Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.
A lot. Multiple times a day.
It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.
For what it’s worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn’t the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.
I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.
It didn’t take. Continue reading
Jesus is awesome.
The word gets used a lot. It genuinely applies to Jesus. The more we get to know Him the more awe He inspires.
I know it’s not common for many Christians to study the Old Testament. Leviticus may get the least attention. Yet, the books of Moses are extremely helpful in understanding the awe-inspiring nature of Jesus. In fact, Jesus plainly taught that Moses wrote about Him:
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47, bold added)
One thing always stands out as I read Leviticus. Instructions about how to avoid becoming unclean. Unclean is a ceremonial and religious term, not necessarily a sanitary term. It speaks about a condition that separates the unclean, at least temporarily, from fellowship with the community and with the Lord.
Leviticus speaks about unclean or uncleanness 128 times in 90 verses. The book of Leviticus itself is only composed of 859 verses. The words “unclean” or “uncleanness” appear explicitly in more than 10% of the book. The surrounding verses often continue the discussion. So, it is safe to assume that this concept is pretty important to understanding the point of Leviticus.
Many New Testament believers find this subject boring. Irrelevant. A waste of time. For the nation of Israel it was incredibly important to know and understand how to remain ceremonially clean. It was essential for their life and worship. But how is this relevant for believers who are not under the Law?
The concept, when rightly understood, isn’t boring at all. It should increase our awareness of who Jesus is. What He has done for His people. How glorious and awesome He is.
The genuine gospel is much bigger than the individual. It is a God-sized gospel.
The God-sized gospel teaches us that God is redeeming a people for Himself. This people is to be reconciled to Himself, through Christ, from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Paul describes his personal ministry from the risen Christ. This is crucial for the church to understand. In order to understand, we have to take off our “ME-centered” glasses and put on “God-centered” ones.
I have a problem. Maybe you do, too. I bet you can at least relate.
I think from my perspective. Sometimes I pursue my agenda. This probably happens more often than I’d like to admit.
I like to do, what I like to do, when I like to do it, where I like to do it, how I like to do it, and with whomever I like to do it. I like to listen to and believe what makes me comfortable.
I think you do, too.
Sometimes we are good at hiding our self-centeredness. I believe it is possible to have moments where we put others above ourselves. Powerful emotions like love, hate, and disgust can cause us to act contrary to our self-centered nature.
The sinful, selfish nature of human beings is evident early. Tantrums and screaming fits naturally flow from young children who do not get their way.
Adults are usually better at hiding their tantrums. Usually. They may be throwing a tantrum in their heart, though.
Christians are given the gift of God’s grace. Grace is even more powerful than selfishness. We receive this gift when we repent of our self-centered ways and trust in Christ alone.
Before I was a pastor I was a salesman. I’ve sold many products for several companies. I was involved in retail and door-to-door sales.
Salespeople can get a bad reputation. The fact is, there are many methods used to sell. Some salespeople use methods that are rightly viewed negatively.
I learned a valuable lesson early. It was crucial to my success. Once this principle is understood it illuminates why all the techniques employed by salespeople either work or don’t.
Different methods. All based on the same principle.
The principle is easily understood. It happens in every sales situation. Most people don’t even realize that it has happened.
There are only two factors to understand: 1. Cost and 2. Value.
Today is the Christian holiday called “Good Friday.” It’s a celebration of and remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ.
The name of the holiday causes confusion for some. On the surface, it is easy to ask: What’s so good about a crucifixion?
The Jews and Romans certainly didn’t intend for it to be good. Crucifixion was designed by the Romans to be as shameful and painful as possible. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans as an enemy of the state.
Jesus was handed over to be crucified by His own people. They accused Him of being a blasphemer. They wanted Him to die a shameful death under the curse of God.
On the surface, there seems to be nothing worthy of celebration or remembrance. Nothing good. That’s why we need to look beneath the surface.
We live in a crooked and perverse world. The darkness can cause people to lose hope.
The Bible promises that the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It promises that the God of peace will be with you. It promises that God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. It promises all this just in Philippians 4.
But the Bible doesn’t promise this without qualification.
It doesn’t say that these promises are yours if you put them on a bumper sticker. It doesn’t say this will be true if you wear it on a t-shirt or sing it loud enough. These offers aren’t promised if you have them memorized or written on a refrigerator magnet.
We are supposed to take hold of these amazing promises by pressing on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
When I was a kid I gave my mom a lot of grief. I was angry, argumentative, and full of energy. Every parent’s dream.
I remember one particularly difficult day. I was acting out. My mom was exasperated. But it was all about to change. Peace was right around the corner.
My mom grabbed the phone off the wall. (Back then it was attached to the wall with a long, curly cord.) She shook the receiver at me and angrily asked me point-blank: “Do you want me to call Santa Claus and tell him how you’re acting?”
Let’s all settle down for a minute. Let’s not do anything rash. Let’s not do anything we’ll regret or that can’t be undone.
No. Clearly I do not want you to call Santa Claus.
I’ll be good. I swear. Put. The. Phone. Down.
I believed she had the ability to fulfill her threat in that moment. I didn’t even think to call her bluff. I never asked if she really had his number. It seemed to me at the time like the kind of thing adults could do. I believed. And I changed. At least, temporarily.
Our family is memorizing the book of James together.
As a parent, I’m delighted to hear my children recite the words of Scripture each week. The older kids are doing a great job. It is easier for some than for others. All of them are putting in the time required to learn.
The younger kids are also participating by hearing us recite what we’ve learned. They, too, can recite big chunks of Scripture that they’ve memorized simply by hearing their siblings and parents practice. It’s not required for them but it is adorable.
As a Christian, the practice of memorizing Scripture is always fruitful. Hiding God’s Word in your heart and meditating on it day and night has wonderful implications for your character and formation into Christ’s likeness. I’ll never stop being amazed at how often the passages we’ve memorized become immediately relevant to daily life and interactions.
Part of our memory section this week is James 1:21-22.
Daddy, will you push me?
As a father of seven I hear this question about a thousand times a year. Our swing set sits faithfully outside waiting for someone to hop on. Back and forth. Back and forth. Then back to rest while it waits for me to say yes again and give someone another push.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Riding the swing is a great way to spend some time during the summer. But it’s a lousy way to spend our time in the church. Continue reading