Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 164

1 Corinthians 12:26 says this about the body of Christ: "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad." I saw this in action the last couples days. We have had a man who was homeless come into the church and our people rallied around him to get him on his feet. We had a kid without transportation who is headed to Bible college and 3 of our men bought him a bike. The other day one of our guys (who is my age) completed his GED and our whole small group called one by one to congratulate him. That sort of thing shouldn't be strange in Christ's church...that's just how we operate as the body.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Psalm 1-8

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 163

We're connected. We may not like that but it's true. It's very common for people to say, "I don't need the church to be a Christian." That's an exercise in missing the point. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior you ARE the church. And being counted among those who belong to Christ's church should at least be an honor for Christians! We'd expect our critics to run down the church, but not the Christians! Being part of the church is something that the Father has given to those who receive his Son Jesus. It's our blessing. It's our privilege. It's our strength and our joy. It's not always easy I suppose and not always fun...but we are the church.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 38-42

Monday, June 11, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 162

Some days don't just don't go very well. Yesterday was one of those days.(At least it started that way.) There have been times in my life that a bad day turned into a bad week. That seems a bit over dramatic to me in retrospect. There are times when I've wanted to quit my job because of a bad day...not quit ministry just go to one of those "problem free churches". (I know they're out there somewhere!) Bad days come. But bad days also go. Today I awoke and the birds were singing, the sun was shining, and I got to ride a 50cc scooter to work. Vroom. Vroom. Today's is a good day, yesterday is behind. "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort." (2 Cor 1:3)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 35-37

Sunday, June 10, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 161

"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."
C. S. Lewis

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 32-34

Saturday, June 9, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 160

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 "Young people,it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless."


At least 10 seniors in our church are graduating this weekend. We've know it was coming for years...after all you don't go to school forever. But I've watched from the outside, while their parents watching more closely, seeing them march slowly toward the magical age of adulthood. Most of them can drive cars, many have jobs, and most are making plans for some type of college education. Some will stake their independence and never move home again. Others will have a delayed departure and still others may decide that home suites them just fine. Some will become the quiet workers behind the scenes and some people of influence. Some will go on to hold many degrees, some will have money, some will not. They'll have families of their own and watch their kids slowly grow and make their own way. And so life goes on. My prayer and my hope is that Jesus is the foundation of their life. I pray that the values their parents have taught them, the testimony of Christ's church has given, the power of the Scripture they've learned, and the presence of God's Spirit will sustain them. I pray that they will walk in faith, and lead others in faith. That they legacy of their faith has just begun. Congratulations seniors...go walk with Jesus!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 28-31

Friday, June 8, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 159

I heard a teaching some time last year on the subject of "rest." Rest is a principle that is deeply rooted in God's people and God's word but is conspicuously absent from American Christianity. The teaching about the Sabbath is about rest. Heaven is described as "God's rest". When people died in the OT they were "rested" with their fathers. So why don't we talk about rest? Probably because we stink at it. Probably because resting sounds lazy to our hyperactive American minds. Probably because believing in rest would require us to cut out softball, X-box, rotary club, golfing, the annual whatever meetings of the whatever club, and step off at least one committee at church. Rest sounds like some exotic foreign language to us.

Here's a couple of quick thoughts to chew on regarding rest...really roll these around:
1. Rest is healthy. Can any psychologist, philosopher, physician, scientist, or politician disagree? Really?
2. Rest is a gift from God. Jesus taught that the Sabbath was for man, and not man for the Sabbath. That means the rest wasn't one more thing to enslave people, but a gift for their benefit.
3. You don't need to earn a gift. It's a gift. You don't have to justify, rationalize, explain, or earn your rest.

Listen to the things people say about rest..."I'm taking some time off I worked a million hours last week." They don't want people to think they're lazy or unproductive so they have to demonstrate that they are deserving of rest. They feel some kind of irrational guilt about taking time off. Why not simply say, "I'm going to take some time off to rest." If you need rationale for that rest see points 1 and 2! Now go rest.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 24-27

Thursday, June 7, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 158

Feeling very thankful today that I grew up in a home with my dad. Thanks dad.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 21-23

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 157

If you've ever read the book of Job you know that it has a tendency to drag on a bit. Don't get me wrong, it's a great book of the Old Testament. But it's a story that is filled with despair until you reach the end. The thing I like about Job is that it has a couple of very famous lines. Today I was reading about how bad Job's life is, how bad is friends were treating him and then he says this, "But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last." (Job 19:29) That line has such power! Whatever trouble assails us we can know one thing for certain...our Redeemer lives.


Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 17-20

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 156

“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us. To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always derivative from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. To follow Jesus means that we can't separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it. To follow Jesus is as much, or maybe even more, about feet as it is about ears and eyes" (The Way of Jesus, Eugene H. Peterson, 22).”
― Eugene H. Peterson

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 14-16

Monday, June 4, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 155

I've been reading a book called "Practice Resurrection." It's by Eugene Peterson and I have to say it's been powerful so far. The books is looking at the letter to the Ephesians and one section focuses on Ephesians 4:1. "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."(NAS) Peterson explains that Paul is conjuring up the image of a scale. The word "worthy" is the Greek word axios which probably reminds you of our English word axis. If you picture a scale with an axis in the middle you can pick up on Paul's illustration. Our "calling" hangs on side and on the other side is our "walk". Someone who is called by Christ but not walking with Christ is being "unworthy"...they are out of balance. Trying to walk the path of Christ without the calling of Christ is also out of balance. When we recognize what our calling is (not our individual calling but general Christian calling)and we walk the walk...we are in balance. Axios.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 11-13

Sunday, June 3, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 154

The church is one wild and wacky group of people. The church includes kings and paupers, punks and rockers. We've got tortured souls and people stuck on permanent grin. There are people working through serious issues and people testifying about those issues from the victor's corner. We've got baby Christians who are so excited and the pillars of the faith...who sometimes crack a smile. We've got workers, thinkers, speakers, leaders, visionaries, helpers, and even those darn administrators (like me). We've got scholars, and brawlers, and radical reformers. We've got the frozen chosen and the charismaniacs, and people in between. We have people who won't listen and people who won't speak up. We've got people who are passionate and people who are passive. We have scientists, toddlers, accountants, cross-fit instructors, teachers, lawyers, farmers, and Wal-Mart employees. Did I mention that the church is on wild and wacky group of people? And yet God in his infinite wisdom calls these people his own. He has seen to it that we all come to him on the same terms; through faith in Jesus Christ. He was assembled this ragtag group of people to be his representatives on earth on his companions for all eternity. He has gifted some to be mighty leaders and even those people that seem superfluous are of great importance. The church has brought me some of my greatest moments of joy, and caused me some pain at times. It's given me my greatest friends, and the church even brought forth my lovely wife. The church has been there for me when I've been down, and it's rejoiced with me when I've rejoiced. I want to say this Sunday morning...unashamedly...I love Christ's church.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 9-10

Saturday, June 2, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 153

Today I gathered with some church friends to celebrate the high school graduation of one their kids. There was food, laughter, stories, and the easiness that comes from being with like-minded people. If we ran an old-fashioned church newsletter it would read, "a good time was had by all." I was thinking that heaven will be much like our gathering today...only much better. We see little glimpses of what lies ahead in our day to day existence. If we bother to look up, look around, and soak in what's happening...we'll see God's handiwork everywhere. But more than his handiwork. I meet many people of faith who attribute the slightest little things to the activity of God. It's not that I doubt his work in their life...but did God really lend the powers of heaven so that you could have a double coupon? I'd like to suggest that not only do we see God's handiwork in our ordinary lives, but we see God's promises. We see glimpses of what is to come in the simplest of activities...even a BBQ. Keep your eyes open and have a quiet receptive spirit...you'll hear what I mean.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Job 5-8

Friday, June 1, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 152

Psalm 54
1 Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
Defend me with your might.
2 Listen to my prayer, O God.
Pay attention to my plea.
3 For strangers are attacking me;
violent people are trying to kill me.
They care nothing for God. Interlude
4 But God is my helper.
The Lord keeps me alive!
5 May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
Do as you promised and put an end to them.
6 I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you;
I will praise your name, O Lord,
for it is good.
7 For you have rescued me from my troubles
and helped me to triumph over my enemies.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 151

I asked my men's group this morning to think about defining moments when they made a decision that changed their whole life. It's interesting to revisit those circumstances, situations, and decisions that shape who we are. Some of those are key failures. It hurts to remember those but they did help shape who we are and where we are in life. Some of those are key victories; times when we broke through, or finished, or persevered through a difficult situation. Some of those defining moments are deeply spiritual; times when God spoke to us, showed up in a big way, or taught us something profound. I'd encourage you to revisit some of those things and remember. Don't dwell on the bad ones, but don't avoid them either. Celebrate the good ones!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Esther 6-10

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 150

Our small group was recounting the story of Paul's conversion last night. It was striking how the church struggled to accept him after his attacks on the early Christians. Undoubtedly, they were skeptical of his conversion. They were assuredly frightened by the prospect of this Christian killer. What was he up to? Was his new found faith genuine? Was this some kind of a trap? Unlike many who stayed away from Paul, a brave man named Barnabas stepped in to bridge the gap. He vouched for Paul and helped him find his place in the fellowship of believers.

It made me wonder have we ever been suspect of someone coming into the church? Have you questioned someone's conversion? Ever been skeptical of someone's motives? Most of us could probably answer yes to all of these. It's natural to be skeptical. It's normal to take someone's past into account as you relate to them presently. It might even be wise to proceed cautiously at times. But we never cry foul at who Christ lets into his church. We can't. We must not. My experience is that there are people whose motives are impure and conversions are phony...but they'll get found out. In the mean time you love them, and work for their success...like Barnabas!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Esther 1-5

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 149

Had a great discussion with a young Christian this morning about the body of Christ. We were reading in 1 Corinthians 12 and I was explaining that every Christian is a necessary part of the body of Christ. We're connected. That means two really important things (at least!):
1. We need the other Christians. It's become almost cliche to say "I don't have to go to church to be a Christian." That overused statement is missing the point completely. When you become a Christian, you are the church. You need other Christians because God designed it to be that way. 1 Cor 12 says you need them when you are happy and you need them when you are sad. The church is the other people of faith that you do life with. Sometimes in the church building, and often times out.
2. The other side of that is that other Christians need you! God has made you part of the body...and every body part has a function. What's your function? What do you contribute? What do you do? I know God hasn't created you to sit in the bleachers and watch the team play...you are on the team. You have a job, and other Christians are counting on you.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Nehemiah 10-11

Monday, May 28, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 148

I was just thinking about the meaning of Memorial Day a moment ago. We are remembering brave people who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom. Who else can we think of that sacrificed their life for other people's freedom? Hmmmm....

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Nehemiah 10-11

Sunday, May 27, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 147

After Nehemiah had rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem they had a big ceremony led by Ezra. During that time people were praising God and a group of Levites said this to the people, "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!"Then they continued, "Praise his glorious name! It is far greater than we can think or say."
What an amazing line of Scripture: Our God is so much greater than we can even "think". It's humbling to realize that our worship is limited by our capacity to understand God's greatness. Our minds literally cannot fathom all that He is! How many times have we given God less than he deserves because our minds can't comprehend his greatness!
Our God is so great we cannot "say" the right words to captures his greatness! It's not a case of being at a loss for words; the words won't come to us later. The words simply don't exist. That's how great our God is.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Nehemiah 8-9

Saturday, May 26, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 146

Faith is something that is builds up over the course of your life in Christ. Heb 11:1-2 says, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." To get that kind of faith we have actually hope that something is going to happen. We need to have a need that we don't know how to meet. These things cause us to rely on God, to wait on God, and to see what happens. When the ending is still uncertain we wrestle with the question, "Do I really believe that God is going to do what he says he's going to do?" Every time we come through one of those situations that requires dependence on God, our faith in increased.

I'm sitting in Shari's about to have a church finance meeting and you know what? They really used to freak me out! But not anymore. I've seen God string together a budget from absolute nothing. I've seen gifts show up that I never saw coming. I've seen financial surprises that could only be attributed to God. I've found faith through the experiences of not now know "what we're going do." And now, at the is point in my life, I welcome those times of uncertainty because I know on the other side of them...and they don't last forever...that we find faith.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Nehemiah 7

Friday, May 25, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 145

Nehemiah was the man! I was reading this morning how the enemies of God's people were trying to call a meeting with him. The meeting was really an ambush, a ruse, to get him away from his work and harm him. They were threatening to tell the king he was a rebel leader, they were hiring false prophets to tell lies. They tried everything they could to sideline him from what God had called him to do. And what was Nehemiah's response to all their efforts? He ignored them. Wouldn't meet with them. Wouldn't stop doing what God had called him to. Wouldn't be frightened by false prophets. He blew them off...and posted guards on around the city. When the enemy tries to dissuade you from doing what God has called you to...what do you do? Love to hear your comments:

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Nehemiah 4-6

Thursday, May 24, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 144

Yesterday day from 8am-3pm was the worst 7 hours I can remember in recent history. I won't go into it. But this morning God's assuring presence was there again to start my day off with hope and promise. I'm often surprised at the great statements of faith and joy that come from biblical authors who were under duress. I was thinking of Lamentations this morning during my quiet time. If you have never read Lamentations you could still guess what it's about. Everything has hit the fan, hope seems lost, the worst case scenario has happened. And yet, in the midst of all that Jeremiah writes,

"The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning."

That Scripture was lived out in my life today. Praise God for his steadfast love...

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Nehemiah 1-3

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 143

Last night in my life2life group we were looking at the story of debtor who was forgiven his massive debt but a merciful king. We were talking about the story when it dawned on the people in the group that Christ's parable was speaking about us. We are the people who have a massive debt and been forgiven. We are the ones who, without grace, would be groveling and asking for pity. But our King has simply erased the debt of our sin and ordered that we be set free from the sin debt that enslaves us.

While the beginning of that parable is endearing, the end of the story is scandalous. The man who who was forgiven a great debts turns around and denies forgiveness to another man in debt to him. Hypocrite. Weasel. Coward. Selfish. Those are some of the thoughts from the group about such a man. How could someone forgiven for so much feel justified in not forgiving so little?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Ezra 8-10

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 142

I've been trying to get myself in what I consider to be "good shape" before my upcoming Sabbatical this summer. My favorite exercise is lifting weights at the gym...but my gym membership expired. (Why pay an annual membership fee when I'm leaving town for 2 months right?) My second favorite is cycling which is awesome...except when it rains. Did I mention yesterday it's raining? So my friend has an indoor pool that I decided to use yesterday. Today I can barely move. I thought I was going to swim laps for 30 minutes but gassed out after 15. I am apparently in terrible cardio condition and I'm the only one who didn't know it! Ha!

More importantly, however, is our spiritual shape. What kind of shape are you in spiritually? Are you ready to do battle with the enemy. Ready to go on rescue missions to save captives? Ready to give an answer for the hope you have? Ready to face trials of many kinds? If not, you better get in shape! The early church devoted themselves to four primary things that are a great place to start: apostle teaching (Bible), prayer, fellowship (church), and the breaking of bread (communion). That's a great place to start. Paul reminded Timothy, who must have been one of those young Cross-Fit addicts, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:8)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Ezra 4-7

Monday, May 21, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 141

My fellow Oregonians will agree that we have had unseasonably warm and dry weather the last two weeks. It's been interesting because we don't normally get nice weather until July! People have had the shorts on, we've had to mow the lawn twice a week, and it honestly started feeling like summer. But then it started raining again yesterday. And today it's pouring. And the forecast is rain...until Jesus comes back. (Slight exaggeration) But you know I found myself feeling thankful today. Not for the rain, but for the two full weeks of nice weather. For the chances to go cycling. For the BBQ's with friends. I'm choosing to be thankful for what I've been given instead of pining away over what I'd like to have. I guess the moral of the story today is choose gratitude. Choose to find what is right with your life. If God gives you rain; go dance in the rain.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Ezra 1-3

Sunday, May 20, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 140

Yesterday my friend and I went fishing with the boys while our ladies were off at the women's retreat. We'd never been to this particular place before and had no idea what to expect. As we were stepping out of the car we saw some people getting into their car with a net full of fish. My friend said, "What are you using today?" and they proceeded to give us the low down on where to go, what to try, and what to expect. It dawned on me that this is a perfect picture of what discipleship is.

People that accept Christ for the first time have no frame of reference for what they're about to launch into. Undoubtedly they've heard about Jesus and what he does for them, but they've never been Christians before. They will learn things on their own; some through success and some through failure. But how much better if those who have gone ahead turn back and say, "here's where to go, what to try, and what to expect." If you're new to this thing called Christianity look ahead to those who've been at it a while. If you've been at it a while, look back and help those who have not come as far.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 35-36

Saturday, May 19, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 139

"Nothing can alter the character of God. In the course of a human life, tastes and outlook and temper may change radically: a kin, equable man may turn bitter and crotchety: a man of good-will may grow cynical and callous. But nothing of this sort happens to the Creator" J.I. Packer

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 32-34

Friday, May 18, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 138

In my devotional reading this morning I came across a line in 2 Chronicles 31 that was insightful. Verse 21 says, " In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow the law and the commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful." I was just thinking how true this struck me. Sometimes people abuse these kinds of statements and promise prosperity and success to those who behave themselves. I don't believe in writing checks and expecting God to cash them. But I will say that my life experience (so far) leads me to believe that what was true for Hezekiah is generally true for us. At the very least most of us could testify that things in our life are going better when we're going with God. Success in family, marriage, work, ministry, finances, friendships, work (etc) seems more likely when we bring those areas of our life under God's authority. Love to hear any feedback on this or testimonies!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 28-31

Thursday, May 17, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 137

If you any kind of "Type-A" person...not that I know this from experience...you will have ideas about how things ought to be. And frequently, when things don't go as they ought to...you will be frustrated. You will feel uneasy, annoyed, upset, or frustrated. But here's the thing; the times in life when things go your way are few and far between. If you get undone when things go differently than you'd hoped or planned; you will always be frustrated. And that's no way to live. It's especially not how Christian people should live. So here's a practical suggestion; find what is right with situations,circumstances and people. Some of you are building an argument against this as you read. Stop it! You're finding what is wrong. Looking for faults. Poking holes in the argument. Looking for justification to continue being controlling, uptight, and annoying. God certainly knows what is wrong with this world, but he also sees the redeeming qualities in all people and circumstances. As his followers, shouldn't we strive for the same? I challenge anyone who reads this to find something that is good in a situation, circumstance, or person today and post in the comment box.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 25-27

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 136

This section is bonus: We were reading John 11 in our life2life group last night which is the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. There are several noteworthy details in that story. My favorite two are as follows. The old King James Bible has Martha warning Jesus not to open the tomb. She says, "Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." The word stinketh is hilarious! I also think it's amusing how Lazarus exits the tomb. He's been wrapped in burial cloth and when he exits the tomb he needs help. I've always pictured him hopping out, mumbling unintelligible words. Flailing about. The crowd is so overwhelmed by what they are seeing that no one thinks to help the poor guy. He's just come back from the dead after all! So Jesus says, "Unwrap him and let him go!” This is also the passage that records that famous line, "Jesus wept." It's also the place where Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life." John 11 is an amazing story, but none of these things are what hit me last night.

As I was reading with my group I realized that two people who are normally remembered for a lack of faith...demonstrate faith! Martha was the woman obsessed with her domestic duties on one occasion. She was so infuriated by her sister that she breaks into Jesus' study and gets a rebukes from the man himself. We associate Martha with missing the point. But in John 11 Martha is the one who says, "I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Faith!

Similarly, we associate Thomas with doubts. He wanted to see the resurrected Christ before he'd believe it for himself. "Don't be a doubting Thomas," people say. But, when they were heading back to the place where Jesus had almost been killed Thomas said, "Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus." Thomas was ready that day to follow Jesus wherever it led. Even to death. It goes to show that no one is always faithful and no one is always faithless. There are days when we are ready to die for Jesus and days when we're wrestling with what to believe. There are ups and downs in the faith. They are normal. They hit us all at times. So don't be frustrated when you're struggling with a doubt or get sidetracked. And don't be cocky when you're on the mountain top of your faith journey. Take the good with the bad and keep moving forward. And try not to stinketh!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 21-24

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 135

I heard someone describe the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus as "Nick at Night". I thought that was pretty clever. Nicodemus approached Jesus at night, under cover of darkness, when no one could see. At least that's what we presume. Jesus wasn't exactly a recluse, so why come at night? We can only speculate but we guess that he was on the fence about what to believe. He wasn't ready to out himself as a follower of Jesus but he was ready to get more information. He couldn't resist learning more about this man called Jesus. I wonder about this. Do people know that we are followers of Jesus? Have we ever been "caught" living for Jesus? Or, are we those "Nick at Night" disciples who are curious about Jesus, but not ready to claim him publicly? Whatever the case you should read Christ's famous response to this man's questions; the upside of discipleship is amazing, but the downside is hell.

John 3:16-21 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” (NLT)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 18-20

Monday, May 14, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 134

This morning I got up early and immediately turned my thoughts to my huge list of things to get done. It's Monday after all, and I have a whole week's work of stuff to check off the list. But as I started to plot the destruction of my checklist, I remembered that my life cannot be lived one checklist at a time. I mean, it could, but I don't want it to be. I want to live a life that is fed by the Spirit of God. And when I get into checklist mode it's hard to hear the Spirit's voice. So today I began the day by going on a walk and praying. And listening. And being thankful. It doesn't matter what the rest of the day throws at me, I'm grounded in my faith, my heart is settled, my worries relinquished, and my soul satisfied. Now I can hit the checklist. Charge!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 13-17

Sunday, May 13, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 133

Growing up I have many fond memories of my mother. Of all the things I could tell you about her there is one that stands most firmly in my mind. When I would come upstairs for breakfast she was often sitting there on the couch reading her Bible. It was early, everyone was tired, there were many things to do...but my mom was taking time to read the Bible. Thanks Mom for the great example of faith and dedication to Christ. And yes...I read my Bible this morning!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 9-12

Saturday, May 12, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 132

I have gotten comments over the years about my habit not to preach on the subject of moms on Mother's Day. Some people must think I'm "anti-mothers" apparently. If that's true I must also be "anti-fathers" because I don't preach about dads on Father's Day either! I love my mother dearly, and think that she and my wife are the best mothers I know! I realize that most of you will disagree in deference to your OWN mother!

I was surprised to discover that a woman named Julia Ward Howe was the original founder of Mother's Day. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War Howe championed this day as a gesture of pacifism. Ironically, she is best know for writing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Lay down your arms for your mothers boys...and pick up the battle cry of God! Howe was reportedly dismayed over the way Mother's Day was commercialized and exploited. It's started as a simple gesture and became a cash cow. And that's why I don't preach about moms at Mothers Day. It's not a Holy Day, it's a Hallmark Day. I do however pray a prayer of blessing for the mothers, call my own, and cook for my wife. And I was thinking about singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as a special blessing for the moms at my church! Not.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 6-8

Friday, May 11, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 131

Last night we had fun. I was irresponsible and took the family out to dinner...but I don't regret it. We found the motor home we're taking on Sabbatical and drove it around the block several times to see how it rides. We at dessert...yes I know; on a school night? We stayed up too late, skipped chores, and had an all around good time. I for the first time in a few months I felt like the dad I want to be. Fun, impulsive, silly, generous, and loving. I'm not usually the opposite of all that, but sometimes the monotony sucks the joy out of life. I want to enjoy my kids and family more often and not just "survive". I'm ready for the sabbatical, and feeling blessed that I've got a family who actually wants to spend some extended time together. Thanks Father.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 2-5

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 130

I catch myself feeling hurried sometimes and wonder what the hurry is. I realize there are times when we need to hustle up and get something done, and there are other times when can take our time. The problem with our society's pace, as I see it, is we have no sense of balance. We hurry all the time. We design devices to help us hurry. We hurry our food, hurry our drive, hurry our devotions, hurry our kids around. Then, in the rare instance when we aren't hurrying, we collapse. I think of Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes where he asks, "What does man get for all his anxious striving?" In other words..."why do we live like this? What the point? How's that working?" My challenge today is for you to slow down. Enjoy the people around you. Take in the scenery. Pause for a moment and appreciate your food. Give some thought to the people around you. Pet your dog, smell the flowers,let the phone ring, say a longer dinner prayer...just slow down!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 28-2 Chronicles 1

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 129

Last night our life2life group was looking through John 14 where Jesus talks about "preparing a place for us." The greatest thing about that place of course is that we will be with him there. I asked the group what they thought they'd say to Jesus when they first see him in heaven. That turned out to be an interesting question. Some said they thought they say nothing. Some thought they might be afraid. Some had specific questions they'd like to ask. One woman said she'd ask to see her two babies that miscarried. The newest Christian in the group said that she'd say, "thank you." That somehow seemed the most appropriate to me. Thank you Jesus for preparing a place for us to be with you...forever.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 25-27

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 128

Yesterday was a good day. One of those, "nothing is wrong" kinda days. I worked a million hours Saturday and Sunday so I took Monday morning easy. Went on a nice walk with a co-worker and discussed some good stuff. Had a happy upbeat lunch with my staff. Went on an awesome 20 mile bike ride in the sun. Got to lead worship with my daughter for Celebrate Recovery. And finished the day with my family chilling at home. When I was thinking about how good my day was going I was reminded...everything good is a gift from God. James 1:17 says, "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow." Though we talk to God a lot when we're having bad days, remember to stop and thank him when you're having a good one. Now go have a good day!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 22-24

Monday, May 7, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 127

Last night we were holding an auction to raise money for youth and children's camps. During the live dessert auction a cherry pie came up and I wanted it bad! The lady who makes them is known for her delicious pies and I was hoping to get one. I'd set a financial limit for myself and the bidding quickly surpassed what I'd hoped to spend. I was disappointed about the pie but happy that it sold for over $50. I clapped when the auctioneer said, "sold" and thought "maybe next year". Then something surprising happened. That pie was brought over to my table by one of the runners. The person who'd overpaid for a delicious pie, beaten all the other bidders, gave it away to me. (Thanks Alicia it was delicious!) I barely know this lady, but I know why she did that. She was showing kindness through her generosity because she wanted to.

Isn't that the story of Jesus Christ? What we all want in life (freedom from our own sins, insecurities, and shortcomings) is to high a cost for us to pay. Many resign themselves to never having the abundant life because they haven't found it on their own. But someone else paid way too high a price for that freedom, and then gave it away to everyone else. And He did it because he wanted to. He showed us the ultimate kindness through his ultimate generosity because he loves us. While we were on the auction block being sold to sin, he paid the price. So praise God for Jesus Christ...and cherry pie.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 18-21

Sunday, May 6, 2012

HE MUST INCREASE - DAY 126

R.C. Sproul once said, "“If God is the Creator of the entire universe, then it must follow that He is the Lord of the whole universe. No part of the world is outside of His lordship. That means that no part of my life must be outside of His lordship.”
I was wondering how many parts of my life are kept safely outside of his Lordship? Obviously, all of who are Christians have some areas of our lives we've submitted to him; but is it possible that we strongholds in our heart where we don't allow God's truth to penetrate? There must be. Is God Lord of you kids? Your wallet? Your TV remote? Is he Lord of how much you eat? Is He Lord of how much you drink? Is God Lord over your thought life? Is he the Lord of you life? After just that short list you're probably thinking "not all of it". But the good news is that you are in the process of being sanctified. You were saved on the day that you place your faith in Christ, but you began the sanctification process that day as well. You are in the process of bringing every part of your life under the Lordship of Christ. God's Spirit will reveal those rebel strong holds, and as we become aware of them we must wave the white flag of surrender. We must bringing those areas under the authority of God, the teaching of Scripture, and the accountability of the church. And about the time you feel victorious in breaking a rebel stronghold in your heart...God will show you another one! But take heart, he isn't picking on you, pointing at you, or angry at you. He love you enough to help you sort through the things that are out of place for a man or woman of God.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 15-17

Saturday, May 5, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 125

Last night I had the opportunity to watch Marvel's new "Avengers" movie and it was spectacular. There was the usual amount of action, comic relief, amazing special effects, and a cameo by Stan Lee! There was scene that really gripped me. The super villain Loki (Norse mythological god)corrals a group of people and makes them bow down to him. He says something like this to them, "Humans were made for subjugation".

My initial response to that was to think "no way punk!" But as I sat there I realized he was exactly right. All people on planet earth are under some kind of subjugation. Oh, they'd argue with you about it....but it's true. We are meant to live our lives in submission to the gracious God of Heaven. He is the source of life, kindness, love, and blessings. We are meant to bow a knee to this Heavenly Father; designed to live under his benevolent rule. But many defy his rule in favor of their own. Ironically, being free from God, or even the belief in God, leads people under a different subjugation. Their freedom from God, enslaves them to their own sin, and ultimately they live with a defiant knee bowed to an invisible and merciless being. While one Master gives eternal life and freedom from bondage; the other promises to bring destruction upon you when his own ships goes down. Life or death. Freedom or bondage. Kindness or cruelty. There is no middle ground, or third option. Loki was right; human are made for subjugation." But which master you subject yourself to is your choice.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 12-14

Friday, May 4, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 124

Today. My head hurts. A friend is moving away. It's raining. It's my day off and I have a ton of work to do. A pastor friend of mine got fired. It's rainy. I need to exercise but I'd rather over eat. The grass needs mowing...but did I mention it's raining?

It could be worse. I could have chronic migraines like some friends I know. I could be the one who had to move. I could have no job, and nothing to do. It could be hailing! I could be one of the millions of people who don't have the luxury of overeating and who don't exercise because their job is physical enough. I could be without a home or lawn to mow. I could be outside in the rain instead of inside writing a blog. Remember that no matter how life seems...it could be worse; and then thank God it's not.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 9-11

Thursday, May 3, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 123

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our church leadership challenged the people to pray from midnight Wed through midnight Thursday. Each person commits to pray for 1 hour at the church building or at home for our church, our leadership, our missionaries, and the community. It was humbling to know that people were praying while I was sleeping and they'll still be praying when I go to bed this evening. People were standing on the stage praying for the worship team, they were standing where I preach and praying for me. People were praying over the baptistery asking God to keep those waters stirring. In the lobby, in the sound booth, praying, praying, praying...prayer is our most powerful weapon and yet we struggle to wield it sometimes. Make time today to pray....ask God for his blessing on you, your people, the lost, the hurting, the sick. Pray with your voices and hearts raised to join the millions of other Christians who are praying today. Prayer changes things!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 7-8




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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 122

In sales they talk about "the big ask". The big ask is when you attempt to close the deal. You take the time to share the product information, you answer any questions, and then you ask them if they are going to buy it. You've had sales people ask, "How can I help you drive this home today?" Or, "shall I wrap it up for you?" Or, "are you ready to take one home?" It might seem a little pushy, but those sales people are just doing their jobs. Their job is to sell people on their product. And, unfortunately, sales people sell you on their product whether they believe in the product or not. How much simpler for us?

First of all, we aren't selling the Good News message, we're giving it away. We're working away at the Great Commission, but not getting a commission on the results! Whether people receive it or not is not our responsibility but we are responsible to give them the pitch (the Good News). Many people struggle with that, but the one who do manage to share will often chicken out on the big ask. After sharing the Good News they say something pathetic or weak like this..."I just wanted to share that with you." Or, "pray about this and see what you sense God saying." Why not simply say, "After hearing this message, do you believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior?" (Acts 2) Do you want to make him your Lord and Savior?" Is that such a scary question? They may say "no" or "not yet." They may think you're pushy. But unlike sales people we truly believe in what we're pedaling. Why would we hold back on making the not so big big ask? It could change someone's eternal destination. They have everything to gain, and we have nothing to lose. Don't be afraid to share the simple Good News message...and expect people to respond when you ask them to!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 6

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 121

I've had a couple of opportunities to share the gospel with people and it's refreshing to see people hear the Good News. I think we forget a couple of things about the gospel:
1. The Good News is simple. We don't need a Romans Road, Concordance or video series. Tell people the simple message of Jesus...Acts 2 is a great summary.
2. It's GOOD News. We act apologetic sometimes, or sheepish about it, but why? The Good News is the best news of our lives.
3. It's News. Even though the story isn't new, it is news to many people. Expect for them to react, to have insights, questions, concerns. Expect that they might be excited, nervous, or joyful.

Many Christians feel ill prepared to share the Good News with someone else, but we have to own our part of that particular problem. The Good News is simple, it's good, and it's news to a world lost and dying in sin. So spread it around! (Matt 28:19-20)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 3-5

Monday, April 30, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 120

I met with a couple last week and asked them to pray about something in their relationship. I asked them not to talk about their issue but to just pray and trust that the Spirit of God would lead them to the same conclusion. We met again yesterday to see what God had revealed. In this instance they came back with a breakthrough concerning a fairly serious issue. Whew!!! and Praise God.

Over the years in counseling and in our leadership team at church I've employed this tactic with great success. Asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us is certainly not ground breaking. But, agreeing not to discuss the matter with each other before discussing it with him might be for some people. So often we tell God what we are going to do and then expect him to bless it. Or, we build a case based on we assume he would say which usually flows from our agenda. How much better, when possible, to spend time listening separately to the one voice of the Spirit. I truly believe that when both people are surrendered to God in prayer, listening to what the Spirit says, they will find common ground. I'm reminded of Ephesians 4:4 which says, " 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 1-2




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Sunday, April 29, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 119

Last night was one of those famous instances in Neilson family lore where I should have listened to my wife. We were heading out to visit some friends and hadn't been to their country home in quite a while. We got to a fork in the road and my wife said left while I was turning the car right. After driving many miles down a long a twisty road I consented that I'd been wrong and she dialed them up for directions. And...much to my dismay it turns out she was right...again! Darn the luck. The big surprise was this; 500 yards down the wrong road there was a connection to the right road. There was a place to turn off the wrong road just ahead, and a chance to get heading back toward our actual destination. Go figure!

Our spiritual lives are like that. We have these intersections along the way, crossroads if you will. Sometimes we take a wrong turn and it seems such a long way to go back. But grace is that side road that we can turn to anytime. Grace is the side road that leads to forgiveness. Grace is that side road that magically reappears again and again when we find ourselves lost again and again. God has paved a road to himself through his son Jesus. So when your pride is dashed, and you've been humbled, and you're ready to admit where you went wrong (or to admit your wife was right), ask the Father for grace...and get back to traveling in the right direction.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 23-25




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Saturday, April 28, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 118

Chew on some words from A.W. Tozer, “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.”


Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 20-22




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Friday, April 27, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 117

Last night my little girl (who isn't so little) was feeling overwhelmed and out of time with a big homework assignment. She was tearful, tired, and in danger of not finishing. I took her in the back room, we took a lap top and some deep breaths and got to work. She was feeling like giving up (we all know that feeling) but a little encouragement, a couple of pointers, and 30 minutes later it was done. The truth of it is I mainly sat there and watched her type. But at the end she felt like I had pulled her through.

It's funny how crisis can overwhelm us. It makes little things seem big, simple things seem hard, and minor inconveniences appear to be the end of the world. There are some things that are big and won't go away fast. But sitting and weeping alone in isolation and despair rarely produces good results. Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." What does it mean to carry someone else's burden? Often times it as simple as asking, "What's wrong?" or "How can I help?" It's rare that we offer the hurting anything they couldn't do themselves, but the presence and reassurance of a brother/sister in Christ is often the most precious gift to a hurting person. Yes, sometimes a burdened person just needs another person to be there. And in that simple way, we fulfill the law of Christ.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 18-19

Thursday, April 26, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 116

I had a revelation last night watching the movie "Nacho Libre." There is a line where a bumbling monk (Nacho) says that the other monks don't respect what he knows. I won't quote the exact line, which is jr. high boy hilarious, but the essence of it is golden. Sometimes people in the church feel marginalized and disrespected by pastors and church leaders. They want to know that their thoughts and convictions merit consideration. They want to be heard, respected, and made to feel that what they think counts too. The "experts" see errors in their doctrine and logic and often say so without much consideration. There is a balance here. While we don't want to affirm people's doctrinal mistakes; we don't want to crush their spirits either. It takes a steady hand to carefully operate on people's beliefs and convictions without severing a critical artery. It's helpful to remember that some wrong beliefs pertain to vital areas and should be addressed quickly. Other wrong beliefs are fairly harmless and can be gently changed over time. It's also helpful for church leaders to remember that they didn't start out "in the know." And...we have't arrived yet either. Realizing that you are further along in the process, but still in process can help keep things in perspective.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 15-17

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

He Must Increase - 115

I talked to a friend yesterday who had just taken a test for promotion at work. He didn't feel like the test went that well and sounded pretty discouraged about it. Having just finished another bout of education I know a lot about tests. It's so easy to let your morale be affected by a test. It's tempting to gauge your self-worth by test results. We "pass or fail" tests but tests don't determine whether we are a success or failure; at least not paper tests. I told him that there are other tests in life that are more important and reminded him that he's passing the important ones. He is a man of God. He is a loving and devoted husband. His kids are being raised to know and love Jesus. He is passing the most important tests in life and that should offer some big picture perspective on the small picture promotion. Could I just point out to you that when we pass the important tests a promotion of epic proportions awaits us. We'll graduate from our lowly existence on earth to our heavenly existence in God's kingdom. And the greatest part about that heavenly entrance exam is that Jesus is the answer to all the questions!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 12-14

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 114

I've run into a couple of people recently that have caused me to reflect on grace. There are many well meaning Christians who have bought into legalistic teachings that make performance more important than grace. They are under grace as people who follow Christ, but they operate like they are under the law. They work hard to earn what Christ has given freely. They punish themselves for failure though Christ paid for those failures on Calvary. They see themselves as a big disappointment to God, though God sees them as the objects of his love. How could we get this wrong!?

In John 1:17 it says, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." The law taught people that they could never be found righteous through rule keeping, but Christ taught people that they no longer had to try. It's switched around now. We are found righteous by the grace of Christ Jesus! We follow his teachings (yes, there are some rules) now because we want to, not to earn his favor.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 9-11




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Monday, April 23, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 113

Had a great discussion today with my staff regarding the issue of discipleship. There are times when people are being instructed, challenged and taught in large groups. Sometimes this sparks people to action, or they have a break through, or even a significant change. But here's the reality: many people have sat in large group settings (like Sunday worship)for a lifetime and shown very little progress in their faith. They've been discipled but it's more incidental than intentional. I wonder how many people go through the Christian life that way? Knowing, feeling, believing that they should grow to maturity...but not know how to do it, where to start, or who to ask for help. That alone is enough to dissuade many people from trying to disciple someone. I didn't have someone to disciple me so I don't know how. But if you've grown, and learned, you have things to share with others behind you. Think about how you've grown. Who were the influencers? What resources were helpful? What lessons have you learned. Could you share those with another person? More specifically, could you adopt someone that you will regularly meet with to share those things. In a very simple sense, that is discipleship. It may not sound like much, but it is much more than many have tried or received. Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 6-8 .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 112

Ran across this quote that I think frames the pressing question of our day quite nicely. Roll it around and I think you'll catch the multifaceted implications of this: J.I.Packer said, "Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms... Confusion here is fatal." Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 4-5 .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

He Must Increase - 111

The two ladies at my house have been abuzz about the arrival of Spring. When you've had weeks of Oregon rain and the weatherman says "75" we they got excited. My jr. high daughter has been wearing shorts and t-shirts all week, and my wife keeps saying, "I can't wait!" It's a bit silly to get that excited about sunshine I suppose; but I share their enthusiasm. It can be dreary in the grayness and relentless rain. Get out the sunscreen and clean off the barbecue; the sun is coming! I was thinking this morning that our hope of heaven is the same way, or maybe it should be. As people of faith we know that something better is on the horizon. We know that the dreariness of life will one day fade away. There is day when the Son is going to burst through the clouds radiating with light and power. And everything that is wrong will be set right that day. But our we excited? Are we eager? Are we preparing ourselves for the occasion? The Son is coming! Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 1-3 .

Friday, April 20, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 110

One of my favorite Bible books is Ecclesiastes. I'm often shocked to find out how many people dislike Solomon's final volume. "It's so boring; it's so depressing." It's a study in contrasts to me. When Solomon was young he wrote Proverbs. The Proverbs are a collection of sayings that are generally true. It's not so much doctrine as it is practical advice. Solomon's proverbs are accurate, insightful, and wise. The interesting thing about them is that he wrote them when he was very young. Near the end of his life he wrote Ecclesiastes. The things he said in Proverbs were still true, but he saw life through a different set of eyes. He realized near the end that wealth, belongings, entertainment, and status don't mean much in the end. He realized that non of the extravagance that his position afforded him can make a person happy. He realized that the simple things in life are often the best things; eating, drinking, and working are among those he mentions. He wasn't fatalistic (well maybe a bit)he was realistic; his life's experience allowed him to see thing for how they really are. So, if you haven't read Ecclesiastes recently...give it a try! Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 21-22 .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 109

In my men's group this morning we studied Acts 5 where the apostles made a miraculous escape from prison. I was studying with a retired prison guard and said he should be thankful that he never had to guard the apostles; they were a slippery bunch! The account goes like this:
-They were arrested for preaching about Jesus
-They were sprung from prison by an angel
-They escaped all the way back to the temple and began preaching about Jesus
-They were arrested again for preaching about Jesus
-They were beaten for preaching about Jesus

That's a story all by itself, but there is more. The part that rocked my world is 5:41 which says, "The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus." When is the last time you rejoiced over suffering? When is the last time that you were thankful that you were found worthy of suffering? When was the last time you heard suffering presented in a spiritual or faith building way? How might the apostle's view of suffering change a perspective that you have on a past/current/future instant of suffering? Whatever your answer consider this: the apostles saw Jesus suffer first hand and realized that following him would lead to suffering. Do you have that same understanding as a follower of Christ?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 18-20




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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 108

I've been preparing for a message from 1 Corinthians 8 this week which deals with food sacrificed to idols...at least on first glance. The sacrificed food really just provided an occasion for Paul to expose an attitude problem in the church. People who were a bit stronger in their knowledge were tripping up people who weren't quite so strong. And they didn't seem to care.

There are matters of conscience like this in the fellowship all the time. Think about alcohol, R-rated movies, non-Christian music, and tattoos. Think about homeschooling, KJV Bibles, and vegetarianism. These are just a couple of things that people get fired up about. And they are all things that mature Christians might choose to set aside as "minor" issues. But sometimes we decide to make these minor issues into "major" issues. Sometimes we cause fights over this little stinkers! But when you encounter people who are deeply convicted over such things how should you act?

It's tempting to tell people they are stupid, wrong, or misinformed. It's tempting to try to talk them out of it, or flaunt our freedom from such legalism/superstition. But that's where the Corinthians had gotten off track. You don't use your freedom in Christ to taunt, shame, or humiliate fellow Christians. You don't encourage people to break their own consciences by doing something they're convinced they shouldn't do. You don't do things in front of people that might cause them to stumble. Because strong Christians, with accurate understanding, and strong knowledge, should lead the way in acting maturely. So at times the strong lay down their rights, freedoms, convictions for the sake of someone who is weak. And we do it so Christ might get the increase.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 15-17




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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 107

I seems that at least half of the road trips I go on someone gets sick. And no, not because of my driving! When we started the eight hour drive to Boise one of the girls was sniffling a bit. When we drove the eight hour drive home she was flat out sick. I've successfully avoided being sick this winter but sixteen hours in a car with a sickie made me sick. It stands to reason, the more time you spend with sick people the more likely you are to be sick.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul quotes an old saying, “bad company corrupts good character.” There is a delicate balance we must strike with the people in the world. We can't possibly show them the love of God, share our faith, or see them come to Jesus without spending time in their presence. Our Christian understanding sees them as sick people in need of healing. Their sickness is sin. And though we are not free from the sickness completely, we are in treatment! But as we befriend and hang out with people we must be realistic about who is affecting (or infecting) who.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 12-14




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Monday, April 16, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 106

This morning my co-workers and I were venting and sharing about some things that were not going right. You know...normal stuff. Sickness, discouragement, difficult people...the usual stuff. One of them suggested we have a time of thanksgiving and praise. So we just spent time only talking to God about what's going right and giving him all the praise for it. It's amazing how that kind of thing can turn a frown upside down (I know that's a cheesy saying but I like it). As the old song says, "Count your blessings/name them one by one/and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 10-11

Sunday, April 15, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 105

“The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar terrritory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.”
― Eugene H. Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 8-9




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Saturday, April 14, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 104

Because I church is in between youth leaders I had the opportunity to take a suburban full of high school students to the Boise Bible College preview. (I must insert a bit of a disclaimer at this point; I realize that several of my recent blog posts have been about feeling older...I realize I'm not old, or senile (yet) or as decrepit as others....but I'm feeling how I'm feeling so give me some slack!) While there I noticed three things; the music seemed loud to me, the college students seemed like they were children to me, and my tolerance for late night adolescent behavior has diminished greatly. I also don't sleep well on love seats for two consecutive nights....it makes me cranky!

But here's my take away. I was the way too young youth pastor watching older volunteers struggle. And now it's my turn to be that guy. Life marches on. Things change. Kids become parents; parents become grandparents; and even the most devoted youth pastors turn into lead pastors! (I know; it sounds like heresy but it's true)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 6-7

Friday, April 13, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 104

Yesterday I heard Chuck Faber deliver a fine message in a chapel service for teens. He suggested that people are not impressed with Jesus or the Scripture because they are not prepared to be impressed. In fact, he went on to say that man have decided ahead of time to prepare to be unimpressed...and then they are. As people of faith I wonder if there are time we enter into that type of dangerous thinking? May it never be so among us. May we ever be impressed with the greatness and glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 3-4




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Thursday, April 12, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 103

I've been thinking about the resurrection since Sunday and it's cause me to ponder the resurrection of us. What will it be like when Jesus returns from heaven and the dead in Christ rise? There will be an appearance of Christ that no one on earth will miss. He will give a command, a trumpet will blow, and the bodies of every Christian who has ever died will come bursting out the ground. (1 Thess 4) That may seem disgusting, but it will only be for a second because in a flash those bodies will be transformed (1 Thess 15) into new glorious bodies.(Php 3:21) This all happens while we are joining Christ in the air by the way. After the dead in Christ, those Christians living at his return join the fun, except they get to skip the whole death and dying thing (not fair!). And when the bodies are transformed, it will be amazing! But you'll have to come to church Sunday to here that story!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 1-2

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 102

Last night my small group was looking at John 8 where Jesus talks about people who are stumbling in the darkness. I asked my group to remember what is it was like to live in the darkness. They said things like this:
-They made up their own standards; they were the ultimate judge of right and wrong.
-They didn't see how ugly their sin was.
-They had a sense of despair because there was no higher power to turn to.
-They were enjoying their unchecked sin; for a time. Then they were caught in it.
-They felt spiritually adrift.

For you people who have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you may have forgotten. This is where many of the people you encounter reside. This is how they think. This is a snap shot of where they are spiritually. This is what you have to remember as you live, work, and interact with them. And never forget, that this is where you were at; before you walked into the light.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 22-24




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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

He Must Increase 101

Have you ever thought about the power of the question? Questions are a tool that I've found invaluable over the years. If I'm doing counseling I ask questions. If I'm getting a couple ready for marriage I ask questions. If I want to check someone out for a leadership position I ask questions. When someone comes at me with accusations I ask questions. When I want to start a conversation with a complete stranger I ask questions. When I confront people I ask questions. When I pray, I'm learning to ask questions and not just make requests. I've often wondered why there aren't any great Bible verses regarding the question? Here are some insights regarding questions:

1. When you are asking a question you have to listen. James 1:19 says, "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak..."
2. When you ask questions you reduce the risk of saying too much. Proverbs 10:19 says," Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth."
3. When we pray it's good to ask questions. John 6:45 says, "Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me."
4. When facing someone who is tense or combative ask questions. It keeps you from retaliating and forces them to think instead of shout. Proverbs 15:1 says,
"A gentle answer (or question!) deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare."

Post your thoughts on the question! Or ask some cool questions....

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 19-21




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Monday, April 9, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 100

Yesterday I was wiped out after church and Easter lunch so I took a nap, which led to TV, followed by a second little nap, followed by TV...I think they call that snoozing. Around 9pm I was feeling fairly pathetic so I decided to go for a jog. That sounds pretty routine but it's not because I don't jog! I noticed two things as I jogged a measly two miles: First, I noticed that it was 9pm and still warm out. It was a signal that spring (and hopefully warmer weather) are on the way. The season is changing...ya! I also noticed that there was barely a step when something in a knee, foot, ankle, or lower back didn't hurt. I'm not injured mind you, just old enough to feel it when I run. The season is changing. Boo.

Seasons are like that. Reading 1 Corinthians 7 last week reminded me that part of living a content and godly life is being happy with the season you are in. It's enjoying where you are at instead of wishing to be somewhere else. It's finding what is right with right now, instead of holding on till something better comes. I don't know where your season is but enjoy it friend.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 16-18




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Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 99

Everything in Holy Week points to the resurrection of Christ. From the time he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, every event/teaching/encounter was leading to the moment of his resurrection. Early this morning some faithful women made their way to the tomb only to discover that it was empty. We know the story of the resurrection but what does it mean? I'll hand you over to the apostle Paul for the explanation:

1 Corinthians 15
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. 9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.

12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.


Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 13-15




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Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 98

I've always wondered what the disciples were doing the day after Jesus were killed. I suppose they were hiding out and grieving. They probably had restless nights, little sleep, and total disillusionment. They had been told several times, by Jesus himself, exactly what would happen and yet...they still didn't see it coming.

This day in the Holy Week is a big question mark. We know that Jesus was with the Father because of what he said to the thief on the cross. The Jewish leaders were smug because they quelled another religious upstart who dared to oppose them. The Romans were back to business as usual. But Jesus wasn't finished. On Sunday Jesus will become the only man to ever raise himself back to life which means he was no mere man! He was God in the flesh. He was the one who had power over death and the grave. He was the one who made the way for our resurrection. Stay tuned...tomorrow it begins!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 8-12




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Friday, April 6, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 97

The Seven Sayings of Christ on the Cross

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
“Dear woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.”
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
“I am thirsty.”
“It is finished.”
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”


Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 4-7




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Thursday, April 5, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 96

Things are moving more quickly now. Thursday the plans of the wicked were set in full motion. They gathered that evening for the Last Supper. Jesus called out the betrayer who excused himself from the table and went to seal Christ's fate. So many important things happened that Thursday 2000 years ago:
-Jesus explained the New Covenant
-He instituted the Communion sacraments
-He washed the feet of the disciples to teach them about servanthood
-John 13-17 records his last teaching which have been labeled the "Upper Room Discourse"
-He prayed so earnestly in the garden that blood came out of his sweat glands

But things quickly turned from spiritual and profound to petty and evil. The mob came. Peter swung his sword. Mark lost his robe. Lies were told. Denials were made. Violence ensued. A series of five mock trials began. The plot to kill Jesus involved Sadduceess, Pharisees, Scribes, Elders, Romans officials, Roman guards, a fickle a crowd and Satan himself. Late Thursday evening Jesus began a series of beatings, mockery, and humiliations that did not end until the Son of God was found dead on a cross at 3pm on Friday. But that wasn't the end....stay tuned for Sunday.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 1-3





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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 95

Silent Wednesday. It sounds mysterious or maybe even foreboding. But there is simply nothing recorded about Jesus' final Wednesday before the crucifixion. That's not to say that nothing was going on! Jesus had endured the pressing masses on Sunday. He'd had a fierce confrontation when he cleared the temple on Monday. Tuesday the religious leaders harassed him and then he taught all day. Wednesday Jesus probably rested in Bethany with his friends (Lazarus, Mary, and Martha) and the disciples. But, whatever the record might not say, I assure you his enemies weren't resting.

On Sunday they cried, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” (Jn 12:19)
On Monday "the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him." (Lk 19:47)
On Tuesday "They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (Matt 21:23)
On Thursday they arrested him in the prayer garden.
So what was going on Wednesday in the enemy's camp? It wasn't silence. It was plotting, scheming, bribing, conniving, , and forming a plot to kill God's only Son.
Silent Wednesday? Assassination Wednesday! Deception Wednesday! War room Wednesday! Tomorrow the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 28-31

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 94

On Tuesday Jesus was one day closer to his death. He'd road into town a celebrity on Sunday, but on Monday the tide was beginning to turn. Throwing money changers out of the temple and cutting into the Sadducees kickbacks probably didn't help his rating in the polls. He spent last night in Bethany and is once again in Jerusalem.

But on this Tuesday morning the religious leaders were waiting for him. "By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?" (Matt 21:23) Jesus doesn't answer that question directly but goes on to teach several parables (Matt 21 & 22) and even gives a mini-lecture on taxes. There are two things that are certain in life; death and taxes. Taxes for Jesus on Tuesday and a cross on Friday. But what is not as certain, in many people's minds, is the resurrection.

Surprisingly, the Sadducees ask Jesus a question about the resurrection on Tuesday, not suspecting that he'll be raised himself on Sunday. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so their question was not sincere: "Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection?"

Jesus said, "“Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matt 22:29-30)

When the dead rise. Not "if they rise". Not "maybe they'll rise". WHEN THEY RISE. Jesus knew what he was talking about, because he was the first of many who will be resurrected from the dead...more on that this Sunday!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 25-27




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Monday, April 2, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 93

Yesterday (2000 years ago) Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the adoring crowds. He was the man of the hour! He was heralded by the masses! If he had been a politician he'd have been glad handing, waving, and kissing babies. But that was yesterday. On Monday the crowds had gone home, the fanfare was over and Jesus was painfully aware of what awaited him on Friday.

Moving to the temple to teach and heal he discovered people once again making a mockery of that holy place. They were trading money, selling animals for sacrifice, and making a lot of noise! The sellers were not just kindhearted merchants, but predators preying on pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for worship. Unfair exchange rates were common. Exorbitant fees the norm. Jesus had had enough. He turned over those tables, and for the second time in his ministry, chased those people out shouting, "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ (see Mk 11, Mt 21, Lk 19).

Mark's gospel reports that at this point "the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him..." (Mk 11:18) Some have suggested that the Sadducees, who were the ruling party of the day, were getting kickbacks on the business transactions in the temple courts. When Jesus chased the merchants from the temple he was threatening their bottom line. Whether that's true or not, Mark says "they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching." The words of Jesus are still shaking things up today.

It's Monday, and Jesus was clearing out the temple. The temple in his day was a building, in our day it's us. We are the temple of God's Holy Spirit. I wonder if there is anything that needs clearing out today? I wonder if there is anything that the Lord Jesus would chase out should you allow him access to your temple? (see 1 Cor 6:19-20)

It's Monday. On Friday Jesus will face the cross.


Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 21-24




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Sunday, April 1, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 92

Today is Palm Sunday. It's the Sunday when many Christians remember the triumphant entry of the Messiah into the holy city of Jerusalem. This was probably the pinnacle of Jesus' popularity. People lined the streets to cheer for Jesus, most likely because he had just raised Lazarus from the dead. The crowds were pumped. People were smiling and cheering. They were throwing down their coats, and cutting palm branches to be laid out so that his donkey's feet wouldn't have to touch the dirt. Palm Sunday.

I was thinking this morning that it should be called "Hypocrite Sunday." I know it sounds over the top. But many of the people shouting "Hosanna!" (save us!) on Palm Sunday were shouting "crucify him" on Friday. Traitor Sunday. Fair weather fan Sunday. Bunch of lying bums Sunday. They killed the Lord Jesus. They unwittingly took their place in Satan's master plan. They murdered an innocent man, who just so happened to be God. But that's Friday and it wasn't the end of the story...more to come this Holy Week!

But what about us? It's easy to get indignant over what they did, but that would be hypocritical too. Our sins compelled Jesus to die on the cross. If we had been in that crowd many of us would have behaved the same way. All of us have claimed to follow Christ and yet betrayed him with doubts, distractions and faithless fears. We've sinned against the one who paid for our sins. But that's the point; Jesus came to die for sinners. We're all in the same boat. No one person is better than anyone else in his sight. While we might be compelled to judge that unruly crowd...perhaps a better notion is to join them and shout "Hosanna!" Lord, save us.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 18-20




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Saturday, March 31, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 91

There is a constant tension between who we want to be and what we want to do. People will do terribly things while maintaining that they are not a "bad person." People will express what kind of person they want to be, but do nothing toward that end. Even people of faith will lament, while doing all the appropriate things, that they are not the person they want to be.

Jesus said, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45) Your marriage, your parenting, your ability to maintain friendships will never improve until your heart changes. The way you handle money, stress, and temptation will never improve without a heart change. Don't think that by doing a bunch of new things, or better things, that you'll magically change. It will certainly help, but it won't make the difference without a change of heart. You will have to stop acting, sit still, risk being alone with your thoughts, and pray like David (139:23)for God to doing the work of revealing what lies beneath the facade of the public self. The habits won't truly change without the heart change.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 15-17




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Friday, March 30, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 90

Saul is one of those Bible characters that I relate to and despise. He had the knack for making the wrong decisions because of hastiness, but at times he seemed genuine. The thing you can consistently say about Saul is that he liked to operate ahead of God. He acted rashly, often jumping into action without giving serious consideration. At other times, as in with the Philistine champion Goliath, he seemed paralyzed with indecision even though God was clearly with them. Not pausing to pray when something big is on the line is a critical mistake for anyone; especially leaders. And failing to act upon what God has clearly said is just as big of a mistake. Two saying come to mind for any leader considering the life of Saul. The first is "fools rush in." The second is "the paralysis of analysis". Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is where we want to be.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 13-14




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Thursday, March 29, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 89

"One of the greatest weaknesses of contemporary evangelical Christianity is our comparitve neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice. In consequence, we have become known rather as people who preach the gospel than as those who live and adorn it. We are not always conspicuous in the community, as we should be, for our respect for the sanctity and the quality of human life, our commitment to social justice, our personal honesty and integrity in business, our simplicity of lifestyle and happy contentment in contrast to the greed of the consumer society, or for the stability of our homes in which unfaithfulness and divorce are practically unknown and children grow up in the secure love of their parents." John Stott

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 9-12




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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 88

Felt like I needed to pray more than I needed to write today. So here is a prayer:

Father, I am so grateful for all the things you done for me.
Thank you for your Son Jesus, your Holy Spirit, your holy people the church, and your Holy Word the Bible.
Father, I am blessed with an abundance of possessions,
help me be satisfied with what I already have and not covet what others have.
Father, give me mercy in the areas of my insecurity and temptation,
and help me give mercy to others who are struggling.
Father, I trust you because there is no one else to trust,
but help my trust...my faith...to increase.
Father, shine ever before me so I may see the way,
and help me shine my light before others so that they might see the way.
Father God, you are the Lord over me...
Son Jesus, you are Savior of my soul...
Holy Spirit, fill me up...
Amen.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 4-8




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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 87

Remembered something I had read a while back that is really good:

"Retire from the world each day to some private spot, even if it be only the bedroom (for a while I retreated to the furnace room for want of a better place). Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelops you… Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it. Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think… Learn to pray inwardly every moment. After a while you can do this even while you work… Read less, but more of what is important to your inner life. Never let your mind remain scattered for very long. Call home your roving thoughts. Gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul. Practice spiritual concentration. All the above is contingent upon a right relation to God through Christ and daily meditation on the Scriptures. Lacking these, nothing will help us; granted these, the discipline recommended will go far to neutralize the evil effects of externalism to make us acquainted with God and our own souls.

A.W. Tozer
The Best of A.W. Tozer, Baker Book House, 1978, p. 151-152.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 1-3




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Monday, March 26, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 86

I suppose that each generation supposes that the subsequent generation is flaky. I'm not sure why, it just seems true. "Kids these days" is something I've heard many older people say and more recently I've caught my self thinking such things. It seems to me that, most of these claims center around the issue of commitment. "They don't keep their word", "they don't have integrity", "quit too easy." I think it's more reasonable to say that every person, and every generation, is committed to something; but it may not be what the previous generation was committed to. That's what keeps us old guys grumbling!

I was reading this morning in the book of Ruth and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover an amazing passage on commitment. The young widow Ruth wants to head back with her mother-in-law to Judah. The mother-in-law (Naomi) tells her to go on back to Moab and let her die (essentially). "Don't ruin your life for me" is kind of the sentiment she expresses. But read Ruth's response:
Ruth 1:16-17 "But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!"

In what situation, or to whom, could you see yourself making such a commitment?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Ruth




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Sunday, March 25, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 85

Yesterday I got to attend a wedding vowel renewal for a couple in my church that has been married 60 years. It was a beautiful ceremony but not like many I'd seen before. These two people had over 40 years of dysfunction before they go to the 20 years of bliss. Battling through alcoholism and co-dependency was a long arduous path. They came to Christ as a Celebrate Recovery program in a little church called Saddleback; maybe you've heard of it. They actually were part of the first Celebrate Recovery program and have since sponsored over 150 people and helped others save their marriages. After 60 years of marriage they aren't as spry as they once were and the hair color has changed. Their kids aren't kids anymore. But their love for each other is going strong. Some might be tempted to say "what a shame" regarding the rough start to their marriage. But I propose that it's not how you start but how you finish. And they are finishing strong!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 19-21




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Saturday, March 24, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 84

Been rolling this quote around all week. A new friend shared it with me:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” (G.K. Chesterson

What do you think?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 16-18




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Friday, March 23, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 83

Have you ever ordered clothing online? Let's just say it's hard to get a good feel for what you're buying when you can't touch it, see it up close, or try it on. Some of us experience faith feel that way. We want to believe but we can't touch God. We haven't seen the miracles of Biblical proportion up close like the saints before us. We can't completely prove what we believe is true; but we CAN try it on. We can give it a shot, see how it fits us, how we like it.

That may sound good at a glance, but it's problematic. The Christian faith isn't something that we try on. It's something we consider, practice, and commit to. You can't really test drive the faith. Here's why: because all the guidelines, teaching, truths and practices are predicated on faith. Doing Christian things without faith cannot give you the true Christian experience. You can't try "faith" for a season. I can testify that the principles work; but the power behind them is accessed through our faith in Christ. I wonder if you've considered lately where your faith comes from? How did you find faith? What keeps your faith strong? Post your thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 13-15




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Thursday, March 22, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 82

I was thinking this morning of Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it."

It's not easy towing the line. It's not easy holding yourself to a higher standards when the people around you are not. It feels restrictive sometimes when you're trying to walk down the narrow path. But the narrow path leader us to through the Gateway of Life. It's a bit ironic when you think about it. The world says, "Don't give me a bunch of rules, I want to live my life!" Jesus says the exact opposite, "Living it up is the Highway to Hell" (which is also a cool AC/DC song for you 80's mullet rockers). The world says, "Life is a highway I want to ride it all night long". (which is also a cool song by Rascal Flatts) But Jesus says, "Real life, eternal life, is discovered off the beaten path."

It's hard to walk the narrow path but the pay off is huge!!! Don't lose heart.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 10-11




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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 81

I had a snowy winter drive to Albany this morning. I love the snow and really don’t mind driving it, but we never…I mean never…have snow in the valley the week before Spring Break. Crazy! I know nothing about Albany; I know I’ve been there before but I have no sense of the town at all. I had a Google map which is helpful about half of the time and of course…I ended up lost. Typical me. Fortunately my wife was home today and could go online to feed me directions.

If you have ever driven around in circles wondering where you are and what you should do next you know what it’s like to be lost. How do you decide which turn to take next? How do you decide the next new strategy that you hope will lead you to your destination? What makes this way better than that way when you are lost? Nothing. It’s all subjective. Its guess work. It’s random at best and aimless at worst. And yet, would I pull over to ask for directions? Nope. Stop for a moment to look at a roadmap? Who has a roadmap in their car anymore? So the search goes on, and on and on. And that is how people who are lost operate spiritually.

What should I believe? What should I do? Which direction should I take my life? What decision should I make? Wandering. Aimless. Guessing. Fumbling their way through life. Ironically, one simple call to the Father could set things on a different path. Pulling over to check the road map before making a decision. Stopping to ask people on the same path for directions. We call these things prayer, Bible reading, and wise counsel. But the unbeliever doesn’t have those resources yet. So they wander and wander until they’re lost enough to ask for new directions. And hopefully, there is helpful believer who is willing to take the time to help them read the map. Be that man or woman today. Be the street sign, the road map, the friendly stranger whose ready to point people to Jesus.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 8-9

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 80

One of my favorite lines from the book of Judges is when the angel of the Lord says to Gideon, "Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!" (Jdg 6:12) I wish I could have been there because it seems like Gideon looked behind him to see who God was talking to. Gideon was hiding from the Midianites when the angel appeared to him. He questioned God's blessing because of the current suffering his people were enduring. He asked for two different signs because he wanted to be sure. When the time came for battle God said if you're scared go listen to what the enemy camp is saying. He went and listened which tells me he was scared!

We could easily defend Gideon as human; he was facing a massive army after all. But what strikes me as ironic is that God calls him a "hero" (or warrior). He honestly strikes me as the opposite...a weenie! But that's why I love this verse. God sees us differently than we see ourselves. We see ourselves as a weakling; he sees our God-given strength. We see our limitations; he sees our potential. We see all the obstacles; he sees opportunities. We see ourselves as damaged goods and he says, "My son" or my daughter". God sees us differently than we see ourselves. What false image of yourself have you bought into? What has the enemy reduced you to? Why couldn't God tap you on the shoulder and say, "mighty hero"? He may never do it, but HE IS WITH YOU!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 6-7




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Monday, March 19, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 79

I have a friend who just underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He had been feeling weak and lethargic for quite a while. He did something that is common, especially in the age of "WebMd"; he self-diagnosed. He just figured he was old and out of shape. Some friends pointed out that there could be other things and when he went in his found that his heart had some serious blockage.

How many times is this story repeated in our spiritual lives? We think one thing is wrong but in reality we've got a heart condition. We are looking at other things, blaming other people, sinking into self pity...we've self-diagnosed. It's not our problem, it's their problem...which by the way excuses me from all responsibility. That's why it's so important to have solid Christian people in our lives. They are the ones that could point out something we're oblivious to. They are the ones that might see what we're missing. They are the ones that might help us see where we are to blame; or they may help us stop blaming ourselves for something that isn't our fault.

Please feel free to comment below. I love the feedback when you leave it!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Judges 3-5