jesus or a character quality to think about and meditate on, and one of the names of God described int he Old Testament, then write about in connection with responsibility.  Here was the first one...

Be Perfect Meditation Commentary
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
—Matthew 5:46-48
Name of God
•Jehovah- M’Kaddesh (יהוה מקדש): The Lord Who Sanctifies
“Be perfect.”  It is hard to think of two more daunting words in the English language, particularly in a society that constantly tells us that no one is perfect.   That is part of what makes this concept an interesting one.  Society tells us that we do not have a responsibility to be perfect.  We only have a responsibility to reciprocate.  If someone loves us, we love them back.  If they do not treat us the way that we want to be treated however, we have no responsibility to treat them the way they want to be treated.  If someone rips us off, we have no responsibility to think or act kindly towards them.  After all, we are only humans and we do have our limits.  Our responsibility only goes so far.
The Greek word that Jesus uses in the above verses for ‘be perfect,’ is an interesting one.   According to Strong’s dictionary, it is the word “teleios,”and means: complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); completeness, and is translated: “of full age, man, perfect.”  In essence, it seems that Jesus is telling us to grow up and act the way our Father in heaven acts!  This makes sense in terms of responsibility.  What age group does one associate with responsibility vs. irresponsibility?  When a person becomes an adult it is understood that that person acquires much more responsibility that children do not have.  Children have small responsibilities, but often only reciprocate based on whether or not they are being benefited.  Only on rare occasions are children responsible for anyone else but themselves, (at least in American middle class families, it seems).  But to be complete, Jesus tells us to grow up and be perfect.  Immediately, our brain rebels against this concept because of its impracticality!  Humans simply cannot be expected to bear such an enormous load of responsibility in caring so much about other people that do not even reciprocate.
However, the emphasis in this passage is on watching the example of our Father, which is very important.  As the Hebrew name for God cited above indicates it is the LORD who sanctifies us to make us complete.  It is only on the basis of our Father’s action towards us that we are able to achieve such a seemingly outlandish command.  When we focus on Him, though, and are reminded of the incredible ways He works for us and is responsible for us, even though we do nothing to deserve it, this command suddenly becomes much more doable because the focus is no longer on us, but on Him.  He already acts this way.  We just have to follow in His footsteps, and take His help in carrying out this command.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Holding Money Lightly

I started writing this last month, but have been so busy I never finished it!  I was trying to get at least one post up there, and here it finally is.  I have much to say, but this was something practical that was on my mind, and a lesson I think I'm supposed to be learning right now so I'll throw it out there...
The title may not seem very wise, nor will anyone who is a miser think too kindly of this post.  If you hold your money lightly, doesn't that mean there is the possibility of losing it?  Actually...yes...yes, it does.  What I want to zero in on though is our attitude about money.  (This post is a bit of a departure for me, because this isn't something I generally talk about a lot, but it's something we all have to deal with, so here goes!)
I just had a very frustrating experience as I was driving home a few weeks ago, but let me set the stage for you.
Having just finished college, money is a bit tight.  Looming over my head was the knowledge that I have some school loans and things to pay off, and that I need to begin working soon to get it paid off as soon as possible so that the interest doesn't accumulate to ungodly amounts.  I also had one more test to take, which cost about one hundred dollars, and graduation and transcript fees.  I generally have enough to cover things, but my bank account was pretty low...very low, in fact, and being home meant of course that there would be additional expenses.  Gas prices ain't gettin' cheaper overall, and a lot of the things I was planning on doing, such as Bible studies, picking people up for different activities, and even getting to places where I can work all requires a lot of gas, since I traditionally drive all over Northern Colorado to do those things.  Then there are other expenses like food and such that I usually pay for.
I thankfully got an opportunity to work temporarily for a local restoration company, and drove up to Denver to put in a day, planning, of course, to use the money to go towards college expenses.  On the way back, I had to fill up with gas, which cost a painful $55.  As I left the gas station, and was finding my way back to the highway, I apparently ran a stop sign. (I say 'apparently' because I didn't see it...but the cop sure did.)  Yes, as luck would have it, a cop was there waiting for someone to slip up, and he pulled me over and gave me a $180 ticket!
Sitting in my car by the side of the road, I looked at the amount in shock.  Was it normally so much money for such a seemingly small offense?   I didn't even have $180 in my bank account right now...I didn't even have enough to fill up with gas again!  That meant that any money I'd make for the few days I'd be able to work would go straight to covering this fine.
As I drove home thinking about it, I got more and more frustrated. This was such an unnecessary expense, and it was coming at such an inopportune time!  It made all the work I had just done for 7 hours completely worthless!  (I started to reason with myself that if I hadn't worked I definitely wouldn't have had enough to cover the ticket, but then I immediately shot back that if I hadn't worked, I wouldn't have even been in Denver to get the ticket in the first place.)  Like a mature adult, I called my mom and vented my frustration onto her.  She kindly reminded me that this meant my insurance would go up...which didn't exactly help my mood.
As I drove home, stewing, and being frustrated, I knew I needed to reign in and get a hold of myself.  Things like this are always bound to happen.  That's just life, and I know I can't lose my temper every time I'm struggling financially.  And as I thought about this, somehow the thought came to me to hold my money loosely.
Jesus actually talked quite a bit about money and worry in the gospels.  There's a few places that really stand out to me in the gospel of Luke though, because He seems to be approaching the subject of money from opposite directions.  They are long passages so bear with me but they contain important truths.
Luke 12:13-34 KJV
(13)  And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
(14)  And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
(15)  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
(16)  And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
(17)  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
(18)  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
(19)  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
(20)  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
(21)  So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
(22)  And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
(23)  The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
(24)  Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
(25)  And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
(26)  If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
(27)  Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
(28)  If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
(29)  And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
(30)  For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
(31)  But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
(32)  Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
(33)  Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
(34)  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
We are familiar with these verses and these concepts from Scripture.  And when I first read some of these verses it almost looks like Jesus is telling us not to plan ahead.  Don't worry about food or clothes or money because God will take care of you.  But then a few chapters later we have this story:
Luke 16:1-14 KJV
(1)  And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
(2)  And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
(3)  Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
(4)  I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
(5)  So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
(6)  And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
(7)  Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
(8)  And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
(9)  And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
(10)  He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
(11)  If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
(12)  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
(13)  No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
(14)  And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
Now we see one of the strangest parables Jesus tells--the parable of the unjust steward its called.  Why in the world does Jesus tell a story about a man who essentially stole from his former master, using authority he didn't have, and use him as a commendable example, even though he calls him unjust?  He follows up to the story by saying we should make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, and if we're faithful in little we'll be faithful in much, because if we can't be faithful in unrighteous mammon how will we be faithful in true riches?  Wait, but wasn't He telling us just a few chapters ago not to worry about how we handle money?  And why then does he follow up the story with the statement that no man can serve two masters, implying you can't serve both money and God, after just telling a story about a shrewd guy who used money to set himself up financially in a better position?  I think part of the key to understanding this is in the phrase: "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."  We all know Christians who can't handle money very well.  I know of a guy who would brag about his time being homeless when he trusted God to take care of him.  I also knew his pastor who was the means God used to take care of him, because the guy couldn't hold a job and wouldn't use his money wisely when he would get it.  Jesus tells the story about the unjust steward as an example to be shrewd with how we handle money, and is in no way inconsistent with his earlier statements about not trusting in money.
It's easy to see how rich people can make money their god.  They become focused and consumed on their temporary riches.  However, if you're poor, money can also become your god.  I realized this a few years ago, when I was teaching Bible studies and driving all over the place, and going to school, but wasn't working, so money was very tight.  It hit me one day that I had actually developed a stingy attitude.  I would never pay for anyone else, or give generously to anything because I was so worried about not having enough money.  The point Jesus is making in both chapters is that money can't be our focus.  Hoarding it can distract us from Him, and not using it wisely and never having enough can distract us from Him.  Agur makes a good statement that sums up this concept in Proverbs 30:7-9 KJV
(7)  Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
(8)  Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
(9)  Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
Paul knew both how to abound and to suffer need, but was content in every situation. (Phil. 4:11-12)  It's why Proverbs can speak of hard, diligent work, but also remind us that riches do not profit in the day of wrath, and warns us against hasting to be rich.  It's why God uses rich men like Abraham and Job as shining examples of faith, but also uses poor people like Lazarus in Jesus' parable later on in Luke 16, or the widow of Zarepath.  It's why Joseph of Arimathea is commended, but the rich young ruler is sent away sorrowful.  The point is that we can't let our focus and our thoughts become so consumed with money that we miss out on working for the kingdom of God.  Our primary focus with money has to be how we can be faithful with what God has entrusted us, so that we can be free to serve the kingdom of God in the best way possible.  I'll finish up with a few verses from Proverbs that may seem at first to be disconnected but actually speak very loudly to this principle.  God calls us to be stewards of His money and to be willing to let it go if He asks us to, willing to give to others sacrificially and trust in Him.  That's what these verses are about, and they are good to keep in mind as we work and live our daily lives.  The point is that God wants us to be generous, and He will take care of the rest.
Pro 11:24-28 KJV
(24)  There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
(25)  The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
(26)  He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.
(27)  He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.
(28)  He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
By the way, after I began thinking about how I needed to let things roll off my back and not become so stressed about money, it hit me again how things always work out.  I received some money as graduation gifts, I was working and made money that way, and even got a check from an inheritance.  I continually received enough so that all my expenses were paid for, and was still able to invest in others by buying them meals or spending it on gas to pick them up or spend time with them.  Even though it was frustrating at the time, the ticket didn't end up being that big of a deal, as I look back on it...there was no reason to stress.  God doesn't want our focus to be taken away from Him because of our money.  Our money is just one of the means we have to serve Him, and if we look at it that way, doing what is necessary to get the money we need, but not worrying about, it removes so much stress and empowers us to be used of God in extraordinary ways.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Wasted Life for God

Now before you get mad at my strange-sounding title, and yell that nothing done for God is wasted, hear me out, because this post is really about drink offerings.  Confused?  Let me explain.

Admittedly, at first glance, you wouldn't think the Old Testament practice of pouring out two quarts of wine on the altar at the Temple would have a whole lot of relevance to our lives today.  However, I've been thinking a lot about the concept of a drink offering, and it actually has everything to do with every bit of our lives today!

Paul mentions the concept of a drink offering in Philippians 2:17.  The ESV says, "Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all."

I had never studied anything about a drink offering until recently, when a friend mentioned it and the concept is a really cool one!  In the Old Testament, a lot of the sacrifices would be used by the priests as well.  For example, there were certain portions of the meat offerings that were set apart for the priests to eat.  The drink offering, however, is different.  They would pour two whole quarts of wine out on the altar.  I can imagine that to an outside observer that would look like a huge waste.  Why are you just dumping out all this wine?!  And this is what Paul compares his life to in 2 Timothy 4:16.

One story in the Bible that always confused me comes from 2 Samuel 23, when David and his mighty men are fighting the Philistines, and are holed up somewhere else, while the Philistines have a hold on David's hometown of Bethlehem.  At some point, probably right after an exhausting battle, a parched David says something to the effect of, "If only I could have a drink from the well at Bethlehem!"  Three of his mighty men overhear this and actually fight through the entire garrison of the Philistines, risking their lives, get him a cup of water, and fight back through without spilling it!  That is an amazing feat!  The loyalty of these guys to their commander is astounding and inspiring!  

The crazy thing about this story, though, is that when David gets it, he won't drink it, and pours it all out on the ground!  If I was there, I would have been like, "Whaaaaaat?!  Don't waste that!!  We just risked our lives to get that for you!  Where's the gratitude!  Here, I'll drink it!"  This is David's reason though: "He poured it out unto the LORD.  And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it."  He poured it out as a drink offering before the Lord, because that kind of loyalty was only due to One.  I bring this story up to demonstrate a drink offering that seemed like a total waste.

So what does this have to do with us?

Well, we know that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).  The part that jumps out at me is that Paul refers to himself as a drink offering, which could seem like a waste to someone on the outside.  The implication is that even if people think that pouring out our entire lives for the Lord in the way described in Philippians 2, of being humble, meek, waving our rights, preferring others before ourselves in love, the way that Jesus did, who was poured out all the day long for us--even if everyone else thinks that's a waste, we're willing to do that as a drink offering unto the Lord.  

There are examples in history of people who have done this very thing that inspire me to no end.  Telemachus is one who's life seemed like a waste...but accomplished great good.  (You can read his story on an earlier blog post: Counter Culture) As a relatively recent example, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian and Ed McCully were 5 missionaries who gave up everything to reach the savage Auca tribe in Ecuador who killed everyone who attempted to come in.  They established contact by flying over them in a plane dropping gifts and shouting friendly phrases.  Finally, they landed on a beach in Auca territory, hoping to establish contact.  They met an older woman, a teenage girl, and a young man, and thought everything was going well.  But several days later, their bodies were found floating in the river, shot through with spears, then plane stripped.  Five men, all with wives and young children, and missionary work to do—all dead.  What a seeming waste.  But the doors opened to reach the tribe with this gospel.  Nate Saint’s sister went to live and work with them for many years.  The families forgave the people and won many to Christ.  Jim Elliot is famous for saying, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

Steve Saint was 5 years old when his father was murdered by the Aucas (or Waorani), and he made this statement, which I love: "Most think that it's OK to go with God's program as long as it fits their program, but I finally decided that I wanted God to write the story, because I know that it will come out best in the end that way."

If we have this mentality, it doesn’t matter what God asks us to do, or if other people think it’s a waste.  This is our reasonable service, to be poured out as a drink offering before Him!

Its a change of mentality that causes me to stop thinking about my own plans and what others think, and makes me want to pour out everything to God.

The perfect example of this, of course, is the lady with the alabaster box who poured the expensive spikenard on Jesus' feet.  The disciples thought it was a waste, but Jesus rebuked them and said, "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." (Matthew 26:13). Why was this story to be shared with the entire world, as opposed to other stories like Noah's Ark, David and Goliath, or even Jesus walking on water or feeding the 5,000?  Why was what this woman did so important that it is to be shared wherever the essentials of the gospel are preached?  I believe it's because this is the essence of our response to the gospel.  We have to be willing to pour out our entire lives for Jesus, even if others think it's a waste.  That shows true love, and that's what He loves.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Truthfulness vs. Deception Meditation Commentary
Truthfulness is communicating by my life and word that which is genuine and accurate.
•“Lord, who shall abide in they tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.”—Psalm 15:1-2
•“The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.”—Proverbs 22:19, 22
            It can be tempting to fall into many incorrect mentalities when under authority.  One of the mentalities we often fall into has to do with believing we can shun certain moral responsibilities as long as we are giving the appearance of submitting to authority.  Sometimes it seems easier to simply deceive the authorities over us when we think we know what is best rather than going through the proper channels.  However, if we understand the true principles of authority and submission, and truthfulness vs. deception, we recognize that truthfulness involves openness with authorities.  A definition of integrity that has stuck with me through the years is: ‘doing what is right when nobody else is watching.’  This mean we are not only honest on a surface level when interacting with authorities, but will be open with them on a deeper level, demonstrating truthfulness in our lives even when they are not watching, and refusing to stoop to deception simply because we have an improper understanding of authority.  We think of authorities sometimes as out of touch and lofty—like a king on a throne.  We tell ourselves that they do not really understand our situation, and that we know what is best in this particular instance, and therefore, we deceive them because we believe they will not understand.  Authorities are placed in our lives with their rules and guidelines for a reason, though, and there are practical reasons for the rules, even if we do not understand them.  Children do this with their parents, maybe believing they are justified in staying out later than they are supposed to, or hanging out with people, watching a movie, or going to the mall without permission, but losing credibility with the authority over them because they were not truthful.  A worker may do this with a boss by doing something like making unauthorized decisions, which may even be good decisions, but without openness and truthfulness, doing this could cause problems in the workplace.  This concept does not mean that one cannot disagree with his or her authorities, but that he or she should be truthful with authorities.  If you do not agree with your authorities, rather than going behind their backs, approach them about it.  Oftentimes, authorities are reasonable, but regardless of the situation, it is always better to be honest and upfront, rather than hiding things, which could cause issues when the deception is inevitably brought to light. 
I have a friend who told me a story about this concept which stayed with me.  He was on a missions trip and there was a rule that he could not leave the hotel without someone else accompanying him.  The rule was well-established and he knew it was there, but it was very difficult to find time or a place alone to pray with everyone around, so occasionally, he would take a short walk so he could spend some time alone with God, without asking the group leaders.  He justified it, because, of course, he was doing something good.  But towards the end of the trip he began to be convicted about it, and decided to confess and apologize to the group leader for going off without permission.  The group leader forgave and understood him, and said he wished that the young man would simply have told him, and explained the situation so that they could work something out.  This highlighted what submitting to authorities vs just complying with them really means.  We will not always agree with authorities, and that's okay.  But rather than act like we're submitting to them, and just agreeing with whatever they say, a big part of submission is acknowledging their authority enough to come to them with problems.
In conclusion, be truthful, be honest, and have integrity when relating to authority.