Wednesday, February 29, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 60

Last night in our small group we were studying the story of Jesus' baptism. Our wonderful leader Yan began the group by asking us to recount our own baptism experience. I was surprised by how many people had to really pause and remember the circumstances surrounding their baptism. Their was some initial hesitation but once those stories started flowing they really gained momentum. It was amazing to hear about the different ways that people discovered Christ and solemnized their decision in the waters of baptism.

Someone asked, "why did Jesus get baptized?" It's a good question considering that he didn't need to repent of anything (John's baptism) or to accept Christ as his Savior (Christian baptism)!!! John the Baptist wondered the same thing and tried to get out of baptizing Jesus. But Christ's simple response was, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” And when he did we saw a beautiful and rare trinitarian moment; Jesus was in the water, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove, and the Father's voice said, "this is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased." It is proper. It fulfills an aspect of God's righteous standards. It was first modeled for us by Jesus himself. And it's a spiritual moment; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are present. Do you remember your baptism? Have you gone under the water like Jesus? Feel free to post your baptism story below.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Deut 4


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 59

Last night I heard an amazing testimony from a man who was raised in an alcoholic home. His family was dysfunctional, and he began drinking whiskey in second grade. I couldn't hardly believe the story he went on to tell about all the bad decisions, broken relationships, failed marriages, adulterous affairs, lies, and hurts he experienced and perpetuated. The drugs and alcohol enslaved this man for the first 46 years of his life...until he met Jesus. He was part of a 12 Step program called Celebrate Recovery which helps all comers work through their own hurts, habits and hangups with an emphasis on Christ. What I really appreciated about this man's testimony is that he kept bringing it back to Jesus. He went so far as to say that the 12 steps weren't the cure; it was Jesus working in his life through the 12 step process that made all the difference. He's been sober 14 years. Can I just say to anyone who might read this; Jesus makes the difference. So cling to Jesus. Put your faith in Jesus. Listen to Jesus. If we are to have any hope or assurance in the face of life's pain He Must Increase.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Deut 3


Monday, February 27, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 58

Last night I played basketball for the first time in a long time. My legs are offering testimony to support my claim! Most of the guys we were playing with were young and in decent shape and the play was pretty fast paced. I've noticed that when you play in an unorganized fashion that there are certain predictable patterns which emerge: 1. The older guy don't hustle back on defense very often, 2. as the games wear on there are more 3 pointers shot, and 3. there is always someone who doesn't like to pass. These last characters I call "Jordan". Jordan wants to take the shot, drive the lane against three opponents, and not pass the ball to his 4 wide open teammates. (Except the real Jordan actually made those shots!) The predictable result? Missed shots and disgruntled teammates.

This is a great metaphor for the Christian. When God picked teams he put us on his team: the church. As part of that team, we have people to help us carry the load. People waiting and wanting to help when we are in triple coverage. But many of us act as though we're a one man show; we refuse to even acknowledge that there are people waiting to help us. So what? The result is we miss the shots we have. We fail. We flounder. We look ridiculous. We're not helping our team and not letting them help us. Why are we like that? Pride. Arrogance. Lack of experience perhaps. Busyness. Shame. You name it. But does any of that matter. 1 Corinthians 12:18-21 says:

"But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it
had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need
you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

What's that mean? Pass the ball Jordan.

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


Sunday, February 26, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 57

It's always intrigued me that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. It seems in the context of the story that they may have wanted Jesus to do for them what John had done with his disciples. It might have stemmed from an insecurity in their own prayer lives. It could have been that Jesus prayed so well they wanted to learn his secrets. Whatever the case, I'm so glad that they asked! Jesus' response has come to be called the Lord's prayer.

Luke 11:2-4 Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Simple, well-rounded, to the point...perfect. If you don't know what to pray, this is a great place to start; this is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 35-36


Saturday, February 25, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 56

Today we had 24 different individuals and couples pray for an hour. We started at midnight last night and will end at midnight tonight. It was truly humbling to know that when I woke up people had been praying for hours. It's again humbling to know that people are praying as I get ready to sleep. Why pray? Why go to such lengths to cover our church with this kind of intense prayer? We could say it's good, it's godly, we're commanded to, or that it creates solidarity. We could get theological and explain what prayer is. But the simple fact is that prayer works. It really works. James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 33-34


Friday, February 24, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 55

David wrote in Psalms about seeking the Lord in the morning. I have never really wondered why. There is a certain calmness that accompanies the early morning. Cars are parked in their garages, dogs are inside, televisions are off, birds are quiet, the world is at peace. It’s easier to think. It’s easier to reflect. It’s easier to hear God Spirit speak. It’s easier to find strength for the day in his word. It’s morning; soon the phones will ring, the emails will come pouring in, and the line at Starbucks will form. Offices will be abuzz, factories will be running full tilt, traffic will be flowing, and kids will need our attention. Crave that morning time with God. Carve that morning time out for God. Don’t waste it on the news, or the paper, or your email! Seek God’s word in the morning.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 31-32

Thursday, February 23, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 54

Just thankful today.

Thankful that I'm healthy. I've seen a lot of sickness today.
Thankful that I have a job.
Thankful that my wife loves me.
Thankful that my kids tolerate me and love Jesus!
Thankful that I get to work with friends.
Thankful that my family all knows Jesus.
Thankful that God lets me be part of something lasting.
Thankful for the food I get to eat today (especially the cheese jalapeno bagel I had for breakfast).
Thankful for a little break in the rain.
Thankful for a talk with a good friend today.
Thankful for Jesus who is the Christ and my Savior.

What are you thankful for?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 28-30


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 53

Sometimes the tough stuff rains down. A man from our church died yesterday at 5am. Another man, the father of a church friend, is lying in bed dying as I write. I spent hours with them the last couple of days praying and listening. Yesterday I talked to two men whose wives have Alzheimer's disease and don't always know who they are. I spoke with two people who are suffering in pain from conditions that doctors can't seem to fix. I saw a fellow pastor yesterday who has had his faith kicked in by church people and is angry and bitter. I talked to two Christians who are wayward and won't face up to it. Today I want to hideout. I know that's not bold and courageous. I know that sounds weak. It seems unpastoral. But that's how I feel. I was comforted by the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13-14. "...but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

Trouble comes and goes. Sometimes it comes it droves. Sometimes it's happening to us, sometimes it's happening to those around us. But we keep pressing on, looking ahead, reaching for the goal. So press on brothers and sisters!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 23-25


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 52

Yesterday went to teach a Bible study at an assisted living center in our town. I'll confess that I didn't create a new lesson for this event, but went into my archives to find something that stuck out. After pouring through my old files I decided, for no particular reason, on Matthew 20:1-16. This sections records a parable about a vineyard worker who hired day laborers to work his harvest. The first group of workers were hired at 9am, the second group at noon, and the third group at 3pm. Surprisingly the owner makes another trip to town around 5pm and hired even more men to work his harvest. As the Levitical law required he settled with each worker at the end of the day. To the surprise and dismay of his employees he paid them all the same. Their cry echoed a familiar sentiment in our society, "not fair." The people who'd worked all day received the same payment as those who'd worked just a few hours. If this had happened today union reps would have been called, lawyers would have been on the scene, and management would be issuing statements to the local newspaper. Scandal! Mistreatment! Unfair! What did the manager say? "I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

Of course we know that this parable is about those who come into the Kingdom by the skin of their teeth. The ones who enter heaven with singed hair and smoking clothes (1 Cor 3:15). Interestingly, I received a call on the way to that Bible study that a friend's non-Christian dad was passing away at the hospital. I went over to see this man and asked him plainly do you believe that Jesus is the son of God? Yes. Do you believe that he died to pay for your sins? Yes. Do you trust that when you die you'll meet Jesus in heaven? Yes. What are we to think about someone who lives 80 years in the world and 1 day in the kingdom? Should we be jealous because God is generous? Should we argue with God about who He lets into His kingdom? Or, should we say, "I saved from my wretched sins and thankful for any other that God might save." None of us deserve it. None of us have worked long enough or hard enough to deserve his favor. We get in simply because our Father is generous. So let us be grateful, not envious, when God let's anyone into his kingdom. And if ever feel discouraged by who God lets into his kingdom, remember, someone may have complained to God when he let you in!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 21-22


Monday, February 20, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 51

There is an ebb and flow to the life that God has given us. All things are set to the beat of a cosmic symphony which God is holding in time. Children become teenagers, teenagers because married, married people become parents, parents become grandparents, and on it goes. We grow up, we're strong, we age, we mature, we grow weak, we die. There are times when every person will mourn, and times when we will rejoice. There are times when the air we breath is sweet with the joy of living, and other times when each breath is a struggle. There are times when we have plenty and times when we have barely enough. These are the things that happen to all of us. All of us. Every person. We can fight these things, resent them, kick against them...but they come. How much better for us if we embrace the day, dancing to the rhythm God has set? How much better to ask God to see us through our current situation, than to ask him to stop the symphony? How much better to thank God for going with us, than to doubt him for not keeping things in our tempo? Father, grant me the ears to hear the soft rhythm. Grant me the feet to keep in step with your timing.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 21-22


Sunday, February 19, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 50

People wonder about their lifespan too much. I go to the gym and see people obsessed with prolonging their lives. I've watched shows which recommend"health" tips, vitamin supplements, and even mental exercises designed to keep us living longer. I don't mean to be fatalistic or depressing but realize this: nothing we do in the name of health will stop us from dying. At best, we are delaying the inevitable.

Even those who are "taking care of themselves" have no guarantees. Lifelong smokers could live into their 90's and a non-smoker might get lung cancer and pass away. I've certainly seen overweight people live long lives and seen otherwise fit people drop dead of a heart attack in their prime. The only guarantee in life is that we will die and we can't control when or how it happens.

So should we abandon all concern about lifespan and longevity? Common sense would dictate otherwise. What then? Should we decide not to care? Perhaps we should decide to not obsess about it. Perhaps we should live each day aware of our heavenly destinations. Perhaps we should care as much about our spiritual health as our physical health. Perhaps we should decide to focus on living the days we have instead of worrying about how many days there will be. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." (MSG)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 19-20


Saturday, February 18, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 49

Have you ever thought that the way we relate to people probably reflects the way that we relate to God? When things are going good between me and God I get along with people so much better. When things are strained between me and God things are definitely worse with the people I know. Why is that? We could probably all speculate to with some degree of success. Here's my thoughts. The vertical relationship we have with our heavenly Father is connected to the horizontal relationships we have with people. When we are distant from God we begin to stray from his principles and values. And who does that affect? Besides us, it affects the people around us. It can work the other way around too. There is often times a degree of tension when we approach God while in conflict with people we know. So what's the remedy? There is no exemption from this phenomenon, nor any magic bullet which can eliminate the problem. But there is something we can strive for. Jesus said, "“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27) If you're doing your best to Love God and people as much as you love yourself...well let's just say their is less drama when there is more loving.

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


Friday, February 17, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 48

I had a chance to speak to a class full of students at a nearby Bible College yesterday about church planting and life in ministry. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude of many of the students training for ministry. In an age where American citizens reflect an "entitlement" attitude, I met students who are not asking "what's in it for me?" I met several students who are planning to go work secular jobs and working at churches for free! For free! Their parents are going to freak out! Dave Ramsey would not approve. But what will Jesus think of such a person? Isn't that what Jesus is about? Selfless. Sacrificial. Giving. Servant-hearted. For the glory of God, not the advancement of self? I think Jesus will get the increase from such people, such devotion, such passion. "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." (John 3:30) Kids these days!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 14-15


Thursday, February 16, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 47

I'm helping to teach 16 Bible College kids this week about the fine art of church planting. Truthfully, I feel more qualified to teach them about how not to plant a church than how to get it right. The organization I serve with has struggled much but seen tremendous victories. Doing the work of God isn't easy and it's impacted by the weaknesses of those doing the work. But so many people use their weakness as an excuse not to work. Hebrews 4:15 says, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." The Lord Jesus knows our human frailty, he experienced them all when he was living among us. Jesus understands or sympathizes with us. He knows first hand the things that drain us, defeat us and set us back. The difference is that he never sinned. He never succumbed to the temptation or weaknesses. He overcame them. That's good news for us because now he helps us. That's what the next verse says: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." Be bold, the Lord has overcome human weakness; he walks with us in our weaknesses; he WILL help us when we need it most.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 46

Last night, to celebrate Valentine's Day, I went to a restaurant with my lovely wife and two or our friends. We'd made reservations and when we arrived we had to wait about 1 minute before our table was ready. The hostess was a very friendly person who smiled and fussed over us as we got seated. The waitress was absolutely perfect. She was friendly but not chatty. She offered some suggestions on ordering but wasn't pushy. Our glasses were kept full, and the food was flawless. What's interesting about all this is that I didn't notice these things while I was there. In fact, I didn't notice any of these things while I was enjoying our meal with friends. And...that's how it supposed to be! No one visits a restaurant to see a charming hostess or a well mannered waitress. You go to be with your friends and family and eat good food. And if the service is right, you don't notice.

So goes the Christian life. Much of what we're striving hard to accomplish goes unnoticed by those around us. We're trying to speak correctly, have a good attitude, raise our children right, and avoid the vices of the world. But unless someone is really watching, being a good Christian doesn't garner much attention and virtually no tips! But there are rewards. Galatians 6:9 says, "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

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


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 45

This morning I was reading Numbers 7 where the 12 tribal leaders brought their gifts for the dedication of the Tabernacle. The leaders of each of the twelve tribes brought the exact same gifts:

"His offering consisted of a silver platter weighing 31⁄4 pounds and a silver basin weighing 13⁄4 pounds (as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel). These were both filled with grain offerings of choice flour moistened with olive oil. He also brought a gold container weighing four ounces,[c] which was filled with incense. 15 He brought a young bull, a ram, and a one-year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, 16 and a male goat for a sin offering. 17 For a peace offering he brought two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five one-year-old male lambs. This was the offering brought by Nahshon son of Amminadab."

What's interesting (or maybe slightly OCD) is that Moses (the presumed author) wrote the exact same description over and over again. He listed all of those things for each of the 12 leaders. And, in case you're wondering, he didn't just use copy and paste. He had to painstakingly write out what amounts to 89 verses of repetitive information. I can't say definitively, but the leaders took great care to bring the prescribed offering to the tabernacle. They did it right. They did what they were supposed to do. It's almost as if Moses was saying, "Let the record show that each one of these men did it right." What a challenging idea. When the book that is my life is written (I'm speaking metaphorically because no one writes books about boring people like me) what will the record show? Those men weren't perfect, but they did some things right. And what was their legacy? People remembered their faithfulness. If all we ever strive for iss faithfulness what would the record show? What would the details reveal?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 7


Monday, February 13, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 44

Yesterday I had a chance to sit down with friends to a t-bone steak mean a t-bone steak sermon! Our church had a theological issue that needed to be discussed and applied. Nothing bad, nothing abnormal, we just needed to decide how God's word on a certain issue will be carried out at our church. I did not call an open forum, I didn't look to our new converts, I called the Shepherds and their wives.

To the Corinthians church Paul said, "Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger." (1 Cor 3:1-3)

He wanted to get into the "meat" of God's word, but they were still infants. Infants choke on meat; they aren't developed enough to handle it. But mature people can handle meat no problem. While there is no shame in being a baby Christian, there is some shame to remaining a baby Christian. God wants all of us to become mature Christians so that we can handle the deeper truths of the faith. So that we have the teeth to chew on difficult things. Instead of choking on difficult teachings, we can swallow it. Chew on that.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 5-6

Sunday, February 12, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 43

Here is what's on my mind today "1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified."

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Numbers 3-4

Saturday, February 11, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 42

As I read through my Bible passage this morning I was struck my the phrase, " exactly as the LORD had instructed." In the sordid history of Israel there are very few times when It could be said that they did "exactly" what God told them to do. In fact, they typically did exactly what God told them NOT TO DO. In their case it was always the little things that got them; don't marry foreigners because you'll get caught up in their religion, don't uses horses in your army because you'll depend on them, don't sacrifice your children to pagan gods, don't bring idols into your living rooms, and don't eat bacon. Yikes! There are obviously more than just these, but that's a short highlight reel.

Why is so hard to do exactly as the Lord instructs us? Why can't we love our wives like Christ loved the church? Why can't we tithe? Why can't we seem to control our tongues, or our lustful eyes? Why do we struggle with reading our Bibles and praying? God hasn't weighed us down with countless rules and regulation. If you think he has, read about the people in the Old Testament (Leviticus and Numbers is a great place to start); you'll be thankful. Here's the painful truth; we are in a war. We're battling to be the people God has called us to be. Yes, there is God vs Satan. Yes, there is good vs. evil. Yes, there are angels vs. demons. But how does that play out in our lives? We too are in the battle between who we were and who we are. Read Paul and marinate on this:

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[d] I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (Rom 7:18-25)

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


Friday, February 10, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 41

Have you ever had someone say, "watch out for that person" and then proceed to tell you all that's wrong with them? I have. It annoys me. It's gossip. It's petty. It could be sincere, but it's still annoying. I decided a long time ago to take people how I find them. I've had pastors warn me about someone coming to our church, but when they arrived I treated them decently, and didn't start out with the record already tainted. And surprisingly (or not) the person fit in just fine.

That's the problem with character assassination. Yes I called it that. Trying to paint people in a negative light, even when it's "justified" amounts to slander. Defamation. Character assassination. That's not to say that the person warning me was wrong. It doesn't mean that the person didn't do what they were reported to have done. It doesn't mean that I get along with people better than the other guy. It comes down to Christian ethics. How do we treat people according to Jesus? How we would like to be treated. (Obviously we aren't talking about thieves, murderers, deviants, and otherwise dangerous people.)

So when someone starts down the list of why you should "be careful" about that guy/gal, say something smart. Maybe this; "I appreciate you warning me, but I like to take people how I find them and make my own assessment." That usually foils the assassination plot. Remember, if you're a normal person you've probably done this. If you're just a regular guy/gal you've had this done to you. Recall how that felt, and refuse to be part of it. It never ends well.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Leviticus 26-27


Thursday, February 9, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 40

Today I was facing a couple of difficult things at work, nothing to be alarmed about but difficult. These things aren't the norm for me; I've had to regroup a little bit and get a better perspective on things. There are times when we're dealing with things that are hard, annoying, life-sucking, redundant and just plain weird. We get sucked into the misery of these things. We have pity parties, drama festivals, mini-meltdowns, grumpy faces, and free therapy sessions with anyone who happens to walk into our rooms. But shouldn't we expect these things? Seriously. They've happened in the past. Do we have good reason to think they won't happen again in the future? Is it reasonable to believe that people won't let us down, that bad things won't happen, and that everything will march along problem free? Maybe in never never land, but this fellow's name isn't Peter and I don't wear tights. Life isn't about controlling our world and trying to force it to conform to our every desire, whim, and wish. Life is about maintaining your integrity, faith and character in an ever changing world where we have no control. In a tough spot? They come. They go. Be who God has called you to be, do what he's called you to do, stay the course. And read Solomon in Ecc 3 for some perspective.

Ecclesiastes 3
1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Leviticus 24-25

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 39

Last night in our small group we read Isaiah 53 and discussed what it revealed to us about Jesus. There was good dialogue about historical context, prophetic fulfillment, and some "ah-ha" moments by people who hadn't realized certain things. The best part came from reading verses 4-6:
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Some of you are thinking great use of antithetical parallelism. Wrong. (Insert buzzer noise here) It was really sobering as a group to see what Jesus did in comparison to who he did it for. I asked the group what it makes them feel to know that Jesus went through all those things for us. I was amazed by what they said; unworthy, humbled, relieved, sad, happy, and so on. That's your question to ponder today. What does it do for you to know that he did all that, went through all of that, for you?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 22-23

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 38

I ran across 1 Corinthians 3:11 today while I was working on my message for Sunday. It says, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ." This immediately pulled me back to the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders. (Mtt 7 and Lk 6) In the story a "foolish" man tried building his house on the sand. The winds raged, the rain poured, the water poured over the banks and the house was destroyed. The wise man built his house upon "the rock." And when the winds raged, and the rain poured, and the water poured over the banks he was high and dry. And his house remained.
What is the rock? It has to be the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

What are we building our lives upon? Worldly things, fleeting things, temporary things? Or do we choose to have Christ as our foundation and work for eternal things, spiritual things, lasting things?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 19-21


Monday, February 6, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 37

If not facing my week was an option I'd take it! Those Type-A people will relate to what I'm about to say. Monday is the day when the list of all you have to do is made. It's the day when the pile of work is the greatest, and you begin to chip away at the list until it's all been done. Then you start over on the next Monday. Am I right fellow uptighters? The problem is that sometimes the do list, is pretty ominous looking. Can I really get all this stuff done in time to salvage a decent weekend? The forecast is looking cloudy my friends.

But what would Jesus say about all this? In Matthew 6:30-34 Jesus said this:

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." (MSG)

In the words of the old gospel song "one day at a time, sweet Jesus!" Instead of obsessing about what we have to do this week, tackle the things you have to get done today. Tomorrow there will be more, and you can get to that...tomorrow!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 16-18


Sunday, February 5, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 36

I remember my mom waking us up on Sundays and saying, "Come on kids, we've got to get ready for church." That usually entails showers, shaves, blow dryers, makeup, ironing shirts, breakfast, and brushing teeth. (Not all those are for me you understand.) We have to show up to church looking good, smelling good, and ready to worship.

What about spiritual preparation for Sunday? We don't think about that much but our Old Testament counterparts sure did. For them the day of worship was Saturday which they called the Sabbath. The Sabbath was actually a day of twofold emphasis; it was a day of worship and rest. The Hebrew day started at dark, which meant that the Sabbath actually started at dark on Friday night and ended at dark on Saturday night. Because they were not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath they had to be completely prepared by dark on Friday. Work done. Food in the crock pot. Miscellaneous details taken care of. There was almost a paranoia by devout Jews about getting ready for that day of worship and rest.

What if we thought that way? How would be prepare ourselves for the day of worship? What benefit might we gain from viewing Sunday as our day of worship and rest? How could we maximize the praying, singing, fellowshipping, and studying on Sunday morning? The possibilities are only limited by our imagination but let me throw this idea out; the best way to "get ready" for church on Sunday morning worship is to worship the Father all week long. If you read up, prayed up, discipled up, all during your week then Sunday will become a day of overflow from what you already been doing.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Leviticus 14-15


Saturday, February 4, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 35

Feeling rich today. I was thinking about the simple pleasures in life. Not waking up to an alarm clock. Looking outside and seeing the sun beaming down in February! Leftover Chinese food in the fridge calling my name. Ok, I digress. Life feels good in this moment, and it doesn't always feel good. So we should savor these moments, cherish them, relish in them. There's an infrequently mentioned verse I'm reminded of at these times. 1 Timothy 6:17 says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." Does God give us things purely for the sake of our enjoyment? May I answer with a resounding "yes"! So, are you rich? Ponder that...I'm heading for the fridge!

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

Friday, February 3, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 34

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” I've always liked this quote because it addresses an issue I see in Christian leaders sometimes. Others have called it the "paralysis of analysis." Why does this happen to those leaders whom God has appointed over his churches? It's a complicated questions.

First, there are relationships. In the military officers don't get too closed to the troops because they may have to issue a command which sends them to their death. Pastors and elders don't have that luxury. Our job is to have relationships with those we serve, and not just to issue edicts from on high. A second complicating factor is limited resources. Many of our churches on low on money, resources, and people. We believe what God is saying but can't see how it'd be possible. Remember who God has used in the past people! Remember that our Father owns "the world and everything in it! Lastly, a big component of inaction on the part of church leaders is fear. Fear of offending, fear of being wrong, and ultimately the fear of failure. These three things and many more make it difficult to make command decisions in church leadership.

There is obviously two sides to this. We don't want to be rash, irresponsible, or operate out ahead of God. But we also don't want to be people who are so afraid of making mistakes that we can't make any decisions. Napoleon was right that there is a time for deliberation and a time for action. But in the church our deliberation should be more prayer than board banter. It should be more of consulting God than consulting each other. And when he gives us the direction, and the time comes to make the call, we take the action. We trust that the God who has called us to lead, gifted us to lead, and guides as we lead is with us!

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


Thursday, February 2, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 33

Lately I've thought a lot about Jesus withdrawing to pray. He felt the pressure of his public ministry, he had crowds of adoring people always following him, and the needy always needing something from him. In the midst of these crazy times he withdrew. When people were pressing in around him he made the difficult choice to leave. When he saw his disciples getting maxed out he sent them away too. Get away. Tone things down. Rest. Pray.

Most of us also feel the insanity of our busy lives. Going to work, being social, attending events, volunteering at church, and running our kids around has a cumulative affect on us. A negative cumulative affect. We want to do things. We need to do things. Other people want us to do things. And so, we find ourselves doing exactly what Jesus taught us...getting away. Turning the TV on for a few hours to drown out the static in our minds. Going out of town for a weekend to overeat and oversleep. But wait, Jesus got away to pray.

Luke 5:16 says, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." I wonder when was the last time you withdrew to a quiet lonely place to pray? When was the last time you had so much praying to do that you needed a special place? When was the last time you were so exhausted that your only course of action was prayer? Many people assume that Jesus was simply better at this stuff than we are. They are right. Many assume that they'll never be able to pray like Him. Right again. But many assume too much...just because we'll never pray as well as Jesus, doesn't mean we can't follow the example of Jesus. After all we're followers of his; we're patterning our life after him. So what would it be like, what would it take, for you to get away and pray?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Leviticus 5-7


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 32

Had to report for the first day of a one month jury duty this morning. It was interesting to be in a room with 80 people who are all complete strangers, all feeling a bit inconvenienced, and all hoping that the spiel would go quickly. We watched a video instructing us about the ins and outs of juror selection, trials, and our civic responsibility; can I just openly say "boring"? But there was one part that really caught my attention. Throughout the video the catch phrase "justice for all" was constantly repeated. Juror service is about "justice for all". When you are on a jury you have to set aside biases, preconceived notions, completely neutral so that the person on trial gets justice.

As a Christian, one of the things I'm thankful for is that I'm NOT getting justice. Obviously God is a just god, and wants us to work for justice in our communities. But spiritually speaking we are not getting justice, because of Jesus. Justice for us would mean spiritual death; hell. There is overwhelming evidence against us, we've committed the crimes, a jury of our peers would have to convict us. But God, the righteous judge, somehow declares us "not guilty". (That's what the word justified mean.) Why? Because justice was served on Jesus Christ. He took our sentence for us. He paid for our crimes. Justice was served, but not on us. Thank God we don't get justice!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: Leviticus 1-4