Truth in the Tinsel

I know it is not quit November yet but the Christmas season is right around the corner.  I just wanted to share what has become a huge part of our Christmas tradition in my home with you.  From the time my children were born I wanted to be intentional with them about sharing my faith with them, and allowing our faith to form the traditions in our home.  We choose to do Christmas differently and from the start of the season we begin talking about the real meaning of this holiday.  A huge part of how we have done this is using the Truth in the tinsel program.

This program is for elementary aged children, and takes you through scripture daily telling the story of Christ’s birth leading up to Christmas.  Each day has a verse and a project for the kids to do.  Each project is an ornament to hang on the tree to help them remember the parts of the story.

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I have found by the end even my youngest can talk me through the story of the birth of Christ by pointing out each ornament they made and telling me what they represent.  This has been a great family tradition with fun memories, and a great teaching tool.

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If you would like to add this to your family tradition click the link below and check it out for yourself.

Can Pain be Merciful?

 

In Acts 9 the story of Paul’s conversion is told.  While he was actively persecuting believers he had an encounter with Christ.  Jesus appeared in a flash of blinding light which threw Saul to his knees, then he spoke to him, giving him instructions.  Saul, who was a very confident, self reliant man was left blind, incapacitated, and having to submit to the help of others.

While talking about this account with a close friend one point really struck us,  Saul’s suffering here was caused by Christ, intentionally, and this suffering that was caused was a merciful act.  Saul in his righteousness was doomed, by causing this blindness he got Saul’s attention and gave him an opportunity to rely on others, and to obey Jesus.  He would be healed but first he had to respond to Jesus, he had to go into the city and wait for further instructions.  He had to submit to Jesus, and the very people he had been persecuting.  However first he had to undergo suffering, and that suffering was the vehicle by which he received grace and his heart was softened.

Now what I am not saying is we are all Paul and any suffering we undergo comes from God.  This specific event happened in history, this was how Christ got Saul’s attention and redeemed him.  We all find ourselves in a broken world.  Some suffering is a result of that fact, because sin is present it affects us.  However here is just one example of God using suffering to bless us.  Also it seems to me he uses suffering that is a result of sin, intended sin from others to do his eventual good.  An example of this can be found in Joseph.  His brothers intended evil in selling him off as a slave, and God redeemed that act by using him to save his family and the entire region from a time of famine.

What I do want to point out is that God is always in control, suffering does happen, will happen but God can be glorified in spite of it, or through it.  It can cause us to turn to God, at times it removes stuff in our lives we wouldn’t give up or turn from otherwise, and when we go through it while glorifying God it can be a testimony to others.  Also our response always needs to be that of submission to Christ, and obedience to his word.

Who are you?

       My brother in Christ shared these words with me this morning, he started out by saying how he was thankful for my friendship then blessed me with some Godly wisdom and encouragement.  In receiving this blessing, I couldn’t allow it to terminate on me alone, I had to share because I know these words will bless you as well:

“Sociologists agree, that how a person answers the question “Who am I?”

will determine how they think and act in almost every situation in their life.

May God reveal to you today, that you are:

1. Loved by Him, by me
Romans 8:35

2. His masterpiece.
Ephesians 2:10

3. A new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17

4. In Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21

5. Chosen.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8

6. Free.
Romans 6:18

Receive his Grace today. His unmerited favor. Receive his mercy today.

His mercy covers your sins
His grace covers your shame.

Have a grace and mercy filled day today.”

-Jeremiah

Be blessed friends, and be a blessing.

Be Great!

My Interpreting Scripture Professor Todd Miles gave a devotional in my first lesson that has stayed with me.  This devotional was meant to teach us how to pick apart the hermeneutics of a message, and to teach us how to structure a sermon, interpret scripture ourselves which it did, but during this exercise he also revealed great truth that I was able to share with multiple people since that lesson.  I found myself repeating this sermon in a café downtown to someone who asked me how school was going, and friends in a parking lot outside a movie theatre.  I want to share what I learned from a brief section with you:

In Matthew 11:11 Jesus spoke of John the Baptist and said: “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.  Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  Looking at Jeremiah 9: 23-24 we find Gods definition of greatness, those who can boast should “boast in understanding and knowing him.”  When Jesus calls John great, and not just great but the greatest that has ever been born, he means that no one ever has been able to know, or point out who God is better than John.  Even when he was in his mother’s womb he jumped when Mary came near to Elizabeth because he sensed his Lord was close by.  Just as John was great because he knew Jesus and could point him out as our Lord, Jesus says that we, even the “one who is least in the Kingdom of heaven,” are greater than John.  Todd Miles said: “we have the Grace of place in redemptive history, we live on this side of the cross, and we can point out Jesus better than anyone prior to and including John.”  With this knowledge that we have been gifted, this greatness it is our responsibility to do just that, to explain who Jesus was and is and what that means.  This is my calling, to share the Gospel, to take that gift of greatness, that blessing and not allow it to terminate on myself but to share that blessing with others.

Acts 3

In Acts Chapter three we join Peter and John as they were on their way into the temple and are interrupted, God works a miracle and Peter again follows the Lords prompting to exclaim the gospel.

Peter and John were on their way to a prayer meeting.  They had something important to do, ministry work, a prayer meeting.  These guys were heading the largest start up mega church ever.  This church would still rival most we have here in America, and it was exponentially growing at a crazy rate.  In our days this church was going viral on facebook.  Three thousand believed and were baptized in one occurrence and many more were being added to their numbers daily!  However Peter and John listened to the spirit and allowed themselves to be interruptible.   They took the time to notice the cripple begging next to the gate named beautiful.  These first few verses alone convicted me.  I thought of the many times I am on my way to work, or to meet a friend, or the gym, or even to church, and I see someone in need and do not give them a second thought.  I am praying the spirit will break my heart for others in this way.  It’s easy to sponsor a child, or buy a t-shirt that donates to a non-profit doing work across the globe but what about taking notice of our neighbors, or the people we pass on the street daily.

Then something beautiful happens Peter stops and looks him straight in the eye, and says “”look here,” the man looks up expecting to receive a gift and Peter proclaims “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up.  In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.”  Acts 3:6-8  How often does God work in this way, both in the bible and in our lives?  A person prays for one thing and by his grace he answers in another way.  He gives us what we need instead of what we want.  The man wanted money to eat, he gave him Faith!  Not even the ability to walk but faith, Peter exclaims it in verse 16 “Faith in Jesus’ name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet – yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.”  Walking was a by product, an extra blessing, faith is a gift, the softening of the heart of a man crippled from birth, he had no reason to hope, but in that instant God touched his heart, caused him to believe and receive his blessing, then a miracle was done.  Everyone present watched a cripple receive new life.

We can learn something from his response as well.  What would most people do?  Jump up and down exclaim I can walk, run and tell their friends maybe.  He responded right away with praise to God, he recognized his savior and proclaimed the good work he did in his life.  He shared his story, and allowed Gods work in him to not terminate there, he shared his blessing with others thereby allowing himself to be used to proclaim Gods name.  Take the time to share your story friends!  Gods works in all of our lives in different ways, and he does so to bring glory to his name, to cause worship in our hearts.  Your story happened specifically to touch your heart and certain peoples hearts you come in contact with.  Share your blessings with others, not just money, or material blessings, but your story, the work God has done in your life.

Then after sharing your story take the opportunity to exclaim the Gospel.  In verse 12 it starts out like this “When peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people:” then he proclaimed the good news unadulterated.  Again just like in chapter two a great miracle occurs then he immediately uses the miracle for the intended purpose to bring God glory.

I encourage you this week to be interruptible, listening to the quiet call and tugging at your heart to serve others.  Also when praying be open not just to receive what you are asking for, or expecting, but for what God knows you need.  Then share your story, proclaim the name of Jesus, give glory to God by sharing your blessings with others.

 

Acts 2

In Chapter two we find the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the gift Jesus promised them before ascending into Heaven.  Before the arrival they were waiting, they had been given instructions of Jesus mission, go spread the gospel but first….. wait.  That’s always the hard part me, the being still, it feels like doing nothing.  However in the verse 14 of chapter one “They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the woman included.”  While waiting God was working in them, preparing them for the work he was about to give them.  This is especially hard now in our culture right, with smarphones we never have a moment we can’t entertain ourselves, or catching up on emails etc..  It’s hard to find time to wait, to be quiet with God and listen.

When the waiting was over the Spirit made quit an entrance!  This was a miracle that turned heads, loud sounds like wind, then all of the men from the same region started proclaiming God’s mighty works in the native tongues of the pilgrims.  When God moves he doesn’t do it in a small way he makes some noise, but not just to show off to proclaim who he is.  People were wondering whats going on here?  Then filled with the spirit Peter told them.  He quoted the old testament prophesies about what was happening there, then went on to boldly tell them who Jesus was, and what they had done to him.  He didn’t water it down like we so often do, he told them they killed Jesus, they nailed him to the cross.  Sure some had possibly been there that day and chosen Barabus over Jesus, but what he was also saying was he died for our sins, we all murdered Jesus, in our sin we rap the hammer on the nail and spit in his face,  with the body he created in his own image.  By Gods grace their hearts were softened and they asked what do we do.  That day about three thousand believed and were baptized.  Amazing right?  I believe this book is both descriptive (historical) and instructional.  Jesus told them the mission then we see examples of how they carried it out.  They boldly taught the convicting truth of the gospel, and cared for the people.

What a blessed picture of a church, a people that were open handed, loving, and inviting, and blessing them by feeding them the hard truth so that their faith would be real and firm.  They needed that deep faith to be prepared for the coming persecution, it wasn’t a prosperity gospel, truth is many would accept the gift of salvation then soon after would die.  In studying the beatitudes my pastor pointed out many times you will hear the quote “God loves you and has a wonder plan for your life, however the converse is true as well, God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.”  Truth is being a Christian is tough, none of the apostles were “blessed” with possessions and a great American dream of a life, most were martyred, deeply persecuted at best.  Their blessings were not the created things they wanted, the blessings was the presence of their creator in their lives, speaking truth in their suffering, and touching the lives of those they came in contact with.  Then the church grew virally and they worked together as one working and providing for each other like a family.  The feasted together practicing heaven, sharing their blessings rather than allowing them to terminate on themselves.

How will you share your blessings this week?  Who will you touch the life of near you, maybe a neighbor, co-worker, random person on the street or in the store.  Lets strive to live differently, giving ourselves over to his mission rather than our plans.

 

Acts 1

A group of men and I meet weekly in my home to spend time in community, dig into God’s Word, and be there for each other.  We recently finished Ecclesiastes and have just started going through the book of Acts.  I thought I would start sharing weekly my takeaways as we work our way through the book. Over the next few days I will play catch up then start to share weekly.

In Chapter one we are introduced to the author of Acts, Luke.  He was a physician, well studied and meticulous with the details.  He was a friend of Paul and traveled with Paul during his ministry.  Jesus gives us his mission verse eight, “And when the Holy spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”  This was historical but also instructional.  When we receive Christ in our life and the gift of the spirit Jesus mission becomes ours, we are to tell those we work with, live near, travel in surrounding areas, maybe even do missions ourselves, or support others in missions.

One of the things that really jumped out at me in this chapter was the importance of evidence, or lack there of.  Many people who seem to be struggling with giving there life over to God say they are hung up on proof.  However in the first chapter of Acts we see Jesus appearing to the disciples for 40 days, speaking about the kingdom of God, and continuing to do miracles, yet after the ascension there was only 120 people in the church. These people had Jesus, they saw him doing miracles, watched him die, then saw him alive again and still with all of this proof a small number were willing to turn their life over to God.  This also made me think about the Israelite s who left Egypt.  They saw God doing great signs threw Moses, then marched through the Red Sea on dry ground and Saw the presence of God in the form of a pillar of smoke by day and Fire by night and still rebelled and made an Idol to worship while Moses was on the mountain talking to God for forty days.  Proof is not the real problem, submission is.  It’s one thing to know there is a God, or even believe Jesus was who he claimed to be, it is another thing to submit to his will for your life.  To stop worshiping your self and worship the one who made you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repentance and Redemption

In studying about love, I’ve been also focusing on repentance and forgiveness lately.  I think the story of the prodigal son captures the heart of the issue well, and adds some important points also worth touching on.  This parable is found in Luke 15 11-32 and the context is that the pharisees were grumbling about Jesus eating meals and being good friends with people of doubtful reputation.

In the parable their is a father with two sons.  The younger of the two sons basically spits in his fathers face.  He doesn’t want to wait till his father dies he asks for his inheritance now.  Then upon receiving his portion he leaves the country to go pursue happiness with his small fortune.  Through recklessness followed by famine in the land he ended up destitute and found himself jealous of the food that the pigs he cared for had to eat.  At this point the once proud son has hit bottom, he realizes his situation and how badly he has blown it.  His response is he plans to go to his father and repent.  He acknowledges he has sinned against God and his father and no longer deserves to be called his son, but wishes to be granted the status of worker on his farm.  The fathers response was exuberant joy!  Upon seeing him in the distance he ran to him, he doesn’t even listen to the sons speech because of his joy, he reinstates him and throws a party.

I have always focused on the forgiveness of the father in this story, which is profound.  This is how God treats us, we live in sin and upon repenting he wipes the slate clean and calls us his children.  However Jesus also gives a great depiction of true repentance as well.  The son sees himself in his filth and realizes the state he is in.  He doesn’t just say his life is not meeting his expectations lets go back and try to be part of the family again, he recognizes he has sinned.  Not just against his father but against God.  He also realizes he doesn’t deserve to be restored to the family he betrayed, and does not seek to be.  He seeks a lower position, to be a servant.  In this meek, humble state he is redeemed in to the family.  The people of doubtful reputation were like this son, they realized they failed to meet the standards of the law, and had most likely been told so by the pharisees, but sought after Jesus and his love and tenderness towards them.

Another important part of the story is the end.  The older brother comes back from a long days work in the field to find his father throwing a party for his younger brother.  Rather than rejoicing over his return he becomes angry.  He focuses on himself, and the good he has done, and how he never betrayed his father, but never received such rewards.  Jesus was sending a message to the pharisees.  Like the older brother they were self righteous, they focused on the work they did, and were pointing out where others fell short.

All three characters are important.  We see the Gospel explained and given an example of true repentance and Gods restorative love.  We also are given an example of self righteousness and how not to respond to Gods redemption of others.  As Christians we have to be careful not to act like the pharisees or the older brother.  This could even serve as a good example of a person in the church falling away then coming back.  We need to be ready with open arms to receive our lost brothers and sisters upon their repentant return.  We also need to realize we are all the younger son.  We are all broken, we have all sinned and are in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Happy Birtday Son

atreus birth  My precious boy, how time flies by!  Today you turn five years old and I want you to know how loved and cherished you are.   I have always wanted to be a father, and it brings me great joy each and every day to interact with you.  I love picking you up from pre school and hearing you exclaim Papa and run into my arms.  I love how watching you grow and your personality develop more.  You are such a people person, you seem to know everyone in your school by name, and greet them with great exclamation when seeing them.  I’m sure everyone who knows you is made to feel special upon arriving in your presence.  Your funny, caring, strong willed, and say it like it is, with no filter.  I am so proud to be your papa!

atreus 2Happy Birthday Atreus Malachi!

Atreus carnival

 

 

Blessed are the Meek

This week in church my Pastor continued his series on the beatitudes with Blessed are the Meek.  As he discussed most people think of meek as weak.  The Greek word used for meek here was Praus: mild, tender, gentle.  It was often used to describe a wild animal that had been broken/tamed, so you could think of meek as power under control.  That paints a very different picture however an even better description would be “Our strength surrendered, and his power received.”

When Pastor Nold made that statement it resounded deeply for me.  The men in my life group and I have discussed many times what it looks like to be a Godly man.  Is it a warrior like David, or Sampson, or a wise man like Solomon, or bold man like Paul?  What does a godly modern day man look like?  Modern day TV paints the Christian men like Flanders from the Simpsons, weak out of touch, kind of a weirdo.  When thinking about meek in this way though it cast things in a different light.  When was Sampson the strongest?  Would you even dare to ever think as Sampson as meek?  In the end of his life he was weak, eyes put out, had strayed far from God, and was being treated as a fool to laugh at, a mere trophy for the Philistines.  Then he became meek, he surrendered to God, he asked for his strength back, strength he realized God had given him in the first place, so that he could surrender his life to give God the glory over the philistines.  A similar prayer we could pray would be God fill me with your strength, because true strength only comes from you, and take my life, all that I have and use it to bring your glory not mine, because I live to glorify you.  The created exist for this purpose.

David a man after Gods own heart, did many things that don’t align with that statement.  The thing that made that true was his meekness.  When he was in the thick of battle he didn’t depend on his own strength he cried out to God to spare him from his enemies, when he took on Goliath he wasn’t brave or naive, he declared that God would give him victory, he knew his strength wouldn’t get him anywhere in combat against this monster, but his God was big.  When he slept with another mans wife, then murdered the man to cover it up, meekness  brought him to repentance.  Only a person who realizes they are broken can repent.

Paul came to God after being struck down, blind, helpless, then was brought to the enemy, the very people he was hunting and murdering and had to rely on them.  Then when God built him up and sent him to do his work,  his new strength he realized wasn’t his at all,but God working through him.

Doesn’t it makes sense then that the bible is full of “heroes”  that are often failures.  Because in their meekness they realize God is their source of strength.  Meek isn’t weak after all, meekness leads to the ultimate strength.

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