Giving Big Thanks for Little Things

Why is it that it’s easiest to pray when we face struggles? Do you face that same predicament? I have felt guilty of late that I don’t pray as much when things are going well in my life. I lose a little fervor…a little zeal. But I am trying to change that. Or perhaps I should say, that I am asking God to change that in me.

My Nissan Xterra has had some issues over the last 18 months. It’s my work vehicle and I use it a lot. So there’s no surprise that it requires extra TLC. Around three weeks ago it decided to stall on me while driving to a job. In moments like that, it is easy to drift to worst-case scenarios that include repairs amounting to thousands of dollars. It has generally been the story of my life when it comes to auto repairs. However, this time around was different. After a trip to the parts store, and literally a dozen prayers, it turned out to be a sensor that I was personally able to fix myself. This repair only cost me $60 and a couple hours of my time. I couldn’t have been more relieved. I found myself praying every time I was in the Xterra. Asking God that the repair would be the final solution and that nothing else would go wrong. Many of my jobs are early in the morning, before most of the community is stirring. So a breakdown could be extremely problematic. I would praise the Lord every successful trip I made without the check engine light coming on or the car stalling out. That, however, only lasted a week or so. After I became confident that the car was fixed, my praise and prayer moments decreased somewhat. And then, I felt the conviction.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. How could I allow myself to be so distracted? Why did I lose touch with the reality that I have so many reasons to praise God every moment of every day? Why do I seek Him more in times of distress or need? Aren’t I always in need of His good graces? Why don’t I give thanks more often for the little things in my life, which after thinking about it, many of those little things are actually great big things. We come to expect that our cars will start. We don’t give it a second thought that our hearts are going to continue beating. We rarely wake up and praise God that we have been given one more day. There are so many beautiful mercies that we are given all day and every day. Why do we let so many of them go by without a single word of thanks to the one who gave them to us. We all owe Him a big thanks even for the little things in life. But, a lot of the time, the prayers don’t come until those little things become big things in our eyes.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Faith and Fruit

God will never allow our faithfulness to be fruitless. There is power in simply being available. We never know who we might notice when we aren’t busy looking at the to-do list for the day or hustling from one place to another.

It starts with making the next right choice; seeking to honor God in the mundane as well as in the extravagant. We also have to be willing to see the hurting people around us and then do what we can to meet their needs. It might be as simple as being a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. And because everyone is met with discouraging messages day in and day out, we should never underestimate the power of encouraging words.

If we love as followers of Christ are meant to, our world becomes a much bigger place. Full of life giving energy, empowered by the Holy Spirit. To have that we need to be open to dialogue, willing to pray for and over others, ready to share why we believe the things we believe, and looking for ways to lend a hand. We can know that every encouraging word, every prayer, every act of service, and every time we make time for others, will be used for other’s good and God’s glory.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…” Who do you know that needs to hear they’re loved? Who could use a helping hand? Who needs to be noticed? Who needs to see Jesus?

Being Still

Can I stand still in the face of uncertainty? In the face of possible tragedy? If there was a good chance that my world was about to fall apart, could I be still? Most of my life so far has answered with a resounding no. But that doesn’t have to continue to be my story. Nor does it have to be yours.

When the people of Israel faced the looming annihilation from Pharaoh at the sea, they were told to stand and see the salvation of the Lord. When the disciples were falling apart in the middle of a raging sea, Jesus awoke and questioned their little faith.

It’s so easy, even for the heart devoted to Jesus, to be overwhelmed in the face of very real danger. It’s in those moments we either need others to remind us, or we need to remind ourselves, that Jesus is in the midst of the danger. He’s there in the pillar of fire. He’s there in the boat. He’s there. You’re not alone, and most likely you don’t need to do anything other than be still. He’s still the same God that parts the sea and calms the sea.

“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Our Darling Sin Must Die

The Bible talks a lot about sin. I think that may be one reason some avoid reading it. It’s a mirror into the soul. Before entering the temple or tabernacle, priests or levites would wash in a basin at the entrance. They could see their reflection in the water as their filth wash away before walking through the veil. The word of God is a lot like that. Sometimes referred to as a double edged sword, it cuts deep at our imperfections in order to show us just how much we are in need of grace.

In Romans chapter eight, Paul talks about life in the Spirit. He paints the picture of these two warring powers: the flesh and the spirit. When our minds are set on the flesh, trying to please the flesh, we cannot please God. Sin becomes the dominant force. The sin of pride, lust, coveting, stinginess, selfishness, gossip, people pleasing, deceitfulness, and all the like. These things produce death. They have stench and rottenness that spill over to others and infect them with the like. Sin is idolatry, and it needs to be rooted out and destroyed before it destroys us.

Our darling sin must die. Spare it not for its much crying. Strike, though it be as dear as an Isaac. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon his own Son. With stern unflinching purpose must you condemn to death that sin which was once the idol of your heart. Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin given you in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts, because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end. If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt, as the immediate presence of God.

Charles Spurgeon

Life in Jesus is the only response to our sin. He is the cure and the sanctifier. He leads us towards truth. He gives us a glimpse of our deepest needs and then He fills them. In the presence of Jesus we see our sin all the more clearly and then we see them washed away by the overwhelming love He shows us. As Spurgeon said, our darling sin must die. So lets allow Jesus to remake us and cast the death blow to each and every one.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Provided For

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand appears in all four of the gospel renditions. It had to be an event that all four authors wanted to empathize. No doubt it was a miracle of epic proportions.

In giving the people physical bread, Jesus showed that he was the compassionate provider that his people needed. By doing such a miraculous feet, Jesus showed that nothing was too big for Him to provide. Through this miracle, Jesus fulfilled more than physical needs, he demonstrated the expectation of those looking forward to a new prophet after Moses. Thinking back to the journey from Egypt to promised land, while Moses was their prophet-leader, the Israelites received manna from heaven. Jesus’ provision of bread here parallels the miracle that the Israelites experienced under Moses. The major contrast: Jesus Himself provides the bread.

Jesus can tell us to ask for our daily bread to be provided, because He is the source. And this is much more than an application to our physical needs. Jesus said that “man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the word of God. (Matt 4:4).” Not only is Jesus referred to as the bread of life (John 6:48), but he is also called the word of God become flesh (John 1:1-14). As the Bread and as the Word, Jesus is all we need for life itself both physically and spiritually.

In reading Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus reminds us that God’s care for His creation is steadfast. Flowers are arrayed in beauty and birds and fed. His desire is for us to have all we need as well. He knows how to provide for us. We just need to open up our eyes and hearts to receive it. Not only can Jesus multiply anything to provide for our needs, He may just ask for our basket of bread and fish to multiply for the needs of others.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Don’t Forfeit the Priesthood

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

‬‬ ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭ESV

The Dictionary definition of a priest is one especially consecrated to the service of a divinity and through whom worship, prayer, sacrifice, or other service is offered to the object of worship. He acts as an ambassador, a chosen vehicle through whom Yahweh God has chosen to serve the people and represent Him, on His behalf. It may be hard to think of yourself (if you’re a follower of Jesus) as a priest. For many, a priest is a specific position held within the church. That’s not how Jesus commissioned it. Everyone who claims allegiance to Christ is a member of the royal priesthood. Just quoting the bible like that could have gotten you executed 500 years ago, by none other than church leadership. And that’s because people have distorted and forfeited the priesthood since the beginning.

Here are a few examples from history of forfeited priesthoods:

1-Adam and Eve in the garden. The two were the first ordained priests in God’s created order. However, they took knowledge for themselves rather than relying on God’s wisdom to govern their decisions. The result was sin and exile.

2-Moses at the burning bush and at the rock. He allowed insecurities to keep him from the call of God. Moses argued with God when he first received the mission to return to Egypt. So Aaron became the voice. During the wandering in the desert, at the rock, Moses failed to give God credit for bringing forth water so he lost out on the promised land.

3-Aaron and the golden calf. He allowed the people to sway him rather than trusting in God. He didn’t lead in faithfulness, instead he followed in the peoples unfaithfulness.

4-David with Bathsheba. David was not exactly a priest but he was one who was to reflect the priestly king. However, he allowed his own selfish and lustful desires to cloud his judgement which led him into sin. He and Israel both paid the price for it.

5-The Pharisees as white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. Jesus’ rebuked the Pharisees for failing at leading Israel. They were blind guides, led by their own self promotion and control. Jesus pointed out how they clothes themselves with godliness but inward they were corrupt.

So what does it mean for us as Christians to be a part of a royal priesthood?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16 ESV

We can fill the role of priest through doing good. Good works, while not a means of salvation, do act as a means of demonstrating salvation. Without goodness and kindness, one should definitely question the genuineness of their faith.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16 ESV

We can also be faithful to the priesthood through godly speech. Circumstances don’t dictate a Christians sense of peace. Complaining is what the world does. Speaking hope and love and peace and truth is what followers of Jesus do. Oswald Chambers said that you could measure one’s faith by how content they are. Contentment and complaining cannot coexist.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV

One great way to be a priest, and often overlooked, is through purity. The world is perverted. So much so that purity is a foreign concept. Since our bodies are His temple, we should be very careful how we use it. Imagine getting drunk in God’s temple, or being sexually immoral in God’s temple. It’s un fathomable. We should be looking at ourselves in the same fashion.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

The one overarching thing we can do is to make it all about Jesus. If He is our mission, then our words, actions, and decisions will follow suit.

As a royal priesthood, we should learn the lessons from those who have gone before us. You and I have a holy calling on our lives. Parents are priests of their home. Employees are priests of their workplace. We are all priests in the world. No one can fill your role as priest. Nor should we want that. The world needs to be led and worship. It needs to see people fully surrendered to a higher calling.

Don’t forfeit your calling brothers and sisters!

Withering or full?

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 ESV

When the irritation of others causes irritation in ourselves, we know the connection with the vine isn’t what it should be. We feel and act like withering grapes. I speak from experience. And this applies, obviously, to far more than irritability. When the sin of others causes us to stumble we have left the source of life in Jesus, to steer us on course. When the worldly goals and passions become our own, where is the heart of Jesus? Just as the fruit of the vine cannot receive necessary nutrition from any source other than the vine, so it is with us.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

We were made by Him and for Him. When we live outside the source of our life and purpose, we wither. Fortunately, the vine can restore the most withered of fruits in an instant. There are days when I feel dried up and in a moment, He can speak life and my heart is filled again. Be filled in Christ anew brothers and sisters!

Go in His peace.

How warm?

Last night at church I was really taking stock of my life in terms of my walk of faith. I caught myself going through the motions during the singing portion of the gathering, constantly distracted by my almost three year old son. I was catching most of what the message was but couldn’t stay locked in for the need of baby wipes, cleaning up messes, and making sure my son didn’t break all his colored pencils. It all got me thinking about just how much I’m investing in my relationship with Jesus. I had to ask myself if He was my number one relationship and priority. The journey of self reflection led me back to a study I did a long time ago based on a book by Francis Chan called Crazy Love. In the book, he outlines what the Bible (Jesus specifically) calls a lookwarm believer. Keep in mind, Jesus makes no room for lukewarm faith. He says it’s worse than no faith at all. They are among those who Christ says, “depart from me I never knew you.” It’s not a category I want to be in. And it’s a good jumping off point for a good inward dive into the motivations of our heart. If you’ve never seen the book I’ve included an outline of the main indicators that our faith may not be as genuine as we thought.

A lukewarm believer may…

  • Attend church because they believe it is expected of them. (Isaiah 29:13)
  • Give money only when it doesn’t infringe on their standard of living. (1 Chronicles 21:24)
  • Tend to choose what is popular rather than what is right. (Luke 6:26)
  • Don’t want to be saved from their sin, just saved from the penalty of sin. (Romans 6:1-2)
  • Moved by stories of others doing radical things for Christ yet do not act themselves. (James 1:22)
  • Rarely share their faith with friends, coworkers, and strangers out of failure of rejection. (Matthew 10:32-33)
  • Gauge how “good” they are by not being “as bad” as the rest of the secular world. (Luke 18:11-12)
  • Say they love Jesus but only allow Him to have a part of their life. (Luke 9:57-62)
  • Can’t really say they love God with ALL their hearts, minds, and souls. (Matthew 22:37-38)
  • Love others but do not seek to love them as much as themselves. (Matthew 5:43-47)
  • Serve God and others but place limits on how far they will go. (Luke18:21-25)
  • Think about the temporary, the life here on earth, far more than eternity in heaven. (Colossians 3:2, Phil 3:18-20)
  • Thankful for the luxuries and comforts that God has given them but do not think about giving away as much as they can to the needy. (Matthew 25:40)
  • Try to be “good enough” so that they do not have to feel guilty. (Matthew 13:44-46)
  • Try to play it safe and be in control of their life rather than surrendering it to God. (1 Tim 6:17-18)
  • Feel safe just because they confess their belief in Christ with their mouths even though their actions do not match up. (Matthew 7:21)
  • Structure their life so they don’t have to be in reliance on God. (Luke 12:16-21)Aren’t that different from nonbelievers in speech and in conduct. (Matthew 33:25-28)

Live in Christ…Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

God’s Redemptive Love Part V: Moses

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…

Exodus 3:7-8 NASB

God’s people are in bondage, they cry out for His help, and God provides a way for their freedom…sounds like a pretty good redemption story to me. Not only that but He used a man who (as a baby) was a prime target for Pharaoh’s mass murder but was saved by God and found by Pharaoh’s daughter. In addition, Moses was not the best of speakers (Exodus 4:10) and had fled Egypt years before. This was not what most of us would picture as the primary candidate for a leader. But God uses what the world sees as lowly to do some of the most incredible things. God did not abandon those who loved Him nor did He turn a deaf ear to their cries. Sometimes we just need to rejoice in hope, remain patient in tribulation, and stay devoted to prayer (Romans 12:12), knowing that God will save us one day. God has shown time and time again that He is our freedom from bondage, the one who breaks our chains and places us on high ground. Just as He did not leave the children of Israel to slavery in Egypt, neither will He leave us to the slavery we battle.

Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.

Exodus 3:10 NASB

Today is the Passover. As part of this story, God would use His miraculous power to shock the conscience of the Egyptian people and strike down each of their gods one by one, plague by plague. End the end, God would bring the ultimate consequence for rejecting Him…death. However, anyone who placed their faith in Him, and was covered by the blood on the doorposts, would not experience this last plague. God provided a way of escape from death. He opened the door for faith to be the means by which people are rescued.

This man, Moses, was placed into the story to be a key player in God’s beautiful act of redemption. An act that would be mirrored, only in greater magnitude, many years later when another baby would be rescued from death, to lead a movement, to reveal God to us, to go to a cross, and to provide the blood that never runs out. The act of redemption that never needs to be repeated. This lamb died once and for all to cover, not our doorposts, but our hearts with His sacrifice and save us from wages of sin.

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…

Psalm 40:1-3 NASB

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

The Jar

Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭26:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Days before Jesus would go to the cross, an extravagant act of love would be shown towards Him. The perfume poured out on Jesus’ head in this story was astoundingly precious; made, according to the Gospels of Mark and John, from pure nard, which comes from a plant that only grows in the Himalayas 3,500 miles from Israel.

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.

Matthew 26:6-7 ESV

The value of this gift was an entire year’s wages. It doesn’t matter where we are on the income scale, if we gave away something worth everything we would make in a year, we would feel it. What she did was amazing no matter how we look at it. When the disciples were discussing with Jesus about feeding the 5000 people in the crowd, they stated that it would take about 200 denarii to accomplish this. That’s only 2/3 of the value of this gift! The extravagance is breathtaking. The whole house must have been filled with its fragrance. Jesus’ body may still have been carrying hints of this very scent upon the cross.

And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.

Matthew 26:9-10 ESV

Not everyone is going to appreciate the sacrifices we make for Jesus. Some may even ridicule us. In those moments we have to remind ourselves who and why we’re making the sacrifices in the first place. Sacrificial living is contrary to our fallen human nature. It goes against the self centered cultures of the world. But it’s how Jesus Himself lived. It’s how he beckons His followers to live. What is the most valuable thing I could pour out upon Jesus today, tomorrow, and the rest of my life?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.