Sunday, January 20, 2019

January 20: “The Viral Gospel”

January 20: "The Viral Gospel"

 

Genesis 41:17—42:17

Matthew 13:24-46

Psalm 18:1-15

Proverbs 4:1-6

 

"The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33)

 

It's called "going viral." In the world of social media, it's become something of a holy grail. The idea is simple: rather than try to capture everyone's attention all at once, you create something small. If enough people "share" your content, it eventually generates a tidal wave of interest. A single Facebook post, for example, can eventually snowball into something shared around the world.

 

The principle, of course, predates our digital age. Nature does something similar all the time: the division of cells, the growth of populations. Jesus seems to have this in mind in Matthew 13:33. It's the shortest parable in the Bible, but it packs a lot of meaning.

 

Jesus describes a woman who works "leaven" or yeast into "three measures of flour." If that doesn't impress you, we should point out that this would have been about 50 pounds—enough to feed 100 people or more. And while "yeast" was often used as a symbol of corruption and decay, here Jesus reverses the image, emphasizing the way something small can spread throughout a larger system.

 

But let's not miss a deeper point. Yeast doesn't simply work because of a mechanical process, or even a chemical process. Yeast works because it literally infuses life into the bread.

 

Christ-follower, we are called to be present in the world. We are called to share the gospel with our friends, neighbors and coworkers. At times, our contributions may feel small. The culture around us seems too hostile, too indifferent, too…lifeless. But here Jesus promises that God can take the smallest things of the world and let them "go viral," that over time our faithful presence in the world would have an impact.

 

Our world is hurting. God's kingdom is growing. Keep sharing. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

January 19: Of Joseph, Patience and Faithfulness


Genesis 39:1-41:16

Matthew 12:46-13:23

Psalm 17:1-15

Proverbs 3:33-35


Waiting is difficult.  For something we want - Christmas morning, for example, or the next time we see someone we are madly in love with - waiting is tough enough.  Waiting for relief, however - from fear and pain, from injustice, from excruciating circumstances you did nothing to cause - that kind of waiting can be maddening, the kind that drives people to extremes. 


Which is why I don't know how Joseph did it.  He not only waited out injustice and its consequences, he waited them out with faithfulness, with generosity, and eventually, even forgiveness.  Consider: from the day his brothers threw him down a cistern and from which, subsequently, they sold him into slavery, he waited:


  • Around 13 years as a slave, including 
  • Over two years as a prisoner, for a crime he did not commit, and
  • At least 2 years during which the cup bearer he helped neglected to put in a good word for him with the king, and finally…
  • A total of twenty four - count them, twenty four! - years till he could repay his brothers for the  grievous wrong they did him


And yet when he was sold to Potiphar, he served Potiphar faithfully - when Potiphar's wife demanded he sleep with her, he refused.  And when he was sent to jail - for doing the RIGHT thing! - he served the jailer faithfully.  And when the king asked for his help, he provided it willingly - without asking to be freed.  And, as we will read, when his brothers came to him in desperate need, despite the power he had to take his revenge upon them, he not only forgave them, he provided for them.  Willingly.  Generously.   


When one ponders how he was rewarded for his faithfulness, his patience and generosity, one tends to focus on the position, the power, the wealth he ended up enjoying.  I believe, though, that he was rewarded with something far more valuable - the unburdening of anger and pain without which I doubt he would have been able to serve so faithfully and generously for so long, much less forgive his brothers.  


Father, when we face adverse circumstances of Your choosing and not ours, grant us the ability to respond as Joseph did: with patience and faithfulness.  And as we exercise those gifts, unburden our spirits of any anger and hate; replace them with joy and peace. 


Friday, January 18, 2019

January 18

Matthew 12

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, "Have I committed the unpardonable sin by blaspheming the Holy Spirit?"  I immediately ask the person to unpack the question. They usually tell me a story about a time when they were angry with God. In their anger they cursed God and told him that they hated him. Because of these words, they struggle with fears about their eternal destiny.

In Matthew 12 Jesus says this, "Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." The immediate context of this statement is that Jesus has healed a man.  The Pharisees who saw this miracle rejected it, saying it was done by the power of Satan. These religious leaders were rejecting the grace of God revealed right in front of them. And by attributing the power of God to Satan, they weren't just doubting, they were denying the truth.

The bottom line is this: the sin of "blaspheming the Holy Spirit" is essentially rejecting Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus as God the Son and King of the universe. If we reject this work of the Holy Spirit, we will never come to the place of receiving forgiveness and the gift of salvation. Persistent rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit leads to a place where repentance is no longer possible. Beware!!

I encourage the person who asked this question to realize that even their concern over this issue reveals their heart is still open to the Spirit's work. The amazing grace of God can forgive every sin in our lives. What God can't do is forgive a person who willfully hardens their heart against the Holy Spirit's whisper.  If you hear his whisper today, follow his leading.

 


--
"Multiplying leaders to change the world"

Thursday, January 17

THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2019


"LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken." (Psalm 15)


Today's psalm speaks directly about character, specifically the character of one who seeks God and may approach Him. Despite clear examples of sin, David's longing for God's presence established him as a man after God's own heart and a great example for us in passionate seeking after God.

Importantly, this passion for seeking God goes beyond the "sacred tent" (in modern terms, "at church" or "in small group"). It manifests itself in a changed life that reflects God's priorities: placing God as a priority; honoring God, the truth, and others with our words and actions; holding fast to our promises; and treating people with greater respect than money.

These elements of character lead to this security: "Whoever does these things/ will never be shaken." (15:5) Given the volatility of the world, its challenges, and our feelings, how could David make this assertion? The answer lies in God's faithfulness and character: that, in committing to this honorable life, God promises to protect His servant from shame or abandonment. As Jesus explained, even amid persecution, this promise would remain secure: "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." The promise rests in God, not our circumstances.

Does character matter today? While the media might suggest otherwise, character absolutely matters today. Character defines "how" we live, which God esteems over "what" we accomplish. The U.S. Military Academy touts this phrase: "Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong." Character may costs us in the short run, but the long-term effects lead to transformation and blessing God and others. A transformed character points to God and proclaims: "He can redeem anyone and everyone. How about you?"

Would you like to grow in character? You're on the right path by studying His Word, which creates the basis for understanding character and its implications. Have you found mentors whose character you would like to emulate?


Lord God, we come before You today and desire to grow in character. Show us where we may grow and lead us to Your Word and to mentors. Build in us the love and compassion to bless others and the wisdom to know how. Help us to avoid pettiness so that we may esteem what You esteem. In Jesus's mighty Name, amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Fool

January 15, 2019


Genesis 31:17-32:12, Matthew 10:26-11:6, Psalm 13:1-6, Proverbs 3:16-18


Last Tuesday, 1/8, was the 63rd anniversary of Jim Elliot's death. He was one of five missionaries that was killed by a native village in Ecuador as they made attempts to spread the Gospel in this unreached area. Growing up I read the books about him and other great missionaries like Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael. I wrote some of his famous quotes in my journals, notebooks, and Bible to see daily...to inspire and encourage. His most well-known quotes was, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."  


In 1999 as a freshman in high school, I entered the current era and reality of what we know know today, school shootings. The Columbine shooting in Colorado happened in April that year and it scared me more than I can describe. Stories of students being killed because they said they were followers of Christ shaped me and still there today. I remembered that quote from Jim Elliot even more. In Matthew 10 Jesus is teaching and speaking to His disciples. He tells them of persecution that will lay ahead, of uneasy roads, of the cost in will cost to follow Him. Even as he paints a picture of uneasy days, He gives hope, "Even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." 


A few verses down Christ first mentions a phrase that we see through the Gospels, "And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Verses 37-38). God willing, we will never be martyred for our faith or ever be put in that situation, but how many times in a daily basis is our faith tested? Do we carry our cross? Do we love each precious day that we are given dedicated to God's glory? 


I pray that we live and echo David's psalm that we would, "Trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me."  (Psalm 13: 5-6). May you be blessed, take up your cross, and give up your life that you may gain eternity. 



Jan 16

Proverbs 3:19-20

By wisdom the Lord founded the earth;by understanding he created the heavens. By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth, and the dew settles beneath the night sky.

I find myself in new territory these days. I'm learning there's a turning point in the child/parent relationship where we shift from "parenting skills" to "coaching skills".  My two boys are now young men but still come to me at times for my guidance and or opinion.  While I'm doing my very best to guide them, I find myself wondering "who am I to give anyone advise?"   I've made more mistakes than I'd like to admit to, (and probably even invented some) and here I am trying to offer guidance to two of the most precious people in my life. Offering wisdom is not about being clever, it's not about accumulating knowledge and offering facts.  It's all about getting to know God better and allowing that relationship to shape our lives and guide our conversations. Along those lines,  I've realized the best wisdom can only come from God. His wisdom founded the earth and the heavens, how does what I can offer compare to anything God has to say?  It certainly doesn't.  So I find myself listening for God's voice while at the same time listening to my sons questions and praying at the same time that I say the right things.  Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  It's not our wisdom we want to offer anyone, it's God's, the One who by His knowledge set creation into motion,  and the only way to know what He would say is by knowing what He says.  Chad said it so beautifully on Sunday, there is a road map to get through this life, there is wisdom beyond anything we could dream of  and it's all found in our Bible. Lord, thank you for your truth that sets us free.  Thank you for your words that are a lamp unto our feet. I pray You increase our capacity to hear Your voice and that Your spirit of wisdom rests upon us, guiding us and leading us. 

Randi


Monday, January 14, 2019

Bible blog post Monday January 14th

What has the Lord given?  How have you used it?  (Matthew 10:5-8)


About 14 years ago my husband, Chuck, and I were able to get a mortgage and buy the house we live in today.  It was a fixer upper and we started work on it the day we closed on it.  Shortly before we were finished and ready to move in we choose to have the house blessed.  We asked Pastor Taylor to come over and preside over that.  We also asked a few friends to come and be a part of it, be witness to this event.  Several things were said and scriptures quoted but the thing that I remember most was when Chuck said, on behalf of both of us, "this house is a gift from God, it is His, may we always use it to glorify Him and have open doors to use it for his Kingdom."  Little did either of us know how God would take those words and use them.

Our home is a small 4 bedroom Cape and we have 4 (biological) children.  Yet this house would be called home as well as a place to rest from time to time for dozens of young people all with different stories, different needs, different levels of faith.  We have always had an open door policy where people were welcome to come over for dinner, find an ear to listen, receive arms to comfort, hear words to encourage, be part of a family, to be still and hang out, for whatever the need was that they had our home was open.  I don't even think I can recall how many young people as well as older have entered our small home and in doing so our lives over the past 14 years.  Even strangers who knocked on the door have ended up sitting with us for dinner (I am 100% serious about this).  Neighbors have been welcomed as friends and even friendship with the mailman, Bob is his name, has been made.  This house was a blessing from the Lord and we have tried our best to use it as a blessing to others.

Matthew 10:8 says "Freely you have received, freely give."  Christ was teaching his disciples to trust that He would provide.  He was teaching them to not look at what they didn't have but at what they did have, what Christ had given them and then to use those things as a gift, a blessing to others.  He was teaching them to not just preach the word of God but to live it out and to show it to others.  He wanted to them to discover that God does indeed freely give and they in turn need to do likewise.

Christ wants us to learn these things too and the best way to learn them is to take time to see what God has freely and generously given to us.  We are given spiritual gifts, material gifts, talents and abilities as well as passions for things.  In what ways can we offer back to God what he has so graciously given in order for others to be blessed, in order for others to experience the Love God has for them?  Do we trust Him enough to give freely?

I can tell you this, I never realized how giving our home to the Lord to use 14 years ago would not only bless so many but how in doing so we have been blessed with so much more in the process.  It wasn't always easy and at times it took sacrifice but it was, it is, so worth it.  I am challenged now to look at other areas of my life in which the Lord has given to me freely and to freely give these areas back to the Lord to use for His glory and His Kingdom.

The Lord has freely, undeservedly, generously given so much to each of us.  May we have hearts of gratitude and use these things today and every day to Glorify God, to build His Kingdom, to bless others...you will only be blessed all the more in your heart if you do.