Thursday, November 19, 2015

Giving Thanks

For many of us the tradition of Thanksgiving is just a day for feasting with family. Often forgetting that it is also a Biblical concept. So in honor of the lost art of gratitude, here is a list of ways to give thanks to God.

Worship (Romans 12:1)
Study (Psalm 119:97-104)
Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15)
Praise (Psalm 150)
Obedience (John 14:23-24)
Service (Matthew 25:31-46
Offering (1 Chronicles 21:24)
Not letting your talents and gifts go to waste (Matthew 25:14-31-46)

a man giving thanks to Jesus as an act of love.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The revolving door church

Here is a quote from the August 2015 issue of Light & Life magazine 

"Learning to follow has become especially difficult in current culture. Millennials, and increasingly older generations, no longer consider denominational or even local church affiliations binding. Loyalties, if we retain any at all, shift with our needs and interests. Trust in institutions such as church, government, school, or marriage is at it's lowest since the baby boomers broke out a Beatles style revolution." -Jill Richardson

I really wish I could just dismiss such a statement, but the fact of the matter is; I know it is absolutely true. It seems that the 21st century church in America is equipped with a revolving door. Every time something doesn’t satisfy them they are out of there.  And it’s quite easy for them to do that in this age since often they have dozens of other options to choose from. It makes me wonder what such people really serve, worship, and follow. Is it really principle that motivates them as they claim, or something far less noble.

Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. Then the word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry. -Ezekiel 14:1-4

a selfish person forcing others to bow before their heart as they do
click to enlarge

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Knowledge without understanding

The other day I heard a phrase that went "knowledge does not necessarily mean understanding." The statement immediately took me back to freshman English, where we were made to memorize all the grammar rules, yet no attempt was made to show us how to apply said rules. Our teacher made the mistake of assuming that knowledge automatically meant understanding. So ultimately much of that knowledge did not help become better writers and communicators. I'm sure this is something that many people should take into consideration, including the church. I have no doubt that there are many who have fallen victim to empty knowledge. I've run into many who knew so much of the history of the Bible, but no applicable understanding of it. I've run into so many who get so hung up on theological definitions. For them it's all about accepting a rule, and expecting others to do the same. Yet they can't even see how they are violating the very definition they idolize through the unloving system they try to force submission of that standard. If they truly understood what they claimed to believe, there would be more living of the word, and less lecturing of it. 

It's precisely why the church should stop relying so much on lecture, policy, and politics to try to change the world, for it imparts only empty knowledge and surface change, or as Jesus called it, whitewash. 

The church needs to start to inspire people to seek understanding for themselves. Through narrative, art, action, and example. To teach more like Jesus did. So that, we can eventually, bridge the gap between knowledge and understanding. Of course we must understand it ourselves to do that, not just know it.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. -Matthew 23:27-28

a man whose heart is separated from his head

Saturday, June 27, 2015


When you get down to it, everybody wants the same thing, Hope. We don’t always consciously see it that way because, we are most fixated on where that hope is placed, rather than the hope it represents in our heart. For most people, that hope is placed in things that we accomplish or acquire. Which can run the spectrum of everything from money, career, home, relationships, family, and possessions. It can be very easy to cling to this alleged hope as long as we don't have all these things. It can always seem just beyond our grasp, in something more. For example, in the case of a single person, it can manifest in the idea of, if only I had a romantic relationship. We find a relationship, and it turns into, if only I were married. We get married, and it turns into, if only I had children. We have children, and it turns into, if only we had a nice house and car to complete our home. We can keep going and going on and on until there are no more dreams to fulfill, and the bubble bursts with the realization that fulfilled dreams do not necessarily mean fulfilled hope. We can see many things occur at this point. We might blame all the people we once looked to for hope via impatience, unkindness, rudeness, and criticism. Or we can abandon those same people and try it all again with somebody else. Or we can go back to a time before the bubble burst via the classic mid life crisis. Or we can try with an entirely new path. 

We sometimes see an exaggerated sense of this in celebrities. For they have acquired and achieved nearly everything their hearts have desired. Yet, they still manage to crash and burn. While this perplexes many who put all their hope in everything that they have, but it stands as a testament that all we achieve and acquire will not necessarily fulfill hope. 

Not that what we put our hope in is as universal as all that. Just look at the phenomenon of hoarding. It may look like a big pile of junk to most, but to them it is their hope. It does not matter how much you point out that it is just junk, for as long as it represents "hope" in their hearts, they will not let it go easily. When you get down to it, all the junk is just the symptom; the real problem lies in the heart. Until healing is brought to their hearts, their behavior will not change no matter how much we criticize them.

Even as believers who should know where true hope lies, often get caught up in these traps of seeking the created rather than the creator for our hope. All because of the simple fact that the created is more tangible, even if the results are not. Consider this as you ponder these passages on hope. 

Psalm 25, 33, 37, 42, 62, 71, 130
Proverbs 10:28; 11:7, 23; 13:12; 19:18
Matthew 12:16-21
Hebrews 6:13-20
1 Peter 1:13-25
1 John 3:1-3

A jar of clay flying away from it's pursuer.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ascension day

This last Thursday (5-14-15) signified a little-known part of the Easter season known as Ascension day, or the Feast of Ascension. (sometimes observed the following Sunday) Which signifies the day Jesus ascended into heaven after spending an additional 40 days on earth after the resurrection. Which is recorded in Luke 24:50-53. Which begs the question why do our traditions honor his birth, his sacrifice, and resurrection so freely and with such emphasis. Yet, we let the day where he officially took his throne in heaven go by without nearly as much notice. Are we trying to keep Jesus in the manger? Are we trying to keep Christ on the cross? Yet, are we trying to keep the Son of God out of the throne in of our lives? They are questions we would do well to consider. Do we really acknowledge Christ as King? Do we really recognize him as an authority over our lives as disciples? Can we truly call ourselves Christians if we don’t?

The final 40 days of Jesus time earth is one of the least documented portions of his life. (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:9-20, Luke 24:13-53, John 20:19-21:25) The accounts in Luke and John being the most compelling. Yet for the remaining 11 apostles it must have been the most eye opening time. The last 3 years of their lives must have come into focus during these days. The reality of the sheer power of God surly became quite undeniably real to them as they witnessed the impossible become possible before their eyes. All the things that they did not understand before must have become clear as they looked back on them in hindsight. All their preconceived notions were shattered and replaced with truth as Jesus explained how Old Testaments prophecies were fulfilled.  Most importantly what their role in the future church would be. How the responsibility of the gospel was now in their hands. How they had a purpose called the Great Commission.

If Christ is truly our king then we need to prepare ourselves to take up the mantle of the calling ourselves as a member of the body of Christ. Then again, maybe that is precisely why we want to keep Jesus in the manger, or on the cross. We want only the privilege of the gospel, but not the responsibility of it.  

Christ Jesus offering communion from his throne in heaven

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Living as Light

It’s better to light a candle, than to curse the dark. 

This is a saying I came across this last week. I was so struck by it that I made a drawing based upon it, which is posted below. It’s a saying that is certainly poignant in an age that is so very fond of complaining about everything that we see wrong in the world. Yet those same people seem so unwilling to do the tiniest thing to actually counter that wrong. Since actually lighting that proverbial candle involves getting involved. Where cursing the dark only involves criticizing people into doing the things we have no desire to do. All because we want the results without engaged effort. 

What we as believers need to remember is what Jesus said about that.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16 

Being the light is an active thing, not a passive thing, or a passive aggressive thing. Yet if we choose to condemn, and judge with impatience unkindness, rudeness, hatred, and anger we are being very passive aggressive. Which only adds to the dark since such unloving behavior violates the very truth that Jesus came to testify to. (John 13:35 & 18:37) In this age of many empty and fruitless words, perhaps its time for believers to say less and inspire more with actions and truth. (1 John 3:18) It is time for us to be the light that Jesus called us to be, rather than mere cursers of darkness as the Pharisees had been. 

a person holding a candle in the dark.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Lent?

     Many think of Lent as a Roman Catholic thing, but historically Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist, and some Anabaptist, and evangelical churches have also observed the Lenten season. While many of the Protestant denominations have backed off of that over the centuries, there has been some revival of the tradition in recent years. Like most traditions, its value lies in knowing the purpose behind the tradition and engaging it deliberately, rather than in a rote way. So today I offer you a summery of Lent.
    Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian church that covers a period of 46 days (40 regular days + 6 Sundays) which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance, charity, and self denial. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting to emulate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation from satan. (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13) When engaging in a traditional food fast, participants would take Sunday's off to replenish their physical strength. (This is where the 40 + 6 comes in) However, contemporary believers often utilize a non-traditional fast of giving up a luxury. Many find this practice just as, if not more valuable in our spiritual preparation. Since our post-modern world offers so many more worldly distractions that interfere with our Christian walk. Plus it does not exclude those not in good enough health to engage in a traditional fast safely. 
     Keep in mind that Jesus taught us that fasting was a highly personal thing between the individual and God. (Matthew 6:16-18) So I would consider the practice voluntary, rather than a requirement. If one chooses to do this, one should consider the Biblical reasons for fasting, rather than do it because that is what you are expected to do at this time. Ultimately fasting is done as a way of disconnecting from the physical world, so that we may better connect with the spiritual one. There are four specific Biblical reasons to fast.
   1.) Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) This is the only Biblically required fast, which served to purge ourselves of sin. However it is not considered necessary under the New Covenant because that’s what Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice brought us once and for all. Repentance could be substituted as a the New Covenant equivalent. 
   2.) Mourning (Nehemiah 1:3-4, Matthew 9:15) In times of intense grief one can seek the strength of God’s spirit to endure through fasting. 
   3.) To Petition God. (Ezra 8:23, Daniel 9:1-3) In times when we have big need of God’s guidance or favor, we can seek him through fasting.
   4.) Preparation for a mission. This is what Jesus did when he fasted for 40 days after being baptized by John. Which emulated the Israelites 40 year journey of preparation to the promised land. (Deuteronomy 8)  When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. -Luke 4:13-14

Calendar of lent 
Dates provided are specific to 2015. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the first day of spring. All the days of Lent are in relation to where Easter lands that year.

   Ash Wednesday (2/18) The first day of Lent, and derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (based on Mark 1:15) or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Based on Genesis 3:19) Either way this sign of mourning is meant to remind worshippers of their sinful nature and mortality and thus, their need for a Messiah who can guide and strengthen their hearts to seek repentance. 
   Friday of Sorrows (3/27) A remembrance of Mary mother of Jesus, and the emotional turmoil that Jesus’ sacrifice caused her. Mostly only observed by Roman Catholics, and not other Lent observing denominations. 
   Holy Week (3/29 - 4/4) The last week of Lent before Easter, where a majority of the special days of Lent occur. Many churches that do not observe lent in full will still observe many of the days of Holy week.
   Palm Sunday (3/29) Represents Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (Mark 11:1-11, John 12:12-19)
   Holy Wednesday (4/1) Represents the day Jesus was anointed with perfume, which may have served as a turning point for Judas’s betrayal. AKA Spy Wednesday (Matthew 26:6-16, John 12:1-11) 
   Maundy Thursday (4/2) Represents the last supper. (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26)
   Good Friday (4/3) Represents the crucifixion and death of Jesus. (Luke 23:26-49, John 19:16-37)
   Holy Saturday (4/4) It commemorates the one full day that Jesus’ body lay lifeless in the tomb. (Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56)
   Easter Sunday (4/5) Represents Jesus’ resurrection. Not officially considered part of Lent or Holy Week, but what these special days prepares us for. (Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-12)

Lent, as presented here represents the most common observation of the churches of the western world. However, there are many variations found around the globe. 

man rising from the muck and mire

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Obituary of childhood

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. - Matthew 18:1-5

The obituary of childhood 
Author unknown
Updated by Ravi Zacharias 

In the 1950's kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents by well paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term; the generation gap. 

In the 1960's, kids lost their authority. It was the decade of protest; church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it. 

In the 1970's, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Self-image, self-esteem, self-assertion; which all made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.

In the 1980's, kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority, and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.

In the 1990's, kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.

In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocence since none was innocent anymore. 

Are even children allowed to be like children anymore in this day of age?
If not what are the ramifications?

a monster forcing a child to submit
parasite nation