Are You Naked?

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (NIV)

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,  because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

I have been working on getting in shape recently.  Over that last eight months I have lost about 35 pounds.  Five days a week I hit the gym, lift weights and do a lot of cardio work.  I can see the change.  However, the changes I am making are still temporary.  If I stop working out, without changing my eating habits, the weight will return.  If I stop lifting weights, over time my muscles will begin to lose their tone.

I am also over fifty.  When I turned 40 something began to change.  The excellent vision that allowed me to read street signs from a considerable distance or read the small print, suddenly did not cooperate.  Over time I needed to wear reading glasses.  Today, I wear prescription lens.  On top of that, my joints began to have some pain.  With age, I was beginning to wear out! 

Paul, the author of the letter to the Corinthians, did not have an easy life as a Christian.  The man who used to persecute Christians now suffered for his faith in Christ.  As he said just a few verses earlier, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Paul saw the bigger picture and he wanted the Corinthians to share his perspective.  What we experience in this life is only  temporary.  Continue reading

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Forgiven; Walking in the Light

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Of the verses above probably the most quoted is verse nine, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  It is a great verse.  At face value there is a simple formula; confession equals forgiveness.  However the context, as always, is critical.  The formula is valid, yet the genesis of forgiveness is a recognition of sin.

Many years ago a pastor friend of mine encouraged me to play golf with a member of his congregation who had a lot of influence.  Although the man was not on any leadership boards, he was seen as a strong Christian with a strong knowledge of the Bible.  Four and a half hours of golf with someone is very revealing.  At first, we shared a lot of small talk getting to know each other.  He shared with me his religious convictions and where he felt the “church” was making mistakes.  He told me about the ways he helped others.  Continue reading

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Do you know where you are going?

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

As I think about my life I can see God’s fingerprints all over.  I was living life without much of a thought about God.  God was thinking about me.  I had a career plan in mind, God had a better plan.  I could go through a litany of events and show how God stepped in or changed my direction.   Never to my detriment. God always had something better in mind.

Do you know where you are going?  Are you planning out every step you will take?  Do you have your retirement plan all worked out?  When I was a teenager I worked for a farmer who lived near us.  He was in his sixties and was one of the hardest workers I have ever seen.  He used to tell me that someday he and his wife were going to travel and see the world.  His wife died long before he could fulfill that goal.

We would love to control every aspect of our lives.  The fact of the matter is we don’t.  The God who created life, watches over his creation.  He is ever taking steps to call us to himself.  He will never take us down a wrong path if we learn to listen to his voice and his prompting.  Sure we’ll make mistakes, but God is always there to get us back on track.  Go ahead and make plans.  Save for retirement.  Plan a trip.  However, recognize that there will likely be some unexpected detours.  That will be the time to remember that God is in control. 

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Wake Up!

Luke 9:28-32 (NIV)

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.  Two men, Moses and Elijah,  appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.  Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

What an amazing event.  Jesus appearance is transformed right before the eyes of Peter, John and James.  His clothes shined as bright as a flash of lightning.  Two major figures from Israel’s past, Moses and Elijah, appear and converse with Jesus about future events.  This was big.

In the midst of all of this we learn that the attending disciples didn’t really grasp it all, until they were fully awake.  That really stands out to me.  I just cannot image witnessing this amazing miracle without my heart beating faster and my eyes wide open.  Yes, they were sleepy, but for a few moments they saw what others would (literally) die to see and hear.

Perhaps they forgot Peter’s words to Jesus a little more than a week earlier, “you are the Christ, the son of the Living God.”  Perhaps hanging with Jesus all the time took away some of the luster.  Maybe Jesus their teacher was becoming more their friend than their Messiah. 

Sadly, the disciples are not alone.  We all tend to be sleepy when it comes to recognizing God at work in our lives.  We worship on Sunday and then live the rest of the week missing HIS glory.  We need to wake up.  Yes, what a friend we have in Jesus, however, we also need to remember, what an awesome God we serve

Let’s make sure we stay alert, let’s stay awake and watch what God is doing in our lives and in the world.  It’s transforming!

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First Love

Revelation 2:2-4 (NIV)

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

I have been married for 36 years.  I married my high school sweetheart.  In all we have been together about 40 years.  Marriage is not always easy.  It’s not always easy to keep the relationship fresh.  Over the years we can allow our familiarity with each other to take away the spark.  We can forget the things that drew us together.  It is important to keep it fresh.  It is important to remember why you fell in love in the first place. 

The same thing can happen with our relationship with Christ.  Do you remember the day you turned to Jesus Christ in faith?   If you were like me, there was an incredible sense of joy.  I found myself wanting to read the bible.  I looked for reasons to go to church.  I remember calling the church on a Friday night to see if there were any ministry activities taking place.  I told friends about the change in my life.  I told my wife (not yet a believer at the time) about the things I felt God was changing in my life.  Those were exciting days!

The problem is we can get into a routine and lose the dynamic that once added the excitement. It happens in a marriage.  Spouses forget to keep the courtship going.  Routine replaces excitement.  We forget our first love.

The Scriptures are filled with a call to remember.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Deuteronomy 5:15).   Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years (Deuteronomy 8:2). These are just a small sample of the over one hundred calls to “remember.”

If you find yourself forgetting your first love; if  you are forgetting the excitement you felt when the Holy Spirit first touched your life, then it is time to remember.  Don’t forget your first love.  Think about the reasons you were drawn to God’s grace.  Think about the relief you felt when you knew your sins were forgiven.  This about the love God has for you.  All your good works and efforts, all your endurance when confronted with hardships, don’t amount to anything without love.  Take some time today to remember.

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Giving to God

Matthew 22:15-22 (NIV)

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius,  and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”  “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

The Pharisees were always looking for ways to trap Jesus with his own words.  They tried to get him to say something contrary to how they interpreted God’s word.  Satan tried to use God’s word to trap Jesus as well.  Matthew chapter four chronicles his attempt.  With each quote of the Scripture to try to change Jesus’ course, Jesus quoted Scripture to provide the correct context or understanding. A good reminder that Scripture is always the best commentary on itself.

In the text above the Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to get Jesus to reject paying taxes.  Thinking Jesus was susceptible to vanity their disciples started the conversation with an attempt to “force” the answer they wanted. “We know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”  Continue reading

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What Can You Imagine?

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The mind is incredibly.  With our minds we can imagine amazing things. We can envision ourselves in the future.  We can recall our past.  We can plan. We can organize.  We can imagine big things.  What can you imagine? 

Paul told the Ephesians that God could do more then they could ask for or even imagine.  Nothing is too big or too small for God.  He cares about us and has taken action to amaze all who put their trust in him. 

What really amazes me is how God “does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.”  Paul said God works “according to his power that IS at work within us.”  God’s power should be evident in all those who have turned to him in faith.  The power of the Holy Spirit was promised and delivered when Christ ascended into heaven.  We release that power when we keep God first in our lives.

Struggling with sin?  Focus on Christ in your life and watch temptation go away.  Are you praying that God will touch people you love with his grace?  When we honor God and keep him first, we allow his grace to be reflected  in our lives.  When God’s grace is reflected in our lives, others see the living Gospel.  Lives are changed!   Prayers are answered.  God can do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine.  It starts when you allow God to work within you.  You have the power of Christ within.  Let it show.  

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Shema – LISTEN!

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

These verses are key in Judaism.  The “Shema” draws from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 (click here for details) and expresses faith in the One Almighty God.  After forty years of wandering, Moses taught a new generation about the Lord who brought them out of Egypt.  He told them about the mighty works of God to free Israel from bondage in Egypt.  He expounded on the commandments received on Mt. Sinai and finally he told them about the blessings that come from living for God as well as the consequences that come when we stray.  

In the midst of Moses’ “sermon,” after enumerating the original commands (Deuteronomy 5) Moses declares, “Hear, Oh Israel.”  What follows were the words Moses did not want Israel to never forget.  It was kind of like me saying during a sermon, “if you get nothing else out of the message, get this!” 

The key message? Love God, Know God, Remember God.  If we could capture the passion of the message it would change the way we live.  If we loved God, “all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] strength” it would show in everything we do.  It would be more than a Sunday kind of love.  It would be an everyday, every way kind of love. Continue reading

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