Sunday, April 21, 2013

Genesis 4:4-5

Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.


Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard (sha`ah: respect) for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering (minchah: present, gift, sacrifice, tribute) He had no regard. So Cain became very angry (charah: wrot, displeased, burning, incensed) and his countenance fell.

Abel, on his part also brought of the firstfruits of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard and respect for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard or respect. So Cain became incensed with burning anger and his countenance fell.


Believers all over the world “bring offerings” when they gather. (It’s generally all monetary but we won’t get into that today.) The matter at hand in today’s verses allows us to see deep into the desires of the Father. Although Cain and Abel both brought offerings that God had previously approved of, one was deemed greater. Why? Why did God seemingly show preferential treatment to one over the other? What we must understand is that God sees the heart condition of the bringer of the offering. God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice presented an opportunity to reveal his hateful heart. The issue was not as much what the offering was as it was about the motive behind the presenting of it.

We have the same challenge before us today. In services throughout this nation and beyond many will write large checks and give seemingly honorable gifts to the Lord. Perhaps you will do the same. As we see in many biblical accounts and parables (such as the widow’s mite for example) one’s offering generally has little to nothing to do with it being deemed pleasing. Of course we need to know what God deems acceptable but above all else, our heart must be found pure and pleasing as we bring our best before Him. Today, what is your motive for giving to the Lord? To receive blessing? To simply be reluctantly and grievously obedient? I encourage you to sit quietly and examine your heart’s condition in regards to bringing your offering to the Lord. It’s you that God wants above all else, not your time and money. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

1 John 3:5

You know that [Christ] appeared in order to take away sins.”


You know that [Christ] appeared (phaneroo: made manifest, made visible, exposed to view) in order to take away (airo: take up, bear, cause to cease, take upon one's self and carry off) sins (hamartia: offenses, to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, violations of God's law).”


You know that Christ appeared and made Himself visible to mankind in order to bear and carry off our sin and offenses against God.


As most of you who are reading this know, I work in the automotive detailing business. Yesterday I had a customer contact me requesting some interior work on her vehicle. Specifically, she had a bottled drink explode and empty a bit on her floorboard before she could get to it. So of course the drink was in the carpet and needed removed. When I met her later in the day to do the job she went on to tell me about how she had “sprayed some carpet cleaner on it” after the incident. I kind of chuckled at this knowing that this would do absolutely nothing to help her situation.

As I was doing the job, I got to thinking about the spiritual metaphors buried within this. A lot of times in our lives we approach our sin and guilt in this manner. It’s “in” us and needs removed yet we just spray some topical fix on it that convinces us that just maybe that will be enough. The problem is however that it doesn’t really do anything. The customer went on to say that she sprayed the cleaner to “hopefully at least keep it from smelling”. This too is an easy spiritual comparison. “If I can just keep it from being seen or noticed (smelled), maybe that will be enough!” we may say.

But there is really only one solution of course – it needs removed. The sin, the stain needs seized and carried off. What in your life have you just attempted to cover over with the fragrance of religious piety or masks of being “OK”? We all have ugly stains that need removed. Jesus Christ left all of Heaven to come to this earth to do this on your behalf. Invite Him to come and wash you today. No more hiding or covering up, just Jesus who appeared to take away our sins.              

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Psalm 119:102

I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. (NASB)


I have not turned aside (suwr: turned away departed from, avoided, rejected) from Your ordinances (mishpat:  judgment, laws), For You Yourself have taught (yarah: instructed, directed) me.


I have not departed from or rejected Your laws and judgments, for You Yourself have instructed and directed me.


How awesome it is to be personally taught by the Father! We can read books, listen to sermons and teachings of men, study on our own the height and depth of the Scriptures but the Author and Creator of all is the absolute best Teacher of all! Do you spend time sitting is His presence? Do you open His Word for yourself and expect Him to speak to you through it? I hope you do! Jesus’ death on the cross rent the veil in two, signifying that all may enter into the Most Holy Place where God Himself dwells. All who have called upon His name and received new hearts of flesh have invited into the priesthood of Christ. In this place is revelation, truth, life and love to be encountered by those who enter in. Today, embrace the laws of God, don’t dread or run from them for they exist to rescue and preserve you. Take time – make time – to quiet yourself today and anticipate a visitation by the Great Teacher! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Matthew 11:28

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”


“Come to Me, all you who labor (kopiao: toil, grow weary, tired, exhausted – as with toil or burdens or grief) and are heavy-laden (phortizo: burdened upon, loaded down), and I will give you rest (anapauo: refresh, to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation).”


Come to me all who have become exhausted, weary and loaded down with burdens. I will give you refreshing in order to collect your strength.


As I hear Christians often speak of all they “do” on behalf of Christianity, I wonder how much of it all is really even necessary. We’ve been led to believe that our following of Christ can somehow be modeled after how we labor in the natural. Yes, there is much to tend to – spiritual growth, serving the poor, caring for one’s family, interacting with the Body of Christ and so forth. That being said, these should not be exhausting to the point of constant weariness, spiritual or otherwise. I remember vividly the times I’d brag as a youth pastor of all I was doing, all “our” youth were doing, all our church was doing. Efforts were always being made to promote all that we were always “doing”. We were always all tired and somehow proud of it because it gave some unhealthy sense of accomplishment. 

Burdens abound within our constant attempts to be found pleasing to God equally as much as with our earthly ventures, perhaps even more. The Christ-life is meant to be a joyful one, not a begrudging and laborious yoke. So today, shake off your burdens and rest. Rest in the arms of your Saviour. Remember, He has invited you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Matthew 26:14-15

“Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they covenanted with him and weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.


“Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray (paradidomi: give over, deliver up one to custody to be judged and condemned, give up) Him to you?’ And they covenanted (histemi: stand with, set, established) with him and weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.


Then one of the twelve disciples, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to deliver Jesus to you to be judged and condemned?” And they stood with Judas and gave him thirty pieces of silver.


Today, within the American evangelical movement, people seem to be trying so hard to portray their innocence and how “good” they are. Most attend church services, defend and support their denomination, listen to Christian radio, dress well, live accomplished lives in the natural and do their best to be seen as all around excellent people. It seems to be forgotten though who we are without Christ (or perhaps even more especially who we were before regeneration). It’s in this place I’d like to discuss today’s passage. Here we see the well-known account of this man Judas, one of Jesus’ closest friends. Judas was of course hand-picked by Jesus Himself to be one of His disciples but turns out to be His betrayer for a bag of money.

Was Jesus stunned when this occurred? Of course few would argue that Jesus was taken by surprise whatsoever in this. In fact, after we’re done thinking on how evil Judas was and how horrible what he did was, we may want to take a step back and be silent. Why? Because Judas is you and me. You see, it would do us good to ponder on the depths of the reality that Jesus knew well in advance of Judas’ future actions. When He called Judas. When He sat with Judas and ate. When Judas took part in the miraculous events of Jesus’ life. When they sat together and discussed the plans of the Father. Even when Jesus knelt down in the dirt and washed Judas’ feet. All the while, Jesus knew…. yet He still called him.  

Fast forward to today. Jesus knows your deepest secrets, hurts and sin. He knew it all when He called you and He knows it all today. Yet He calls and He says, walk beside Me. Follow Me. You and I too have been betrayers of the One Who is holy and pure. May we never forget this in this ever-increasing age of Christian pride and masks of false-perfection. The King of all Kings knelt down to wash our feet as a servant of all, even unto death. Today, embrace the overwhelming love that you’ve been given for there is absolutely none greater. The King of all became a lowly servant. Even for a betrayer and liar like me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Proverbs 23:4

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” (NASB)


“Do not weary (yaga`: labor, faint, toil) yourself to gain wealth (`ashar: rich, enrich, richer, pretend to be rich), cease (chadal: forbear, leave, left off, let alone, forsake, rest) from your consideration (biynah: understanding, wisdom, knowledge) of it.”


Don’t labor and grow weary in order to gain riches – leave it alone and rest from even considering it.


Few strongholds have infected the Body of Christ so extensively as the endless pursuit of financial gain and hoarding of possessions. Modern-day Christianity teaches that wealth and success are somehow expected attributes of one who follows Christ. Even though Jesus was documented as saying to sell all we have and give to the poor, we’ve somehow adopted a different position on matters of earthly increase. Many people work 60-plus hour weeks, sit in cars for hours on end commuting, and strive endlessly to advance in position and rank. We must redefine what the Scripture calls “blessed” my friends. There are surely a multitude of things that money will never be able to buy but it sure can steal from. Are you missing out on eternal matters by seeking worldly riches and all that they can buy? Go without that new iPad. Give your tax return money (that you’ve set aside for that new HDTV) to the poor. Buy a model class lower vehicle and give the financial difference away instead. One who is captivated with giving (himself as well as his possessions) will never become weary from seeking to gain wealth. Today, let us cease trying to figure out how to get more “stuff” and be givers. Give as God has given to you, without limits!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Proverbs 3:3

“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (NASB) 


Do not let kindness (checed: mercy, lovingkindness, goodness) and truth ('emeth: stability, continuance, faithfulness, reliableness of testimony, of judgment and of divine instruction) leave (`azab: forsake, depart from) you; bind (qashar: conspire, league together, tie) them around your neck, write (kathab: record, inscribe, engrave) them on the tablet of your heart (leb: mind, understanding, inner man, will, moral character, conscience, seat of emotions and passions).” 


Don’t let kindness, mercy, goodness, truth, faithfulness and reliableness of divine instruction depart from you. Tie them tightly around your neck, engrave them on the tablet of your inner man, where the seat of your emotions, character and passions reside. 


What an awesome reality to daily walk in. Also, what a challenge! There’s no debating that living in this world, bombarded by all of its engrained patterns, demands that we be tough, self-seeking and ready to defend ourselves at every moment. But the Scriptures always insist that we respond differently. Actions alone is entirely incapable of bringing this about on their own. As the Word always leads us back to – it’s an issue of the heart. The attributes of the sons and daughters of God must be engraved upon one’s innermost being. When kindness and truth are inscribed on the heart, they’ll have no problem making their way to the surface. Only the exchanging of one’s heart of stone to a heart of flesh (by the agape love of the Father) can allow one to be “tattooed” by these characteristics of Proverbs. So today, take the time, make the time, to do some heart evaluation. Above all else, open yourself before the Father and allow Him access to the deepest part of you – your heart. Then, powered and enabled by His awesome love, surrender to His guidance and write kindness and truth upon it. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Exodus 17:15

 “Moses built an altar and named it ‘Jehovahnissi’ (Translated, ‘The Lord is My Banner’).


Moses built (banah: set up, established) an altar and named (qara’: called out, proclaimed aloud, commissioned) it ‘Jehovahnissi’ (translated, ‘The Lord is My Banner’).


Moses set up and established an altar and proclaimed aloud that “The Lord is my Banner!”


I’ve found myself meditating on this verse a lot lately as I continue to strive to lay down all things that compete for top spot in my life in Christ. As I thought about the significance of the Lord being my banner I had several visuals come to mind. First of all, what a banner is not is some tiny flag that you can wave effortlessly with one hand while multitasking with something else in the other. This kind of banner is of the all or nothing sort.

We all have banners that we carry. Some have many. We often see American banners, denominational banners, political party banners, personal accomplishment banners. We could of course go on for days with this. Allow me though to paint a vivid picture of how I see the Lord’s banner. First of all, let’s say its main component is a seven feet by seven feet piece of fabric. Across the material reads “JEHOVAH NISSI” in large block letters. The banner is attached to a solid wood pole that’s ten feet in length. Several conditions are necessary to hoist this banner up and cause it to flow in the air. First of all, you must grab it tightly with both hands. A firm grip and single-minded determination are a must to even be able to hoist it up into the air. You can hold nothing else in your hands and you must be focused on what you’re doing. Secondly, your arms must be extended high, raised to elevate the banner for all to see. Lastly, you must move! In order for the fabric to unfurl, you must be moving in order for the banner to wave and display the name of your covering. Standing still only causes it to fall vertical at your side. Move!

So what does your banner declare? Who or what does your daily life promote? If people who know you were asked to draw a banner over your picture stating what it is that you stand for the most what would it say? My hope and prayer is that the Body of Christ would willingly lay down all other banners and once again stand unified under JEHOVAH NISSI! May the Lord alone be Our banner! He is absolutely enough!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Acts 13:52

"And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (NASB)


"And the disciples were continually filled (pleroo: complete, made full, abounding in, liberally supplied) with joy (chara: joyfulness, gladness) and with the Holy Spirit.”


The disciples were always found to be abounding with joy, gladness and the Holy Spirit. 


So many Christians get all worked up about how they can stay "unstained by the world" as James taught us. There are books and videos about how to abstain from sin and  be found faithful to God. Sermons, teachings, study guides abound on the topic of how to avoid depression and stop anxiety and worry. You know what though, with all of that aside, I'm thoroughly convinced that it has little to do with what I don't do but entirely to do with what I do. The disciples, although flawed and still in human flesh as you and I, primarily kept their eyes set on Jesus. They left behind all that they knew as existence to know this God-Man. They saw such value in Him that all else that they had previously known became  insignificant. After Jesus died, rose and ascended, they walked filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Abounding joy! Overflowing with the Spirit of Holiness! Today, who or what is your source? Do you walk in joy and the Holy Spirit as those who went before us? May the Body of Christ shake off Her dust today and arise in fullness of joy and the Holy Spirit. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2 Corinthians 9:7

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”


“Each one must do just as he has purposed (proaireomai: brought forward for one's self, preferred, made up one’s mind) in his heart (kardia: the seat of one’s physical and spiritual life, innermost), not grudgingly (lupe: sorrowfully, heaviness, grievous, grudgingly) or under compulsion (anagke: by law of duty regarding to one's advantage, distress, necessity), for God loves (agapao: well pleased with, to be contented at or with a thing) a cheerful (hilaros: joyous) giver.”


Each one must do just as he has made up his mind in his innermost being, not in sorrow or heaviness, or out of duty and necessity, for God is well pleased with a joyous giver.


Recently, while dining out, I overheard the patrons next to us being told about how the restaurant was requesting donations for a certain organization. After the server asked them if they’d like to have a donation added to their bill, the patron began to thoroughly explain how she already has a certain dollar amount taken out of a her paycheck each week that goes to a charity, so they would not be making a donation at this time. While the lady’s regular, repeat donation is surely a great thing indeed, it got me to thinking. First of all, she didn’t just say “no”. She felt obligated to thoroughly tell the server why she was saying no - justifying her disinterest in giving again. (Which I’d like to point out, I’m not criticizing whatsoever.) In her mind though, she had already given “enough”. My mind wandered all over the place for several hours and I meditated on a couple Scriptures that came to mind, like the one above. Most Christians have resolved to adhere to the common “10% rule”. The problem that I have with the “10% tithe” mentality is that it can so easily lead to the “I gave already” mindset (as I overheard in the restaurant). Also, it can direct you to live a life that is duped to believe that the remaining 90% is somehow “yours” to use as you wish. Perhaps most dangerously, it can have a strong tendency to lead one to believe that God somehow owes you because you gave your minimum requirement. (We could explore how this approach actually defines God as your employee but I won’t get into that.)

All of this being said, I’m a huge proponent of the lifestyle of giving. After years and years of never being able to sort out the “what exactly is 10%?” question, guilt over when I didn’t even have it to give, dreading giving at all because I’d rather use it for something else and the twisted thoughts of how God owes me a blessing because I gave my 10%, I laid it all down (several years ago). These days I cheerfully give out of what I have whenever I see a need. People I give rides to. Neighbors that we take food. Cash given to the homeless and poor, no matter whether they “misuse” it or not! My time to sit and listen to others who are hurting, whether or not I actually have the time. I keep no records, never ask for tax write-offs (seriously?!) and never think for a moment that “I gave enough already”. I don’t choose to do it out of duty, repetition or begrudgingly because my Father gave me everything. My possessions, my money, what I hold as valuable in my life, I want to give – cheerfully! And the things that I cling to with clenched fist, well those are things that I still need to lay at the beautiful feet of my Jesus. We’re all surely a work in progress. What is “purposed in your heart” today?

Friday, February 8, 2013

James 5:16a

“Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”


“Confess (exomologeo: profess, acknowledge openly) your sins (paraptoma: faults, trespasses, offenses) to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed (iaomai: made whole, cured, brought into salvation).

Openly acknowledge your sins, faults and offenses to one another. And pray for one another so that you may be healed, made whole and brought into salvation.


Ah, the age-old “unspoken” prayer request. I remember clearly countless times within my Baptist upbringing this mysterious activity. Hands pop up all over the group whenever prayer requests were well, requested. Once one person would say “unspoken”, it seemed the rest of those who followed would say likewise. As I’m nearing forty now, I reflect back on these activities with a heavy heart as I now know that this directly contradicts Scripture. (Do people still do the “unspoken” prayer thing?!?) The teaching of James that instructs us to openly share our shortcomings and errors has been replaced by quiet solitude and shame. Darkness to be exact for that is where secrets and lies live and thrive. Taking away this simple act of being transparent with each other might seem trivial but as I look at the Body of Christ, She’s often veiled in secrets and fabricated holiness. “How are you this morning Jason?” “Me, I’m just great! God is so good. And how are you and your family Richard?” “Oh man, we’re just all awesome!” All the while both families are hurting and in desperate need of being healed. Nothing is revealed, therefore nothing is cured. Salvation is never found. 

How sad that we’ve been taught to run from one of the main things that will bring our sins and shame into the light? I’ll admit, confession is often not easy. (Not to mention, most Christian gatherings don’t even allow for this to properly take place.) But if we’re really in true biblical relationship with one another, it has got to be a part of our journey together. So first of all, share life with those who desire transparency and openness and give you the freedom to do likewise. Time after time after time I’ve experienced one person stepping out to share some pretty intimate issues in their life and it absolutely opens the floodgates for others to do likewise. We must heed the wisdom of James. Confess. Pray. Receive salvation and healing. Amen.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Psalm 37:23

"The steps of a man are established by the LORDAnd He delights in his way." (NASB)

"The steps (mits`ad: goings) of a man are established (kuwn:  ordered, prepared, readied, provided; made firm) by the LORD, And He delights (chaphets: desire, pleased to do, takes pleasure) in his way."


The comings and goings of a man are prepared and provided by the LORD and God takes pleasure in his way.


You are not God’s pity project! The Creator of all things delights in you, the pinnacle of His Creation! So many times I come across Believers who view themselves so lowly and worthless that God must surely only love them because of their great depravity (pity love). I believe that this greatly cheapens what God has done, is doing and desires to do in and through men because their identity and purpose is distorted. In Christ, we become a new creation, seated in heavenly places beside Christ Himself. Of course there’s no debating that we’re still housed in temporal bodies of flesh, prone to sin but God’s love is not rooted in our need or desperation alone. He is a lover! He longs to lavish His love on us as a Father – genuine and unconditional, established in relational love, not in our need and wantonness.

Consider the vast scriptural metaphors of the Husband and Bride. The Husbandman doesn’t take the one he’s courting out to dinner (we’ll say allegorically), because she’s ugly, undesirable and no one else wants her. He desires her. He longs for her. He pursues her moved by His great love! Likewise is the love of our Pursuer! So today I ask you, do you see yourself as one worthy of such great love? Not in your own eyes of self-elevation, but in humility and purity of heart, see yourself as the Great Lover sees you! Today, rejoice for the unimaginable is true – the God of all Creation takes pleasure in you!