A Prayer for Today

There was a heaviness in my heart this morning as I started my quiet time. I felt compelled to write it down. What came out is the raw cry of my heart.

“I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against You.” – Nehemiah 1:6

The Prayers of Then

As I thought about the heaviness, I immediately thought of Nehemiah’s prayer quoted above. It is like all of the prayers back then:

  • Praise to God (Nehemiah 1:5)
  • Confession of sin (Nehemiah 1:6-7)
  • Prayer for saving or favor (Nehemiah 1:8-11)

What’s striking about these prayers though, is the shared responsibility. Nehemiah, and all the rest, always confess their involvement and complicity in the sins of the people. Moses did it again and again and it is modeled throughout Scripture.

There is no “us and them” in God. There is only we.

And we need God.

A Prayer for Today

I have sinned against You Lord and justified it like Adam. I and Your people have sinned against You Lord. Please forgive us.

We have buried our talents in the ground and we have erected and supported many idols. We have elevated leisure and pleasure above service, and wants above the poor and the needy. We have allowed oppression, slavery, illness, brokenness and poverty to exist in our homes, our neighborhoods, our nation and world.

We have done this while saying we love You and serve You. We have done this while building churches and singing songs. While hiding in fear of man. While seeking and grasping comfort and peace. While justifying and scripturalizing our thoughts and behaviors with little knowledge or care for Your Word. While living small lives cursing our neighbors as ourselves.

We have brought – and allowed – destruction to fall in our lives, our homes, our churches, businesses, schools and culture, and our world. And we have questioned and blamed You for it all.

Forgive us Lord. Forgive us for serving ourselves instead of You and blaming You for our results. Forgive us for marginalizing Your will and Your Word. Forgive us for cowering on the one hand and fighting You and our neighbors, on the other.

Teach us Your ways Lord. Your 2016, right-where-we-live-and-work ways. Heal our hearts, strengthen our resolve, teach us how to love. Call us higher and empower us to climb. Hear our prayer Lord and remember Your covenant.

Amen.

Prayers for All Time

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering Your name.” – Nehemiah 1:11

May we prayer for ourselves and each other while delighting in the revering of His name.

Faith is Spelled R.I.S.K.

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I wish I could tell you I made up the title of this blog. I also wish I could tell you that what it says is wrong, but I cannot.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Parable of the Talents

In last week’s blog post, I admitted that I Am the Wicked and Lazy Servant – the one burying his talents in the ground out of fear. Today I’d like to talk about the other two servants.

The two who risked it all.

“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.” – Matthew 25:16-17

Let’s be clear about this please: “went at once and put his money to work” means that they both immediately took their master’s funds and invested them into something – a business, crops, livestock, who knows. There is NO way to have “gained five more” and “gained two more” without investing. And investing of any kind is risky.

Faith Like Abraham

I know that this was a parable told by Jesus, but let’s not miss that it is in a section of Scripture devoted to teachings about faith in action and this one has a clear purpose: faith involves risk!

And I HATE this. Don’t you?

I honestly wish I could coast through life safely and peacefully knowing exactly what’s coming and how it will be overcome. I wish I knew that I would succeed. I wish I knew that I could double my money every time.

But that’s not how God works.

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” – Genesis 12:1

Following the Lord is exactly that: following Him.

Faith is Spelled R.I.S.K.

What can we learn:

  • God calls us up and out: Both stories communicate trust and belief in the men being called. Abram and the three servants possessed what was needed to successfully complete their assignment.
  • Faith requires appropriation: Abram and the servants had to take that trust and belief and use it as motivation to actually use what they possessed – BEFORE seeing success.
  • Faith requires risk: Abram and the servants invested all they had. Also note that Abram didn’t really know God and the Parable of the Talents never disputes that the master was “a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed” (check out verses 26 and 27).
  • Faith is its own success: God was growing and testing Abram and as I mentioned, the Parable is only one story of faith in Matthew 25. Taken together, they all point to God wooing us to Him by testing and pushing our faith.

And we can be confident that we will more than double our investment:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

I Am the Wicked and Lazy Servant

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I don’t really want to admit what I’ll be admitting to you today. Not only is it painful, but I’m honestly still wrestling with it every day.

A Year of Building

About a month ago, as I was driving to a meeting, I was contemplating my (our) future. I believe 2016 is a year to build things – write book(s), create and deliver courses, etc. – that need to be in place for next year. I don’t know exactly what that means for 2017, but I know what it means now.

What I also know is that everything I’m being led to build are things I tried five years ago. Literally. Every. Thing.

Do I Dare to Try Again?

I lost my corporate job at the start of 2011. I knew at the time that I was being called to be an author, speaker and life/business coach. And that’s what I did.

And it didn’t go very…um, well.

We didn’t starve or lose our house, but only because of the help of our church, many friends, and favor with two mortgage companies (READ: God provided despite the lack of traditionally approved and expected life items like work, insurance, income, etc.).

I also can’t say it was a total failure. Every moment of the past five years has been a journey with the Lord. He has directed, redirected, re-redirected and led us through what I now know was a wilderness journey just like the Israelites experienced. A journey to learn absolute obedience and dependence.

I know we have grown immensely and that the failures and little successes have ultimately created the living we are making today.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s been very, very hard. I have experienced pain, frustration, loss and failure and so has Jill (which is doubly hard on me as her husband).

I have to admit I am more than scared and doubtful to try the same path again.

The Parable of the Talents

I say, ‘I have to admit’ because of what happened on the drive to that meeting.

As I contemplated the year as well as my fears and doubts I was reminded of the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. And I quickly realized, I was the guy hiding the talents in the ground: God has given me tasks to do with the talents he’s given me and I’m hiding them out of fear.

I further realized my reasons were identical to that guy’s as well:

I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid…” – Matthew 25:24-25

I had to admit I saw God as a hard man. Whoa!

God had asked me to do many things that failed. He also blessed other things in both my life and in many other’s lives that make absolutely no sense at all. This is how God works and He always has. Consider this passage from Deuteronomy where God is talking about what He’s about to give His people:

“…great and splendid cities which you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant…” – Deut: 6:10-11

But it got worse.

The Sin of Hiding

When I got home and read the parable word for word, here’s what jumped out:

‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then…” – Matt. 25:26-27

YIKES! But I have to admit, it’s true.

I have to admit that my fear and doubt – which I rationalize as thinking, planning, wisdom, caution and more – is nothing more than believing lies about my God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Gideon, David and Paul.

The God of talents that wants them used for the purposes He has ordained.

We are called to three key aspects of relationship with God: obedience, dependence and appropriation. Using our gifts and talents is about all three, but mostly about appropriation.

I’ll write more about this in my upcoming book, Joshua Had to Fight, which I will complete this year.

Empty, Empty Words

Bill-Nye

I recently saw an Instagram post that perplexed me. It wasn’t just the quote itself but the number of people falling all over themselves with awe. I was thinking, what?

Here’s the quote:

“A strange and astonishing fact is that you and I are made of the stuff of the cosmos–exploded stars and other rogue material. The fact that you and I are made of stardust is one of the ways the universe knows itself.” – Bill Nye, The Science Guy

Stuff and Rogue

I am not a science expert and I am not trying to analyze everything Mr. Nye believes based on two sentences. Nor do I believe that science and the Bible cannot coexist. I believe they do. Totally. But none of those are my points.

My point is that this statement says…well, nothing. It’s awe inspiring, elating and wonders-full, but ultimately empty. Words like strange, astonishing, exploded. Oo-ah!

The Universe Knows?

Then there’s the “universe knows itself” comment. So the “cosmos_exploded stars and other rogue material” have formed a universe with human attributes like knowledge and self-awareness?

Now, before you shout me down, I KNOW that’s not what Mr. Nye is saying. I KNOW he’s mixing metaphors and using analogies and blah, blah, blah.

But if he’s not saying those things, what is he saying? What IS he saying with, “The fact that you and I are made of stardust is one of the ways the universe knows itself”?

What’s My Real Point?

My point is that we must be diligent, discerning and wise at a time when people are increasingly spouting and believing nonsense.

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Knowledge is having information and facts, while wisdom is the ability to apply that information to living a good life.

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

As I said, I don’t have a problem with science. I have a problem with science pushing out God and here’s why:

Bill Nye is correct in stating that we are made of the same materials as the universe.

“For dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:19

“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” – Ecclesiastes 3:20

But if we stop at this fact, we can – and do – naturally conclude that we are random, too, just like the stars and explosions. And…if we’re random, then we can do anything and everything we please. We can be “rogue material” and “explode”. After all, this is one of the “ways the universe knows itself”.

Again, don’t shout me down. This is the logic of today: that anything goes and anyone who says otherwise is “unenlightened” and “intolerant”.

And it’s not true at all. No amount of science or enlightenment can change the truth that human beings are repelled and destroyed by this kind of rogue behavior and the explosions of wrecked lives that it always causes.

Which is why God’s Word also says to love over and over and over and over and over again:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

These words are also awe inspiring, elating and wonders-full but they are recognize, harness and focus the greatest power in the universe: Love.

And THAT is wisdom.

The Humility Perspective

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I have the privilege of leading a bible study on Monday nights and as I prepare each week’s lectures, God, in His goodness, always leads me to something profound. Here’s what I learned, or re-learned, this past week.

“As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul,” – Job 27:2

The Trials of Job

We are studying the book of Job. For most of the book, Job has been listening to his three friend’s beret him with accusations that he is most certainly being punished by God because he has sinned. Job has defended and defended himself and he is tired and worn out.

Because of this exchange with his friends, which is a long, long and drawn out exchange, the attitude of Job’s heart begins to change. His defense moves from I haven’t sinned to self-righteousness. From an attitude of “I haven’t done wrong” to one of, “I have been denied justice from God” (see Job 27:2 above). He begins to argue that God is in the wrong.

He even goes as far as to demand answers from God. “I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me” (Job 31:35).

This is a dangerous place to be.

Who Are We?

Who do we think we are to have an attitude like this when coming to God? If we’re mad at Him for our situation, well, He can handle that, but we must be careful to not challenge the Almighty and His authority.

“Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for out enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”” – Joshua 5:13-14

He is not like us and His scales of justice and righteousness are not ours.

God didn’t earn His deity by being the smartest, the strongest, or the most righteous. He has nothing to prove to us.

Job though, had become captive of his insistence that he was righteous and had lost perspective of God’s truth and sovereignty.

When we reach a point like this, we are at a crossroads. We have to ask ourselves, do we want to learn and grow, or do we want to be right?

Job wanted to be right, which is an unbending perspective that causes wisdom and learning go out the door.

Real Wisdom

And we need wisdom at these moments.

When wisdom is present, we are able to see ourselves in our situations and apply God’s truth accordingly. It is one thing to know truth but something else entirely to know how to apply it to our lives. You can’t be open to this understanding if you are determined to be right.

Knowledge is the understanding of truth, but wisdom is the proper application of that truth.

Job could have done this by simply finding humility. Humility allows us to stop and yield to God and His perspective.

Job’s Fourth Friend

Job’s fourth friend named Elihu steps in. Elihu tells Job, who has said that God has been silent, that God had been speaking. Job wasn’t listening because his view of God was wrong.

A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What we think of God is the mainspring from which our entire being flows.

This brings me to a question to ask: How do you view God?

  • Is He a punisher?
  • Is He mean an unjust?
  • Does He care?

Do you apply this perspective to everything in your life? Or do you apply a Biblical perspective?

God is good. God is sovereign. He is omnipotent and His ways do not have to make sense to us. But He loves you and cares for you. We have to get to the point where we believe that God is good regardless of our circumstances. Period.

There is no subject more life-changing than God and there is no greater decisive factor in how you live your life than in the knowledge of who God really is.

God loves you. Focus on His goodness and go to Him in humility.

Bless you.

photo credit: Hierviaty | 4. Church of Holy Trinity via photopin (license)

Physical Training Has Some Value

ForceAwakens

Happy 2016! To help you start the year right, here are some promises taken from the Dec. 27th message of our Pastor, Ronnie Meek.

Yes, these promises are that good.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8

The Force Awakens

Jill and I saw the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, on New Years Day. It was great and I won’t tell you about the plot.

I will, however, tell you about the previews. With the exception of an upcoming Disney animated film, every one of them was for a movie somehow focused on the end times. Not just subtly focused either, but blatantly. Two examples:

  • The trailer for The 5th Wave literally sounded like words from the book of Revelation as it described…well, 5 Waves of attacks against humanity. Things like “an earthquake strong enough to shake the entire planet” and plagues.
  • X-MEN Apocalypse. Um, need I say more?

I’m mentioning these to suggest it might be a good time for us to take the idea of godliness seriously. Not in a hocus pocus, fear way, but in a “value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” way.

I’ll also shamlessly promote Jill’s recently released study companion on the Book of Revelation entitled, “A Revelation of Love” which is available here. And did I mention it’s getting 5 Star Reviews?!!

Now, back to our promises.

The Promise of The Word

Those that know Pastor Ronnie know that he ALWAYS speaks on reading the Word around each January 1st. This year was no exception.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” – 2 Timothy 3:16

But he’s not doing it for his health folks, he’s doing it for ours.

Let’s take the time this year to read and study and understand the Word of God. And as Pastor Ronnie said, here’s how:

  • Everyday – which means…every day.
  • Pick a time to read (everyday) – make it a part of your schedule. Like eating. Because we need it like we need eating.
  • Pick a consistent quantity, too – a specific number of chapters, or one chapter, or sections, verses, whatever.

Read the Word; it will bring health to one’s whole body (Proverbs 4)

The Promise of Fellowship

“not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25

Everyone’s familiar with the “buddy system” and all it’s benefits. Church and other related organizations and studies are nothing more than organized buddy systems and we all need them.

Be in church:

  • On time – the buddy part happens before, during and after.
  • And prepared – to learn, to engage, to be a buddy and to be buddied.

Be in church; it will encourage you and encourage others.

Promises of God

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20

“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” – John 16:34

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

Ask God to meet Your needs, “if we ask anything according to His will He hears us”. – 1 John 5:15

Let’s have a Happy New Year.

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