Archive for July, 2018

A Tough Assignment (Ezekiel 2)

July 31, 2018

Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. Ezekiel 2:6b-7

This morning I awoke once again to the reality of another day in a world which seems to pushing itself toward destruction and chaos. There seems to be disorder on every continent in the world.

As I sit here at my desk and as you read this blog it would be easy for us to simply ignore what is happening around us.  We could, if we wanted to, to simply go about our day trying to keep the world at arm’s length.

However, we know this is wrong because God has called us to rescue the perishing.  This is our assignment in the twenty-first century.  However, we know it is not an easy assignment.

In Ezekiel two we are reminded of the toughness of this same assignment in his day.  This prophet of God was called to be God’s prophet in the days of the exile of God’s people.  His assignment was tough for no less than two reasons:

  • He was to be a voice to rebellious  people.

God describes these people as transgressors, impudent, stubborn, and anti-God.

  • He was to be a voice to people who were resistant.

These were people who were resistant.

One thing for sure, the people would know there was prophet in their midst.  In our day it needs to be the same.  We should want our world to know we are the salt and light of Jesus in our day (Matthew 5:13-16).

Our assignment is tough but it is so doable if we follow God’s directions to the prophet:

  • We are to obey His commands.  We are we to minister and who are we to minister to?
  • We are to embrace His Word.  We are to daily take in what He gives us and we are to make it a part of who we are.
  • We are to speak His Word.

I want to challenge you to go to the world today with an obedent heart that embraces His Word with a desire to share His Word.

 

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What is “Like a Child?” (Matt. 19:13-15; Luke 18)

July 30, 2018

17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Luke 18:17

For the last two weeks I have been with children ages 10 through 25.  Plus I was always on the weekends with children between the ages of 1 and 85.  Now, I know what you are thinking, pastor must be on jet lag from the mission trip to Romania.

You are correct, I am feeling a little jet lag.  But I am correct in what I am writing.  I am simply applying Jesus teaching in the text before us.

Jesus compares the heart attitude of a child to the heart attitude of anyone who receives Jesus as Savior and Lord, i.e. “receiving the Kingdom of God.”

Here are three observations about Jesus teaching:

  • A child freely trusts the one who is speaking.  Jesus calls the child and he or she comes.  Romans 10:13 “whoever calls on the name the Lord shall be saved.”
  • A child freely receives what is being taught.  Acts 16:31 “believe on the Lord Jesus and though shall be saved.”
  • A child freely obeys what is being commanded.  Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God.”

I truly hope you get Jesus teaching.   Many in our day totally miss this.

Salvation cannot be achieved by effort, intellect, or by sacrifice.  Salvation can only be received by a true childlike heart of faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

So, have you received Jesus as a child?  Do you still serve Him with a child-like heart?

Father, I am your child.  Thank you for saving me through Jesus Christ alone!!!

I would like to take this time to thank Beth for writing the blog for the last two weeks.  All of us were challenged by her Spirit-filled writing. We were greatly encouraged to be more like Jesus.  Until next time, pray for Beth as she begins her new career as a missionary in inner city schools in Lynchburg Va.

I also want to thank everyone who faithfully prayed for us while we were in Romania.  The Spirit moved powerfully as over 200 children received Christ as Lord and Savior.

 

Be gentle and respectful. (1 Peter 3)

July 27, 2018

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)

This is more than likely a well known verse for the majority of you reading. This verse is often quoted as the Bible’s primary case for apologetics. This verse encourages Christians to constantly be aware and ready to provide an explanation for their faith. This verse encourages believers to be ready and willing to answer any questions one may have about their faith and beliefs. This verse also alludes that to know God is to also be passionate and committed to seeing Christian truth accessible to the the rest of the world. 

I really enjoy apologetics. However, I have often noticed that apologetic discussions can turn hostile and unfriendly. Without meaning it, people often are disrespectful and mean to one another as each individual argues for their belief. What is interesting about this verse (which again is the primary support for why Christian apologetics is so important) is that it provides HOW one should be speaking/defending/etc. Look at the last few words of verse 15: yet do it with gentleness and respectI often quote this verse for the purpose of reminding myself or others of our responsibility to be giving an answer for the faith and beliefs we have. However, I rarely remember that this verse ends with the instructions of providing my answer with gentleness and respect. 

Today, I am reminded of remaining gentle and respectful in my speech. I am reminded that my witness for Christ is not just in WHAT I say, but also HOW I say it. I am praying that you and I would be known for our passionate telling of truth, but also our gracious and respectful demeanors. 

It has been such a privilege to guest blog for my Dad again this year! Please pray for the team as they are still traveling home. There were some complications with flights today, so please pray that all the remaining flights go smoothly.

(Song of Solomon 5-8)

July 26, 2018

Today’s reading, again, was in Song of Solomon. As I mentioned yesterday, it is rare to hear a pastor preach a sermon series through this Old Testament book. In addition, when I scan my local Christian Bookstore’s aisles, I do not often see many books written on Song of Solomon. Because of this, the majority of my life I have not seen the importance of this book in the Canon.

Last year I had the chance to take a seminary class on the Old Testament poetical books. The majority of the time spent in this class was in the books you would imagine, such as Psalms and Proverbs. However, we did spend a couple of weeks in Song of Solomon. The way my professor had us study through this book fascinated me.

There are five Megillot (scrolls) that are read during major festivals in Jewish tradition. Historically, Song of Solomon is read at Passover. During the Shabbat of Passover week, it was tradition to read through this ancient love song. In Jewish tradition, Passover is understood as the time when God’s “love” or “romance” began for the nation of Israel. Passover marks when God’s people were betrothed to Him. This ancient love song would have been read at Passover to emphasize the love between the Lord and Israel.

While it is understood primarily by most scholars that this book is celebrating the love and intimacy between a man and woman, it should be noted that this book can also enable believers to more deeply understand the intensity of God’s love for His people. It may be a stretch to say that the entirety of this book’s content is an allegory for the love that Christ has with His bride, the Church. The most accurate interpretation most likely lies with understanding that this book is the collection of love songs between a husband and wife. Despite where you fall in how this Old Testament book should be interpreted, do not forget that two ideas can be taken from this text: 

  1. Dependent upon where you are in your season of life, read Song of Solomon and rejoice over God’s gift of intimacy in your marriage. Strive to have a healthy marriage that brings God glory.
  2. If you are like me, and are single, read Song of Solomon and remember that you also have an intense love in your life. Your Heavenly Father longs for a deep intimacy with you that compares to nothing you may find in an earthly relationship. 

Remember the Romania team in your prayers today! Today they begin their journey home. Pray that bus rides and flights run smoothly. Pray for good health on the planes back home. Pray for the new brothers and sisters in Christ they are now leaving. 

Foxes. (Song of Solomon 1-4)

July 25, 2018

Today’s reading assignment from the Apprentice was longer than normal. If you are following along with the readings from the Apprentice this year, you’ll know that this week is focused on maintaining a healthy, gospel-centered marriage. Today’s reading consisted of the first four chapters of Song of Solomon.

Song of Solomon is one of those books in Scripture that is often skipped. For a plethora of different reasons, this may not be a book that you have many notes on or have underlined many verses. In my time of being in church, I am unsure of if I have ever heard a pastor preach a series on Song of Solomon. Not until I took a class on the Poetical books of the Old Testament, during my time in seminary, did I start to appreciate the beauty and importance of this particular book. (Tomorrow’s blog will touch on some of why I believe Song of Solomon is important for our reading and study in Scripture.) For today, I wanted to point out one verse in particular that was in the reading. Actually, I just got off the phone with my mom and she pointed out how this verse stuck out to her as she read today. After talking with my mom, I have thought more about this verse and the implications it has for my own life. I think it has some for you, too. 

Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom. (Song of Solomon 2:15, ESV)

Foxes are considered to be pests. Foxes can be detrimental to the farmer. Foxes may dig through the farmer’s garden and crops. Foxes also may kill the farmer’s chickens, and sometimes even lambs. In this example, foxes are seen as damaging the vineyard. It is interesting to note that so far the imagery of the vineyard has been compared to the appearance of the woman in Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:6), but in this verse the vineyard seems to take on a different imagery. This verse notes that the foxes are spoiling “our vineyards.” Some scholars believe that is alluding to the relationship between the man and woman.

Think again of how foxes are pests to a vineyard or a farmer’s land and livestock. Now compare this analogy to your marital relationship. Are there any foxes that are threatening to bring damage and destruction in your marriage? Are you actively pursuing “catching these foxes”? 

For me, as I mentioned yesterday, I am single. When I read this verse, I do not find application for how I need to be “catching the foxes” in my marriage. Instead, I need to be cognizant of what foxes are threatening my relationship with Christ. And this should be considered by both single and married believers alike.

What foxes are we allowing in that bring harm and destruction to the intimacy we have with Christ? You and I need to remember how damaging these foxes are when we allow them to wreak havoc in our vineyards. I am praying today that we each will go before the Lord and ask Him to help us identify our foxes. Our intimacy with each other, whether in marriage or other relationships, and even more importantly with Christ, is too important to allow a pest to damage and destroy. 

Please continue to keep the team of ten members in Romania in your prayers. More and more people are coming to Christ daily! Pray that each of these individuals are met with discipleship and gospel community. Pray for strength for the members of the team. At this point they have been “on the ground” for over a week and they have not had much time to rest. Pray that they sleep well at night and are full of strength and energy throughout the day. 

Submit. (Ephesians 5)

July 24, 2018

Passages like Ephesians 5:22-33 are sometimes hard for me to read.

Just in case you do not know many details of my life, I am single. I am not dating anyone and marriage does not appear to be in the near future for me. I would love to be married one day, but I also have learned to be thankful for what God has given me now.

Sometimes when I read instructions for wives in the Word, I question what am I supposed to be getting out of this. It is easy for me to quickly skim through such a section of Scripture because it does not feel applicable in my current season. So what application should be taken for single believers from the passages in Scripture that speak about marriage?

One primary point that I am reminded of when I read passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, is the importance of submission. While I may not be in a place where I have a husband to submit myself unto, I am to submit myself to Christ. We all, single and married, are called to submit ourselves to Christ. (Look at James 4:7.) And one way that I can ensure that I will be prepared for marriage one day (if this is in God’s plan for me), is to already be practicing submitting myself to the Lord.

I have realized that my life does not start when I get married. My ministry does not begin when I am married. I am the only one who can make the choice now whether I will waste my singleness or not, regardless of if its permanent or short-term.

I am daily learning to trust that my unfulfilled desires are not unseen or unheard by God. I am trusting that He knows better what I need and that He is providing what is best for me now, regardless of what I may think. And because of all of this, I am choosing to submit myself to God. Whether I will be married one day or not, I need to have the healthy discipline of submitting myself unto God.

Please continue to pray for the team in Romania. Pray for the team as they are still ministering at camp. Pray that they have intentional conversations with students. 

Sabbath. (Genesis 2)

July 23, 2018

I am writing this from my bedroom floor on Sunday night. This blog will be arriving in your email inbox sometime on Monday morning. I just finished reading Genesis 2 again and I feel like I am ending another weekend without a Sabbath.

Have you ever felt like this?

If I am honest, most of my weeks I enter feeling unrested from the last week. I wake up on Monday morning feeling tired and wishing I would have had an extra day on the weekend to recover from the last week. However, I have no excuse! I have had long weekends before, and sadly I end up not actually resting on the extra day I was given. I instead fill it with a variety of different things that I do not seem to get done in the middle of the week.

Look at when the Sabbath was first instituted in Genesis 2:1-3:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation. (ESV)

The first three verses of Genesis 2 are bringing to a close the Creation account from Genesis 1. God has just created the world and all that is in it in six days. Now we have reached the seventh day. If we really think about it, God did not have to rest. He is God! When Genesis 2:2 speaks of God “resting”, it is not implying that He was weary from His work. Instead, it is portraying a rhythm of work and rest for the follower of Christ to pattern their life around.

Are you honoring God’s pattern of work and rest in your life?

Do you have a healthy rhythms of work and rest established in your life?

I have learned that I not only enter a week unrested and tired when I do not honor God’s pattern of work and rest in my life, but I also greatly dishonor God by my lack of a Sabbath. Without realizing it, my lack of a Sabbath says that I am not finite. When I do not prioritize taking a Sabbath, I am saying that I do not need the rest that comes from a Sabbath. Not only does taking a Sabbath allow me to receive the rest I need, but it also is an act of worship to God. Taking a Sabbath communicates that I am dependent on God and that I trust Him to provide for me.

I am going to plan my week this week around my Sabbath. I pray and hope that you will, too.

Please remember to keep the team of 10 in Romania in your prayers. Pray for them to have strength as they are entering their second week of ministry. Pray for the churches they just spoke in on Sunday to have fruitful ministries. 

It is real. (Revelation 14)

July 20, 2018

If you are anything like me, Revelation can sometimes seem overwhelming. I find myself sometimes getting stuck in the weeds of its theological dilemmas and the multiple schools of thought on what will the Second Coming of Christ be like. I wonder who exactly are the 144,000 witnesses and what scholar has the best interpretation and view. While there is significant purpose in determining one’s view of the end times and informing one self on what Scripture says regarding it, I sometimes think we miss a simple, but important point that Revelation makes:

Heaven and hell are real. 

All of this book is written because of the reality of heaven and hell.

Christ is going to return.

All will one day be made right.

We will be restored to the Father in a new heaven and new earth. 

But judgment will take place when He comes.

And some of the people you may know may not spend eternity with you.

What will you do about the people you know that may not spend eternity with you? Does someone specific come to mind now? If no one comes to mind, you may need to expand your reach and meet some new people. There are still a lot of people that God desires to spend eternity with Him, and you are His instrument to tell them.

It is not too late. If you are reading this now, you still have time.

How will you be His instrument today?

How will you today tell someone about the reality of heaven and hell?

How will you today share with someone that you want to spend eternity with them?

I am so encouraged to share with you that I got the chance to FaceTime with my Dad for a brief moment yesterday. He shared that around 50 individuals have come to know our Savior this week! My Dad and the team in Romania are getting to experience being God’s instrument of salvation. Why don’t we join them? I’ll do it from where I am in Virginia. And you can do it where God has planted you.

Imagine the harvest that could come if we all stepped out to plant the seeds of our faith. 

Please continue to pray for the team in Romania. As I shared above, there have been around 50 new brothers and sisters come to know Christ! Pray that these new believers are met with men and women who can disciple them. Pray for many more to come to know Christ, too!

Pray your unbelief away. (Matthew 13)

July 19, 2018

As I write this, I am in one of my favorite spots. I am sitting in a beautiful old prayer chapel. This place has been one of my favorite spots to go to over the last few years to meet with Jesus and listen for Him to speak.

I came here tonight though with a heavy heart. There are so many people who are hurting around me. I feel so sad and burdened.

I have a friend who came close to ending her life this week.

I have another friend who is having to watch her grandmother go through the aging process. She is physically caring for her grandmother and she is hurting because death is scary.

My sweet six year old I nanny fractured his wrist today. I held him while he cried out in pain. I held his sister when she was scared because of his tears.

I have another friend who is facing tremendous financial stress. She is facing losing her apartment and she literally needs a miracle.

Why are so many people hurting? Where are you, God? Why can You not heal my friend’s grandmother? Why did Callen have to go through the pain of a fractured wrist? Where were you when my friend wanted to take her life? Why are you not giving my friend the money she needs?

Isn’t it funny how all it takes is sitting in God’s Presence, and actually speaking out loud all the things that are trapped in your heart and mind, for your faith to start waking up again?

I find myself repeating now, “I believe You are the God of miracles.”

If you are hurting and wondering when God is going to show up in the midst of your situation, make the time to be with Him. You might literally have to make the time. I had to tonight. I just left the hospital where I was visiting my friend, who by God’s grace did not take her life. I came straight to this prayer chapel, despite knowing I “did not have the time.”

If you are wanting for your prayer to be answered or your miracle to come, please do whatever it takes to make the time to sit with God. I wholeheartedly believe that sometimes I do not hear from God because He does not have enough time or space in my life to speak. 

Please do not take what I am saying wrong. I am not saying that God is not all powerful and mighty. I am not saying He is limited by our time and space continuum. But what I am saying is that He has given you and I a free will. And we make the choice how much time and space we give Him to speak.

So again. Please make the time.

Read Matthew 13 when you come to Him. If you are hurting or worried or scared, it will remind you of the hope you have for heaven coming one day.

If you are okay (and it is okay for you to be okay!), still read Matthew 13. It will give you a sense of urgency to share the Gospel because there IS a heaven. And we who believe in heaven should desire that all men come to join us there.

If you think of it, please pray for my people I mentioned in this post. There is power in prayer and I believe that man’s words in prayer reach the heart of God!

Please know that I prayed for you as I wrote this. I prayed for you as I sat on this old wood floor in the prayer chapel. As I prayed, I did not know your burden, but our Heavenly Father did.

Matthew 13 ends with the sobering reality that Jesus could not perform His mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief. The Holy Spirit will not force miracles on a audience who does not believe. 

I decided tonight that I am not going to miss out on God’s mighty works in my own life or in the lives of my people because of unbelief. I am praying that same thing for you, too.

Please continue to pray for my Dad and the other nine brothers and sisters in Christ ministering in Romania. As they continue to minister at the two separate camps, pray that they are sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. Pray they respond and share the Gospel despite language barriers or cultural differences. Pray for protection for those who are battling sickness and strength for those who are tired. 

It is not just what you do that matters. (Luke 12)

July 18, 2018

Sin.

How do you define it?

Some describe sin as “missing the mark.”

Others say it is doing what God has said not to do.

Both of these are not wrong or incorrect. In fact, they are very accurate. However, sin is much more than this.

What is described above is a sin of commission (“doing what God has said not to do”). This is how we mainly think of sin. But just as serious is the sin of omission (“disregarding what God has said to do”). A sin of omission is hearing God’s command and then choosing not to do it.

We see this at work in today’s reading in Luke 12, specifically in verses 45-48. Jesus tells the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant. One servant is diligent and does what he knows is the will of his master. The other servant delays following the will of his master, and as a result reaps the consequences of his disobedience. Look specifically at verse 47:

And that servant who knows his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. (ESV)

Did you catch it? The servant knew his master’s will. He knew his master’s will and chose not to get ready. This servant willingly chose to disobey. He heard a command given to him and chose not to do it. He disregarded what was asked of him.

Look at what James, the brother of Jesus, said in his letter:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17, ESV)

It is sin to know what is the right thing to do and to choose not to do it.

One day before the Lord, believers will not only stand accountable for their actions, but also their lack of actions. 

A person’s actions matter. But what one does not do also matters. 

Right now, what are things in your life that God has called you to do that you are not doing?

Do you think of it as sin to not do what God has asked of you?

I am praying for you today. I am praying you not only refrain from all that God has not called you to, but I am also praying you step into all that He has asked of you. Do not forget that it is not only your actions that matter; it is also what you do not do.

Please remember to continue to be praying for my Dad and the other 9 individuals in Romania. Today they will begin work in two separate camps. Pray that the Gospel is shared through them despite language barriers and cultural differences.