Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:4

There you have it. Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast and even be thankful for the weird foods.

Seriously, how blessed we are. There is so much to be thankful for.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

Even in the rough times, we are to be thankful. I think it is a thing of perspective. Either we can focus on the bad things or we can call to mind all of the ways we are incredibly blessed.

Thanksgiving helps us get our eyes off ourselves and back on God.

Here are a few of the things I am thankful for. First, thank you Lord for saving my soul and thank you for continuing to conform me into Your image. I am thankful for my wife and children; what a blessing they are. I am thankful that I have a job and that day-by-day God continues to provide for us. I am thankful for good friends; how irreplaceable they are.

I will rejoice today on Thanksgiving Day and with God's help, I will be thankful every day.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God’s Faithfulness

Thoughts from: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

The only serious mistake we can make when illness comes, when anxiety threatens, when conflict disturbs our relationships with others is to conclude that God has gotten bored looking after us and has shifted his attention to a more exciting Christian, or that God has become disgusted with our meandering obedience and decided to let us fend for ourselves for a while, or that God has gotten too busy fulfilling prophecy in the Middle East to take time now to sort out the complicated mess we have gotten ourselves into. That is the only serious mistake we can make. It is the mistake that Psalm 121 prevents: the mistake of supposing that God’s interest in us waxes and wanes in response to our spiritual temperature.
It’s great that God isn’t like us. He loves us, is committed to us and doesn’t give up on us. It’s so easy to judge Him through our eyes. We think He will treat us as we treat others.

He knows I am a sheep. I follow but I also wander. I forget lessons I’ve learned and have to travel the path again. And there He is right beside me – a true friend. He seems to be enjoying the journey. He doesn’t point out that I should have already learned this lesson or should have gotten beyond this behavior a long time ago.

The greatest thing is that He is changing me bit by bit. Someday I will be like Him. Someday He will see Himself in me. But that’s not today.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

ilumina Mobile

I love the ilumina Mobile on my Palm. It’s not really a Bible itself but an overlay on top of a set of Bibles and other study tools. It came from Olive Tree.

One of the things I like most is that it adds a set of tabs to the bottom of the existing Bible reader program. This makes switching through Bibles, commentaries, cross references, Life Application study notes and dictionaries so simple. It also adds some nice tap and hold features for looking up words, adding bookmarks, searches, overviews and introductions.

As I’m doing Bible study I find myself using the ilumina features to easily navigate from source to source. It’s easy to go much deeper than I planned to – and that is a good thing.

Here is some of what comes in the ilumina mobile package. Either the NIV or ESV, the New Living Translation, and the King James. There is a Bible reading schedule, two commentaries, Life Application Notes (which are so practical), overviews of each book, introductions to each book, an encyclopedia / dictionary, cross references, a verse finder where you can look up verses by subject, 66 maps and a whole multimedia section with animations, videos and 400 photos.

If I didn’t have any of the other Olive Tree programs, this package alone would be an awesome resource. It has all the tools you need for serious study. They work well together and are easily accessible. What would take up a shelf on the bookcase at home can be carried in the palm of your hand.

If you want more detail on ilumina mobile, check out Olive Tree’s page that gives screenshots and a walk-through.
ilumina Mobile


Friday, November 14, 2008

Take Him to the Streets

I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap, at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek . . . at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. That is where He died. And that is what He died about. And that is what churchmen should be about and that is where churchmen should be.

-Ian Thomas

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bear a Burden

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:1-5
I have been thinking of this section of Scripture for a week or so. There is a lot of stuff packed into it.

If anyone is caught in a transgression…. Interesting language here, it doesn’t mean someone was busted and it’s not talking of someone premeditating sin. Here’s what it means – to be surprised by, invaded, taken before he is aware, seized without warning. My brother has been captured and he needs help. He can’t get free by himself. If I’m spiritual I need to help him. If I’m weak I better stay away so I don’t get caught up in it myself. I must keep an eye on myself so that doesn’t happen. If I help him, he needs gentleness. I need to help bear his burden, help him get untangled and not put more weight on his back.

A second part is directed to the person who has some arrogance in their attitude. The person who thinks he is something. Have you ever been “helped” by someone like that? They are so spiritual and so disappointed in your weakness. Here is what the People’s New Testament Commentary says: Instead of commenting upon the weaknesses of others, let him test his own work. If his work stands the test, there he can rejoice in it alone, not because he is superior to another. If we honestly examine ourselves, we will see we have little room to look down our nose at others. We have failures too.

The last part is an exhortation that there is a load that each of us must bear alone. Here is what Vincent’s Word Studies says: Paul means, no one will have occasion to claim moral superiority to his neighbor, for each man's self-examination will reveal infirmities enough of his own, even though they may not be the same as those of his neighbor. His own burdens will absorb his whole attention, and will leave him no time to compare himself with others.

It can be hard to bear the burden of others. It’s easy to be discouraged with their progress. Many times we think they should be moving along quicker than they are. God in His perfection could look at all of us that way but He doesn’t. He continues to provide encouragement and power to overcome.

Another lesson is that we need each other. Sometimes God won’t let me be victorious by myself. He wants me to be connected with my brothers as we learn to help and receive help. That’s the kind of community we need.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Message Bible

Eugene Peterson paraphrased The Message Bible. I became a fan of his recently while reading a book he wrote called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I really liked the perspective he gives on discipleship and spiritual growth.

My wife has been a fan of The Message for some time. She brings it to our Wednesday night Bible study and people enjoy hearing verses in a different form than we are used to.

Author and speaker Lisa Bevere had this to say about The Message:

So many of us have been Christians for so long that when we read the Bible, we read a sentence and we know what the next sentence is going to say because we have been reading it for so long. So you kind of become accustomed or familiar with what you are reading. So I began to read The Message Bible during my times of devotion.
I can really identify with that perspective. I know that many times, in devotional reading, I zoom through passages because I am too familiar with them. The Message is different enough from regular translations that it helps you to slow down and think about what you are reading.

The Message is not the only Bible you want to have. It is a paraphrase and is not what you would use for study but it sure shakes up the daily reading.

I’m thankful to Olive Tree for making The Message available for my PDA. That way if I want to read from it, it is available but I also have my ESV or NASB. No matter where I am, I have what I need for Bible study or devotions.

Here are a few common passages from The Message:

John 3:16 This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

Philippians 4:6 Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

Gal 5:19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

Here is the New American Standard and The Message:


Different isn't it. As I said, it's not a literal translation and I have found some places where literary license was taken a little too far. That said, I have no problem recommending this paraphrase as it gives a freshness to devotional reading.


Olive Tree
The Message Bible

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Results

I write this late on election night but I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. All I know is that we will have a new president elect, many new office holders and a bunch of other issues will be decided.

I have prayed for this election for many months. I pray for certain candidates but I have a constant prayer when I pray for government. It comes from Proverbs 21:1, The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. God is bigger than all of this and He works in the affairs of men.

I have heard many people express fear and near panic as they worry what will happen if Obama becomes president. On the other hand, I know many “Christians” have expressed that they will vote for him. They trade their birthright for a bowl of stew. They trade something they think they will get from Obama for the lives of unborn children. Obama has promised that his first act will be to wipe away all protections for unborn children – at least the ones scheduled for abortion. How could someone claim to be a follower of God and accept such a bargain?

But the point of this writing is to put God in perspective. An election will not thwart His plans. He’s bigger than that.

I have prayed for mercy for this country even though we deserve judgment. I pray for mercy for unborn children and born children whose innocence will be stolen by those who seek to corrupt them and undermine their parent’s influence.

So, God may be merciful or maybe this country will get a taste of judgment. Maybe we need to feel the grinding of the wicked man’s boot on our neck. This would be appropriate is we are willing to trade children’s lives for our own perceived peace and prosperity.

I encourage you to focus on God and not man. If we wake up tomorrow morning to a new, darker world, then look beyond to a God who turns the heart of the king. He can turn an Obama wherever He wants. And that turning may depend on his people. Will God hold back wickedness or will he use it as chastisement?

I close with these words from Jesus, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 Draw close to Jesus and you will have a peace that passes all understanding. Fear God and not man.

In the service of King Jesus,


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Provoke Your Brother

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:24

I came across this verse in my morning reading yesterday. The more I looked at the verse and the words in it, the more fascinated I became with it.

Provoke or stimulate (NASB) is such a loaded word in Greek. In it’s other New Testament usage, in Acts 15: 39, it refers to a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas.

A good translation of the word is incite, irritate or push to rage. It is not a safe, churchy word.

Another word in the verse is consider. As a subjunctive verb, this is something we should do. We need to observe, contemplate, look closely, think about and discover through observation. It denotes attentive, continuous care.

What I see in this is that I shouldn’t be preoccupied with myself but should spend a huge amount of time considering how I can motivate my brothers to love and good deeds.

So what’s required in provoking or stimulating? Here is the verse from The Message: Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out. Or, how about this in the Amplified: And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.

How do I incite my brother? I don’t think the goal is to put someone down or cause an argument. We study them and the situation and come up with the best way to motivate them. It may be accomplished by a few soft words of encouragement or it may require getting in their face.

It requires checking our own heart as well. Is my action motivated by love and care or do I enjoy acting superior to others and being the local Sheriff?

I also need to be ready to receive from others who are considering how to provoke me. This give and take between brothers will lead to healthy vibrant lives demonstrating the power of redemption.


Saturday, November 1, 2008


These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

In my morning reading, I came across this verse. I have read it many times before but this time it jumped out at me.

I want joy! I want to be full of joy. I bet that would make it easier to live with me.

So what are these things that Jesus referred to? It all starts in John 15:1.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:1-11
Here is what I get from it.

  • I’m a branch. I need to receive nourishment from God. I don’t have it in myself.
  • He will prune me for fruit bearing. He will cut away stuff that inhibits growth of the fruit of the Spirit.
  • As I abide in Him and His word abides in me, I will experience answered prayer.
  • As I bear fruit, it will bring glory to God.
  • Abiding in Him enables me to keep His commandments.
  • The result of this is complete joy.

Dear Lord, thank you for the amazing work you are doing in me. Help me to receive your work in my life. May you be glorified through me.