Tag Archives: Bible

My Theme for 2016

I abandoned the notion of the New Year’s Resolution several years ago, and 2016 is no exception. But as I sit here in the wee hours of the first morning of the new year, having been awakened by a squeaky dryer and a yearning for a good cup of coffee, two things come to mind that I choose to set as my theme for this year. One is a passage from Scripture and the other is a quote from a well known country & western singer.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 NASB

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ~ Brad Paisley

What does a Micah 6:8 man look like? And how can I make Micah 6:8 the overriding theme of my 2016 book?

God says through the prophet Micah that He requires three things of me:

  1. IMG_3045

    Memorial Lutheran Church, Katy TX

    To do justice. When I think of justice, I think of fairness. I think of treating others as I would like them to treat me. While these things are true, justice is a far weightier concept than that. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23) As leaders in the synagogue, the Pharisees were often more concerned with how others perceived their practice of religion rather than leading their congregation to a broader understanding of God. They elevated themselves above those whom God had called them to minister. Justice here puts each of us on an even plane. Yes, I am to practice the disciplines of my faith, not to glorify myself but to align myself more closely with God. At the same time, I must seek to serve and minister to others in whatever way and by whatever means God calls me. The Bible says that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). A Micah 6:8 man never seeks to elevate himself above those around him – in church, in his family, at work – anywhere, any time.

  2. To love kindness. Jesus also said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) How do I want others to treat me? I bet we all want pretty much the same things: to be treated with dignity and respect under any and all situations and circumstances. What would this world look like if each of us put these words of our Lord into practice? What would it look like if each of us actively sought to help meet the needs of others as they seek to help us meet ours? If each of us sought to live our lives under this mandate of Jesus’, kindness would abound. Isn’t it worth a shot?
  3. To walk humbly with your God. The Pharisees, seeking to trap Jesus, asked Him what is the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Notice who these two greatest commandments are NOT about: they’re not about me. They are about Him and His creation. Even the Ten Commandments reflect this, as the first four address our relationship with God and the last six address our relationship with others – our neighbors. A lifestyle of walking humbly with my God demonstrates a focus on Him and the people He has placed into my life. It does not seek a position of superiority over either.

IMG_3046As I look back over the pathway of my life thus far, I am thankful that God has chosen to gift me with a vibrant and an ever-growing faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I look forward to continuing that journey with Him during 2016 as He wills. For my part, I will seek to be in His Word daily, converse with Him through daily prayer and meditation, worship with fellow Christians each Sunday, and seek to live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of my life. 2016 is a leap year, thus we all have an extra page to write in this brand new, clean book we’ve been given. With God’s help, my 2016 book will be pleasing to Him and to those around me.

Happy New Year!

20/20 Hindsight ~ John 2:18-25

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Clarity sometimes comes long after events have unfolded. In the heat of the moment, we’re in the moment and, thus, God’s purpose for the moment can be somewhat elusive to us at the time. Once we are removed from the situation and take the opportunity to look back and ponder it, we begin to understand the gravity of the events we witnessed. We may even feel a bit foolish for having missed the real meaning until later, stating that the clarity offered by hindsight makes the gravity of the moment obvious. “How did I miss that?” we ask. Such is the limitation of the human mind, limited in scope and bound by the passage of time.

Jesus had just cleared the vendors and money changers from the temple courts, and with that, potential temple revenue had been thrown out with them. The Jews in charge asked Him to show a sign proving that He had the authority to take such action. Jesus replied, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (2:19) Standing in the temple court and looking at the temple structure, it’s easy for me to understand why these men, and presumably Jesus’ disciples, took him literally, chiding Him that it took 46 years to build this structure; no way could Jesus destroy it and rebuild it in three days.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:21-22)

Fast-forward a few years. Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead. The victory had been won. I can almost picture His disciples sitting around a table reminiscing about all of the things Jesus said and did. And I can almost see the disciples collectively slap their foreheads as the Holy Spirit revealed the gravity of this moment to them. “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (verse 21). “Aha!” They didn’t get it at the time, but it makes so much sense now! The Jews destroyed this Temple, and on the third day He made His point abundantly clear as He rose from the dead and appeared in triumph to His disciples and to many others. Sin and death were defeated once and for all. It was time to spread the word.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Friends, we weren’t there to witness the words and deeds of Jesus when He came to earth. But God has given us an amazing gift in His Holy Word. By reading and studying the Bible, we in essence are tapping into hindsight. We can sit in the comfort of our homes and in the pews of our churches and read the words inspired by God and recorded by the likes of Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James – every section and every book of the Bible is about one Man. It is about God’s relationship with us and the redemptive gift He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Scripture in its entirety points straight to our Savior! The more we read and the more we study, we too will slap our foreheads and yell, “Aha!” as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to bring us closer to Him.

I’ll share a secret. I’m glad people read my blog, and I am overjoyed when they glean some nugget of wisdom or inspiration from something I’ve written. But the real reason I write my blog is completely selfish: it is the tool by which I read, ponder, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. God’s Word is an amazing gift. When is the last time you picked it up?

Ponder this: Is any section of the Bible more relevant today than other sections of the Bible? Some would answer, “yes.” I answer with a resounding “No!” Read it. Read all of it. Read it in an attitude of prayer and longing. And be prepared to slap your forehead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Your Son, and thank you for revealing Yourself through Scripture. Bless my study and grant me the wisdom to discern and understand Your eternal, unchanging, and universally true message to Your creation through Your Holy Word. Help me to take what I learn and become salt and light to this dark world. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Need a New Year’s Resolution?

Are you looking for a New Year’s Resolution that takes relatively little effort but will change your life?

On January 1, 2014 I embarked on a 365-day plan to read the entire Bible in one year. Tomorrow I tackle day 365 as I read the closing chapters of the Old and New Testaments.

To be honest, I embarked on this quest because I wanted to be one of those believers who could say they’ve read through the entire Bible. I suppose that sounds a bit self-serving, but God did give us His Word with the intention that we read it. My journey through the Bible during 2014 was not a scholarly read; it was a casual, relaxing “read-through” using the paraphrased New Living Translation via the YouVersion Bible App on my Kindle Fire. Some of my clergy brethren may cringe at that, but before you cringe, I’d like to share three blessings I’ve gained from having completed this journey.

  1. God has given me an invigorated love for Him and His Word. I see now, for myself, that the Old and New Testaments are completely intertwined. The Bible is not two books set together within one binding; it is The Book – God’s revelation of Himself to His people. The entire Bible is about The Word Made Flesh, Jesus the Christ. Even through this casual “read-through” I see that so clearly. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” ~ John 1:1-2
  2. God has given me an enhanced appreciation for my salvation by reminding me of sin’s evil nature and God’s just and right reaction to sin. Truly, there are passages that are difficult to read from a purely human standpoint. As I read many of the writings about sin and the results of sin I saw myself, and at times that was somewhat disturbing. Even as I saw myself separated from God by a chasm of sin, I was reminded every day that God doesn’t leave us hanging – out of His love for us He rescued all who believe in Jesus from the just punishment we all deserve. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” ~ Romans 3:23-24
  3. God has led me to love and appreciate His sovereignty. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. Take note of today’s current events, scroll through Facebook or Twitter; note the content of the entertainment we consume through movies, TV, music, and electronic games. Notice how some Christian churches are celebrating sinful lifestyles as they embrace the notion that these lifestyles are natural and pleasing to God. Take note of these things and you might come away with the notion that God is irrelevant; He is losing the battle and He no longer reigns. No! Thank God for His sovereignty, for although the battle is raging it is already won! “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM “; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” ~ Exodus 3:13-14

To complete my journey through God’s Word, I used one of the reading plans on the YouVersion Bible app on my Kindle. The app is free and includes a plethora of Bible reading and study plans. Don’t have a Kindle? That’s OK – there are several 365-day Bibles available in print at your local Christian bookstore.

Completing this journey required only about 15 minutes of time each day. In exchange for those 15 minutes a day, God gave me some incredible blessings.

How about you? Are you seeking a resolution for 2015 that will truly change your life? Why not consider joining me as I embark on the journey again? Open your mind and your heart to God’s Word. I’m convinced that you, too, will be richly blessed.

Happy New Year!

What Do You Want for Christmas?

What do you want for Christmas? I bet if I had $1 for every time I’ve been asked that question through the course of my life I would be a wealthy man! But in all seriousness, this is a question that each of us should ponder during this season of Advent. What do you want for Christmas?

As a young boy growing up in Minnesota I never had any difficulty answering that question. One year it was a 10-speed bike and another it was a new parka. In middle school I wanted corduroys and silk shirts. After moving to Texas at age 15 I became enamored with our Western heritage and I wanted a new Resistol cowboy hat and ostrich skin boots. My wants turned more practical as I grew into adulthood – money to keep my car running, clothes for work, coffee makers and kitchen items. Now, here I sit at age 53. What do I want for Christmas?

The gift I want the most is not available in any store. It cannot be purchased online. In fact, there is no dollar amount sufficient to purchase what I want for Christmas.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” ~ Luke 2:8-14

God has already given me a gift that carries more value than any human could possibly measure: He has given me saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I want my family to know Him as I know Him. I want them to grow in faith and walk with the Lord along the path of sanctification.

But it doesn’t stop there. You see, the evidence of sin is all around us. Watch the news. Watch almost any television show or Hollywood movie. Listen to the songs on the Top 40 lists of just about every genre of music. Thumb through many of the novels on the NY Times bestseller list. Observe what goes on around you. Our world, and our very American society, suffers from a sin sickness for which there is only one cure. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Fortunately, God loves us so much that He sent His Son into this broken and fallen world to save us from the eternal consequences of our sin. It is the birth of His Son that we celebrate at Christmastide.

What do I want for Christmas? I want to be equipped to be salt and light to all with whom I come into contact. I want to be an effective witness for my Lord and Savior whenever and wherever God provides the opportunity. The world needs to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. God willing, I will have a role in sharing it.

How about you? What do you want for Christmas?

False Prophets; Then & Now

Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’ ” So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month. ~ Jeremiah 28:15-17

The notion of false prophets and teachers is nothing new. Such people are tools of the devil, intended to distract God’s people from the truth as revealed in His Word.

Here, a prophet named Hananiah prophesies in the temple that within two years God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, returning the articles of the temple along with the Judean rulers who had been taken into exile. This, of course, contradicts God’s words through Jeremiah. Jeremiah reminds the crowd that many before him, and Jeremiah himself, have prophesied war, disaster and plague. The one who prophesies peace, as Hananiah has done, “will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (28:9). Hananiah continues to argue his point, and Jeremiah tells him that the Lord has not sent him, he is persuading the people to believe lies, and that the Lord is about to remove him from the face of the earth. Jeremiah’s prophecy comes true seven months later when the false prophet dies.

In Jeremiah’s time false prophets like Hananiah misled God’s people as they defied the Word of God and instead told the people what they wanted to hear. Sadly, this continues today as many modern-day churches are whittling away at the truth of God’s Word as they bend to the whimsies of human thought and wisdom. Supporters call this “enlightenment”; in reality it is embracing darkness.

God has revealed His eternal truth through His Holy Word – the Bible. His Word is as relevant and true today as it has ever been, and it will remain relevant and true for all eternity. I take great comfort in that fact. It is a beautiful thing to serve the sovereign God, for through Him the work of redemption has been completed. Rather than reject His Word and sit at the feet of modern day false teachers, let us stand firmly upon it as we share the good news of the Gospel with those who are unsaved.

Ponder this: I recently heard a preacher say, “If you tell me you don’t agree with a particular passage of Scripture, I’ll simply tell you ‘you’re wrong, God’s right’ and direct you to reconsider your position.” He was speaking to his congregation, a group of believers, of God’s sovereignty and the eternal truth of His Word. That is what standing on God’s Truth looks like! Society cringes at the phrase “you’re wrong”, but in the context of a human being supplanting God’s word with his own personal opinion it is entirely appropriate. We believers are to hold one another accountable as we seek accountability from one another. Through such accountability offered in the spirit of Christian love, we help one another stay true to God’s Word as the enemy seeks to turn our heads.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You are the one true God, sovereign over all Your creation. I pray that you would keep me focused on Your Word, and that you would bring Christians into my life to hold me accountable for anything I might say or write that is not fully aligned with You. Help me to deal with all I meet with an attitude of Christian love, that You would be glorified through my words and actions. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

The Treasure of God’s Word

Are you a Christian who believes that the Old Testament has nothing to offer we Christians in these modern times?

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:27

Soon after His resurrection, Jesus joined two of His followers as they walked along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were kept from recognizing Him. Jesus asked them what they were discussing along the way, and they described the recent events concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and reported resurrection. They expressed their disappointment that Jesus of Nazareth apparently was not the Messiah as they had come to expect.

Jesus then opened the Scriptures to them, explaining the prophesies of the Old Testament that point straight to the Messiah. Later, as they dined together, Jesus broke bread and their eyes were opened; they recognized their risen Lord and Savior!

God reveals Himself to us in many ways. We look at the wonder of creation and see His handiwork all around us. We see Him in the faith and sacrifice of those Christians who have gone before us. God reveals Himself to us in His Holy Word – the Bible.

I’m always amazed when somebody claims that the Bible is nothing more than an elaborate hoax on humanity. Some claim that it is all made up, and that we believers are fools for believing it. They claim that it is out of step with modern-day humanity; that it was useful before, but no longer useful in this so-called evolved and intelligent society. They accuse those of us who believe God’s word of wallowing in fantasy. Such thought, my friends, is the work of the devil himself.

Many modern day believers set themselves up to fall into this trap by ignoring God’s Word, or by only studying portions of it. When we Christians limit our study of Scripture, we do not partake of God’s full revelation of Himself and we open ourselves up to buying into the hoax. As I read God’s Word, the majesty of who He is springs forth from the pages. As I read Old Testament prophesy and New Testament revelation, I see a more complete picture of God and I realize that those proffering the hoax theory are the fools.

In this passage, Jesus intentionally keeps His companions from recognizing Him so that He would have the opportunity to relate Scriptures to Himself – to alleviate their doubts, from God’s Word, that Jesus is the Messiah. Later, when He opened their eyes over dinner, the full picture of Jesus became crystal clear to them and they were ready to share the good news.

Christian, if you are not studying God’s Word in its entirety, you are missing out on God’s gift of revelation to His people. It’s not too late. On January 1, I began a one-year Bible reading plan. Each morning I read passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as Psalms and Proverbs. The reading plan is sequential – I am in the Old Testament book of Judges and the New Testament book of Luke as I write this. And, already, my understanding and awe of my Lord and my God is rapidly growing. As He reveals Himself to me in this Treasure of His Word, my faith is growing stronger as well. Bible reading plans don’t have to start on January 1 – won’t you join me?

For the complete account of Jesus’ encounter with His followers along the road to Emmaus, read Luke 24:13-35.

It All Starts Here

It hit me like a ton of bricks as I read my Bible this morning. This passage beautifully states the foundation of all that I know to be true:

Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. ~ Psalms 90:2

This reality puts my life into proper context, even as my heart breaks for this lost world. You see, man seeks to understand the foundation and purpose of our existence, and in doing so has concocted many theories and false gods to try and explain the basics of who we are and why we’re here. Since man’s reasoning is not perfect, man cannot discern the truth on his own, so we adopt beliefs with no true foundation, even going so far as to say that what is true for you is true and what is true for me is true, even if those so-called truths conflict. What a sad state of affairs!

We cannot come to an understanding of our purpose for existence until we understand who God is. God is the sovereign creator of all things – including man. He is not made; He was not born; He was not created. God is not constrained by time; He is eternal. He is holy. He is just. God is God. How do I know this is true? God says so, in His Word. Yes, it’s that simple.

What freedom this knowledge gives! I serve the Creator of all things, the sovereign God Almighty! Praise His Holy name! Standing upon this foundational truth, I go back into His Word and learn about His amazing love for each and every one of us. God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation, points to one Person: Jesus Christ.

Has it been awhile since you’ve read your Bible? Open it today. God is waiting patiently to reveal Himself to you.

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